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Gig Review: Psycho Gab at Whammy Backroom

Psycho Gab at Whammy Backroom

Thursday 23 May 2024

Full Feature by Ruby Webb-Sagarin 

Photography by Gabriella Hope 

Wait, wait, wait—you've never heard of "neo-soul jazzy alt RnB"?! Psycho Gab's very own lead singer, Rosetta Stone, described their music as exactly that before their Friday night gig at Whammy Backroom. After the blustery air outside numbed our hands, Psycho Gab and their opener, Crumbly Jack, warmed them with their tunes.

If you've never been to a local gig but have an image of nonchalant young people in underground bars, huddled over small tables and clouds of smoke, wearing screen-printed tees of their friend's band, you'd be exactly right. My Thursday evenings are usually pretty monotonous compared to the dynamic aura of this setup. 

Pōneke's hometown heroes and the night’s openers, Crumbly Jack, melted right in. Bassist Jack Harris, Drummer Louis Holland, and Guitarist Theo Thompson all sported long haircuts and mullets reminiscent of music's greatest rockstars, from Paul McCartney to Keith Richards. Lead singer Eden Brown's blonde highlighted braids and colourful shirt amidst their black and white ensembles unified the quartet. Crumbly Jack combined jazzy RnB with lyrics ranging from painstaking romance to an ode to Brown's monkey laptop sticker in "Simon". It's impressive when musicians emulate antedated musicians, but perhaps even more so when they imbue this emulation with markers of their own cultural zeitgeist. Crumbly Jack's nostalgic references yield to their timely, youthful energy. Their humour shone through in their clarification that "Dragonfly" was once called "Louis is a Good Guy", a song where Holland's nifty drum rolls take the spotlight. Amidst Brown's silky tone, Thompson's catchy refrains, and Harris' cool undertones, songs like "Affirmations" and "Emmet" leave a memorable taste.

Psycho Gab is a Tāmaki Makaurau collective of artists and friends: lead singer Rosetta Stone, bassist Orlando Cooper, keyboardist Caleb Wong, guitarist Max Henley, and drummer Finn McNeil. Stone's curly locks sat in a neat bun behind her ears, while the loose, wispy strands complemented the flow of her skirt and top. Wong donned the group's screen-printed merch featuring their friend Jade's face. 

The transition from Crumbly Jack's fiery red lighting to Psycho Gab's easy blue was as smooth as that between their music. Psycho Gab treated us with songs from their upcoming EP, among other classics. Seasoned fans will be familiar with their first Spotify single, "Messy", where Stone's vocal runs and the organic sound of the snare drum mellow the production. 

In keeping with the dynamism of the night, the band recited creative preambles before each song. "Komodo Queen" is, as Stone described, "about a komodo dragon... but also the patriarchy, y'know?" While I didn't know going into it, I left feeling convinced and empowered by their music's feminist proclivities. They divulged that their latest single, "Pianomen", was inspired by Cooper and Wong's bromantic adventure to buy a used piano. The room became a solar system; we, the audience, fawned over the stage like little stars, and each of the band's members took turns being the sun around which the rest revolved. Their song "Intro" featured a breathtaking piano progression from Wong, while Cooper relished in his bass in "Masterpiece". 

While the crowd's numbers thinned over time as people retired to bed before the workday, the remainders' passion and dancing only intensified as the night wore on. After eight fantastic songs, old and new, the crowd demanded one more. Psycho Gab deliberated on what to play before joking that we really would have to go home after this one (unfortunately). They landed on a cover of legendary Erykah Badu's "Didn't Cha Know", which they dedicated to the aforementioned Jade. The audience bubbled with excitement and sang along, and Henley whipped out a sick solo during the outro; safe to say, Stone and the band did Badu justice. Stone quipped that the outro goes "on and on", an unintentional reference to one of Badu's other top hits that momentarily thrilled us for another final song. 

My last-minute request to review this gig ended in an indelible night. From their jazzy musical depth to Stone's soothing voice, Psycho Gab is one to watch. They foster a genuine appreciation for the artistry and spirit behind the tunes that strikes a first-time listener. Listen to Psycho Gab's music on streaming platforms, and await their upcoming EP!