Returning to must-see shows

I'm back - I've returned from the wee trip abroad. It was a good time, in fact a series of good times. And it was so easy to get to some great gigs and have some wonderful musical experiences. I told you about seeing The Roots in San Francisco - and a DJ set/after-party by Questlove. I also told you about seeing Kurt Vile and how that was great timing, his most recent album has been a favourite for me this year. So those gigs will stay with me always.

We also got to a reading/performance at San Francisco's famous City Lights bookshop. It was a poetry and story reading by Barry Gifford and his buddy Willy Vlautin was along for the ride, sharing the stage. I know Vlautin for his three excellent novels as well as for his work as the lead singer/songwriter of Richmond Fontaine. So he read stories and also performed some songs, solo/acoustic, including covers of songs that Gifford (a songwriter, storyteller, novelist, poet and songwriter) had composed. It was a great night. And hopefully Vlautin will have a set of short-stories in print before long. He's getting better with each book.

In Las Vegas we took in the Blue Man Group show at The Venetian - seemed a Las Vegas thing to do. And it was an amazing show. Bonkers. Brilliantly so.

So on the plane back to New Zealand I was wondering about what great gigs and music experiences I could have to keep the momentum going, I'd been on a bit of a roll and was worried that it might abruptly end. We get to see plenty of great international acts and we have some amazing local talent too - but it's winter here. A quiet spell tour-wise. And I've just arrived back from a country going into summer...

There's the Lil' Band O' Gold show coming up - sure. And you probably know about plenty of other gigs coming up that I have missed due to being away. And then I remembered two very good gigs coming up this week; two shows that I'm really excited about.

First up, this Friday, at Meow in Wellington, there's a set by Band Of Thousands - the group's first Wellington show.

This duo features Adam Page and Riki Gooch - here's a clip of them performing at Womad.

Page, an Australian saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist, is now based in Wellington. He's collaborated with many of the city's best musicians and with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Gooch he has found a kindred soul. The pair mix a love of deep, bruised funk and Afrobeat groove with clipped soul and broken-beat electro.

The publicity guff talks of the duo "stretching the boundaries of what is possible with only two people on stage" and though I've not yet had the pleasure of seeing Band Of Thousands I know this description isn't just advertising. It will be spot on. I know that from seeing Page and Gooch working, together and alone, through so many fascinating projects.

The show will open with a set from DJ Eru Dangerspiel and DJ VU and then Page and Gooch will share the stage with a bunch of instruments and their own eclectic tastes and vision.

Influences on the Band Of Thousands sound including Sun Ra, Steve Reich, Martin Dosh and The Meters.

It's going to be so good.

You can get tickets from Cosmic for $10 (plus booking fee) or $15 on the door, this Friday, June 15, Meow, 9 Edward St. DJ set from 8pm-9.30 and Band Of Thousands starting at 9.30.

Two world-class players with talent, passion, skill and - most importantly - the collective abilities to offer something absolutely transporting, emotional and transcendental; like I said, it's going to be good.

The other show I'm really looking forward to this weekend is Sunday night's offering at Downstage Theatre in Wellington.

Paul Ubana Jones returns to Downstage for a one-off performance. This will be his third year in a row that he's performed an intimate acoustic show perfectly suited for Downstage.

I spoke to Paul before his first show a couple of years ago. And then I reviewed the show. I had a catch-up chat with him before last year's show - but I didn't get to that gig. So I'm excited to see him play again, I've seen Paul perform dozens of times. And it's always a great show; it's always a little bit different too.

This year he has a new show for Downstage, billed as "Roots Retrospective" Ubana Jones will pay tribute to his varied influences, from Nigerian folk to the blues and psychedelic pop of the 1960s.

Watching Paul perform is always a joy - he's a master. And whether interpreting a range of blues, pop and jazz standards or offering his own tender ballads and blues vamps there's something for everyone. He's a great storyteller in both his performing and in the segues between tunes. He is, as far as I'm concerned, a national treasure. One of the greatest musicians living in this country.

So that's Sunday night sorted - go to the Downstage page to see some clips of Paul in action and of course for ticketing information (and there are links to some of his performances in the previous blog-posts I've linked to where I reviewed his show and interviewed Ubana). That said - I've just found this new (to me) clip of Paul doing The Mountain Song. Check it out.

The two-hour show starts at 7pm and it's allocated seating; price is $35.

So that's me sorted for this week. I'm happy to be home - and what a great reminder that you can travel across the world and see some amazing music but you can also see some of the finest acts in the world right here close enough to your own doorstep, just a 15-minute stroll from home.

So will you be going to Band Of Thousands or to Paul Ubana Jones? Or both? Have you seen either act before? And feel free to use the space below to make your recommendations for any must-see gigs this weekend anywhere in New Zealand - or wherever you are in the world right now. And of course you can pimp your own gig, add an info link, or a YouTube clip of your band in action. Name the time and place and share the information.

So what gigs will you be playing or seeing this weekend? And if it's just beyond this weekend what gig/s are you looking forward to as New Zealand's winter gets super-chilly?

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