T-bone packed the room with four generations of acoustic music fans on Sunday night. The bar was kept busy and the conversation flowed as the five-piece group began their set with little ceremony or delay.

Without percussion the band still made for a crowded stage as the musicians hunkered together to emphasise their communication. Some line-ups might rely on a multi-instrumentalist for colour and variety, T-Bone had a triple threat on that front as Michael Muggeridge, Dusty Burnell and Gerry Paul passed instruments between them before nearly every tune. As a result, T-bone boasted pairs of duelling banjo’s, fiddles or guitars while Muggeridge and Burnell exchanged a mandolin throughout the set.

Song writing duties and lead vocals were traded just as easily. Burnell, Muggeridge and Paul all contributed original songs between the standards, rags and covers. Late in the set, fiddle mainstay and wine connoisseur Richard Klein even growled out a stomping cover of Frank Zappa’s ‘Willie the pimp’, reinvigorating the crowd after the tender five part harmony of ‘If you never knew my name’. Gerry Paul’s gentle musical setting of the Margaret Mahy Poem ‘The Fairy child’ was also a highlight of the evening but it pointed to an issue with the long, crowded San Fran.

The mix was clear, the voices and the many instruments well defined but, even up front, the band was never loud. Blessed relief for some but it did leave a large portion of the audience distant from what was happening on stage. The atmosphere about the room was warm and conversational and while this suited T-bone’s high energy stomp the subtler moments were lost amongst the hubbub.

At the back of the stage Aaron Stewart held down the double bass. While he refrained from the between song banter and instrument swapping, he fulfilled his role with humility, adding a foundation of warmth and momentum beneath the rest of the band’s formidable chops and energy. Near the end of the set his reception from the audience proved that it hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Despite sporting a matching leopard print cap and shirt beneath his dungarees, band leader Gerry Paul almost remained in the background on this evening. At centre stage Michael Muggeridge’s energy was as constant as his grin, Burnell engaged the crowd with dry humour and, as the band converged about him, the dangers of two fiddle players at close quarters became an eye gouging concern. Off to the side and out of the glare Paul was possibly a victim of a rushed lighting setup. It didn’t seem to limit his or the audience’s enjoyment of the set.

Paul is undoubtedly the band’s leader but there was such a wealth of fun onstage that on Sunday night he was not forced to lead from the front. Anyone of these players could lead a band. It was Wellington’s good fortune this collection of five impressive musicians seemed to have so much fun getting crazy, drinking too much and playing great tunes together