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Live Review
Wilberforces, Happy Bar, Wellington

Wilberforces Happy Bar Wellington

Reviewed By
Stefan Reyners
29th March 2010


WILBERFORCES w/ Brains, Mammal Airlines
Happy Bar, March 25

My first point of contact with Wilberforces in a live context was at Camp a Low Hum ’09. They blew me away that day as I made a mental note of bands to watch throughout 2009. Unfortunately I heard little about the band that year and didn’t see them again until Thursday night where they played at Happy alongside Brains and Mammal Airlines. First and foremost I was bummed to miss out on Mammal Airlines (do check them out at and most of Brains’ set ( Apologies.

Anyhow, with a new look line-up and a bunch of fresh tracks, I was met by a different Wilberforces to the one I witnessed that day in Wainuiomata. The most notable absentee from the new line-up is Emily Street Chant who is a great loss when you consider the strength and character on the backing vocals of the band’s ‘08 Alt TV hit ‘Tidal Waves’, not to mention the songwriting qualities she brought to the band. So Thursday night’s show was all about the new Wilberforces featuring former Nevernudes guitarist Joe Trotman on bass. Now a three-piece, the group delivered a sharp and focused set of angular guitar pop songs as Trotman did his best to incite what was an otherwise decidedly subdued Thursday night crowd. Whether or not his efforts aided the appeal of the band, the performance was impressive nonetheless, with front man Thomas Burton affirming the renewed ambition of the group. While changes in personnel can tend to dictate those in sound, I was transported back to the band’s Wainuiomata ’09 set during Thursday evening’s event and this felt right. I was attracted to Wilberforces initially because of their guitar sound and it’s certainly still intact. I have a tendency to digest modern bands in the light of their most obvious influences, many of whom existed back in the 1980s, so for me an immediate assessment of Wilberforces leans toward Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth and The Feelies but that’s not to say the Aucklanders lack originality. This is new and exciting stuff and it seems only a matter of time before they come a knockin’ at Die! Die! Die!’s door.

Stefan Reyners.