It would have been easy to stay home - it was freezing on Friday night. I had Aretha Franklin's Spirit in the Dark on the turntable. It was going some way toward creating a kind of warmth. (The heater was helping too.) It had been a big week - readjusting after the travel. Spending the week with Oscar; he's now seven months old. He's great - but he was ever so slightly out of sorts this week, what with the confusion of time-zones, crossing the international dateline, having his baby-passport stamped and going from summer - with an entourage of adoring aunties, uncles and grandparents - back to a freezing cold winter and a father desperate to play him Harry Belafonte records and Tom Petty DVDs...all that takes its toll on a wee baby.
So it would have been easy to stay home. I had just bought the new Robert Glasper Experiment LP. I had just started reading this book about The Blue Nile. I had this great book about Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace album to finish. And I had duty-free Laphroaig.
Plus it was cold outside. Really cold. Did I mention that?
Adam Page played saxophone and did his thing with beat-boxing and vocal-loops, he played some keyboard basslines too. Riki Gooch played the drums with his heart and mind and soul (he used his limbs too, naturally).
The duo is Band of Thousands. The name takes on a prescience when you see a mob of an audience inching closer to try to live inside the groove. That's the space that Page and Gooch inhabit and though it only takes two people to make this sound, to harness it while they can, to pour themselves into it and then send it slithering out to the crowd, it takes the audience - the dozens, the hundreds, the (hopefully, one day) thousands - to help with the sound, to allow the name to stand as a true representation.
More simply, it may have been two people on stage but there were several others helping the music by being there, looking on as Page spat notes like Albert Ayler, as Gooch circled the toms, whirlwinding off the cymbals, a synth line blinking in and out all the while, it was like Michael Shrieve on that killer Santana live album. There were dozens of people feeding off the energy and revitalising it by sending that energy right back to the stage.
Improvised funk, jazz and soul ideas lapped one another, were draped across one another, there was a rise and fall, a swell and then calmness. It all worked because of the collective energy - audience and performers. And then because of the kinship from Page and Gooch, two great players so confident and knowing when it comes to understanding each other's worth and their own work. Leaving space for the other to fill, intuitive and ready to leap in for support.
You could hear happy blasts of funked-up jazz and darker moods as a bass-thrum took hold. Drum grooves traced around Afro-Cuban ideas before falling to pieces intentionally, becoming shards of noise, rebuilding as brittle funk and then suddenly a huge rock backbeat.
You could see Adam Page nodding himself into the music, hopping back and forth as he wrangled the notes then exhaled and popped them up into the air for audience members to interpret - the music so dizzying and then falling from above-head in a slow-motion neon-confetti sort of vibe.
And then Band of Thousands' debut Wellington performance was over. The instruments were discarded and you were sure the musicians had left something of/from themselves on the stage.
I could only compare it to when I first saw Cairo Knife Fight work its magic. And not (just) because of the numbers, not (only) for the fact that there were two musicians on stage making the sound of a trio or quartet or quintet; rather it is because in witnessing (and being part of) Band of Thousands, I heard and saw risks being taken, and two musicians so sure that what they were doing was worth it, so committed to the cause; such conviction. You do not see this every time you see music live - and this was a case of feeling as though you were seeing it as much as hearing it.
But I saw it with Band of Thousands - and I've seen it with Cairo Knife Fight. So it did take me back to that; particularly that first time seeing them.
We're lucky to have Adam Page living in New Zealand, feeding off the creative energy in Wellington and giving so much back to it. We're lucky, of course, to have Riki Gooch here. An explosive drummer, so attacking, so unbelievably on - and there is so much subtlety in his playing too. And just so much colour.
And I was lucky to be part of Band Of Thousands.
I'm glad I stepped out of the house on Friday night. It was freezing cold. And when it came time to head home, to leave the magic of the music at the venue, it was raining. I felt close to frozen when I made it in the door. Everyone else in the house asleep. I was tired, so cold and somewhat drained. There would be a new working week ahead and a baby that needs me so much would be waking up in just a few hours to dictate the shape of my weekend.
In those few moments before finally getting the sleep I've craved all week I realised I'd carried the music from that evening home with me. And there was a warmth inside.
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