The music scene at the moment reminds me of one of those David Attenborough documentaries.

We've all seen them: gorgeous time-lapse photography takes us through the cycles of a waterless dessert, months when nature has withdrawn and stillness and silence reign.

Then there's a smattering of rain and as if by magic small green tendrils start emerging, forcing their way through the barren sand.

That's where we're at with the music scene. Or perhaps I'm just being fanciful.

But it's good to report that, with a gig this Saturday, things seem to be crawling back towards whatever normal used to be.

By the way - or BTW for those whose grasp of language is slipping textwards - I've abandoned the phrase ‘new normal’. Literally everything is, apparently the ‘new normal’. For about five minutes everyone was talking about how clean and wonderful the air is now that there are fewer cars on the road. Two days later we're back to traffic jams. People don't want a ‘new normal’, they just want the old normal.

Jack Dusty's

And this weekend some people are going to get it. Jack Dusty's in Bureta, which has over the past year become the town's most popular Sunday afternoon venue, is kicking off live music again.

OK. So it's not exactly the same as it used to be. The music this weekend is on Saturday (May 23) and in the evening, but it does feature people well-known at Jack Dusty's from Sundays as well as their monthly blues nights.

So it's business as sorta usual, with music kicking off at 7.30pm. You'll need to book a table, since that is now the temporary normal. Good news - there's no charge for the music.

Actually, the oddest thing about the show is the fact that the man ‘fronting’ the band, or at least giving his name to it on the night is the drummer. Yep, this Saturday it's Neil Reynolds and friends, the friends including Wayne Melville (bass), Chris Gunn (keys and vocals), and Trevor Braunius (guitar). My guess is there will also be a whole bunch more musicians itching to get on stage...

So let me tell you about Neil, who has a fantastic many-decades-long history in the New Zealand rock scene. He started out in early sixties Hamilton where he was, along with his guitarist brother Wayne, one of the founding members of The Mods. Neil went on to play in Chris (Manfred Man) Thompson's band Mandrake and was the original drummer for Dragon when they formed in 1972.

He was also a Red Hot Pepper in the seventies alongside Robbie Laven and Marion Arts,
as well as backing Midge Marsden and Hammond Gamble and, well, everyone really.

Since then Neil has played with a huge number of bands, from being a regular Mudshark at the famous Raglan music nights to drumming for several years with Tauranga jazz favourites Torch Songs.


Neil is, and I know this is an odd phrase, a musician's musician. One of the reasons he is rated so highly, and this is going to sound even odder, is that he doesn't really seem to play anything. I have lost count of the number of conversations I've had with musicians about Neil and heard them say: “how does he do it?”.

Because Neil is one of the most propulsive drummers in New Zealand. He drives the band and he grooves. Yes, he's what people call a ‘Groove Drummer’. But if you watch him, he doesn't seem to be really doing anything. Nothing flash, no show-off paradiddles, just a backbeat and rhythm so minimalist that it really shouldn't do what it does. But it does. It grooves.

I've always thought that's why he was so perfect for Torch Songs. With six of them in the band there was always a lot going on, but the way Neil plays seems to take so little space that there was always air for the other instruments to occupy.

Anyway, I digress. The headline is Live Music Is Back! And that's the story too.

Winston Watusi
Music Plus