18 Aug 2022
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Midwave Breaks - Gig Review: Midwave Breaks @ Whammy Bar, Auckland - 03/06/2022

05 Jun 2022 // A review by Gideon Voon

Tauranga and Hamilton joined forces to send some of their best Alt-Rock acts to show Auckland a thing or two.

First up is a 5-piece band from Hamilton, Retro Valley. Based on the name alone, you start to build an imagery on what to expect. Ben on vocals and David on bass certainly delivered with their choice of clothing. The stage presence displayed by this duo is something to behold as they stand in the centre of the stage.

The sound of the band is very pleasing to listen to. As with most contemporary genres, the guitar tone plays a huge part in dictating the genre. The sound is very British, with the guitar sounds being driven by Vox Amplifiers, one of the fathers of the British-Amp sound. The two guitarists, Ethan and Josh, complemented each other well with their tones. One holding down the chords and bringing power to the band, while the other brings beautiful melodies and warm colours that is influenced by The Edge of U2 (including a ‘wah’ driven Hendrix sound).

Some bands suffer from the tradition of the drum kit and drummer being placed behind the rest of the band, and this is one of those bands. The energy and presence of Mitch on drums was very strong, he's a very solid player indeed, with all the tastefulness of a drummer like George Daniel from The 1975, and the power of Zac Farro of Paramore. Together with David on bass, they formed a very strong foundation for the guitars, and of course the vocals.

Ben's voice is very sweet sounding, if I had to compare to a recent artist, I would say Harry Styles (especially with some of the melodies), but with a bit more edge, as he can falsetto as well as add power and grunt to his voice when the situation demands. And his skills as a front-man is very commendable.

As for the songs, they have a lot of cool, groovy, indie-rock riffs, a bit of dub, but what I liked best was their epic half-time sections, which reminds of some older Pop-punk bands such as the previously mentioned Paramore, with melodies reminiscent of Coldplay.

They performed a cover Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon. The way they interpreted the cover is how I think most covers should be done: play it in your own style. And they certainly did that, with the drum parts being a huge part to this. With the drums using a tom-tom beat for the verses, instead of hi-hats, this gives a more chill vibe. And as a whole it focused less on the off-beat. Do not be fooled, because they still made the chorus punchy when it came around. Ben's unique voice gave a fresh perspective too. Doing this demonstrates how a band can be unique in comparison to another band within their own genre.

One thing I’m going to have to fault them for however, is their cover of Everlong by the Foo Fighters. Ben started off by introducing the song, and of course paying homage to the late Taylor Hawkins. After this however, the two guitarists and bassist audibly tuned down to the Drop-D tuning. And as the song started, my suspicion was confirmed as not all three of these members were using a tuner. And this is my plea to guitarists and bassists, please buy a tuner that you can use on stage. This way you can mute your guitar/bass and tune while the singer is introducing the song. Of course, most of the audience will not have noticed this, but this is a step to take in the road to professionalism. The song itself wasn’t too well rehearsed, and the bassist retreated to the back, which cost the band a lot of their stage presence. But luckily to rescue this situation, Ben and Mitch really carried the song, with Mitch giving a drum performance Taylor Hawkins would be proud of, I bet. And that’s a great thing to have in a team, when some are underperforming, the others step up and cover for them.

In their final song, the band really turned up the heat, and gave us a lot more passion and energy. They gave a great close out to a great set.

Where do the band look now if they want to improve? The answer lies within the next and final act.

And now we bring in Midwave Breaks, the Alt-Rock duo consisting of NZ music royalty Paul Russell ex-Supergroove and Eight, and Bruce Conlon formerly from Eight. These guys really know how to put on a show, like they actually know the definition of ‘show’. And I will break down what I mean.

Oh and remember what I said about it being a shame that the drummer is usually hidden away in the back. This is the other side of the coin. As the drum kit is moved forward and Paul shares half the stage with Bruce. The angle he has the drum kit on is quite refreshing, as the drum kit and Paul faces towards Bruce, and we see Paul from his side.

The show proves that Paul is without a doubt one of NZ’s great drummers who can compete on a world class level. His versatility in the different styles of music is shown in every song, as their set includes hints of many genres, including; Country, Rock, Reggae, Dub. And although a drum beat might sound generally the same, it’s all in the details and intricacies that really separate the genres, and Paul from the pack.

Bruce on the other hand, is both a great vocalist and guitarist. Displaying his country and rock influences, he has a great guitar tone, warm and full, with the right amount of twang, the common trait of a great country guitar tone. And his voice and its versatility is something to behold, with aspects of Matt Corby, Florida Georgia Line and Chris Cornell.

This duo actually feels like a duo, as Paul and Bruce both really share the weight in carrying the show. They share the responsibility of speaking in between songs, with Paul doing the formal introductions to songs, while Bruce does more of the improvised audience interactions as they go along.

Oh and by the way, this is only the duo’s second live performance together.

As I have mentioned versatility as a key trait for the two members, this is also true when it comes to their songs, with mostly Country-style guitar driven tracks such as, Lemonade Hand Grenade, they also have Melancholy tracks such as Hurricanes and Novacane, while presenting influences from Roots and Dub (popular genres of music in NZ) in The Other Side. Don't forget their opening track consisting of beautiful choir of harmonies.

The band uses a projector to visually present the footage from their music videos to accompany the songs, as well as other background elements to help portray the mood of the songs. This adds a lot to the show, which is quite unique.

Great to see the duo make fun of the idea of the ‘fake encore’, as they say, “Technically this is our last song”, after which they say, “We’re going to play two more songs anyway”.

Their second to last song, is as Paul puts it, eclectic. As they perform this progressive epic, we are taken to space. As the background visuals has now evolved, from being very colourful and nature-based to being black and dark. Very jam-like in its nature, this track takes us from haunting clean guitars that makes wonder the origin of the universe, to Latin-influenced beats that evokes the audience to dance.

They bring us back down to earth for their final song, in which the projector presents a city and people. And we are slowly ushered back to reality.

My favourite thing about this act is the authenticity and heart behind the music. In my personal experience, it is rare for a NZ act to stir warm and nostalgic emotions in my heart (that feels natural and not cheesy), as the age of Tik-Tok now dictates that in music, the entertainment and visuals (which as I mentioned the band does possess), can often overshadow the song and its meanings.

As a musician who prefers as many real musicians as possible even in the event of employing backing tracks, I forgot about all that while listening to the music, as I was taken on a journey. Bruce even joked, “Still waiting for the band to arrive”. One can only imagine what a sonic powerhouse the duo would be if they decided to use more musicians on their level.

But nevertheless, I left feeling good and positive, and I look forward to enjoying the next show they put on in Auckland.


Photo Credit: Kent Langdon
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About Midwave Breaks

Emerging Tauranga Alt-Rock Duo Midwave Breaks have made an impressive impact at Rock radio since launching in 2021, with two independent singles in the top 10, and a third breaching the top 20. Their explosive debut single Lemonade Hand Grenade resonated across the country, peaking at number 3 on the radioscope rock chart, and came in at number 510 on the listener-voted Rock 2000.

The band features former Supergroove drummer, and West End ‘Stomp’ performer Paul Russell, joining forces with his brother in arms from late 90’s Auckland rockers Eight, singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Conlon. The pair first crossed musical paths at Lynfield College circa 1989, and over the decades since have collectively racked up a haul of gold and platinum selling albums, international song-writing awards, and for Russell, a place in the NZ Music Hall of fame in 2014.

Midwave Breaks music is a modern take on the soundtrack of their youth - epitomized by 80’s-90’s alternative rock/pop - evoking hints of Springsteen and Petty, Cornell and Vedder, and a melting pot of musical influences from past to present. Driven by the energy of the creative process, and with an innate ability to craft songs that capture a moment, the Midwave Breaks sound is purposefully retrospective mixed with the new. With plenty more to come, this formidable duo are a powerhouse of song writing, production, musicianship and live performance.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Midwave Breaks

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