Auckland rock band Mini Simmons proved their chops as a support act in my opinion when they opened for Racing last month, so the question was whether those chops could sustain a headlining set at Galatos in Auckland, NZ. The answer is, of course, a resounding yes, smashing out a faithful recreation of their self-titled debut album and fan-favourite covers.
If Mini Simmons are 70s rock revival in a nutshell, then opener Joe Ghatt is bringing back the 60s - providing mild psychedelia and guitar solo excess in equal measure. Aside from feedback issues with microphones and rather low vocals in the mix, Ghatt put on a splendid performance, pulling out surf rock whammy bars and Dylan-esque rasps out of his bag of tricks effortlessly. Thanks to a full band and even fuller sound than the tunes on his Banana Sludge LP, Ghatt has shown early potential to be a cult favourite.
In spite of the retro fashion and 70s rock revival on display, there's nothing too debaucherous or hedonistic about a Mini Simmons show. Nor does there have to be, especially while running a victory lap like this. Leave it to Zak and Jesse, the most iconic Hawkins brothers since The Darkness, to match said band in the amount of energetic strutting and posing one can fit into an hour-long set. Brad Craig and Yoni Yahel were no slouches either, belting out twangy harmonies and powerful rhythms respectively.
Special mentions must go to the special guests of the extended lineup, guitarist William Jackman and keyboardist Emily Mackie. They added extra heft to hits like When It Rains and Mother Manins, fitting in with the band so seamlessly it’s a shame they’re not official members. If there’s any gripe I have to make, bringing it back to the live mix, it felt like the keys were underpowered and underutilised - but at the same time, as little flourishes, they served their purpose well enough.
Personally, I prefer an artist's original material to covers. On an album release tour, covers seem more like a missed opportunity, ignoring the strengths of a deep cut in favour of recognisability. Nonetheless, Midnight Rambler always contributes to the "witching hour spectacle" the band wants to create, and they always take clear pleasure in its improvisation. As with the album, there’s potential to grow in songwriting dynamics all the same - maybe a strong ballad, or at least a strong cover of Wild Horses to keep the Rolling Stones repertoire fresh and varied.
In the end, it’s always a pleasure to see a coalescence of passion between audience and artist alike, as if both were finely attuned to each other. Such was the case with the band’s encore bringing out riotous energy in everyone - from Zak Hawkins sitting on the amplifiers to the crowd bouncing on the hardwood floors like a trampoline. It’s the kind of experience that makes you want to pop some champagne.
Pick up the vinyl version of the band's self-titled, (pressed at Holiday Records in New Zealand I must add), while you still can and get in on the feel-good vibes because this victory lap hasn’t finished yet.