Mel Parsons – down at the bar, swilling drinks and playing guitar
Galatos, Friday 5 May 2017. Review by Natalie Crane
I jumped at the opportunity to see Mel Parsons’ live show as she was a past resident of a rather unique dwelling I used to live at, The Big House. No, not a prison, but a beautiful colonial villa in Parnell with 21 bedrooms. Mel Parson’s shot her music video ‘I’ll Go’ there, you can take a look below.
Rumour has it Helen Clark used to party at The Big House in the 70s, and Nandor Tanczos lived in the attic for a while in the 90s.
As a bit of background, living in The Big House was like living in a cross between MasterChef and Big Brother, sans cameras. We were put into teams of three, rotating each night to cook a vegetarian feast for the whole house. A gong was rung around the house when it was time for dinner. A written constitution laid down the rules and meetings were held where decisions were passed unanimously, like a jury. While I was there someone even got voted out of the house! It was a great experience and I recognized a few of the flatties at the gig.
Galatos was set up with a bit of a cabaret feel with small tables and candles near the stage, very different to the moshpits of the heavy trap gigs I’ve been to there! There was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the NZ entertainment world in attendance. I saw Anika Moa (who Mel has toured with), Jackie Van Beek, Rawiri Paratene, Tami Neilson and even Lionel from Shortland Street!
We were warmed up with a special guest comedian Wilson Dixon hailing from Cripple Creek USA. He was like a one-man country style Flight of the Concords, looking a little like Owen Wilson with his aviator shades. I was doubled over in laughter for the next hour as he strummed his guitar to lyrics such as “Life’s like dancing naked with a horse, something you can only ever do once.” Wilson’s first album he explained was called ‘Wilson Dixon’s Greatest Hits’ followed up by his second album ‘Introducing Wilson Dixon’. Lol.
Mel Parsons arrived on stage with a wide-toothed smile and an Amy Winehouse style up-do complemented by a glamorous full-length dress she found in a vintage op shop in Tauranga. Her musical genre is described as indie folk and alternative country. She was a Silver Scroll finalist in 2015 and the winner of the Best Country Song Award at the 2016 NZ Music Awards. She has toured extensively including at some of NZ’s most remote woolsheds.
Mel played tonight with a full band. With the drums, double bass, and 3 guitars it was a formidable force, like witnessing a tornado brewing in Kansas. At one stage the electric guitarist got on his knees in full rock and roll mode and started playing the guitar with his teeth, accidentally knocking over the mic stand twice!
The song ‘Down at the Bar’ had people toe tapping as she sang “swilling drinks and playing guitar”. Some of her songs were based on her own true life stories such as ‘Get Out Alive’ about a serious car crash she walked away from. The catchy song ‘Non communicado’ got a few brave and tipsy people out of their seats and dancing.
Her cousin Jed Parsons got out from behind the drum kit to sing an impressive solo number. Mel reappeared to the crowd and a friend in the audience gleefully hollered “costume change!” Fancy! Mel thought she looked like an ice skater in her new outfit, a la Torvil and Dean, but I really liked the tassels and sparkle. This is what I imagined it was like watching June Carter and Johnny Cash on stage.
The show ended with a two song encore and I’m sure everyone walked away with their hearts well warmed. Mel Parsons is a down to earth alternative country darling, a real gem on the NZ music scene. I had such a good time I might even start listening to country music!