Gig of the week: Dirt Floor Music and Poems


Kick back and keep things simple – that’s the motto of three Kiwi performers who bring their Dirt Floor Music and Poems travelling show to the Dux tomorrow night.

Jim Doak, Steve Apirana and Mark Raffills go way back.

Their friendship has spawned a shared love of foot-tapping acoustic music and a few well-chosen words, and they’re keen to share the feelgood vibe.

Doak wraps up the Dirt Floor concept in this way: “If you think of it in terms of houses, you have a mansion at one end of the spectrum and a dirt floor at the other. We’re more sitting on the veranda playing down-home music.

“It really is simplicity that we’ve been aiming at, but when I think about it there’s some other kind of essence that’s hard to put your finger on.”

Apirana and Doak first met in 1969 when the pair were playing in different Christchurch bands. They befriended poet Raffills around 1980 while he was living on the Kapiti Coast.

These days Raffills and blues/bluegrass player Doak are based in Nelson, while gospel exponent Apirana calls Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, home.

Raffills, who MCs the show and gives readings of his own work and that of other poets, says the trio’s kinship is what makes Dirt Floor work. “While we’re not exactly blood family we’ve been friends for a long time, so you get that same sort of feel with the music and poetry.”

Apirana echoes the sentiment. “I prefer playing with other people, because there’s a magic there and you’re creating things together,” he says.

“We’re based around getting a good groove and a good feeling going, playing some of our own stuff but also the songs we’ve loved since we were young kids.”

For Doak, the Dirt Floor project has provided an excuse to dust off his guitar and celebrate a revival in the old-time mountain sounds he thought had become “museum music rather than living music”.

“When you’re playing this way, with just an acoustic guitar and a blues harp or something, there’s very little line between performer and audience. It’s great music.”

Catch Dirt Floor Music and Poems at the Dux tomorrow from 9pm