Garage Band to a New Level

Ukuleles. That’s one word for you. And a well-deserved standing ovation at that, too.

Last week, there was a Ukulele concert at my school, and when I say this, I don’t mean we gathered a bunch of ukuleles around the school and made people play together. This is a legit band that started out in a garage, then to a coffee shop, then to an international tour. So, basically, your typical band but with ukuleles; there were “ukulele solos” and “ukulele-offs” and “ukulele rock”. Which is even cooler.

They call themselves the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, all members originally from New Zealand, and all great at playing the ukulele. The cover picture I’ve put at the top seems a little tacky and one might automatically assume that they’re purely a comedic act. They’re funny, I’m not going to argue, but there’s a certain level of soul that makes their covers of songs so much better. Not more powerful and not louder. But better.

And, trust me – there’s no performance that has honestly brought a genuine smile to my face until now. Swan Lake is good, but the ability to make an audience laugh and smile when you tell stories and jokes is a gift that cannot be ignored.

  1. New Zealand culture is beautiful. The biggest thing I was worried about when this band came to the stage was that they would be so focused with satisfying an American audience that they wWIUO_White2014_8x10landscapeould mainly be playing American mainstream songs. This was not the case. As a matter of fact, most of the songs they covered were original New Zealand or Hawaiian songs that they learned from natives who they sat down with to learn this sort of “hand-me-down tradition”. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t know much about New Zealand other than that it has great landscape and is next to Australia…so nothing. These performers sang indigenous songs that brought them back to their core when they were just a “garage band” and even though I didn’t understand the language, it was still easy to appreciate. The music is soothing and very close to a Hawaiian tune, which makes the song seem very…beautiful.
  2. Parodies of famous songs make the world better. Especially on a ukulele. Now, they didn’t only sing indigenous songs because that would make sure that they don’t get an audience. Especially in America. However, their take on singing covers of American songs were hysterical. One of the male performers, Andy, did a cover of one of Lorde’s songs, since she is known to be from New Zealand. If you’ve seen Lorde perform, she has this sort of movement with her body where she closes her eyes and “creeps” into her songs…which is weird. So I call it the creep. Well, Andy did a spot-on job mocking her creep and he made the song funny. In addition, the band did covers of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” and other mainstream songs, which was also great and satisfied a majority of the audience.
  3. Messages are small, but sincere. This is an older group of people, as in they’re in their mid-forties and fifties about now. They’ve been touring for about 9 years and a couple of them are even married and have babies. When they appeared on stage (and you may get this from their pictures), they showed up with these out-of-style “tacky” clothes that kind of scared some of the audience members. After a couple songs, one of the ladies announced that they wear clothes like this because whenever they go to a new city to perform, twellington_ukulele_on_stagehey go to thrift shops and buy clothes from charity. Also, they sing songs that are old and started from their core, which a lot of artists don’t do these days because their goal is to keep up with the music industry and market, which isn’t really what music is about. I think this group understands that and what made me truly smile was how they interacted with the audience. They weren’t super touchy with any of us, but they encouraged people to hold their phones in the air and shine their flashlights or dance on stage during certain songs; it was fun, but it still held the touch of actually being a performance rather than an interactive play date.

Which is what I loved the most. Seeing professors let loose on stage is definitely a joy to see, not just because it’s weird to think that they’re my professors, but also that they, no matter how old they are, even know how to have fun.

A definite lesson that all of us need to learn.

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