Cafe Culture: jamming it up at the Black Sheep: Hybrid Blues


The Black Sheep in Whakamarama in the Western Bay of Plenty is establishing a reputation as a community hub. While known for its conventional hosting of birthdays, weddings, funerals and family events, it’s also hosted angry and agitated protest meetings, supported the development of the Affordable Art & Artisan Fair and now a monthly music open mic and jam session.

I can hear the music as I get out of my car. It’s a great way to finish a Sunday of garden work – a quiet sit down at the Black Sheep. music and my favourite gluten-free brownie

“Oldies but goodies” are flowing from the courtyard, through the Atrium and down the entry hall. There’s a wonderful instant atmosphere on this hot summer’s day. There’s a promotional table for a summer-flavoured beer just inside the doorway. I even hear that University party song of fifty years ago as the Sunday afternoon music warriors sing out.The gear is set up on the cobblestones under the permanent awning. I settle down at one of the outdoor tables under an umbrella and take a look around this first Jam Session.   There’s not a big crowd but there are tables of plates and glasses and Sunday afternoon late lunchers who, whether they know it or not, are participating in the inaugural occasion.I’ve been told that Brendan McCarthy is running the session and there he is with his musical colleague Les Robinson temporarily on the drums.   Like the rest of New Zealand this afternoon, they’re dressed for weather – shorts, tee shirts and jandals – our summer sartorial national anthem.   They could have just walked in from outside – no make up, no stage presentation no extravagant clothing.

McCarthy puts a call out for another drummer and inveigles Mark Schaumann to step up while Robinson unpeels his guitar. I’ve met Mark down at The Funky Lizard at Paengaroa – another low-key talented musician. He too presents in regular Kiwi-casual. He takes his place at the drums and the trio rock on.   “…what’s the key bro…?” Despite their unpretentious appearance, easy manner and the simple setting, this crew are consummate musicians. McCarthy and Robinson are part of Apollo Steam Train and Schaumann is Hybrid Blues drummer. Like people who’ve been married for a long time they instinctively know each other’s moves.    McCarthy calls for participants from the audience.

White linen shift, blonde hair blowing in the wind, beautiful dark guitar held close, a voice with a unique timbre and tone …. “her face at first just ghostly…” But the gloom laden song is like cold Waerenga fog on the developing Sunday afternoon atmosphere of “gadadadunk and table tapping”.  Another audience member gets up and sings – she gets a total ten for chutzpah. It’s what an open mic event is supposed to be about.

By now the early dinner crowd is starting to drift in. Over the afternoon a line of older men has developed, arms resting on the top ledge of the outer fence of  the logia while they sip their beer. For all intents and purposes it’s a line uplifted from a classic New Zealand rural pub. They’re indicative of the diversity of this afternoon’s audience.

It’s time for Hybrid Blues.   They’re really the reason I’m here. They’ve been waiting for their bass player to show up – he’s showed. Band founder Roy Hudson looks as if he just popped in out of the garden for a beer as he stands there in bare feet and shorts.

Vocalist and keyboarder Brooke Stinson is casual smooth and Dean Cronin is instantly recognisable in his “performance attire” of luminous shirt, luminous sneakers and cowboy hat.

The Crane Brothers have never met the drummer and the bassist.   It’s so quintessentially New Zealand.

Like McCarthy and Robinson the Hybrid Blues team are real musicians. There is one other thing: while none of them are “young and gorgeous” they would be classed as children compared with continuing performers Jagger and McCartney. Stinson and Hudson can really sing. Hudson has star quality all over him and his sound – he’s the composer of the original music and songs they perform. Brooke has the benefit of personal style, charm and charisma. And, these two are supported by the other three who are the perfect journeymen. They are real and the music and lyrics are real and they deserve to succeed.

Hybrid Blues are launching their EP Sunshine at Vinyl Destination, Downtown Tauranga this Saturday 26th January 2019 at 7.30pm Tickets $15. Door sales $20. Check out Hybrid Blues’ website to meet all the band members and here their original music and compositions

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as    the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

You’ll also enjoy Rosemary’s article in the Cafe Culture series on the now closed unique art cafe at Paengaroa The Funky Lizard where Hybrid Blues filmed their Sunshine promotional video

Cafe Culture: Hybrid Blues at The Funky Lizard, Paengaroa

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The next Affordable Art & Artisan Fair will be on the last Sunday of January 2019.  The Fairs are held within the Black Sheep Cafe & Restaurant complex on the last Sunday of every month (earlier in December) 11am to 3pm.  There is heaps of parking, clean toilets and wonderful food and coffee.  There’s live music. There’s an event prize you can win.   If you would like to join them as an exhibitor/retailer of your original creativity or artisan products you can contact them at

 The Fair is sign posted along SH2 with signage to the turnoff of SH2 and Plummer’s Point Road.  You won’t be able to miss it!  Indoors over winter months and outside in the Summer. 

Travelling down SH2 towards Tauranga check out the thriving arts scene in Kati Kati.


The Carlton Gallery at The Arts Junction

In and around Downtown Tauranga make sure to visit the wonderful, vibrant exhibition in the Atrium of the TAG by Emma Prill.   ARTbop’s Lee Switzer has published some images of this exhibition and the artist.

You’ll also want to check out The Historic Village at 17th Avenue with its increasing boutique shops, galleries and The Incubator Creative Hub

Check out what’s inside the People’s Gallery

Toymakers to the nation: The Men’s Shed


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