The Festival Club
Sunday, March 4
British sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor record and tour as The Staves, this Festival performance was their first Wellington appearance. They’re back in the tent for a second and final showing in the capital this Tuesday, March 6.
From heavenly harmonies, and through clever looping of vocals-as-percussive-tics the sisters built beautiful performances. If the songwriting wasn’t always there – and it’s never bad as such – the overall impact was spellbinding. Here were talented players (add drummer Dave Power, a subtle, dynamic, intuitive player) and the feeling, too, of being true independent artists – no treadmill-running pop act, no image to push, no product to plug, just serving the songs.
I mean, sure, there are albums, obviously. But this is a band as dedicated to the ritual of performance, to the intimacy, to the joy, the discovery, the feel and flow and vibe as to shifting units. Their best songs (Make It Holy, Tired As Fuck, Teeth White) are mini revelations.
We have hints of folk and country but it’s the little twists that make it. A brand new song – first time live, apparently – feels like vintage Fleetwood Mac. Sometimes they recall The Haden Triplets, especially when gathered around a lone mic with guitar for the encore. Other times there’s the sound of a full rock band.
The Staves effortlessly put across a love of music and full command of their craft – terrific players, all, as the sisters switch up ukuleles for guitars, keyboards, percussion and take turns with the lead vocals and in multi-part harmonies.
And so, very quickly, this took on the feel of a very good Festival show – both a treat for existing bands and something special for first-timers; a new favourite band to discover, with a finite back-catalogue to get your head around.
And then, during the encore something really special happened. Two things, actually. First of all it was worth the price of admission to hear the trio singing Jackson Browne’s song These Days. There are plenty of great versions of this song already but this rendition was a stunner. And then, during their own song Mexico the fuse blew, the power cut to the microphone. A loud crack. But the three sisters took it all in their stride (maybe even literally). A step forward and the audience hushed itself further to hear the completion of the song, totally off-mic, the very definition of unplugged.
It was one of those magical moments. The standing ovation told the story from there.
The Staves put on a brilliant show. Easily the best set of musical moments from the festival thus far.
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