It was a good turnout last night at The Wine Cellar in Auckland, NZ to hear Dylan Storey and “his mates” run through his new EP Phobos and Deimos and more. I don’t know, 60-70, maybe more, and if there was a little room left, it was filled up with the enthusiasm of friends, family and punters like me.
Dylan is a modest, unassuming man... just a nice guy, and has obviously built up the respect as well as the friendship of the Auckland music fraternity. You see Dylan playing with his covers band, you see him more often supporting Reb Fountain. He was doing so at Reb’s fantastic gig at the Tuning Fork last October. And he was part of the trio with Reb and the late Sam Prebble in The Bandits. The three of them were also working on Reb’s album which came out after Sam’s death as Little Arrows. The spirit of Sam pervades the evening but in a mostly joyous way.
Back to Dylan. Obviously not used to the frontman role. On the couch with Marty Duda in an interview posted earlier in the day, he is a master of understatement. Let the music do its work, it’s not for him to say. I remember talking to Sandy Mill a few months ago, about the challenge of stepping forward after being a backing singer for so long. Springsteen has also talked about it. So how will Dylan go?
Before we find out, we learn that Dianne Swann has not been able to sing due to illness (please get well Dianne). But we also have Tim Stewart’s latest project Tibor, to kick proceedings of and get us in the mood.
Tim, of course, is well known as half of Hopetoun Brown who once upon a time was also the horn section of the legendary Supergroove. Tonight, he’s on his own, but far from solo. With him is (the genius of) Finn Scoles (Carnivorous Plant Society and much, much else) and Chris O’Connore, Auckland drummers’ drummer, fresh from the triumphant LIVE RUST extravaganza. Is this a supergroup? In the making?
This is only their second gig, as Tim acknowledges afterwards, so at times it sounds a little raw. But nonetheless it’s infectious, as Tim, on bass, Finn, on keys, and Chris on drums take off at a pace with an electro-funk beat. There is immediately bopping in the aisles. No horns. Jut a throbbing, pulsing bassline, some energetic and at times jazzy drumming, and magical tales being woven on the keys. A fine underpinning to Tim’s vocals. Shades of 70’s prog rock, with the jazz influences we knew with the Canterbury (UK) sound and even a bit of Brand X. Shades of Krautrock. Shades of Parliament. Only one song sounded truly work in progress. A little touch of Spandau Ballet but doesn’t quite make it. I won’t mention it. I’m sure Tim knows.
6 songs, and a step towards an album next year. Tibor. Special group. Could be super. Watch their space.
- Part of the Problem
- Sticks and Stones
- A Lot to Give Up
- Stop Working
- Road Pig
- Not My Scene
After a short break, Dylan and his band are organised and ready to go. The audience is eager in their anticipation. Mum and Dad are there. Together we bring some maturity to the average age.
A band of “mates” but no less special than the opening act. There’s Logan Compain on drums, Jarrod Kahi on bass, Brendon Morrow on keyboards, and Dave Khan on his usual array of stringed tools.
Dylan and band launch into track 2 off the EP, Season Mary, an upbeat poppy-country tune with a taste of The Chills. Fine interplay between Dylan and Dave on guitars, Dave adding depth and texture with a snarl or two. Nice song. Catchy. I’m caught.
On to The Simple Things. Dave on acoustic, Brendon and Jarrod sharing backing vocals. This is an “everyman” sound. Impossible not to like. Next step is enchantment. And don’t get me wrong, look how far “Everyman” has taken Jackson Browne.
We leave the EP now for a short journey through some back catalogue. The Invention has Dave on mandolin, Brendon on backing vocals. On Never Turn Your Back, Dave takes a rest, and we hear Dylan’s strength as a guitarist come through as he lets loose in what is a bluesier, funkier song. An old rock song follows, Travelling Salesman. Mum’s happy that’s not what he turned out to be. But the song is great. Duelling guitars, reminiscent of Allman and Betts. Logan drumming up a storm.
How’s the frontman doing? He’s doing ok, although it is clear it’s not his natural habitat. What’s the antonym to ego?
Dylan prefers to lead from behind. Dave, on the other hand, can lead from the front with his blistering interventions, without being the frontman. And just as happily sit back and let others lead. I call that leading from behind. I used to say in my corporate life being able to do both is the sign of a true leader. Works too in a band.
But Dylan now steps up and talks about being called Dylan, and what if it had been different? What if it had been Neville? What would life have been like? What if it had been Roscoe? But no, this is not a deep and meaningful reflection on life, it’s just a cute segue into the next song, and the opening chords tell us it’s the Roscoe which opens Midlake’s Tales of Von Occupanther. Dylan is a huge fan of the Texas alt-country band Midlake, ever since Sam Prebble insisted he listen to the first album over and over. Not just once. And as it turns out, the EP has been mixed in Midlake’s studio in Denton, Texas. Because Dylan reached out and asked. You work hard and you get lucky. You make yourself available and you make your own luck.
Now, I am a fan of Midlake, as are many others in the audience, and I never ever thought I would hear anyone play one of their songs. But of course, this is one of the obvious “reminds me of” which Dylan’s music evokes.
And when the band moves on to Pixelated Brain, last track off the EP, it still sounds like Midlake.
Reb Fountain moves to the stage, and we know we are about to hear the EP opener, Open Heart Markets. This is the song Mum’s been waiting for. Pure Americana! Love it! Reb moves halfway through from backing to lead as the song bridges, and just as we are looking for more, it stops. Just like any great song does.
Land and Sea closes out the set, and the audience wants more. There is no more.
But Dylan lingers, alone on the stage, seemingly hesitant, and, half apologetically, he reckons he’ll give this one a go.
A song about drinking the Wine Cellar dry, (it’s actually called The Day We Drank the Wine Cellar Dry) and Reb explains to me that this is about Sam’s wake when a bunch of them played at The Wine Cellar for 6 hours or so. It’s been 5 years, and although I emphasise that the memory of Sam Prebble is mostly joyous tonight, it’s clear that it is still close, still raw.
And what also strikes me is that The Wine Cellar is not just a venue, it’s a musicians’ haven as well, so hats off to the Wine Cellar and all you do. Including Mason with a fine job on the sound.
Every day’s a school day. So thank you, Dylan, for the lesson, and the enchanting music.
Dylan Storey's setlist
- Season Mary
- Simple Things
- The Invention
- Never Turn Your Back
- Travelling Salesman
- Pixelated Brain
- Open Heart Markets
- Land and Sea
Click here to stream or buy
Released: 04 Jul 2019