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In Auckland, The Band From Wellington Become New Zealand Folk Heroes

DARTZ said goodbye to Auckland in style ahead of their trip to the UK and Europe



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I first heard about DARTZ in late 2022 when, incredulously, incredibly, they decided to perform in four cities in just 12 hours, all in the name of Crate Day. It was the sort of madcap endeavour I would have jubilantly joined had I been two or three years younger, closer to 20 than 30, back when my liver cried out for mercy daily, but in 2022, I only followed from afar, full of respect. 

But this is a punk band, I thought back then, who must value the party above the music, who must crave debauchery over everything else. And then I listened to DARTZ’s debut album, The Band From Wellington, and realised what a formidable prospect they were: 10 songs filled with raw but promising talent, 10 songs whose lyrics about flatting woes and late-night beer and MDMA and Toyota Corollas quickly crystallised in my mind.  

They brought the party to punk, clearly (they often cite their musical style as “party-punk”), but there was far too much talent and ambition on show in the songs to allow the former to ever dominate the latter. 

When DARTZ started to roll out their second album, Dangerous Day to Be a Cold One, they seemed to play into the lurking stereotypes surrounding them. (That album title alone!) Lead single “Earn the Thirst” extolled the virtues of doing just that, urging their listeners to put in the work and get sweaty before cracking open their first beer of the day. Even if you didn’t agree with the titular advice, it’s difficult – impossible – to dislike a band who sings the line, “With great booty comes great responsibility.” (Written with Stan Lee in memory, I’m sure.)

And really, hard work defines DARTZ as a band just as much as the party or the punk racket or the wry lyricism. That Crate Day endeavour, looked at one way, was about just having a good time  (“We embrace the ‘share a crate with your mates’ vibe rather than finish a crate yourself situation,” bassist Clark Mathews told Stuff that year), but it was just as much about the hustle to spread their music around the country. 

I first watched DARTZ live at Auckland’s Whammy bar last weekend, and I watched them reap the rewards of all their hard work in a spectacular set. I watched their frontman Danz ‘earn the thirst’ in real time, burrowing through the crowd to stand atop the bar in order to guzzle a beer in a matter of seconds, much-needed refreshment after throwing himself wildly around the stage for almost an hour. 

I also watched the vision of DARTZ as modern-day New Zealand folk heroes form before me, and not just because they had someone wearing an inflatable Lion Red outfit pop up now and again. (Although it did help.)

This is the band who released a song last year that, jokingly but pointedly, urged their listeners to “steal from the supermarket,” noting that “people have to starve as your earnings go up.” Its Robin Hood-esque words were surely penned in tongue-in-cheek fashion, but they struck a chord with Kiwis who have had to deal with cowardly price gouging by supermarket bosses who don’t have to worry about the cost of their weekly shop. 

“Pray for Prey”, taken from their debut album, meanwhile, was a hilariously unsubtle ode to everyone’s least favourite Christian right-wing fundamentalist Brian Tamaki. 

Inside Whammy Bar last Saturday night, most of their set held similarly relatable messages for their generation, with the raucous “Flat Inspection” particularly drawing roared approval from those around me (“My landlord / He fell down the stairs / During our flat inspection / He should have done all the repairs that I countlessly mentioned,” DANZ spits witheringly.)

In between songs, Danz and his DARTZ cohorts – Crispy, Clark, and Rollyz – were charismatic to the hilt, bouncing off each other with banter as effortless as their tight musical interplay. Getting to watch a band who you’ve covered in print – “there’s so much going on under DARTZ’s furious and fun anthems: there’s great wit, honest storytelling, and effortless ensemble work,” my Rolling Stone AU/NZ review of their album stated – back up the praise live is a pleasure that doesn’t always come along.

When I was a teenager in Scotland, I witnessed a similar connection form between band and listener when Dundee’s indie rock rapscallions The View unexpectedly made a dent on the UK charts. We took pride in their steadfast decision to sing in their thick Dundonian accents – almost indecipherable to someone from Southern England – and their unpretentious lyrics about trying to make ends meet while still going out and finding a good time. Gerry Cinnamon and Lewis Capaldi, later, formed the same bond; “you’re one of us,” is the simple but powerful message. 

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Because The Band From Wellington will always be proud to represent Wellington, but they’re quickly becoming a band for the entirety of the country to claim as their own. The next test will come when they travel to the UK and Europe for a run of shows, but there’s little doubt that the qualities that make them New Zealand folk heroes – the honest storytelling and the wry humour and the supreme work ethic – will not also go down well overseas. 

Tickets to DARTZ’s UK/EU send off Wellington show are available here.