The Nukes pioneer ukulele affection

Highly strung humourists, The Nukes are playing in Howick on Saturday. Photo supplied

Of all musical instruments, the ukulele is the one that makes everyone happy. Even grumps crack a smile.

The high and bright string sound hits the chords of joy – and the craze has strummed across New Zealand for the most part of this new millennium.

It seems like every town and suburb has a ukulele band or performers – Howick has its beloved Ukes of Howick – and The Nukes are the forebears, frontier pioneers of ukulele music in this land.

They look like they’re cousins of The Band, the former Bob Dylan ensemble known as the Hawks through the early 1960s, who, until disbanding in 1976, dressed like they were from the old days – anytime from the 1880s to 1930.

The Band cornered the Americana alt-country wardrobe style and many bands have stylised themselves in that pioneering spirit. The Nukes are all class in that department.

The Nukes return to Howick this Saturday, June 8, to play – appropriately attired – in the historic and acoustically eloquent Uxbridge Theatre.

Dave Parker leads the trio that stands side-by-side treading the boards, a knowing, engaging voice and compelling custom uke sound that earns respect.

He explains that The Nukes have had a line-up change over the past year and they’re just really hitting their straps.

“Swabbing the decks is our new recruit, ‘The Curious’ percussionist, ‘Mysterious’ Mike Burrows, who also packs a spry falsetto vocal.

“And our audacious slide ukulele and wry humour of Ben Collier keeps the whole shebang on an even keel.

“It’s original, quirky and Kiwi,” Parker says.

Favourites of music festival directors, The Nukes have played the four corners of Australasia’s finest and all points in-between, from WOMAD, Splore and Auckland and Canterbury’s Folk Festivals, to New Plymouth’s Festival of Light, Wanaka Festival of Colour and the Bluff Oyster Festival.

They’ve been on the road for a decade producing the good noise, three great albums, and their online streams and views are more than 100,000.

“If you see that The Nukes are coming your way, don’t duck and cover, don’t try and be a hero,” Parker says, in keeping with the band’s wit.

“Just gather all your friends and head for ground zero.”

Described as ‘part Vaudeville, part Rat Pack, part musical car crash’, The Nukes are in concert at Uxbridge Arts and Culture centre’s Uxbridge Theatre on Saturday, June 8, Howick, from 8pm.