| Flight of The Conchords are BACK in 2018! We take a look at one of their best songs, Father and Son performed lived on Stephen Cobert
In 1998 Bret and Jemaine decided to start a band. With a combined knowledge of three chords on the guitar they set about jamming out. The first song was Foux Du FaFa, (two chords) and they called themselves Moustache. The four piece band had Bret on casio-tone, Jemaine on guitar, and their friends Toby Laing and Tim Jaray on trumpet and double bass. They performed their one song at the Wellington Fringe Festival late night club and members of the audience were said to have been “mildly impressed” by the act.
After the encouraging feedback the pair continued to write songs in their living room, subjecting their six flatmates to relentless three chord jams. After several weeks they knew four chords and Jemaine got them a gig to perform at the Thursday night Comedy Club. On the afternoon of the gig they realised they needed a band name. The initial list of names included Roxygen Supply, Albatrocity, and Tanfastic. But the final name was chanced upon in a series of events that went something like this: Jemaine went to the bathroom and noticed the flat toilet was called the Concorde, he returned from the bathroom to suggest the name Conchord, and Bret said “What about Flight of the Conchords”, and Jemaine said “okay”, and Bret said “okay “, and Jemaine said “okay then” and Bret said “We should go to the gig, we’re late”.
That night was their first performance as Flight of the Conchords. Bret and Jemaine were so nervous they couldn’t speak between songs. Despite their performance anxiety the crowd of eleven people enjoyed their gig and were heard clapping and talking amongst themselves.
Propelled on by the success of the gig, and the lack of other work in the city the band continued to perform every second Thursday for the next two years. These early songs included Bowie’s in Space, Petrov, Yelyena and Me, Rock Beat, Lullaby, Albi the Racist Dragon, Leggy Blonde, The Washing Song, and Bus Driver.
By 2000 they had written a dozen songs and decided to escape the New Zealand winter and perform at the Canadian Fringe Festival. The Calgary show was a success, mostly based on the fact that the Friday and Saturday night crowds sold out because the audience thought they were going to a different show.
In Vancouver they weren’t so lucky. The theatre was an abandoned basement hidden away on an alley off a back street, off of another back street. As they arrived at the venue the only sign that it was a theatre was a guy with a can of red paint writing the words ‘The Cavern’ across the garage door. The obscurity of the venue and the general disinterest in musical comedy meant the Conchords had trouble getting an audience and had to cancel many shows. Their smallest audience was just one woman. She had accidentally passed by the venue on her way home and had agreed to watch the show when Bret and Jemaine offered her a free ticket. It wasn’t until the lights came up at the end of the gig that they realised the woman had snuck out of the room during the performance and they’d been playing to an audience of none.
In 2002 they decided to again escape the New Zealand winter. This time traveling to Scotland to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Their venue was an underground tunnel called The Cave. When it rained, which was most days in Edinburgh, the ceiling dripped onto the audience and a dank slime crept down the stone walls. Apparently in the 17th century the room had been used to quarantine plague victims. They performed every night for the month of August and won the Mervyn Stutter Spirit of the Fringe Award. By the time the left they had dozens of fans, and severe chest infections.
They continued to perform at the Wellington Thursday night comedy club, and also did a small number of corporate functions. One such gig was for a Wellington cricket club christmas function. They performed in the corner of the bar as the cricket club finished their turkey dinner. Unfortunately the inferior sound system meant the lyrics were incomprehensible and Bret and Jemaine were mistaken for a bad covers band. Their song about Bowie in Space was heard as an unrecognisable rendition of Bowie’s Space Oddity. Unexpectedly three women stormed the stage demanding they could do a better job themselves. Bret attempted to accompany their version of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler, while Jemaine packed up the gear. They both ran out the door leaving Wellington’s own Destiny’s Child singing a cappella.
They returned to Edinburgh in 2003 and again performed in the same subterranean grotto. The show had developed to include a xylophone and a dancing toy flower. Their new songs included If You’re Into it, Bret You’ve Got It Goin’ On, Sexy Flower, and Hiphopopotamus vs. The Rhymenocerous.