Cabana’s First Birthday Bash, May 1 2009

It was truly an auspicious occasion. Not only was The Cabana having its first birthday bash, but it was the first day of New Zealand Music Month. As I drove into town the sky cleared a little and, to borrow from Alfred Noyes, “the moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas”. In keeping with the theme, when I entered the bar I went and stood awhile with the ghost of Trevor Morrison, who could always be found in his corner of the bar ready with a smile and a hug.

From the first note played by James Rochester, to the final resounding chord from The Retrobates, the first birthday bash was a true celebration of what the directors have achieved in the annals of Napier’s music history. The work that has been done on the acoustics in the old building are amazing, the sound is crisp enough to snap and no matter where you stand in the place, it stays that way. Even Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top turned up to have his photo taken with half the crowd!

Apart from JR, who played alone, there’s not much point in singling out which bands played what, because so much swapping of band members goes on, that the guys are basically one big band who reconfigure themselves around each other, adding instruments or inviting guests onstage, and the place was rocking. The night before the party I had dreamed of George Harrison being there and one of the first people I met was John from Manchester, who compared The Cabana to the Cavern Club in Liverpool, which was just a little spooky. Call it synchronicity, call it serendipity, call it a great party – Napier’s music fans have much to thank the Cabana directors for as not only have they given us the best music venue in the country, they’ve reminded us of the pride we always had in the Cabana’s history. Special thanks go of course to Lee Pritchard, who had no idea what he was starting with that book!

Trevor and Charlie would be delighted.

Claire Hamlin – Napier Mail – 6 May 2009 :.

The Midnight Metal Symphony, April 24 2009

From the first crashing chord, Napier metallers The Midnight Metal Symphony had the crowd on its feet and, as the evening went on, fans moved from their tables to the dance floor and simply stayed there.

Despite the handicap of a broken finger, guitarist Charlie was on fire, even channelling Jimi Hendrix for a minute, while the rhythm section were a tight-knit unit, keeping the thunder rolling and the flame alight.

The audience were having a great time, with the exception of one man who, after having taken a few more steps than were necessary to return from the gents, declared to his mates: “This isn’t heavy metal!” He didn’t notice that, every time he turned around to sneer at the band some more, his mates were dancing on the spot just like everyone else. It was impossible not to, as the band rocked from one original to another, finishing up with an energetic version of the Black Sabbath hit Paranoid.

By then, there was no sign of “`moaning guy”. Maybe he went home to cuddle his AC/DC albums.

Claire Hamlin – Napier Mail – 28 Apr 2009 :.

Cabana Rocks The Cabana, October 24 2008

The old place still knows how to rock, and for those music fans who attended The Cabana’s six-month anniversary celebrations last week, it was kind of like being in a time warp – in the best possible way of course. It was crowded, it was very hot and everyone was having a great time.

The evening was kicked off by James Rochester, whose acoustic set got the ball rolling, followed by Keith Lawson, Les Denia and Ian Bates, who produced a fine rendition of Hunters and Collectors’ Throw Your Arms Around Me – and a spirited version of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust – during which the lyrics got a bit lost, but nobody cared.

By the time Richie Jackman and Power got up, the crowd was getting into a dancing mood and a spirited cover version of Cockney Rebel’s Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile) really got the body moving. Power alternated between rock/pop dance numbers and a more introverted mood – so by the time The Retrobates powered up the Mi-Sex classic Graffiti Crimes, the dance floor was packed.

I swear I could feel the presence of Steve Gilpin.

Ian Morris and The Undefeated reprised the timeless Dudes song Walking In Light, beginning a pumping set that nobody wanted to end. Great music, great atmosphere and plenty of dancing – things haven’t changed in 30 years!

With all seven of The Cabana’s musicians having a turn onstage (some, such as Matt Baker playing more than one instrument and being up there most of the night), it is a treat to see a group of mates enjoying themselves so much. The fact that they insist that we enjoy ourselves as well has to be a good thing.

I’m not the only one looking forward to the one-year anniversary party.

Claire Hamlin – Napier Mail – 4 Nov 2008


Wayne Mason & the Fallen Angels, September 8 2008

In the six months we’ve had the Cabana open again as a music venue, we’ve had some mighty fine artists grace our (extremely solid) stage: the Checks wild and riotous rock ‘n’ roll nights; Grand Prix’s dangerous rattle-snake and racing-car big guitar sounds; the Sunday afternoon of elegant music from Ralph Gannaway and Acoustic Rendezvous.

Wayne Mason and the Fallen Angels continued that tradition in grand style last Friday night.

From the opening ringing guitar chords of Wayne’s solo version of “Cold Wind Bay” we knew we were in for a treat, and once the Fallen Angels joined him we were in for a rollicking good time as well. Alternating between acoustic guitar and piano, Wayne led the band through a selection of his finest songs. And what a band!

Always tight, always tasteful, the Fallen Angels – Clinton Brown on bass, Richard Te One on drums, and Greg Turner on guitar – provided the perfect backing for Wayne’s perceptive lyrics and effortless melodies, and when all three sang harmony vocals to Wayne’s lead, well, “angelic” is the word that springs to mind.

From Wayne’s early days with the Fourmyula came “Turn Your Back On The Wind”, a song so timeless it sounds as if it was written yesterday rather than forty years ago. A journey through his back pages brought us to the new album “Sense Got Out”, whose title track must rank as one of his most emotional songs.

Wayne started the second half of the show – like the first half – by himself, this time on piano, playing a fearsome “naughty train” boogie-woogie in homage to the entertainers who worked the railroads of America. Solid as our Cabana stage might be, it was in danger of collapsing under the relentless energy emanating from Wayne’s dancing left hand.

“Nature”, of course, was the one we were waiting for, and we weren’t disappointed. From a moody opening (was it in Ab minor, like the record, moving up to the more easily played A minor?) the band rocked into a smooth groove that put the Muttonbirds’ heavy-handed version to shame. If a song ever defines the uniqueness of New Zealand, this is it.

The noisy crowd demanded an encore, and Wayne and fellow Angels delivered a swaggering, swing-time version of the Warratah’s “Hands Of My Heart”.

Wayne Mason and the Fallen Angels have promised to return to the Cabana. This startlingly original and skilled songwriter is a must-see for anyone who loves fine music and fine musicianship.

Ian Morris

Grand Prix, June 27 2008

Grand Prix rolled into the Cabana on Friday night with squealin’ wheels and smokin’ tyres.

With a sound that funnels steely American outlaw music through a distinctly New Zealand filter, Andrew McKenzie and the boys sang big songs of love, loss and racing cars.

Imagine the spiritual deliverance of Johnny Cash, the epic stories of Marty Robbins, the moral tribulations of Nick Cave, the rolling burr of John Hore Grenell, and the slapping back-beat of The Band booming through the valve radio of a souped-up Mark II Zephyr doing donuts in the black sand of a New Zealand west coast beach, and you’ve got the picture.

The two road-battered Fender guitar amps of McKenzie and Adam Ladley jangled and muscled their way through the tough rhythm section sound of Davey Geard on drums and Nato Hickey on bass. McKenzie’s powerful and distinctive voice conveyed wit and drama with a sly sneer. The rock-a-country-billy rhythms of songs like The Way of the Racer, Even the Stupid, and All Work and No Pay would trigger foot tapping in even the most sedentary listener, while the slower-paced Time Machine and The Devil painted poignant emotional landscapes.

If you like bad boys, big beats, belligerent guitars, American roots music, fine songs and a rockin’ good time, don’t miss Grand Prix the next time they low-ride into town.

Ian Morris

Acoustic Rendezvous & Friends, July 27 2008

Rubbish weather, post-rugby blues, local artists… you know how it is.

The Cabana crew who staged last Sunday’s guitar concert could have been excused for thinking they’d likely only get 40 or 50 diehard music enthusiasts along.

Not so, as the seats soon ran out and the venue swelled with an expectant full-house audience which was looking for a musical treat and got one.

The standing ovation at the conclusion of a stunning afternoon of fretwork pretty well summed it up, as did the perspiration on the brows of the unique guitar quartet of Ralph Gannaway and Ross Clark (Acoustic Rendezvous), the remarkable Dave Boston, and bass stalwart Colvin Steel.

They rolled out string arrangements of breathtaking diversity, from classical to jazz to rock, all delivered with the uniqueness lightly amplified acoustic guitars can deliver.

Dave Boston created smiles when he opened and suggested “I think this is the first time classical music has ever been heard in the Cabana.”

Probably right, but with his complex and melodic skills across the strings I hope it is not the last.

Acoustic Rendezvous, well-known to Bay audiences, were all class, of course, and I was delighted, as a rhythm man myself, to hear Dave raise Ross Clark’s stakes by saying he had the hardest-working hands on stage – “all those bar chords.”

Gannaway was fast, furious and spectacular. He plucked from the songbooks of the Gypsy Kings, Django Reinhardt, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones (Paint it, Black always gets a few up and jiving.)

The foundations were once again solidly in place through the five-string basscraft of Colvin Steel, and when all four lit up it was, quite simply, sensational.

Full marks to all and to the Cabana boys whose work on acoustics in the building has been a resounding success. From all corners of the house it sounded classy and sharp.

Share the experience again, boys… an encore concert?

Roger Moroney – Hawke’s Bay Today – 2/8/08

Despite the cold weather, it was standing room only at the Cabana last Sunday as Acoustic Rendezvous, along with Dave Boston and Colvin Steel, presented two hours of guitar magic.

A diverse audience enjoyed solo performances by Dave Boston and Ralph Gannaway, who played Boccherini’s Minuet, a piece written for violin. Ross Clarke then joined Ralph on stage, with their set including an instrumental version of the Animals’ House of the Rising Sun.

Colvin Steele and his bass guitar joined the mix and the three started off with George Benson’s Deeper Than You Think, moving through several pieces before finishing with a wonderfully complex cover of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It, Black.

After a short break the four guitarists joined forces – and what a force! Dave and Ralph shared lead, with Ross supplying rhythm and Colvin’s bass filling out the sound.

Impeccable timing and virtuosity, and a mix of musical styles that ranged from Chick Corea and Miles Davis, through to Vivaldi, meant there was something for everyone.

This concert was the perfect way to warm up a winter’s afternoon. Please do it again soon, guys.

Claire Hamlin – Napier Mail – 30/7/08

Paul Ubana Jones, June 18 2008

When Paul Ubana Jones takes the stage, you know you’re in for a treat and last Wednesday night at The Cabana was no exception.

Playing a mix of original songs and blues from the old masters, Paul captivated the crowd with his exceptional guitar playing and gravelly voice – he’s English, but sounds like he just stepped out of the American south.

Highlight of the evening for me was a blistering, rocking redition of the Lennon/McCartney song Norwegian Wood, it literally brought tears to my eyes. How one man and a guitar can sound like an entire band is beyond me, but that’s what Paul Ubana Jones does. The guy’s a legend.

Claire Hamlin – Napier Mail

The Checks, May 23 2008
If it was an evening of sweaty grooves and full tilt rock’n’roll you were after, then the Cabana sure provided it on Friday night when the Checks checked into town.

This fantastic New Zealand group of five twenty year olds had the place pumping, and the Cabana walls once again sweated with a rock fusion as tight as a symphony orchestra.

Vocalist Ed Knowles’ energy seeped into the crowd and the riff busting-band had the audience jumping from start to finish.

The capacity crowd witnessed the Checks showcasing classic songs such as ‘Mercedes Children’ and ‘Take Me There’, along with others from their debut album ‘Hunting Whales’.

The crowd cheered them back for an encore of two songs, before they finished their set with a blisteringly cool version of the Hendrix classic ‘Foxy Lady’.

The sharpness of their blues/rock performance took me back to the full throttle delivery that top UK blues band Dr. Feelgood gave at the Cabana twenty years ago… very classy indeed.

To see local band ‘Blvd. Nights’ get the show started was a huge bonus for the night. They played a cool set of originals including their ever catchy ‘Blue Moon Horizon’. Their unique onstage style set the pace for the evening.

If you haven’t been to The Cabana yet, keep an eye on their website… you wont want to miss a good thing!

Napier Mail, 27/05/08

Hammond Gamble, May 17 2008

“If only these four walls could talk!” Hammond Gamble said as he took the stage at the Cabana last Saturday night, for the first time since the 1980s.

Playing a selection of songs both old and new from his enormous repertoire, Hammond had the Cabana packed, with a mostly older crowd, but more than a few youngsters as well.

He’s still got the voice and the magic – a great night was had by all who attended.

Local duo Payday were supporting act and had the crowd singing along to old favourites from Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Little Feat.

Great music, great venue – long live the Cabana!

Napier Mail, 21/05/08