Lucy Hunter playing the piano by the sea

Lucy Hunter

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Thursday 18 April 2019
Somewhere on the beach between Haumoana and Te Awanga
By Rosheen FitzGerald

The waxing moon rises over the ocean, a sliver away from full fullness. The cloud dappled sky spreads, vast, above gently lapping waves, tumbling stones and the inky finger of the cape stretching to the horizon. On the shore, a carved-legged upright piano sits, mic-ed up, lit as if from within, surrounded by Chinese red globe lanterns, delineating the stage.

 For a good hour it gathers anticipation, a sacred space apart, while lovers huddle and families squabble over hot chips and marshmallows around the bonfire. But when Lucy Hunter — one third of Dunedin punk pop band, Opposite Sex, and whanau to the ubiquitously talented Dobson clan — takes her seat, one and all are drawn from the warmth and the light into the darkness.

Humble to the core, she confesses she’s a fan of the kind of piano playing style where ‘you play lots of wrong notes and pretend that’s how it’s meant to sound’. Raw and real, her voice slides off key, accompanied by minor thumping dirges and the repetitive, percussive, relentless crash of the ocean. It’s strange and haunting and heart-touchingly beautiful, spanning themes from murder to having the ‘flu, to the lesser known works of Janet Frame, to an oddly poignant piece penned by an online random word generator.

The sound is exquisite, technically as well as artistically — I’ve heard worse fidelity in established music venues. The absence of the generator hum we’ve come to accept as trade off for experiencing live music in the wild is palpable. Hunter bangs out tunes wresting emotion from her instrument with Philip Glass style hand chops that put the forte in pianoforte.

It’s a short set but by it’s end, cloaked in fox fur and Canterbury blankets and sleeping children and my own heightened capacity for passion and pain, I am sated, filled up by the beautiful music, the naked authenticity that’s been spilled forth with abundance.

As an encore the floor is opened, and filled by a trio of game audience members — a belter struck out by a laughing boy who confesses he’s had way too many beers to perform to his highest standard — a heart rending Neil Young cover by a local pro who sheds his woollen blazer, all the better to span the keys — a brief and soft-voiced love song, dripping with emotion, by a closed-eyed woman in a hand-knitted beanie. It’s the perfect summation to an evening that’s laden with quirk and togetherness — the very reason that our beachside community continues to provide an environment in which the arts can thrive and grow and be shared to all who want to listen.

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