Band looks forward to Beach Hop gig

SHELLEY GRECO
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Annabelle London

THE MUTES: From left: Lisa Hannam, Miranda Mills, Gabriel Friedlander, Gabe Ashby, Nathan Child, Sam Benge, Johnathan Gill and Jared Barrington.

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The Mutes from Mars will be anything but silent as they entertain their biggest crowd at the Beach Hop Festival this weekend.

The annual festival in Whangamata celebrates the best of the 1950s and 60s, with music and pre-70s vehicles.

With more than 70,000 people expected over three days from Friday to Sunday, this will be the rock band's biggest performance since forming in October 2010.

Their road to the festival is being filmed by Attitude Films for television screening after the festival.

The mixed-ability group was brought together by A Supported Life, a service of the Kotuku Trust.

The organisation offers adolescents and adults with intellectual challenges a wide range of support opportunities and residential options in their community.

Each member of the eight-piece band, except guitarist Sam Benge, has an intellectual disability ranging from Down syndrome to Asperger's syndrome.

Bass guitarist Nathan Child, 28, has foetal alcohol syndrome and says he is "living the dream".

"For a few years I had wanted to be in a band. It was one of my biggest dreams," the Te Atatu South resident says.

"I'm looking forward to going down and seeing what it's like and playing for all the petrol heads and having a good time.

"I've heard quite a bit about it."

Mr Child's flatmate and fellow band member, Gabe Ashby, is excited about the gig.

"I'm looking forward to it and giving people a good show," the drummer says.

Mr Ashby has Down syndrome and is one of the original members of the group.

The Mutes from Mars members write their own songs and have enjoyed many gigs from Whangarei to Wellington. They have released their first album, Just Us, and will start work on their follow-up album later this year.

A Supported Life general manager Stuart Spackman says the band was put together to utilise the musical talents of its members.

"It's an amazing opportunity for the band. It could be our biggest audience."

The Beach Hop Festival is on until Sunday.

Visit beachhop.co.nz for more details.

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- Western Leader

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