Singer-songwriter Kane Strang began making waves in his hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand with a collection of solo demos recorded in a WWII bomb shelter in Germany. His sound doesn’t stray too far afield from the jangly psychedelic indie-pop “Dunedin sound” generated by a wave of New Zealand bands in the 1980’s like The Clean, The Chills, and The Verlaines, that were captured on a series of releases by venerable indie label Flying Nun Records. So it seems like a bit of destiny that his debut album, Blue Cheese was released last year via Flying Nun and Ba Da Bing Records. The album, like his earlier demos, was a DIY affair this time recorded during a two-month period while Strang was housesitting for his parents in Dunedin. Blue Cheese is not simply a re-hash of the Dunedin sound, it is a modern fuzzy update that channels guitar-driven garage rock with pop synths, heavy bass lines and a psychedelic lo-fi indie-rock sensibility. Since his debut Kane Strang has been building a steady following, and with the finishing touches being applied to his forthcoming follow-up, Strang has journeyed to North America for his first ever shows outside New Zealand. The tour included a stop at the Pinhook in Durham NC as Strang makes his way down to SXSW.
It was a curious group of fans that gathered at the Pinhook to catch Kane Strang’s set. Most of those in attendance were familiar with his recently released new single “Oh So You’re Off I See,” which sees Strang expand on the DIY approach of his demos and debut album and features a thicker sound backed by a band. So it wasn’t a total surprise when Strang took to the stage backed by a trio. The band proceeded to play through a set that comprised a good portion of the songs from Blue Cheese, as well as a few new songs thrown in for good measure. They were a solid unit and their performance added a new dimension and heavier take on the solo built arrangements from Strang’s debut while retaining the hooks and supporting his vocals as opposed to overpowering them. The highlight of the set was a fun romp through “Oh So You’re Off I See” that had fans cheering and calling out their approval. The only downside to the evening was the all too short length of the set, clocking in at around 45 minutes, it left fans happy but wanting more. He may not be a household name in the US yet, but Kane Strang is an artist with a great deal of potential. Catch him on his first North American tour if you get the chance and keep an eye and ear open for his sophomore album due out later this year on Dead Oceans.
Tapped with starting the evening was Jphono1, the primarily solo outlet for multi-instrumentalist and local music scene veteran John Harrison. While his most recent album, Time in the Chevron was a full band departure for Jphono1, the set at the Pinhook was a solo affair. Starting off with a surprisingly atmospheric jam built around banjo riffs, Harrison played a set of psychedelic folk pop that was constructed with multiple loops and acoustic rhythms that created a layered otherworldly sound. Following Jphono1 was another rock veteran, Alec Ferrell, performing as The All Things. Originally conceived as a three piece, The All Things set at the Pinhook consisted of a solo Ferrell playing live guitar and singing on top of backing tracks that filled out the sound. Ferrell delivered an engaging performance filled with full-blooded rock ‘n roll that transcended the limitations of playing solo, making his set all the more impressive and memorable.