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Chants R&B


Fri 26 Feb 2010, 8:00pm
Sat 27 Feb 2010, 8:00pm

Where: Al's Bar, 31 Dundas St, Christchurch

Restrictions: R18

Ticket Information:

  • General admission : $25.00
  • Additional fees may apply

Listed by: velvettiger

In late 1966 Playdate magazine reported on the Chants R&B...

“The sound I was hearing was provided by a four man group called the Chants. They have a style completely their own which is hard to express in words. On this, my first visit, drummer Trevor Courtney, whose hair hid his face and who was wearing a white skivvy bearing a Union Jack, was thrashing the percussion mercilessly. Rhythm guitarist Michael Rudd was on his knees and appeared to be hammering his guitar to the floor: bass guitarist Martin Forrer was doing his utmost to follow the melody while sitting in a Ravi Shankar position playing his guitar upside down: lead guitarist Tim Piper was just standing there coaxing harmonic feed-back out of his customised amplifier, adding distortion to distortion.”

Chants R&B had a residency every weekend from 1964 -1966 at The Stagedoor, a grungy cellar downstairs from a coffee bar in what was Hereford Lane (now Tramway Lane) adjacent to Cathedral Square. It was a mods’ hangout, and there were always gangs of rockers (or bodgies) waiting to pick off the unwary long-haired straggler after a Chants’ gig, so the mod kids – and they were mostly school kids - travelled in packs for safety.

Trevor Courtney, the Chants’ effervescent drummer, was still at school in 1964, and Mike Rudd, the band’s singer, was going through the motions at Art School, already a recognised breeding ground for rock musicians, just as in the UK.

In 1966 the band left the safe insularity of the Stagedoor for the last time and decamped to Melbourne, where, perhaps predictably, they broke up a short six months later.

Somewhat spookily, Chants R&B returned to Christchurch for a reunion and a solitary performance in 2007, and Al’s Bar was jam-packed with former Stagedoor devotees, now universally silver haired, (that’s if they’d managed to hold onto any hair at all), with a sprinkling of disbelieving kids wondering what all these oldies were raving on about.

From the opening chord of I’m Your Witchdoctor, the band’s last single back in 1966, the Chants’ performance that night was loud and swaggering, and if you closed your eyes you could easily imagine what it must’ve been like listening to the younger version of the Chants in that sweaty cellar four decades ago – even the most sceptical kids in the room were impressed.

Two years later and a slightly re-jigged version of Chants R&B is back at Al’s Bar for two nights, still with Mike Rudd, Trevor Courtney and Martin Forrer, but this time with another ex-Chants’ guitarist, Tim Piper, holding down the lead guitar position.

They’re much older now, but they’ve all got active careers in the music business and can all still passionately hammer out the Chants’ eclectic take on British blues, American soul and rock.

Chants R&B? The R&B tag, one Chants’ fan observed, stood for nothing more or less than serious rumble and bang..

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