Laura Collins and the Back Porch Blues Band, Te Puna Hall

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There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but judging by the crowd at the Te Puna Hall last Saturday night the 22nd of August 2015, there are at least 29 ways to its door…

Laura Collins’ opening number set the tone for a dark, affectionate, bluesy evening with her and her ‘boys’ who now have the set list printed in 18pt. Definitely more than your average white blues band, the Porch is favoured with a new and very capable guitarist in the form of John O’Connor. His nicely judged fingering and, at times, a fine tremolo touch, melded well with the extravagant keyboarding of Wayne Mason, underpinned by George Barris on bass and Pete Cogswell, who was not allowed a set of drums: instead, his was a “percussion collection”, stickered and postcarded with pictures of his heroes and heroines, Bonnie Raitt among them.

So Laura, on her second visit to Te Puna, was in fine voice and fine company, as was your correspondent, feverishly trying to cram in as many events at the Te Puna Hall as she can before it subsides before a two-lane roundabout to replace the very dangerous intersection of the Minden and Te Puna roads with State Highway 2. That should be enough of an address for anyone else wanting to enjoy the atmosphere of a great old country Hall for its last few gigs, and – in case you are interested – the TPC will do her best to get advance notices of who’s coming posted on this website.

Our hostess and organiser, Rosie Holmes’, taste runs to the Scots/Irish folk tradition as well as your broader-spectrum country blues, and she has a keen eye for a good band. You could do worse than get on to her mailing list. Although it’ll be a very different kind of sound, it’s very possible that there may be other concerts in the smaller, more utilitarian space that is likely to be Te Puna’s temporary community gathering place for 12 months from November. (The first of Rosie’s concerts, a one-man show by Ken Nicol, was staged in the supper room, so we know we can have a stonking good time at very close quarters…) All of which is by way of allowing the TPC some opportunity, here, to reflect on the importance of having a place to hang out and express the community’s cultural, recreational and sporting interests (to quote the Hall Committee’s Statement of Objects). We came to boogie, and with Laura’s smoky-voiced encouragement that’s how the evening ended, not in a mosh pit but filling the space for exhibitionists at the back.

Hanging out with Laura and the Back Porchers involved the mostly familiar – Nina Simone, JJ Kale, Muddy Waters, Levonne Helm, Etta James – and some nice surprises, as with a couple of lovely rock waltz treatments, notably “Come on Home” and BB King’s “Waiting for Your Call”; and as with Sam ‘n’ Dave’s “Hold On” which, though a long-time favourite of your correspondent’s, is not often performed live and is still – inexplicably – shy of 2,000,000 hits on YouTube.

So maybe it was not surprising that Laura wrinkled her fine profile when the TPC suggested adding “Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone” to her repertoire. For her the path less trodden is still favoured over the standard. But I hold to my opinion that she would do a fine job of it, and also concede that, just at the moment, I’m feeling that there’s not a lot of sunshine to be had once the Te Puna Hall is no longer there for us. Get along to it while it’s still standing, people!

The Te Puna Correspondent.

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