21 May 2024
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Gig Review: Lunar Intruder @ Moon, Wellington - 12/08/2023

13 Aug 2023 // A review by Danica Bryant

As always, the line-up at Moon in Newtown, Wellington is out of this world on a Saturday night. Amidst their ‘Good Dogs Go To Heaven’ tour, the aptly titled Lunar Intruder are up from Christchurch, for a show supported by Tarik Rahim and Bleach that has no trouble pulling a buzzing crowd in from the cold.

Experimentation dictates all in Tarik Rahim's opening set. His thrilling solo performance utilises computerised Latin beats, warbling electric guitar, glistening keyboard, and an assortment of pedals. For only one man, his sound is remarkably fleshed out, and he works the stage like a pro. There’s a Wild West feel to his sound, blending elements of country, flamenco, indie and everything in between. Tarik dives down to his amps to generate feedback. He plays with his back to the crowd to build soft ambience into thunderous, roaring rock. He strolls off the stage to jam alongside them, tangled instrument cables and tight spaces be damned. Despite some struggles with the amplification early in the set, his confidence never wavers.

Spoken word snippets intercut each of Tarik's songs, giving the performance an intensely cinematic feel. However, whilst this strategy in place of audience interaction heightens the sense of mystery around his character, it can also make it harder to process the complex material. But lower accessibility certainly does not mean the music lacks. Tarik Rahim undoubtedly proves in his thirty minutes at Moon that he is a musician of immense talent and courage. His future shows will be essential viewing for anyone willing to expand their sonic palette.

Dream rockers Bleach are next up. Their relaxed guitar opening quickly explodes into huge, thrashing drums and fierce vocals, a three-piece with the power to completely fill the room. The band’s debut single, due for release in September, is an early highlight. It reverses conventional pop dynamics, offering massive verses in contrast to gentler choruses. Spacey instrumentals meld to the lead singer’s passionate vocal delivery and make the song feel expansive and emotional. Although there are a few hiccups, the band members communicate quickly amongst themselves to pull things back together. They’re a group with a true musical bond.

Bleach’s sound is reminiscent of Kiwi icons like The Mutton Birds and The Chills, but with a 2000's pop-rock twist, a la Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Foo Fighters. Even better, their lyrics perfectly capture the bittersweet taste of contemporary young adulthood. Standout number Madison, which they call a favourite to play live, sizzles with sex and drama. It depicts a relationship made rosy by alcohol, ending with a glorious guitar solo and rumbling drums. It’s a style with immediate audience appeal, nostalgic yet modern, a coming-of-age soundtrack for the Uni students of today. Nothing exemplifies this better than their late cover of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. Bleach understand their audience. They are full of soul, full of fire, and full of the heart that it takes to make a truly promising Kiwi band.

Last but certainly not least, headliners Lunar Intruder come out guns blazing with a smooth blend of indie, reggae, and garage rock. Their energy on stage is instantly electric. Chugging guitars and chunky bass create a sultriness that ripples through every song. This is furthered by lilting, accented vocals in the vein of acts like Ocean Alley and Sticky Fingers, which carry sweeping soulful melodies over poppier instrumentation.

Lunar Intruder experiment with changing rhythms and dynamic range throughout their performance. It’s a delicate balance between danceable moments and calmer periods to breathe, keeping each song catchy and familiar, but never dull. This is best articulated by an “old classic” which at first leans into reggae hard, getting the crowd pumping over its slick bass grooves, before bursting into tight, pounding classic rock. There’s immense power in the band’s willingness to abandon lyrics in favour of sheer instrumental goodness.

Of course, it’s absolute magic when they focus on vocals, too. Their latest single Inside Out is a shining example of this, the sunset transition between day and night. It’s summery and upbeat yet tinged with a strange sadness that makes it stand out from the rest. Stacked gang vocals and heartfelt belting really drive its raw emotion home. Moreover, their lyrics here are sharp and expressive in every song, simple in their earnesty and imagery of youth. It’s a gorgeous tone similarly captured in their performance of Off to Nowhere, a light-hearted, fulfilling track well suited to long drives through the Aotearoa countryside.

By the end of the night, the band’s own joy has become entirely infectious, so much so that the crowd roars for a one hundred percent genuine encore. Walking out of the ‘Good Dogs Go To Heaven’ tour, having seen this great line-up of local artists, you can trust that the unique indie sound of New Zealand is in good hands.

 

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