On the back of their latest EP, We Make Really Party, the Canadian five-piece The Tequila Mocking Bird Orchestra serenaded a quant Auckland crowd last Saturday night, nestled away in a bungalow that is home to the organiser Second Hand News. Moved unexpectedly from The Anthology Lounge, the night promised an intimate evening with folky wanderings of ‘warm bodies in search of harmony.’
Making my way into the living room where an accordion, bass, violin, guitar, Cajon and djembe lay in waiting, your eyes are first drawn to the frenzy of folk concert posters that climb each wall. Bean bags and couches were strewn about the room, offering plenty of sitting space for a small, mostly experienced crowd, with cute dogs happily patrolling for pats – the vibe was warm and friendly.
After picking up their instruments with confident grins, the accordion ushered in the first song the evening Your Face. First impressions saw the room fill with rich, well-balanced harmonies that confirmed that this purely acoustic set was intended to be listened to in a such a way. A small notebook sat lonely on the ground, displaying some of the group’s impressive repertoire that spans a decade.
Greeting the crowd, the more sombre track What We See came bounding in with a gypsy-folk style that was accompanied by the pop of a fancy bottle of red wine being opened. The low, bass vocals of percussionist Paul Wolda bellowed in front of a beautifully woven thread of droning harmonies that glued the soundscape together.
Imitating a whine, Mack Shields’ fiddle had a quick conversation with one of the dogs to the delight of the crowd before the next track Mountains on Fire came rolling in. Switching around their voices over each verse of the song and joining in for a powerful chorus, the congealed nature of the groups instrumentation really shone here – wispily strummed guitar chords dipped into a washed accordion’s harmonic backdrop that sparkled with twitchy fiddle playing, grounded by thick melodic bass lines that reacted with bounding djembe rhythms which echoed through the floorboards.
A fast, snappy bluegrass number hit after the break, drawing the most amount of movement out of the crowd with clapping, thigh slapping and foot tapping. Having an almost mantra quality, the next song saw the crowd’s eyes begin to close and relaxed bodies sink into bean bags and couches.
After perking up the crowd with a much faster number which peeled marbled eyes on the rapid, masterfully played Cajon that left a heavy layer of sweat on the brow, a cover of Corb Lund’s Apocalyptic Modified Blues was introduced. The more psychedelic blues track came rumbling in with train-like rhythms that saw Kurt Loewen’s guitar splay tingling open chords over Ian Griffiths' whimsical accordion lines and Keith Rodger’s plucky bass overtones.
Finishing up at 10:30, The Tequila Mocking Bird Orchestra rounded up a quirky little evening of what sounded like a love child of traditional folk and, the rather thorny term, “world-music.” Having songs that range across style as much as the languages used in their lyrics, the group’s uniqueness left the living room wanting more but the couches of which provided the beds for the members who needed some good sleep before embarking on the next leg of their journey.