My Baby

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4 March 2018, the Cabana, Napier
By Rosheen FitzGerald

On the tail of a five-night streak of gigs, My Baby have found their way back to Napier. They are ostensibly here to promote their latest album, Prehistoric Rhythm. But, rich as it is, listening to their recorded music is to the live experience, as reading a sex manual is to the real thing – a diverting and worthy pursuit, no doubt, but, at the end of the day, academic by comparison.

Against native New Zealander, Daniel ‘Dafreez’ Johnston’s twilight-zone-esque guitar wail, Dutch drummer Joost van Dijck promises an evening of ‘angelic, voodoo, gospel, jumping up and down, screaming and hollering’. Thus primed, his sister, Cato, explodes onto the stage, resplendent as a bird of paradise, with percussive jewels at throat and ankle, sawing at her fiddle with explosive energy. Her kimono-ed silhouette, plumage, and strident gesture mark her as our shamanic guide for the evening. When she sings she could be the love child of Björk and Janis Joplin, using Jim Morrison’s donor sperm – a haunting melodious banshee keening that seems channelled from the divine, rather than produced by mortal organs.

The My Baby sound draws on as many influences and genres as there are contrasting patterns in the band’s collective outfits – there’s a bluegrassiness to their dense layering of strings, a tribal hedonism to the heartbeat of drums, and more than a nod to transcendental electronica in their skilled and liberal use of loops and fx pedals. It’s music that simultaneously stretches back to the primordial soup, and forward to a future that can only be visited in dreams.

Perhaps it’s this appeal to our common humanity that inspires such looseness on the dance floor – clothing is shed (men’s…#freethenipple), long hair flies with abandon (men’s, for the most part, though apologies are in order for the undoubted retinal damage my ponytail did to my neighbours), and the crowd’s collective consciousness is raised higher and higher still, feeding and feeding off the energy on stage. The vibe in the room is transubstantive, in thrall to the orchestration of the band, but they ultimately choose to use this power for good. As fever pitch is approached, an intonation is incanted, as if by a zen midwife, ‘You’re doing great’, ‘You look so beautiful right now’, pushing us to birth our better selves. The experience is heightened further by the truly mesmerising new light set up and sound system that demonstrates that, after sixty years in the business of sating Hawke’s Bay’s hunger for live music, The Cabana, is keeping things fresh.

Smiles beaming, hair and clothing wringing, we depart into the night, the air dense with a fug of collective sweat and tears. But nobody cares – it’s just that kind of crowd.

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