The Maori Jimi Hendrix was a label allocated to Billy Te Kahika after his stint in the legendary New Zealand Psych/Hard Rock band Human Instinct back in the late 60s and early 70s. The band put out three albums, with Billy in the line up, of lofi psych rock with some fantastically punishing guitar from the Man himself before he left the band to explore and develop his guitar playing under his own terms with his own band, Billy TK's Powerhouse. Since then he has been involved in several low key projects and recorded and played with both local and international musicians, including Carlos Santana in 1996 and is a dedicated peace activist.
I was blown away by his work with The Human Instinct when I first discovered it in the early 1990s, but knew little about his activities since that time. When I saw that he was going to be playing here this month for a nominal cover charge of ten bucks at a small Christchurch venue, I just had to go and check it out.
A friend was going to accompany me on this gig but something cropped up for him at the last moment and so I went solo again. I dropped the Mrs off at another event that she was attending and got to the venue just a few minutes after the scheduled 9pm start. Of course Billy hadn't hit the stage yet and was infact sitting having a quite drink with his bass player on the opposite side of the room from where I parked my butt after procuring myself a refreshing ginger beer. The place was dam near empty with only about 20 people in the bar and 8 of them were Billy and his band. the bar staff, the two ladies taking the money at the door and the bouncer.
I had checked out a couple of Billy's videos on YouTube earlier in the day to get an idea of what I might be seeing this night and there was a video with a full band and singer and another with just Billy and another musician sitting on chairs playing. The gig was advertised as Billy TK and Band, so I thought it might be a full band, but it was actually Billy and a Bass player, who also did some keyboards and sound effects and that also supplied the drumbeats. They were accompanied by a woman on a conga drum.
They ambled onto the stage at around 9:30pm in what looked to be a bit of an amature night set up, especially with the misinscule audience there. They started their set with one of Billy's recent original compositions "Mama Funk" and the sound was pretty good although not real loud, which was good considering how empty the place was. Once Billy started into his guitar I knew this was gonna be a bloody good show, ok he isn't much of a singer and the band set up was a bit like some cheesy amature covers band at a local working mens club, but boy this man can still play some beautiful guitar. The set was pretty heavily laden with Jimi Hendrix covers with some Santana and Gary Moore thrown in for good measure but he did his own slant on those songs and made it real interesting and different even though is style pays homage to both of the first two guitarists mentioned. He played two sets of about 45 minutes with the second set having the added bonus of a 4.4M earthquake rock the place at 11pm, although nobody seemed to notice and the band never misses a beat. It was a gentle rocking quake and the Mrs confirmed it via text just so I knew it wasn't my imagination. Billy oozed out his fabulous guitar sounds for another 30 minutes before calling it a night and just proved again what an ignorant musical culture we have in Christchurch that only a dozen paying punters bothered to show up and see this legend play.