Portland Public House, Auckland

16/02/2015 - 23/02/2015

Auckland Fringe 2015

Production Details


The Rain Dogs Cabaret is hitting the Portland Public House for the Auckland Fringe Festival.

This entertaining dinner and show encapsulates all the drama of Tom Waits’ songs, played in gypsy-country style by some of Auckland’s leading musicians.

The Portland Public House will treat guests to a special cabaret banquet menu, as they sit down to enjoy the 90 minute performance.

More than just a gig, Rain Dogs is a full show, which incorporates the quirkiness and theatre that you would expect from a Tom Waits revue. Fun, high energy and dramatic, Rain Dogs promises more than a few surprises and special guests.

The evening promises to be a foodie’s dream, with the Portland showing that they are more than just an entertainment venue. Courses of exquisite banquet-style shared plates will add to a festive, fun atmosphere and are designed to surprise and delight.

Rain Dogs are: Nina McSweeney (vocals), Dave Khan (violin, mandolin) , Dylan Storey (guitar) and special guests.


16 & 23 Feb – 2 SHOWS ONLY-limited seating:
Monday 16 Feb 7pm
Monday 23 Feb 7pm

Tickets only $40 from iticket (includes dinner)


More info: http://www.raindogs.co.nz



Rain Dogs are: Nina McSweeney (vocals), Dave Khan (violin, mandolin) , Dylan Storey (guitar) and special guests.

90 mins (including dinner)

A very satisfying night out

Review by Carrie Rae Cunningham 17th Feb 2015

Gorgeous chanteuse Nina McSweeney begins the night by announcing the Rain Dogs Cabaret are “here to celebrate and butcher Tom Waits.”  Butcher is a harsh term to use, as I certainly wouldn’t consider their Tom Waits revue as a slaughter.  Such accomplished musicians could not butcher anything, I think (let’s leave the butchering to the Portland House chef who put on a most impressive spread as part of the show, which I’ll get to later).

The Rain Dogs feature Nina on vocals (and harmonica!), Dave Kahn on mandolin, Jess Hindin on fiddle and Dylan Storey on acoustic guitar.  Their revue is described as a gypsy-acoustic cabaret, and no one misses a beat (even though there isn’t a percussion instrument in sight).  The talent in this quartet is incredible, which is what is needed when taking on the music and legend of Tom Waits.  There’s no half-assing Tom.  You either have to nail his style completely and entirely or do something totally different, which is what these cool cats do.  And they do it superbly well.

Seated at banquet-style tables at The Portland House in Kingsland, my husband and I enjoy the company of fellow Tom Waits fans who have come out in droves to see the sold-out show.  Audiences are limited to 40 and we are packed in comfortably to enjoy the ‘dinner and a show’ type cabaret set up.  (Let me just say here that the food is divine – the highlight being the slow-roasted lamb that is cooked to perfection – and there is plenty of it.  It is quite novel to share a great meal alongside a great night of live music.  Note to other venues out there:  do more of this!)

The Rain Dogs play two sets over the night, which include foot-stomping renditions (some with vocals, some instrumental) of Rain Dogs, Clap Hands, Jockey Full of Bourbon, Way Down in the Hole (McSweeney impressively wailing on the harp – go girl!), Chocolate Jesus, Cemetery Polka, Telephone Call from Istanbul and more.   Hindin shows her excellent fiddle skills on the tender Heart of Saturday Night with Storey on vocals.  Kahn just kills it all the way through the night.  The vibe, like the music, is upbeat.  It’s fun.  It’s familiar.  It’s uplifting.  Everyone is enjoying themselves.  During the second set McSweeney herself serves up the Black Doris Plum pie (YUM!) to the crowd for dessert, then works through the room singing Temptation alongside a couple of dancers in sparkly dresses performing a pseudo-tango.  Again, the crowd are eating it up.  Literally and figuratively.

Stripped back to basics, Waits’ music is fairly simple in its form and structure which makes it an easy task for re-interpretation.  However, Waits is an expert storyteller, and the characters he creates and moods he invokes through his music are a large part of what makes his songs so special.  That and his trademark vocals, which vary wildly from tender ballads in his early career to the more gritty and drunkenly growled numbers that he is most famous for.

I was told that this revue is a bit of an experiment, and I would encourage the Rain Dogs to keep exploring the vast canon of musical gems available.  They are having great fun with these songs and the crowd love it.  I reckon even the most die-hard Tom Waits fans would appreciate it on some level, if only on the basis that Waits’ lyrics can be more readily absorbed via McSweeney’s crisp vocal treatment.

Their songs of choice sit well in the context of this type of show and celebrate the musicality, humour and vaudevillian style Tom Waits is known for.  You won’t find anyone drunk and suicidal at the piano, so if that’s the Waits you’re wanting you may have to look elsewhere.  Meanwhile the Rain Dogs are back at The Portland House next week for another round of it, although I heard it’s already sold out.  No surprises there.



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