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June 3, 2010 | by  | in Arts Music Theatre | [ssba]

Mel Parsons and Guests

Mel Parsons really is lovely. She’s the kind of girl I would totally be happy about introducing to Maw and Paw. She reminded me of that awkward but somehow still cool music school prefect. Clean cut but quietly different.

She is really rather good at what she does (New Zealand – specifically West Coast – country swing), and her voice is velvety and smiley (read: she sings nicely, like a Christian*… COUGHBrookeFraserCOUGH), her demeanor classically kiwi – humble, and sort of embarrassed at her own audacity to be talented.

I like New Zealand music. I really do. Like most New Zealanders, I feel the cultural cringe, but I push through it. I loved Anika Moa’s In Swings The Tide and for a while now have really been enjoying the dalliance New Zealand music has been making into folky country and swing (perhaps because we have been gagging for something, ANYTHING that isn’t dub for about 20 years now), seen in the music of Moa, as well as Jess Chambers, Age Pryor and other Woolshed Session stablemates. It’s been great, guys, but Mel Parsons at BATS proved to me that there can definitely be too much of a good thing.

The set, rugs on the floor and projections of Mel’s video clips, reminiscent of Super 8 holiday reels, was quaint. The atmosphere was genial and the music, well, good – but I just wanted something more. I’ll be honest – I was bored. Give us something new! Mel Parsons is a relatively new artist, having just released her debut album, Over My Shoulder. I know you want it to play on the radio, but goshdarn, surely not just for the people who wanted The Woolshed Sessions: Take Two, right? Surely not.

Perhaps this is all rubbish really, because BATS was brimming with punters, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Sure, my foot was tapping a bit, and I really enjoyed the lyric: “Aaaah… LET’S GET DRUNK” (I could relate to it: it would have livened things up for me, probably).

The musicians really were outstanding, and very enjoyable to watch – especially the guy with the harmonica, who is no doubt some heavyweight influential/respected figure in the New Zealand music industry, hence I, the heretic, blaspheme unto all that is holy and signed to a record deal in this country: he reminded me of that drunk dad from the It’s Not The Drinking, It’s How We’re Drinking ALAC ads.

Anyway, everyone there seemed to be loving it sick, which is exactly why Mel Parsons and her band were playing that bland brand of music. People love what they already know. But I need more if I am to have any faith in New Zealand music anymore. If only New Zealand music was daring enough to be different, to not stagnate and try something new and brave. C’mon guys, prove you can do it.

I’d rather see Newtown Street Justice or Palace This! At BATS. At least these bands, while not signed, are challenging and playful. Even Stephen Jackson would have been more bearable. At least he gets his kit off and wears sequins from time to time.

If you like Anika Moa, Brooke Fraser, The Woolshed Sessions, Jess Chambers, etc., then don’t hesitate to go to her shows in the future. She’s good, and you’ll get what you want: same-same NZ singer-songwriter blah blahs, which is cool, if that’s what you’re into. I just think she’s boring, and she can do better.

At the very least, the lighting at Mel Parsons was great.

*Myself, I sing like the ‘militant atheist’ I am: laced with homosexual sex, heroin and provocative blasphemy.

BATS Theatre, Wellington
27. 28, 29 May 2010


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