Generations of sound - Electric Wire Hustle Family

02:05, Oct 25 2012

Family was the theme of Electric Wire Hustle’s arts fesitval gig, so I decided I’d take my mum along for what proved to be an energetic and entertaining evening of contemporary psy-rock anthems, traditional african drum beats, and readings of Vietnamese verse.

The three members of EWH - who hail from quite different ethnic and musical backgrounds - each invited a parent to play alongside them on the TSB mainstage at Founders’ Park last night.

Question: What do a Maori blues guitarist, a Congolese tribal drummer, and a traditional Vietnamese vocalist have in common? Answer: Extremely talented children, and an incredible sense of rythm, it turns out.

The night started with the TK duo - father and son, Billy and Mara - belting out a couple of Billy’s original bluesey tunes on their  guitars.

Living up to his hype as a kiwi blues legend, Billy TK took peoples’ breath away - his fingers working the screaming six-string impossibly fast. His talent and timing warmed the 400-person crowd with a sound and skill reminiscent of rockgods Eddie Van Halen or Jimmy Page.

Mara TK glued the sometimes chaotic tunes together with his soulful, easy listening vocals that resonated with the diverse audience, which was an even spread of under-18s, 80-somethings, and all ages in between.

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If the crowd was warm after the TKs’ performance, the Manzanzas’ brought us to boiling point.
Congolese percussionist Sam and his son Myele worked the drums with frenzied rythm. ‘‘I’m gonna take you to the moon,’’ Sam promised, as he guided the audience to drop their drinks and dance.

At times is seemed their beats were too many to make sense, but then a single pause and synchronised drum strike would bring the whole phrase into context. Whatever they were doing, it worked - as Sam’s demands for the crowd to dance were answered by more than 60 people who stood up to swing with the tribal rythms.

In Act Two the band played some originals, without help from the olds. My favourite was ‘‘Perception’’, one of EWH’s better-known tracks, which reminds me of Fat Freddy's Drop, with synthetic waves of psychedelic experimentation.

My own Mum wasn’t so into the band’s contemporary style, which incorporates keyboards, synths, drum pads, and loud, low frequency basslines. But she kept on tapping her feet. I think she has a new openness toward modern musical styles she’d never previously appreciated.

Before the night was over, and the band had performed their obligatory encore, keyboardist Taay Ninh asked his mum on stage to recite a Vietnamese war poem backed by a rendition of Hendrix’s ‘‘Machine Gun’’.

Weirdly, it worked, and the crowd hung onto her every word.

Nelson Arts Festival revellers respect real music and soulful performances. Last night Electric Wire Hustle Family reminded me, in the age of auto-tuners and Gangnam Style, that people are still making ‘real’ music, which comes from the soul rather than from a sales pitch.

Mara TK proudly cried ‘‘that’s my dad’’ after Billy thrashed a face-melting freestyle riff. I’m glad to have taken my own mum to the gig, and opened her eyes to the multi-cultural future of music.

It was definitely a proud family affair.

Nelson