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Gig Review: Auckland City Rockfest @ The Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland 19/08/2017

22 Aug 2017 // A review by butch181

10 bands, 1 night. As far as swansongs for the Kings Arms Tavern go, the Auckland City Rockfest is definitely doing it justice. The Kings Arms has always been rather blessed when it came to sound quality, but today we finally got a show with some brilliant lighting as well; official photographers and amateur mobile phone users alike reveled in the ability to take brilliantly lit photos of the bands as they performed.

Coridian is the first to take to the stage at the early time of 5:15pm. Despite the early time slot, there was a reasonable turnout for the up and coming band. This four-piece alt rock group have a solid sound, with good equipment. The noise is loud and the silence is in fact silent. Initially the vocals were rather light, and overpowered by the guitars, but by the end of the first track Nonetheless, the mix was spot on. Moving into their latest single release Reflections, they busted out a lively bass riff with a lot of energy. This is the first time I’ve seen Coridian live, and vocalist Dity Stranger is quite the showman. Despite his smaller stature compare to the other members of the band, Dity has an amazing stage presence and an infectious energy and passion that resonates well with the audience. Like a modern-day kiwi Freddie Mercury, he has immaculate control of his vocals, from low to high, and has a good balance between soft and heavy vocals. Coridian is a very tight band that is well coordinated. I’ll definitely be expecting big things from them in the future.

Dead Beat Boys are next up on stage. Another alt-rock band, this five-piece are a high energy act, with more focus on fast-paced clean guitars. Coming across like a mix between The D4 and The Datsuns, these guys are very sure and confident in their abilities. Vocalist James Fitz is all over not just the stage, but the entire venue. With what is most likely the longest microphone cord in New Zealand, Fitz quickly leaves his band members on stage, and instead hangs out with the audience, singing with an arm of their shoulders, serenading them on his knees, eventually even climbing atop the bar and the picnic tables outside in the garden area. A fun performance while the rest of the band continues playing. Dead Beat Boys did have a shorter set list than Coridian, but the set length did average out, as their songs were more adventurous in length and structure. They have a very punky in-you-face sound, with a nice homage to Queens of the Stone Age’s 2000 track, Feel Good Hit Of The Summer thrown in. Despite the clean sounding riffs, the three guitars on stage creates a thick sound that mixes well with Fitz’ high cleans and deep screams.

Halfway through the first group of the event, we have Quinn the Human, and what an eclectic looking lot they are; the bassist seems to have taken a leaf out of Jimmy Chistmas’ book (vocalist of Luger Boa) and gone with a lion tamer outfit. The rest of the band (excluding the drummer who was dressed more practically) were in dress shirts and waistcoats, as if they had just walked out of the Wild West. Their sound matched their lengthy locks of hair, with a grungier but soulful mix. I can best describe them as a drone blues rock group? Slower music, with a lot of harmonizing vocals, some of their tracks have an atmospheric post rock sound. A veritable mix of sounds and styles.

Dead Favours was next on the list. A recent addition to the music scene, Dead Favours have not had too much opportunity for gigs and tours, but with their breakout hit Dig, they are definitely getting the attention due to them. Having seen them perform at Galatos on their tour supporting the Decades album release, their performance has improved considerably, and having finally released their second single, High Flying, the audience finally have the opportunity to know more of the songs, and were in turn more receptive to the performance. Vocalist Jared Wrennall has some high energy clean vocals, that gives the set a very bluesy Elemeno P/Steriogram sound. Musically, the performance was strong, with Dig sounding just like the studio recording; brilliant work from both the band and the sound desk to create such a clarity in the sound.

Headlining the Karaka St Group Bill, is the progressive cinematic rock group, Written By Wolves. Fronted by Michael Murphy, of NZ Idol fame, Written By Wolves is the group that provided more of a standalone performance.

It fitted in the least with the other bands on the bill, and a large portion of the audience turned up exclusively for them (arriving late, and leaving straight afterwards). They put on a brilliant performance though, with a synth-pop metalcore style, the EDM aspect of the music instantly got the crowd pumping, switching from nodding heads and devil horns, to screams and jumping up and down like in a dance club. There is so much energy in their performance, and the crowd eats it up. Vocals are generally in the falsetto range mixed in with some heavy screaming, but works well with the genre of music. Lyrical content and guitar riffs go out the door; Written By Wolves is all about the rhythm and the drop. They closed off their set, and the first half of the Auckland City Rockfest, with the 2006 My Chemical Romance song, Welcome To The Black Parade.

After a short break, Armed in Advance take to the stage to begin the second round of acts (The Frances St Group).

The Written By Wolves fans have left, and the audience that remains are back to headbanging and cheering. Vocalist and guitarist JP Carroll does well to amp up the crowd again, starting with the newly released single, Pain. JP’s vocals are rapidly improving, with his abrasive screams mixing better with his clean vocals. Performance-wise, AIA has drastically improved in this regard also; JP ditches the guitar at times, and places full focus on singing, moving about the stage. Great to see a less static performance from them. Playing through a selection of tracks from their debut album Change/Evolve, the crowd revels in the grunge rock sound and the crowd warms back up really well.

Next up is the only act to travel from outside of Auckland, the Christchurch act, Setting Fire to Stacey, which makes it all the more special having them on the bill.

They are no amateurs when it comes to performing live, and waste no time getting into it. Managing to fit nearly their whole Love and War EP release into their setlist (Vital Signs was the only track missing), their solid guitars combined with the powerful vocals of Arend Hoek make for an exciting act every time. Arend’s vocals have such clarity to them, that it draws your attention no matter what else is going on. It’s nearly magnetic in the way that his voice captures you. Combined with the catchy heavy riffs, SFTS have an amazing sound, that remains consistent despite some line-up changes over the years. Now Way Out and Damn Word were my personal favourites, but Something Out Of Nothing got the best reactions from the crowd who despite little exposure to the band, came away with a new favourite. They ended their set with an emotional tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, doing cover of One Step Closer. SFTS are humble guys who even when their show was done, they stuck around and chatted with their street team, even offering suggestions for their review (The following was received in a PM from the guitarist Mark Hunter, “I've prewritten our review for you. Setting Fire To Stacey is the greatest band ever. I'd like to have babies with their guitarist."). A brilliant performance from a band that deserves a much larger following.

Every time I see Silence the City I remember that they are supporters of Sea Shepherd. Many of their shows in the past have had opportunities to join up and support the cause, and this seems to be an integral part of who the band is. Their first track for the night is We Are The Voice, a track written about the conservation efforts of the Maui Dolphin, with the intention of encouraging the audience to “speak up for those that cannot speak for themselves”. A great start that showed the audience what to expect from the rest of the set; confident vocals, with well-rounded music, and a more than competent drum-track. Justin Pitt has such a unique and recognisable voice, he is the definition of what makes a Silence the City track. Even Andrew Kerr (who frequently on stage with I Am Giant) on the guitars can’t take the emphasis away from Pitt. That being said, I would love to hear some more of his softer vocals. He has a great clean voice that complements the loud vocals very well. Bringing their set to a close with debut single Closer and their latest single Ruins, they ended on a strong note.

Skinny Hobos were the first of two headliners that remained before the night came to an end. Seeing a duo on stage made it look so empty compared to the other bands that had three, four, sometimes, five members on stage at the same time. But it’s that simplicity that catches you off-guard. Skinny Hobos are masters at working efficiently. Guitarist and vocalist Alex Ferrier doesn’t need a huge amount of space to do his thing, and once the show starts, you can’t even see the space, as he commands your attention. Becoming rather famous by the number of pedals that he will use in his performance, he would be disappointed that Quinn the Human actually had more pedals earlier, but not one to be outdone, he performed with such ferocity that he blew an amp mid-set, leaving drummer Sam Holdom to entertain the crowd with a dos of drum solos, cowbell, and showing off his signature dress code of a red tie atop of his otherwise bare chest. Skinny Hobos have gone from opening band to headliners in what feels like mere months, and with every single they release, the bigger the response they get from the crowds. Despite the constant delays in their album release, the fans got into their set, singing along with Suburban Living, Merchant of Tirau, and Jokers & Fools, even singing along to unreleased tracks that would have only been heard live. Professional showmanship from the pair, and an eventful but otherwise consistent performance from the Hobos.

Final band for the night was Ekko Park. Not long ago finishing a tour supporting the Jordan Luck Band (of which half the band is also a member of), Ekko Park graced the stage to close off the night. Ekko Park are the definitely one of the most established bands of the night, but their style is much softer in comparison to those that played before them. Vocalist Joe Walsh was a crooning style of singing that gives all their tracks a soothing touch, and overall gives the band a Kings of Leon sound. Nick Douch does as he always does, and absolutely masters the drums, creating the perfect percussive elements to each track. No sign of My Crime in the setlist this time around, which is the track I always associate the band with, but there were other early tracks from the debut album, such as Becoming the Enemy, and Little I’s & Big You’s. A solid performance that still garnered a good reaction from the crowd despite the waning energy levels 7 hours after the show has begun.

Finishing off their set in a manner that they picked up on the road with Jordan Luck they brought out some of the guys from Skinny Hobos and Dead Favours to jam it out and do a cover of the Rolling Stones 1965 classic, Get Off Of My Cloud. A brilliant inaugural event from the organisers, and even with the impending closure of the Kings Arms Tavern, hopefully the event will find a suitable new home.

Photos and review by Alex Moulton


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