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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Dimmer w/ The Family Cactus gig


For me, gigs are almost impossible to go into without any preconceived ideas of what is going to happen, or how I will experience them, based on either a familiarity with the artist’s music or knowledge gleaned from other sources, such as others recollections or the artists reputation. So even though I’d never heard much of Dimmer’s music, I’d definitely heard of Shayne Carter, the Kiwi rock veteran behind both the band in question and Flying Nun stalwart Straightjacket Fits (recently inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame), and knew to expect an intense, emotionally charged set. And boy, did he deliver.

First up though were Welly-based up-and-comers The Family Cactus, a band quickly building a following as a great live band, and who have just released their debut album, Come Howling. Coming on they seemed a little nervous, but as the crowd quickly warmed to them they gained confidence, most notably singer Adam Ladley, whose voice seeed to grow stronger and more assured with each song in their set. As a seven-piece they created a dense, textured sound that served as a great background to Ladley’s crooning, soaring voice and blended well with the harmonised melodies created between Ladley and backup vocalist Nina Siegler. While their song structure became a little predictable after a while, what they stuck to they did very well, creating solid blues-tinged indie rock that the crowd definitely appreciated.

Opening with the eponymous lead single from their latest album (which the show served as the release for), Degrees of Existence, Dimmer opened with an intensity that lasted throughout their set. Touching upon multiple genres of rock, metal, shoegaze/post rock, blues and industrial, often within the context of a single song, they held the crowd transfixed throughout, with Carter’s haunting delivery cutting through dark, ominous guitars and recently returned drummer Gary Sullivan’s primal, driving beats. The tone of the songs changed often from quiet, atmospheric lulls to heavy cathartic highs, wrenched with emotion and grit, reflecting Carter’s seemingly sadomasochistic relationship with his guitar, at one moment delicately plucking soft notes and the next strangling it for every possible distorted, sinister, or strange sound he could conjure out of it.

Showcasing 20+ years of experience, Carter and his band put in a compelling performance, and as I left Bodega, ears still ringing from the pure noise that was final encore song ‘Crystalator’, I felt a little shell-shocked, but definitely content, happy in the knowledge that I’d seen a legend in his element.

Review – 18 July 2009
Bar Bodega


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