25 Sep 2021
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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Heat 1 @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 24/10/2020

Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Heat 1 @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 24/10/2020

25 Oct 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

Saturday night saw me back at the Ding Dong Lounge, this time for the first heat of the Bands competition, which is being sponsored by Dave Rhodes Productions, SIS Studios, Real Groovy Auckland and Muzic.net.nz. I knew nothing about any of the four bands prior to the day itself, but before the doors opened, I realised the group in the booth next to me were wearing green wristbands which meant they had to be one of them. I went over and introduced myself, discovering they were White Noise Mafia, and we were soon chatting away. At one point, mention was made of Napalm Records, to which Chris Webb (vocals, guitar) turned to the guy sat next to him and said, “that’s your label”. I turned to look at who he was talking to, and it was only then that I realised it was Henry de Jong of Alien Weaponry, who has recently had a haircut . Apparently lead guitarist Matt Holden is their guitar tech, and tonight he was returning the favour by humping gear for White Noise Mafia.

As soon as the door opened, I made my way upstairs to claim my spot at the end of the bar, looked towards the stage, and was surprised to see a stand which had a Prophet resting on top. My immediate reaction is that this is a serious keyboard, and it would be interesting to hear what the first band were going to do with it. That first band was Cunk, who comprise of Joe Horvath (guitar, vocals), Tom Coupe (keyboards), Nathan Cairns (bass) and Conal Wilson (drums). They started their 30-minute set with You Got My Number and Joe singing in a falsetto, with the main melodies coming from the bass and keyboards, guitar being added here and there. Tom is incredibly animated when not playing – I can honestly say I have never seen a keyboard player throw his arms around so much – and given he was doing the same thing watching the other bands later it is obviously just his reaction at being so into the music. Seymour was far more animated, with the crowd reacting well, and Joe singing in a more normal style, but although their pop/punk/alternative style was obviously going down well with the crowd, for me it didn’t quite gel. They switched styles near the end with Futurism, which saw Nathan swap his bass guitar for bass keyboards and they moved much more into classic Depeche Mode style and this was easily the best song of the set. However, they then ended the night with Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl where the vocals simply were not up to it, but the audience still enjoyed it.

Whereas Cunk had filled the stage, the trio of On Tick had far more room to move, and they never stopped. The band were formed some years back by Aidan O’Loughlin (guitar, vocals) and Brendan O'Loughlin (drums, vocals) but they have been through various bassists and actually went dormant for a period of time before coming across Matt Hammond. They came onstage, and with Aidan wearing a Helmet shirt, and Matt wearing a 5-string, both myself and barman Dave looked forward to being impressed, and that was definitely the case. This is complex punk, with elements of hardcore, but way more complex and one can easily see why Aidan was wearing that shirt. Here is a band which comes across as full-on aggression, but it is clever music with a great deal going on and intricate basslines following the guitar while Brendan provides both interesting patterns and coarse vocals. On Tick are slightly older than the rest of the bands, and they have a professionalism and directness, so while they want to rip off your face there are also times when they slow it down and make it less brutal so they can then come back even harder. Much to the crowd’s delight Aidan even played the guitar with his teeth at one point, showing that being an over the top punk metal crossover act is no reason not to have the chops. Brendan sang some lead vocals at one point, adding far more of an extreme metal style, and both Aidan and Matt playing open strings and punching the air (shades of Spinal Tap?). Opener Radioshit was the highlight for me.

By now it was obvious we were never going to finish on time, but with four bands and changeovers that was always going to be likely. Next up were Mariner, the only band on the night to have a frontman not playing an instrument, and the only quintet. The band comprise Adam Salim (vocals), Ben Goh (drums), Cullen Erson (bass), Reuben Goh (guitar, vocals) and Matt Townshend (lead guitar). Special mention must be made of Reuben, who was really into the music they were playing, but with his tie dye shirt, long hair, and moustache, he really did look like he was in the wrong band/century. He and Matt were having an absolute blast, often playing facing each other, definitely into what they were providing, which was American melodic punk in the vein of Blink 182 and Sum 41. There was loads of energy coming from the stage, and it was being repaid by the crowd who were lapping it up. The last song of the set, Can’t Get Up, is planned to be their debut single, and it will be interesting to hear how that comes across, as in the live environment it is powerful stuff. With two guitarists they had a good layered sound, but there was no room for guitar solos as they powered through the set.

To end the night, we had White Noise Mafia, for whom this was only their second gig – the first being where they won through to this heat. Chris and Matt were joined by Neo Lee (drums) and Matt Sansome (bass), and even before they started playing they got the crowd going and then they kicked into The Divide and showed they were going to deliver plenty of energy and it was returned to them from the floor. The crowd were soon being egged on to clap and sing as the guys blasted through melodic alternative rock with real balls. Chris was the best singer of the night, while he and Matt even provided some Lizzy-style guitar harmonies at one point. Given this was only their second gig, there were a few songs that tonight were played for the very first time, and War was a real highlight with a heavy use of crash cymbals creating a driving force. The audience were really into what they were doing, which was both melodic and heavy, with complex runs and strong melodies. They ended with a cover, Shihad’s Think You’re So Free, before which both Chris and Matt S changed instruments so Matt H noodled around, which led to Chris saying, “you can see who is the only one who studied music theory, and it wasn’t me!”. Everything felt so natural with them, and when they came offstage I turned to the person next to me and said, “if that is what they are like after two gigs, what are they going to be doing after two years?”.

Then it came time for the judges to have the final word. The two bands going through to the semi-final were Mariner and White Noise Mafia, but tonight everyone was a winner (I personally had it down as White Noise Mafia and On Tick). It was a great evening of music at everyone’s favourite rock dive, and later this week we get to do it all over again with four more bands competing in Heat 2 on Wednesday, and four more in Heat 3 on Thursday. Support the local scene by getting out there, hear some great music, and have a beer or two while doing so in the company of others who also want to have a blast.


Photo Credit: Abner Cestari

 

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