Still smokin’ af­ter 30 years


Re­mem­ber Chicago Smoke Shop? 30 years ago, Dar­ren Wat­son’s ar­che­typal blues band played the coun­try’s high­ways and byways, in­clud­ing gigs at Palmer­ston North’s Al­bert Tav­ern.

While that live mu­sic venue is no more, Dar­ren ‘Smoke Shop’’ Wat­son is back on Al­bert St for a night with a new band.

On Fri­day Dar­ren Wat­son & The Dan­ger­ous Ex­perts plug into the Hokowhitu Bowl­ing Club at 279 Al­bert St for an evening of new fash­ion mu­si­cal fun.

For the last decade or so, Wat­son has con­fined him­self largely to play­ing solo acous­tic gigs around Welling­ton, though there have been four al­bums and high pro­file po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy.

In 2002 he re­leased NZ Mu­sic Award nom­i­nee King Size. In 2005 came South Pa­cific Soul, and then the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Saint Hilda’s Faith­less Boy in 2010. The iron­i­cally ti­tled In­tro­duc­ing Dar­ren Wat­son came out in 2014.

That elec­tion year 2014 there was also the Planet Key in­ci­dent, with Wat­son’s satir­i­cal song reach­ing No.6 on the NZ sin­gles chart be­fore be­ing clas­si­fied as an elec­tion ad and banned by the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion.

The ban was over­turned by a land­mark High Court de­ci­sion the fol­low­ing year, and the rul­ing up­held by the Court of Ap­peal in 2016.

So, what spurred the vet­eran blues­man to get back into the live band groove?

‘‘It’s been 30 years, mate. Smoke Shop played quite a few times at the old Al­bert Tav­ern back in the day, in­clud­ing sup­port­ing Koko Tay­lor there, so it’s cool to bring my new band to an Al­bert St venue for the an­niver­sary tour.

‘‘I haven’t brought a band to Palmy for ages and this line-up is to­tally kick-ass. I hope Manawatu comes out to cel­e­brate with me. It’ll be a blast.’’

That ‘‘kick-ass’’ band line-up fea­tures ‘‘killer’’ pi­anist Dayle Ray­mond Jel­ly­man from the Rose­neath Cen­ten­nial Rag­time Band and Lit­tle Bush­man’s drum­mer Rick Cran­son.

‘‘Folks can ex­pect some real deep blues stuff of course, ‘cause I love that stuff so much, but there’s heaps of great old school dance-based grooves too,’’ Wat­son said.

Tick­ets for the an­niver­sary gig are avail­able on Eventfinda, and from Steve Tol­ley on 06 329 8808.


Dar­ren ‘‘Smoke Shop’’ Wat­son gets a lit­tle nos­tal­gic with a new band, but the same good ol’ blues.

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