Headed up to the National Jazz Festival 2009 in Tauranga last weekend (well actually it was to see my in-laws but we got live jazz as an added bonus) and checked out some class acts, including what is now my fav jazz band (I’m in danger of actually being a groupie) and that is the Grand Central Band from the bar of the same name in Ponsonby with frontman Chris Melville.

We had actually seen these guys last year but they were playing in the cheap seats, off the back of a truck down the main street. This year they’d been promoted to a paid gig, which they were more than worthy of. The group play a tight set, with a funky bass lines, complicated keyboard sections, wailing guitar pieces, death-defying drum solos and Chris’ own mellow as vocals, the whole lot comes together in one sweet groov-a-thon. They mashup some popular songs that were better than the original and added plenty of their own material, reaching as far back as their Cook St Sessions album recorded in 2000.

After the show I did the groupie thing, had my photo taken with Chris, we bought their latest album, Brightest Star, and got it signed by the band. I even tweeted about the gig when I got home and facebooked them … whoa easy tiger, sure these guys are talented but they can do without the pyscho bunny boiler who won’t leave them alone! But I would seriously love these guys to get down to Christchurch and play at one of our hoolies!

By the way, we weren’t actually intending to go to the GCB gig initially; we went to Baycourt to see a Chick Corea jazz show but we got out and met Chris then started thinking … what the hey? doubled back and shelled out for the tickets we couldn’t afford 🙂 these guys were worth it.

Other highlights of the weekend included checking out the Jazz Village on Sunday where Tropical Downbeat pulled in the crowds with their fully groovatational sounds (another CD I had to get autographed) and Shaken not Stirred finished with a nice set fronted by the lovely, and quite possibly pregnant, Sheree Mathieson. Their gig was made even more interesting with what can only be described as bizarre behaviour by seemingly normal people.

Sunday finished up with a trip down to the world famous (in BOP) Mount Hot Pools, this was a first for me and probably a last as I didn’t really find them that inspiring (probably spoilt by the high expectation Hanmer have set) but I did manage to make an embarrassing faux pais introducing myself to Moss Burmester quite by accident, thinking they were with Aaron and Janey (hey guys, thanks for not making too much of an issue about it :). Then headed out to the romantically-named Leisure Island (another first for me) for a lovely moonlit stroll (no romance but fun times with my new BOP friends).

The next day it was off to Rotorua airport (quite possibly the least friendly airport in the country – I don’t blame them really) and flying skippy airways back down to Christchurch. The carrot cake was magic and I didn’t spill the milk (much – how are you supposed to open those pressurised little containers anyway!?) and the car was waiting exactly where I left it. Mission accomplished!

Grand Central Band get their groove on
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