Saturday, July 2, 2016


The mighty beard has been very influential throughout music's long and illustrious history. The lustrously hirsute gentlemen that decide to put as much effort into facial follecular fecundity as they do composition and musical dexterity are honoured here. 


Adam Page - Crispian Jazz

Adam Page is a saxophonist, multi-instrumental and beat-box loop musician from Adelaide who's spent a lot of time honing his skills on the live Wellington scene, and still comes back for performances throughout the year. I first came across on of his shows at the Wellington Fringe Festival, titled Chairman of the Beard! I didn't know anything about him, but was caught by the title, so went and had an awesome time listening to improvised music made from of a variety of instruments, including his mouth, and, (un)surprisingly, his beard. By all accounts, he has a whopper, it must be 12 inches long, and tremendously thick too. This is from his main album, Seedy CD, released on Bandcamp.

Scroobius Pip - Introdiction

Not for the first time I've chosen the spoken word maestro from England. Mr. Pip is also known for his righteous facial appendage, and in the video for this track from his solo album Distraction Pieces, he does the unthinkable and shaves it before setting the shipping container he's in on fire! A perfect example of a one-take video. He's an amazing and insightful lyricist, even more impressive when you hear his stutter when he talks normally, and always produces tremendously interesting videos.


The theme came to me in a dream - a deranged and bespectacled beard bleating the sonorous and soulful laments of a spell away from its loved one.  It was inspired by the recent youtube discovery (then CD purchase) of a man possessed of energy, talent, attitude, presence and a fine beard. Ben Caplan comes from Canada - the secret love child of a lumberjack and a grizzly bear - has a fearful set of gnashers hidden behind his beard, also behind which you can also find a backing band that reminds me of a retro platter from the DapTone stable. The rest of the album is cracking and includes a diverse range of influences, yet Ben's booming, barbed wire and cream vocals imperiously hold it all together. The tune is called 40 Day and 40 Nights (60 fewer than the inimitable Sharon Jones suffered, yet still a notable number nonetheless) from the album Birds with Broken Wings. I found this wonderful video of an impromptu public rendition - behold the beard!

My second tune comes from London, the city that has invented an infinite number of musical genres, which keeps generations of barbers guessing what trend is going to sit on the fashionistas chin next. Jungle was an early 90's phenomenon which saw the rave scene morph into break beat driven drum and bass combine with sound-system, dance hall and ragga influences from Jamaica. Enough euphoric attitude to incite many a rewind. 

Smashing Mitsubishi's at the Laserdrome could either be a post apocalyptic scene from a film with Tina Turner or a quality night out with your mates in South London. Congo Natty is one of the progenitors from the scene (then a clean shaven Rebel MC) who went full-beard ahead, became a Rastafarian, grew some natty dreads on his chin and head, smoked sum 'erb and started making banging tunes. The reasonably recent album, Jungle Revolution is in itself a revelation, and I chose the UK All Stars tune to represent. Oi oi!!


Willie Nelson had a beard. Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent has a beard. That makes Phosphorescent's tribute album to Willie Nelson double beard.

Before Warren Ellis joined the Bad Seeds as the multi-instrumentalist that reminded Nick Cave he didn't have to be a sook, he was part of instrumental alternative rock outfit The Dirty Three. 

He still is part of the Dirty Three, and he still is a powerful creative force in the Bad Seeds. He also has one of the most spectacular beards in all of popular music (He's the dude with the violin above)


Song 1: Neutral Milk Hotel - The King of Carrot Flowers Parts 2 and 3 (live at World of Wild Beards show at King's Arms Tavern)

I am a child of the nineties, but there are two sets of nineties music in my mind. The first is the nineties I actually experienced, dominated by Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Shihad and the like. The second is the nineties of the indie kings - Pavement, The Eels, My Bloody Valentine and the like . This second nineties I did not meet until 2005 when I got my first broadband connection and met

On 2 April 2001 I was stuck in between these two worlds, just as nineties indie music was starting to mutate into 2000s hipster music. I was at Otago University as a baffled 18-year-old, but back in my home town of Auckland Neutral Milk Hotel was equally stranded, in this case between a nervous breakdown and revival, and playing 90s indie to proto-hipsters in a live set at the King's Arms Tavern that was billed the World of Wild Beards show. When I finally heard this band for the first time a few years later, this was one gig I was very sore to have missed.

I have chosen the beardiest of their songs, dominated by repeated reference to perhaps the most famous bearded man of all time - Jesus. The song was written before the time when beard=hipster, but its mix of earnestness, self-doubt and irony is timelessly hipster.

Start at 13:05
Stop at 16:46

Song 2: This beard is for Siobhan

Fast forward a few years to 2005, and I had grown my beard out, hipster music was peaking, and Devendra Banhart was enjoying his height of fame. I absolutely loved this album at the time, its very deliberate, self-satisfied and Californian oddness. Devendra Banhart to me epitomises the beard=hipster equivalence, and there was only one of his songs I could have chosen.


ZZ Top with Sharp Dressed Man off Eliminator in 1983... yes, I know it was an atrocious decade but you need to have some pity as I had to live through it. If you watch the video you get the connection... three fine specimens of beard... Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, who sport extreme facial hair, and Frank Beard, who doesn't. Well it seemed funny at the time, but the 80's did that to people.

Second up, unfortunately, another song from the 80's (I'm going to need therapy after this). Not quite the full facial with this one but you got three for one with ZZ Top so I figure to call it even... I quite like the group but I'm beginning to think I'm not normal...  The song is Moustache by Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks off the album Angst In My Pants. Enjoy, or something...


This was a hard one. Aside from Santa Claus or an upside down Marge Simpson (thus trumping many a dedicated beard wearer), I really struggled to find a beard fit for this purpose. However, there is Seasick Steve. He has a beard all right. Being an ex-bum, I reckon his beard entwines many a brilliant tale or twenty. His song, Chiggers, about small bitey insects at which he protests, “Don’t lay your babies on my leg” is a string plucky, illegally perched on a railroad train Kerouac-style kind of song. Get that man another whisky!

Next up – a half beard? A part-time beard? A ‘beard’ none the less! Metronomy, a band from Devon, UK (whoops, I think I said the US on the night). Um. Yes. A band of bright young things. I’ve seen them live a few times and walked away happy. They often wear round lights on their chests, not unlike those found in many quality office toilets. Their song, A Thing for Me, is one of all their songs taking you WAY back to the 80s (remember that time?).  Already in love with 80s synth-electronica type stuff, this band successfully recirculates the Minimoog sound, and proffers dollups of self-indulgent dancing goodness. I'm happy.