19 Dec 2018

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  • Strangely Arousing - Gig Review: Strangely Arousing @ Tuning Fork, Auckland - 19/10/2018

Strangely Arousing - Gig Review: Strangely Arousing @ Tuning Fork, Auckland - 19/10/2018

24 Oct 2018 // A review by Rupa Kelly

Strangely Arousing, hot off their strangely unconventional 7-date tour of South Korea and China crashed into the Tuning Fork In a hot beat and fantastic fashion. Bringing with them Joe's Van and their own DJ Straw Hat providing enjoyable jams between sets, the night was bursting with potential.

Up first was Joe's Van, a surfie collective from the Mount, offering up a mix of their own original songs and some really high quality covers of classics from the likes of James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Curtis Mayfield and closing (to a resounding and well deserved encore) on Th' Dudes Kiwi Anthem Bliss. Their performance had everything a good show needed, screaming fans, a saxophonist wearing sunglasses inside, a freestyle rap and an audience member who had enjoyed one too many beers getting on stage and making an ass of himself. Frontman Jake Nicholas's off cuff audience interaction was a treat, making the crowd feel like a mate and encouraging everyone to come and have a dance.

And then. the main act, Strangely Arousing. Knowing they had 5-band members, I was somewhat curious how they would manage to fit onto the stage. This isn't my first gig at the Tuning Fork and I'd never quite seen the stage so packed with instruments and electronic displays. Two keyboards, a few brass instruments, a couple of guitars large LED riddled crosses lining the back of the stage and a curiously psychedelic eye sitting centre stage, behind the drum kit. But alas, they managed to deftly fit together and still had plenty of room to express themselves. What truly impressed me about the act was the commitment, passion and attention that was displayed with each aspect of the experience of the performance as a whole. From the DJ keeping the crowd warm between acts (he doubled as the sound engineer too) to the excellent use of the lighting through-out the show; everything was directed and focused on providing the audience with the absolute and whole representation of their art-form.

The members on stage were grooving just as much as the crowd was, the banter was on point and hit the right spots to keep the crowd light and laughing. Musically, Strangely Arousing presents a fantastic experience best described as punchy, the weight of the melody and rhythm swaps from the guitar to the brass so well and draws on so many genres I, an absolute lover of categorisation struggle to give their style a name. Skanking guitar, swinging brass, punky drum-beats; whatever it's called, it makes for a fantastic night of dancing and singing. Throw in a cover of one of the more moody Fat Freddy's Drop songs and you've got a tasty musical parcel.

The high point of the show came at the end after an undeniably unique approach to the classic 'get everyone hyped for the last couple of songs' when the band members disappear off stage, an ecstatic slowly increasing in tempo performance of their jam Rebound that left the crowd buzzing with sonic joy. I'd previously listened to their debut album a few times but after seeing them live, I can happily say that I am confirmed fan of both their music and their vision and will very much be looking out for them the next time they roll into town.


About Strangely Arousing

Having already lasted longer than most modern marriages, Strangely Arousing’s odyssey from Rotorua, to Raglan, to the big smoke of Auckland has been vast. After 6 years of blood, sweat, Jim Beam and tears - July 2017 saw the release of Strangely Arousing, a self-titled, 11 song exploration into the minds, hearts and souls of 5 musical gypsies from Rotorua, New Zealand.

In an era in which Fat Freddy’s Drop and Red Hot Chili Peppers are considered heritage artists and humans are no longer boxed by sexuality, one might describe Strangely Arousing as “trans genre” And comfortably so. Their reggae-based, jazz-influenced sound has led them to play for a wide range of audiences. From Raggamuffin to Rhythm and Vines, from sell out tours around New Zealand to international adventures in the Middle East and Asia.

Highlights from last summer include playing to 15,000 people in their hometown of Rotorua at the annual Lakeside concert, headlining the Whangarei Fritter Festival with Elemeno P and NZ dub heroes Salmonella Dub, and smashing a set at the iconic Rhythm & Vines festival. More recently, the band enjoyed its first international tour in South Korea and China. Amongst a slot at the Pentaport Rock Festival (headlined by industrial pioneers Nine Inch Nails), multiple headline shows in China, and a few frugal nights off spent at the clubs, Strangely has grown, as individuals and as a group, to an international standard, propelling their already compelling and uplifting live show to another level.

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