With generous amounts of hair and wild-bluesy twang, Mini Simmons took Wellington’s Caroline on a lively jaunt back to the golden era of 60s Rock ‘n Roll.
Conceived during a surf trip to Mexico, the Auckland band have been releasing music since 2017 and are now touring the country on the back of their new self-titled debut album.
With a bare-boned set up of bass, guitar, and drums, Mini Simmons’ sound was a familiar take on the classic rock of bands such as The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Catchy guitar riffs, with just the right amount of dirt, locked into the bass’s thudding groove while drums punched things up in gear. The group found the most success when they kept the energy high; there was the no-nonsense romper When It Rains (It Pours), the upbeat and merry A Way With Murder, and the light-hearted jolt of Madam Arabella. Sun-soaked and carefree, it was difficult not to join the crowd by bouncing along to these accessible rockers.
The flipside of this was the band’s complete failure to challenge or subvert expectations. Though skillfully assembled and performed, in tone, structure, and lyrics, the songs felt mechanically cut from templates long tried and tested. The further the gig progressed the more unremarkable it came across, and I found myself wishing to hear some actual Stones’ songs instead of less interesting rehashes (their covers of Midnight Rambler and Them’s Gloria were actually a welcome addition).
Thankfully, a charismatic and lively performance worked well to keep things engaging. Decked out in funky 70s fits, some of which came off, the four bandmates embraced their performing influences with vigour. Lead singer Zak Hawkins bore a full rockstar swagger as he threw himself into each new tune, going from folksy drawl to spirited howl, while Brad Craig took centre stage for several serious meltdowns on the guitar.
Many times the crowd were called on to good effect: clapping, chanting, and once dropping down to the ground for a breakdown. At one point Hawkins even took up the harmonica with an animated flourish. Though this was all very cheerful, by the third encore the performance felt too put-on to be truly intimate; less of a personal moment between band and audience and more of a fun event in the course of the night.
Not all gigs have to be profound and innovative, and it’s cool to see a band cleanly hit the mark they set, but Mini Simmons need to challenge themselves on new terrain if they hope to leave any lasting mark of their own.