The Datsuns are probably my favourite band and their show last night at the Kings Arms was another great gig to add to my memory bank. I first encountered them around 2002, not long after the release of their first album but about six years after they’d formed in Cambridge (the small NZ farming town, not the English university).
One gig was an intimate party at Crow Bar, where they shared the bill with the D4, and the other was a much bigger, messier affair at the St James. Then years later I caught them at one of the council’s free events in Nixon Park. Every performance has been riveting, transfixing, exhilarating.
The drums are hard and fast, rolling and unpredictable. Couple that with Livingston’s relentless guitar hooks, Somervell’s rhythm, and De Dorst’s heavy-ass bass and you get a magical hypnotism that transports me out of a pushing/shoving mosh pit and onto the floor of a quality nightclub, where everyone’s locked in a groove.
But not only does the band rock out, they also drop back into bluesy refrains where they seem to be taking things freestyle and jamming for the joy of it. The fact they sometimes turn and face each other in a loose circle only enhances the pleasure of watching them play, and reinforces the sense of solidarity. I also adore De Borst’s voice; it’s not too dark and growly, or too operatic, like some hard rock/metal vocalists.
According to Concrete Playground:
“Bass player and vocalist Dolf de Borst is based in Sweden, where he runs a recording studio with Nicke Andersson of Swedish rock band The Hellacopters; guitarist Christian Livingstone is based in London, building guitar effects pedals as Magnetic Effects; drummer Ben Cole lives in Wellington, and guitarist Phil Somervell lives in Auckland as a squash tutor.”
And indeed the frontman was looking rather Scandinavian in a beige patterned shirt, with his hair cut round his chin and a full moustache.
On the right, co-founder Phil Somervell looked pure rock n roll, with his long straight hair (reminiscent of Neil from The Young Ones), in a t-shirt with spiders crawling down the front, and his guitar looking pretty battered.
On the left, Christian Livingstone, with shoulder-length hair, skinny jeans and a black shirt, was most noticeable for the way he either cut back from stage to let rip on his guitar, or stood at the very front – gazing at the crowd in a fearless, cocky sort of way that reminded me of Steve Coogan’s take on Mancunican legend Tony Wilson in the movie 24 Hour Party People.
Meanwhile, Ben Cole (who replaced the original drummer Matt Osment after their third album) might be a little less interesting to look at, but he sure can play his instrument!
I’m surprised the Datsuns aren’t popular enough to fill the 1000-capacity Powerstation (or stadium-sized Vector!) but at least the KA was packed, with people piled up watching from every vantage. Standing a few feet back from the stage, everybody was keeping beat and if you caught someone’s eye, you were met with a knowing smile.
Other contenders for my favourite band are The Arctic Monkeys from Sheffield, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club from San Francisco, or the collection of Kiwi musicians that make up Luger Boa and The Defendants, including Jimmy Xmas (ex-D4, now frontman/guitarist of Luger Boa); Sam Lockley (Luger Boa guitarist, The Defendants’ multi-instrumentalist); Simon Nichols (ex-Newton City Bombers, now Luger Boa and Head Like a Hole bassist); Johnny Lyon (Luger Boa guitarist and son of Hello Sailor’s Harry Lyon); and Glenn Prosser (The Defendants‘ vocalist).
But I do think The Datsuns win. Living as they do in three countries and four cities, I’m so glad they keep making records and touring. Superb.