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The Lonesome Buckwhips: Buckapapa
Gareth Williams is Gary Buckwhip
Ben Hutchison is Benny Buckwhip
Arthur Meek is Arty Buckwhip
Miriama Ketu is Miri Buckwhip

at The Classic Studio, Auckland
From 4 Feb 2010 to 13 Feb 2010
[1hr 40mins, incl interval]

Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 5 Feb 2010

Hailing from Otago's world-obscure province Corstorphine*, these Buckwhips are a somewhat twisted travelling family musical act. Inevitable comparisons: the lackadaisical air the band carries echo the Conchords; their siblinghood brings to mind the Osmonds, with a touch of A Mighty Wind for good measure. 

The Buckwhips are no dim tobacco chewin' ornery hicks; on the contrary, they are quite articulate and philosophical on a diverse range of issues, not to mention wryly amusing and musically adept. But don't be fooled into thinking they're not more than just a bit kind of …wrong.

The atmosphere is remarkably light and friendly given the sinister nature of the troupe's background: Miri (
Miriama Ketu) the earthy flower and Artie (Arthur Meek) the clean-cut frontman in bright white walk shorts are siblings in love, parents of three with another on the way… ewwww.   Flanking the perverse couple are Benny (Ben Hutchison) the bean farmer on electric guitar and Gary the albino (Gareth Williams) on synth.

The audience is supplied with pencils and printed feedback forms to be utilised in a variety of events, notably MiriBingo, where Miri selects Bingo numbers with interesting analogous titles such as ‘herpes 69', ‘frightened nuns run over by a taxi – 55', etc. 

Another interesting segment is ‘Miri Answers', where patrons dealing with any kind of problem in their lives have the opportunity to write it down and hand it up, whereupon Miri selects her favourite and offers her allegedly salient advice with the authority of her many years experience watching daytime television. A nice idea that didn't quite ultimately deliver on the anticipation the night I was there.

A fair chunk of the Buckwhips' humour derives from this kind of nonchalance; often witty but never laboured, throwing away lines like they don't even want us to hear them sometimes, occasionally almost – but not quite – bottoming out completely, only to bring it round to some kind of segue into the next number in the nick of time.

The title feature Buckapapa involves a slide show of the Buckwhips' ancestry, from Mutt Buckwhip who founded their Corstophine settlement right thru to the uncle who married a chimp to experiment with inter-species breeding; sadly unsuccessful.

There are internal dramas along the way which would easily make great readable review copy but for only ten dollars anyone can witness it for themselves, so I shan't ruin the best bits here. At times the taste level plummets considerably as they hang their sordid personal lives out to air for all to witness whether we want to or not.

Naturally, interlacing all the various sections is the family's eclectic array of songs, a good dozen or so tightly-arranged numbers replete with dynamic vocals and soaring harmonies. Each Buckwhip takes the lead in at least one song, such as Benny's educational paean to his first love (beans), Gary's paean to middling-to-elderly ladies. Whether spreading Santa's messianic Christian message, serenading each other or advertising cigarettes, them crazy 'whips sure know how to build a song. I'm looking forward to hearing the album.
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*A wee tour of Corstorphine on google maps might help us all better understand these eccentric inbred country folk. 

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 John Smythe