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REVIEW: MIKE LOVE & TIM SNIDER – NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB

Mike Love + Tim Snider @ Northcote Social Club
Review by Joshua Batten. Photos by Sam Irving

Not to be confused with the guy from the Beach Boys, Mike Love is a Hawaiian born singer, songwriter, guitarist and loop master, specialising in Reggae with elements of Pop, Dub, and Prog Rock. Like many of his international fans, I was introduced to him through a video of him and his percussionist Sam Ites performing a song called “Permanent Holiday”, professionally shot in a Hawaiian lounge room. The 10-minute song is a perfect representation of everything to be found in Love’s music, including memorable riffs, a catchy chorus, soulful vocals, lyrics that deal with spirituality and the modern corporate world, a virtuosic guitar solo and tons of effects pedals. The highlight of the song is its bridge, where Love builds up a vocal loop one syllable at a time. The video now has over 16 million views and has given Love and Ites the chance to play all over the world. When they played their first show in Melbourne at the Northcote Social Club in January 2017, I was there and I was blown away by Love’s talent and multi-instrumental abilities. Now, just 22 months later, the pair have returned, and I went along to relive the highlights of the first show and see if they could bring anything different to the table.

Only a handful of people had walked in and sat down on the bandroom floor when Tim Snider (Violin player for Nahko & Medicine For The People) took the stage, but as his set went on, more people arrived in time to witness the evening’s secret weapon. Snider’s 45-minute set consists of just five long songs, but every song had a different feel and meaning to it. Snider effortlessly switched between 5-string violin and acoustic guitar throughout his set, laying down loops on a Boss ME-50 pedal while controlling his numerous effects pedals with his bare feet. The songs featured were “Hurricane” (about dealing with change), “Traveling Man” (about the correlation between being barefoot and being free), “Jump In The River” (about taking a risk), and “Humanity” (about overcoming fear and taking advice from your parents). Finally, the set ended with an improvisation with everyone standing up, fully mesmerised by Snider and his hypnotic violin.

After a brief intermission, Mike Love and Sam Ites arrived onstage and immediately launched into two of their most popular loop-heavy tracks, “Movin’ On” and “Be Thankful”. Instantly a feeling of communal joy spread around the room, with everyone dancing and several die-hard fans in the front row singing along. The rest of the first hour consisted of songs that weren’t played at Love’s first Melbourne show, including “Jahwakening”, “Human Race”, “Upfullness & Love”, and “Neva Retiyah”. All of Love’s songs seem to revolve around the same sort of lyrical themes; unity, humanity, uprising against corporate takeover, and love. Love’s onstage persona seems to reflect these beliefs – he performs sitting down with bare feet (which helps him navigate his smorgasbord of pedals), and always has a smile on his face whenever he’s singing. Ites also deserves credit for locking into the groove without any difficulty, mainly playing bongos but also adding different sounds with timbales, cymbals, a cajon, an electronic snare and an electronic foot pedal, which was used as a kick or cabasa depending on the song.

After “Barbershop”, an ode to the rasta lifestyle with plenty of spacey delay modulating in the outro, Love and Ites invited Snider back onstage to add violin to “Penniless”. The original version of this song goes for about nine minutes with a short sax solo, but tonight’s rendition was a true musical spectacle. Snider’s solo went for at least five minutes, beginning with plenty of space and long notes, and ending up at an intense peak without compromising soul. Everyone in the audience was amazed, and I think I may have found my new favourite violin player.

Unfortunately, as soon as Snider left the stage, the wheels slowly started to fall off. First, there was the five minute interval while Love dealt with a technical problem, and then after problem-free performances of “Humble” and “Children Of The Heart”, Love spent a good chunk of the song “Good News” giving a lecture about how politicians have failed us and it’s up to us to make our own destiny. A beautiful sentiment, but to be honest, I just wanted to hear him play some more. Unfortunately there was another super-long speech right before the lullaby-esque “No Regrets”, this time about family and unity. I don’t object to one or two short talk spots in a show, but I believe that your music should do most of the talking. When you’re on stage for over two hours, and almost half an hour of that time is spent ‘teaching’ rather than performing, it becomes very hard to stay in the moment, no matter how positive the message is.

By the time Love and Ites finally launched into “Permanent Holiday”, the song that should have been the big showcase, many in the audience were exhausted and only a handful of people in the front were into it, even with an interpolation of “Get Up, Stand Up”. After one last song, “Love Will Find A Way”, with Snider once again sitting in, the two and a half hour show finally came to an end.

Despite the different setlist, enthusiastic audience and amazing special guest, the speeches that made the show run long ultimately lead me to the verdict that my first Mike Love show back in 2017 was a more enjoyable one. However, all three musicians who performed tonight are exceptionally good, and I highly recommend checking out their music online.