Saturday 17 November @ San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington.

On Saturday 17 November the Welly massive were treated to a night of skanking roots reggae as House of Shem returned to the capital to show us just how far the bands Polynesian tinged sound had come in one short year. The House of Shem boys also brought along their fellow Wanganui bredren Roots Provider.  

The aptly named Roots Provider set the ball rolling for the night at around 10 pm but the notorious Wellingtonian penchant for turning up at the last minute dictated that most of the crowd missed their performance. However those who got there in time were in for a treat.

Roots Provider, whom I had never heard of before, took full advantage of the heavyweight San Fran Bathhouse rig and provided a hearty set of roots music in a refreshingly authentic rockers style. The band’s sound demonstrated a strong appreciation for Roots and Culture foundations and I was really impressed with the way in which their lyrics blended Ras Tafari consciousness with Tikanga Maori. They chanted down Babylon with a string of inspiring originals and then finished their set with a rousing interpretation of Jah Marley’s The Heathen. By the end of their set I was left with the distinct impression that when they next returned to Wellington Roots Provider would be fronting their own gig.

The interlude saw Art Official spin some rare wax to keep things crucial and by 11.30 the now more than respectable crowd were raring to go.

House of Shem began their set with a stirring Santana like guitar solo from Wiremu Barriball that gradually built up to crescendo at which point the skank dropped in to signal the torrent of irie vibes that would flow for the rest of night. The crowd was then kept skanking without reprieve for well over two hours as House of Shem presented a shrewd mix of contemporary Polynesian reggae, lover’s rock and traditional roots.

Under the stewardship of Carl Perkins there was undoubtedly a strong Herb’s influence heard on their sound however they also incorporated a slightly more dubwise approach at times by incorporating an MPC sampler. I was really impressed by the bands musicianship and the tightness of their sound showed the band had really progressed since their previous visit. My only minor disappointment was the use of synthesizers in place of horns.

The band seemed really unified as they regularly traded both instruments and vocal duties from song to song, however two members deserve special mention. Francis Harawira was exceptional on bass and Isaiah Perkins demonstrated incredible talent on both vocals and keys for such a young man. His raw talent was particularly evident in his rendition of Zion Train.

This gig was testament to the incredible depth of New Zealand roots music and by the end of the night the irie vibes had spilled out onto Cuba St as a number of crowd members gathered around a car’s sound system to sing Jah praise in an exceptional display of unity.