NZ too quiet? Go to Europe

By: Winston Watusi watusi@thesun.co.nz

Winston Watusi
Music Plus

 Welcome to another week of things not quite happening.

It is, as pretty much everyone I run into says, a bit weird at the moment. Not that I’m actually running into a lot of people as I’m not really going out much; most people I know aren’t going out much.

Then again, I realise I’m a little older than a lot of people, and a lot of younger people are going out as normal. I’m just not seeing them because, as I mentioned, I’m not. So I guess I’m addressing, oh, I don’t know…the over-50s? What’s the demarcation line between bulletproof and vulnerable?

I certainly get the impression that many folk between 30 and 45 consider themselves indestructible, particularly men. But I hear experts say, when asked about the whole “underlying conditions” thing – the thing that worries all of us who have them – is that basically anyone aged 50-plus probably has an underlying condition of some sort. Life does that to you.

Getting back to where I started…we’re seeing the latest phase of the pandemic, which I’d like to dub Social Hesitance. We’ve had social distancing and vaccine hesitance: welcome their new hybrid.

Social Hesitance

The fact is, however much you can blame government restrictions for harming hospitality or entertainment, the real issue is not the regulations but the pandemic. Vulnerable people are reacting to the fact that the world is in the grip of a pandemic, the likes of which none of us have known, by not going out so much right now. It’s not rocket surgery.

Is this sensible behaviour or have we all been scared into it by a controlling government? Gung-ho politicians, bolshie business owners and rebels with causes will say it’s all fear-mongering; every health expert says the opposite. Pick your sources.

The bottom line is that even hardy musical practitioners still bravely gigging have found audiences much decreased. Most have written off April. There is little coming up at either of our larger venues, Baycourt (after classical concerts on April 9-10), or Totara Street.

At the Jam Factory Wellington-based jazz saxophonist Alex Trask is bringing his quartet to town on Thursday, April 14. The other members of the quartet are Lockie Bennett on guitar, Elijah Mulheron on bass, and Tauranga drummer Paul Hoskin, recently seen in action at the Omokoroa Boat Club with keyboard wiz Grant Winterburn. Alex is promising new ideas and old songs, a mix of originals, American songbook classics, and musical theatre tunes. The show is at 7pm, tickets are $20, online via the Jam Factory or on the door.

But if things are quiet here, you could always follow the European adventures of Tauranga singer/guitarist Grant Haua.

Grant Haua Livestream at Rockpalast.

Grant Haua

Allow me to recap: before the pandemic, Grant departed from the very successful duo he was in, Swamp Thing, who had toured New Zealand and Australia and played in the States, to pursue a solo career. He recorded an album and several videos and on the strength of them was signed to prestigious French blues label Dixiefrog. Then, for obvious reasons, everything got put on pause.

Now they’re off and running again and Grant has been in Europe, doing interviews, appearing on television, watching rugby games and keeping busy by currently playing some amazing gigs in France.

But the pinnacle so far was a trip in mid-March to Germany’s Crossroads Festival in Bonn. Most importantly, the gig was broadcast on Rockpalast, possibly Europe’s and certainly Germany’s most famous rock television show. It has been running on WDR since the mid-seventies and featured everyone from Dire Straits and Deep Purple to Meatloaf and Muddy Waters.

And Grant was on it, a full 90-minute concert during which he was backed by Dixiefrog label-mates Neal Black and The Healers, a hard-hitting blues trio from San Antonio Texas who are currently touring Europe (though one suspects their shows in Ukraine next month are in doubt). ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine called them “one the most important American artists on the Blues scene today” and you wonder if Grant isn’t on a similar trajectory?

You can watch his concert on Youtube or Facebook. I’d highly recommend it.