Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer
Saturday 8 December 2018
When the Auckland live music institution Kings Arms hosted a series of gigs to mark it’s closure at the start of 2018, possibly the most special was the unexpected reunion of the Straitjacket Fits alongside Shayne Carter’s post Fits outfit, Dimmer.
It was the first live appearance by Straitjacket Fits since a reformation tour in 2005, and the first in five years by Dimmer. The full house in Auckland was treated to three decades of transcendent rock music packed into a searing two and a quarter hour show, with the pair of bands playing back to back sets. Now the two groups will reconvene for a repeat performance at the Powerstation.
Hailed in their day as “the greatest guitar band in the world” by English rock weekly Melody Maker, Straitjacket Fits cut a swathe through the late 80’s / 90s International alternative rock scene. Emanating from Dunedin and at the forefront of their label Flying Nun’s impeccable international reputation, the Fits’ combination of blistering guitars and potent, haunting melodies earned them a reputation as one of the most powerful live acts on earth with journalists around the globe regularly tripping over themselves to find superlatives to describe the band’s scorching live shows.
From their classic debut EP Life In Chord, which featured songs like She Speeds and Dialling A Prayer, to their swan song LP Blow, recorded in LA for American major label Arista, Straitjacket Fits produced a body of work that stands as one of the most vital and original in the New Zealand rock canon. Their combination of jet engine guitars, psychedelic pop scapes and melodic innovation meant they predated, and musically predicted, the British shoe gazer movement, later bands like Radiohead, and the generation of guitar bands that followed in their wake.
The show earlier this year proved that the power of the Fit’s music hasn’t waned. The website “13th Floor” noted; “A brilliant evening with one of New Zealand’s perhaps most under-rated greatest bands. Am I talking about the Fits, or Dimmer? Doesn’t matter really. They were. They are.”
The Fits line up will be the same that appeared at the Kings Arms show with Carter joined by drummer John Collie, guitarist Mark Petersen, and Dimmer members James Duncan and Vaughan Williams filling in on bass for original bassist David Wood who passed away in 2010.
Carter, Williams and Duncan will team up with drummer Gary Sullivan in the Dimmer set, which will cover the entire spectrum of that band’s decade and a half existence.
Dimmer first appeared in the mid 90s on the Sub Pop label with the pyrotechnic instrumental Crystalator. Carter then withdrew into the shadows for five years before re emerging with the surprise soul noir and rock minimalism of the first Dimmer album “I Believe You A Star”, which is now recognised as a New Zealand classic.
Dimmer released three more albums over the next several years, “You’ve Got To Hear The Music”, “There My Dear” and the rockier “Degrees Of Existence” before Carter pulled the plug on the band in 2012.
For Carter the forthcoming Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer tour is something of a career retrospective with each band leading naturally into the other, although as the singer himself notes, “Mainly it’s an opportunity to play some bad ass rock n roll with my mates.”
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