As Fat Freddy's Drop prepares to help Nelson ring in 2010, the band will be looking back on a year which had its dramas. By Alice Cowdrey.
It was a dark night on a six-lane freeway on the way into Los Angeles when the members of Fat Freddy's Drop found themselves in a spot of bother.
A trailer containing all of their instruments came loose from the bus they were travelling in. The trailer flipped over a safety barrier, tumbling down a steep bank. Online video footage shows the band members at 2am grimly retrieving an amplifier, a drum and a smashed-up saxophone case.
Inside were the remains of a 1961 baritone saxophone.
"It was a complete write-off," says the owner of the instrument, Scott Towers (aka Chopper Reedz).
Word of the accident got around quickly and Towers says people were emailing and phoning him from around the world offering advice on where he could get a new one.
One guy holidaying in Holland who read a blog report about the accident told Towers about a friend who worked in a store about 30 minutes out of Amsterdam which sold the instrument Towers was after. On arriving for a gig in the city, Towers caught a cab to the shop and found a 1960 vintage baritone sax, similar to his squashed one. "Even the serial numbers are similar."
Looking back on the accident now, it actually seems a little scary, Towers says.
"It could have been a complete diaster. We were calm at the time and post-accident, but I think everyone realises that it could have gone horribly wrong. It would have been a nightmare."
Near-tragedies aside, it's been an epic ride for the band who this year released their second album, Boondigga and The Big BW. Now they are psyching themselves up for a big summer, and tonight will welcome in the new year at the Riwaka Hotel.
Most of the seven-piece "family" of musicians grew up together in Wellington and over the years have won a legion of fans and respect. Emerging through a multitude of groups including funk jam bands, reggae sound systems, jazz improvisation and live techno groups, the musicians have stuck to an independent attitude, releasing their music through The Drop, their artist-operated label.
Towers officially joined the Freddy's family in December 2007, but has been jamming with the band on and off since 2002. He has been a part of the New Zealand music scene for the past 15 years after completing a music degree in jazz performance.