6 Feb 2023
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Reb Fountain - Gig Review: Reb Fountain @ Town Hall, Auckland - 29/07/2022

30 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Back into central Auckland for the second consecutive evening, this time to see an artist for whom I have great admiration for the first time, and whose latest album, Iris, was rightfully in my Top Ten of 2021. Until last month it had been years since I had been in Auckland Town Hall for a gig, but here I was again, this time for one of the series of Auckland Elemental events, and I could see lighting gantries across much of the venue so knew we were in for quite some night.

I had heard the support act was going to be Purple Pilgrims, and I am sure that it was also listed on their own site earlier in the day, and as they were a band I did not know I was not too surprised when someone walked onto the stage to start playing keyboards (Peter), and then two people made their way to the back of the stage, holding onto each other. Both dressed in white, the reason soon became apparent as one of them had their head completely covered, and they were left there while the other person came to the front of the stage and also started playing keyboards. They were wearing a multi-layered outfit which could have been a ball/wedding/theatrical dress, and it was only when they started singing that I took a much closer look and realised it was Jazmine Mary (they/them). The last time I saw Jazmine they were supporting French For Rabbits when they stepped in at very short notice, and tonight was a very different experience indeed.

It was only last night that I realised just how much had been missing from Jazmine’s sound from the gig at Tuning Fork, as the use of keyboards to provide a curtain of sound really allows their deep vocals to shine through. After the first song they swapped to guitar, while Peter took over on their keyboards at the front, also providing backing vocals. Together they were casting a spell over the audience, and it was lovely to see the way Jazmine reacted between songs when they chatted, as they were having an absolute blast, and it was a very different feeling to that indeed that they were invoking with their sounds. All the time this was taking place, “that” (Jazmine’s words, not mine) was at the back of the stage, slowly moving and creating shapes as they were inspired by the music, then holding in one pose for a while before slowly going to another. This added to the overall effect, and with the lights washing over the crowd, the keyboards providing a backdrop of sound, Jazmine’s guitar creating an edge and her vocals taking us into strange territories, this felt very much like an art installation as opposed to “just” another show. The melancholy came again really heavily on Rodeo, which was also one of the highlights last time I saw her, written about her friend Daniel, and by the time she left the stage she had many friends with her dark folk pop noir sound. 

Now it was time for the main event, with the band coming onto the stage, spot on 9:00 (love seeing shows like this, I am not getting any younger and late nights are killing me!). As always, Reb was accompanied by Karin Canzek (bass, backing vocals), Earl Robertson (drums) and Dave Khan (piano, keyboards, guitar, violin, backing vocals), and they started with Foxbright This was their first gig in Auckland for a year, and they were determined to put on a great show, and right from the off the mood changed as we were taken into Reb’s world. Her vocals are simply incredible, with hints of Patti Smith, containing so much passion, pain, and emotion. With her and Dave sharing keyboards on this number it provided a surreal backdrop, with the rhythm section keeping it tight but, in the background, allowing the focus to always be very much on Reb who finished the song with her head bowed, hiding her face as her hair covered her keyboards. 

These were taken away for Swim to the Star, and Dave switched to guitar. This resulted in something I had never actually seen before, in that the three musicians were facing each other, Karin with her back to the audience, creating the world for Reb to pitch against, visually providing a distinction between singer and accompaniment. Reb switched to the concert grand piano for Heart, with the band still concentrating on each other, and the audience were in total thrall of what was happening in front of them. This was an absolute masterclass in having just the right lighting to make it a show, without detracting from the music, and the correct musicians to create a platform for one of the most singular and exciting singers I have ever heard perform.

The highlights were coming quick and fast, with Beastie having Reb live the words at the front of the stage, acting the role with angular shapes, and it wasn’t until after the sixth song had been played that she actually stopped to talk to the audience. Until then we had been wrapped in a spell, but if anyone was worried this short interlude had broken it then that was soon cast aside with the stunning and highly emotionally charged performance of Hey Mom, where Reb even had an acapella section, much to everyone’s delight. A special mention must be made of Karin at the beginning of Samson as she changed her sound to being heavily distorted and fuzzed just for that one number, and it was a dramatic moment indeed. 

The absolute highlight of the night for me had to be Psyche, and it was only after it had finished that I realised I had written absolutely nothing during its performance as Reb had taken me away from everything apart from her voice and the song. After Intermission everyone went through the rigmarole of leaving the stage, before coming back with Reb on piano with the band supporting her for By The River, and then they launched into what was the real final number of the night, Don’t You Know Who I Am. It may start slow and gentle, but soon Reb was shouting out the lyrics, with angst and passion. I had been speaking to the guys sat next to me earlier, and it transpired they had decided to come on a whim and did not know Reb at all. They turned to me as we got up and said, “surely you are going to be writing a great review”. Yes, I replied, so I did. If you have any opportunity at any time to see Reb perform live then grab it with both hands, and until then get over to Bandcamp and investigate her music if you haven’t already. What a singer, what a show!


Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk / Zed Pics
Reb Fountain Gallery
Jazmine Mary Gallery

 

About Reb Fountain

Reb Fountain may be New Zealand’s best-kept secret. Identified as a “the best voice to come out of Christchurch in ten years” in the finals of Battle of the Bands way back in 1990 she disappeared off the Kiwi music map. Since then Reb occasionally appears at her old haunts, mesmerizes anyone who’s there with an increasingly polished repertoire of breathtaking vocals, soulful lyrics and melodic tunes, before vanishing into thin air again. So what ever happened to Reb Fountain?

Perhaps it’s more like what didn’t happen: She got her first guitar at six and by the age of thirteen she had mapped her poetry onto melody, writing lyrics to the sound of her acoustic guitar. She’s been singer/songwriter for three bands Immaculate Sun, Like Water and Beckoning South with talented musicians like Pete Woods (Salmonella Dub/DJ Rockwood), Tony Harlem (Future Stupid), Mark Tyler (Salmonella Dub) and Pete Hobbs (Lesley Speaker/Kitset); trained as a jazz vocalist at a college in Seattle performing with great musicians which drummed out any insecurities about playing live; lived and recorded in major musical cities like New York, Vancouver and London all the time living and breathing music.

Yet you could be forgiven for not knowing who Reb Fountain is. If you’ve been at one of her gigs you certainly wouldn’t have forgotten her. Or maybe, by chance, you would’ve heard one her low-fi 4 track recordings with Like Water on Indie Hit Disc (#5 and 8), doing the rounds on RDU and Radio One. There’s no doubt, with her immense talent and productivity as a singer/songwriter, that she should’ve made several records in the last decade, but that hasn’t been her path until now. She’s been a lover, a fighter, a mother, and a writer; got a degree, two gorgeous kids, plenty of knowledge with wisdom to boot, strong political leanings and a great big heart wide-open to the world around her. Fortunately for us it pulses deeper and stronger everyday with desire to have the freedom to write and play, perform and learn, travel and share music with others.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Reb Fountain

Releases

Iris
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Reb Fountain
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Hopeful & Hopeless
Year: 2017
Type: EP
Little Arrows
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Holster
Year: 2008
Type: Album

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