Bernie Griffen says he’ll probably write a song about the Whanganui Musicians Club one day.
That’s the level of appreciation the musician has for the venue he will play for the third time this Friday.
It’s part of he and Kirsten Warner’s 15-date nationwide tour with The Thin Men.
After three weeks dodging earthquakes and rain down south – where Bernie Griffen and The Thin Men’s debut album Salvation has been well received – the pair are looking forward to the North Island leg of the tour and the big audience they’ve come to expect in Whanganui.
“We played here a couple of times,” Griffen says. “It’s always a buzz because there’s plenty of people enjoying themselves. And they stop and listen.”
“It’s absolutely true,” Warner says. “There’s something very special about the Whanganui Musicians Club. They’ve built up a culture, over a long period of time, of appreciation.
“Every touring musician in New Zealand will aim to play at the Whanganui Musicians Club because it’s a place where people actually respect what they’re hearing and they consistently come and support New Zealand music. It’s a really special thing.”
Salvation is Griffen’s first since his former band Bernie Griffen & The Grifters ended.
“It’s really kind of hard to just come up with a new sound,” he says. “It took us a couple of years to even get a sound happening.”
Written by Griffen, the songs evolved in the hands of sessions musicians and a producer when it was recorded in a day and a half in Auckland.
“It wasn’t a very acoustic sound,” Warner says. “It had a very driving feeling to it. Given the musicians that we work with it’s not surprising; they’re really tight.”
Griffen says: “[New Zealand’s] folk and country music at the moment is held up in Australia too. They’re making an impression around the world, that’s for sure.”
It’s a style that its strong in New Zealand at the moment led by the likes of Delaney Davidson, Marlon Williams and Nadia Reid.
“Over the years, it’s taken a long time to settle down and become a sound and those young guys are lucky enough to be playing music at a time that that sound’s coalescing, if you know what I mean,” Griffen says.
Friday night’s set will also include and a poetry performance from Warner.
“It tends to warm people up,” she says.
“I don’t read. I perform. What I find is that when you put the page down, you can engage with and audience. It really comes to life when you’re not reading off the page.”
And Warner says the poetry and music blend well together.
“The poems and the songs come from similar territory really.
“Bernie’s songs are very descriptive. They’re full of imagery and stories. People say ‘you should have more breaks, we need to think about it’.”
Griffen recalls the last time in Warner read poetry in Whanganui – at the Musicians Club.
“It’s the first place I ever saw Kirsten shut up 200 drunks. They were roaring and she got up and started talking,” he says.
“By the time she got through the second verse, it was deadly quite. It was fascinating.
“It’s and fantastic place and, you know, I’m going to write a song about that place one day.”
** Bernie Griffen, Kirsten Warner and The Thin Men play at the Whanganui Musicians Club, Friday, December 2. $10 entry or $5 for members. Doors open 7.30pm.
Listen to Salvation here: https://berniegriffenthethinmen.bandcamp.com/releases
Feature photo by Michael Flynn.