25 Sep 2021
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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Heat 3 @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 29/10/2020

Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Heat 3 @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 29/10/2020

30 Oct 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

For the second consecutive night it was back to Ding Dong for the third heat of the Bands competition, which is being sponsored by Dave Rhodes Productions, SIS Studios, Real Groovy Auckland & Muzic.net.nz. Last night we had only three bands taking part in the actual competition, and tonight there were five! Credit to all involved as while it did over-run, it actually finished earlier than the first heat and there was an additional band on tonight.

First up was Head Lock Grave, who comprise Gabriel Rea-Bucknall (vocals, guitar), Liam Cowie (guitar), Max Ludlow (bass) and Harrison Mansell (drums).I looked at them on the stage getting ready and I turned to barman Dave and asked how old they were, and he told me to look at the wristbands as two of them were white, which meant they were under age! They may be young, but they were out to show they were in the competition on merit and ripped into Pour Whiskey on my Grave and immediately showed just how much they have been influenced by classic Metallica. They mixed it up with doom and solid slabs, while also bringing in groove, all with Gabriel putting his all into his performance with plenty of aggression and showing stacks of confidence. The band even managed to get a small but potent mosh pit going with Douglass in particular getting shouts of appreciation. However, in our corner of the bar all conversation was about Max Ludlow, who was providing superb bass lines with real depth and presence and was totally into the music. It was his playing which provided the underpinning for what was an excellent opening performance and certainly these guys are worth keeping an eye on.

Next up was Project Bloodmoon, who are a totally different band to Halo of Ashes who played the night before, and any similarities must be caused by lack of alcohol. I mean, Halo of Ashes’ singer Matt Perry has dark hair while M.P Freeze’s hair was bright red! Actually, Project Bloodmoon started off as a side-project of Halo Of Ashes, but due to various reasons both bands now have the same line-up, even playing some of the same songs, with Project Bloodmoon completed by Dr. Gorgan (guitar), Brother Z (bass) and Mr. Loko (drums). Perhaps unsurprisingly the two best songs from the previous night were aired again, with Loaded again being the standout. Tonight, they were way were punchier, as if they had needed the blowout the previous night to shift some cobwebs, and were way more intense. M.P Freeze lives and breathes his music, and onstage he is a man possessed, yet offstage he is one of the happiest guys you can meet. They slipped in some blues-based rock with Revelation Blues, but it was when they were full bore with the likes of Chronic that they really showed their style.

When Alchebad came onstage I immediately paid attention as not only was Dave Alsford (vocals, guitar) wearing his guitar very high, but Chris Fyfe was playing a fretless bass. It is pretty much a truism that anyone who steps onto a stage playing one of those really knows their way around the instrument. The line-up is completed by Richard Portch (lead guitar) and drummer Colin Heng, and once the instruments had been checked out the backing music was turned off and they promptly all sat down! Colin looked incredibly exposed behind his kit, as both Dave and Chris were sat facing him, and then Richard started dragging some feedback out of his guitar and creating a sonic soundscape. It is an incredibly powerful introduction, and although I have attended hundreds of gigs over the years, I must confess this is the first time I have seen anything quite like it. Soon they were all stood up and blasting through Lady Diana mixing funk, groove, rock, and atmosphere to create something quite special indeed. There was also a real use of space within the sound, so although there was a lot going on it all felt considered and right, with Colin providing a powerful backing. However, halfway through the song, Dave broke his E string, and although they made their way through, it was obviously going to give them some issues. But as soon as the song completed there was Isaac Bell from Sundaze handing over his rather superb axe (I didn’t recognise it, but it was gorgeous), telling Dave to use it for the rest of their set. A quick re-tuning, and Alchebad were off again, showing that they have some rather incredible musical chops with the guitarists musically all over the place, a bassist who could punch the notes but was also more than prepared to slide into them in the way only a fretless allows, while Colin was moving through multiple pattens as well as being a real showman. Paradise allowed the bass to shine, and while the vocals weren’t always spot on the musicianship on offer was quite superb with multiple different stylings and flourishes such as finger tapping, so much so that I would have been more than happy for Alchebad to play purely instrumentally. They finished with Metastatic, and the final notes again belonged to Richard as he filled the room with sonics.

It was then time for Sundaze to come on for their own set, and although this name was new to me I quickly realised that many of the band used to be in Not Pretty Enough To Be Stupid. They were the first band in the heats to have a female singer (Indigo Harding), and bassist Felix Sinton was playing a six-string, with the rest of the line-up comprising Isaac, George (Jett) Gale (guitar, gang vocals) and drummer Keoghan Palmer. Indigo started the performance unaccompanied, something which is incredibly brave, but she has the voice to carry it off and was easily the best singer of the night to date. The music is built around the vocals, designed to let her shine, alternative rock with an edge with more than a hint of Tool. The band were definitely into all they were doing, but with four people out front the size of the stage meant they were seriously constrained and could not move around as much any of them would have liked, so it will be interesting to see them in a bigger venue. There was loads of energy coming from the stage and the band reacted to it, so much so that there were cries for an encore when they finished with Xenophobia, but unfortunately could not. At times, the complexity got a little lost, and it may be better to be more simplistic as in Indigo they have a singer with real breadth and width, and they need to concentrate on providing the platform.

Time for the last band, Miss Used, who comprise Ben Woolford (vocals, guitar), Lochlan Lewis-Way (vocals, guitar), James Oliver (drums) and Josh Colwell (bass). Here they set the stage with Josh in the middle and the guitarists either side, the reason being is that both guitarists are also lead singers and tonight they took it in turns through the six songs. They opened with Hit The Ground Running , with Lochlan singing, and I was immediately taken as these guys were far more blues-based, heading back into the early Seventies. Lochlan didn’t play guitar in this song but instead was really into the music, and I couldn’t help but being reminded of Free. This is a style of music I grew up with (it transpired I have a daughter the same age as both judges so will have been one of the oldest in the audience, something I am very used to), and I was not the only one into it as they obviously had fans in the crowd who were singing along and providing additional vocals. There was nothing rushed about their performance; there was space but also intensity, a drive but it was never over the top. Paranoid Wonderland started with a beautiful guitar sound which reminded me of Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, and they worked through a paced set which certainly gained them a host of new fans by the end of the night. Two lead singers provide Miss Used a real point of difference to many bands and combining that with multiple elements of blues-based Seventies hard rock made for very interesting listening.

Then it was over to the judges again, who yet again got it right, with the three bands going through to the semis being Alchebad, Sundaze and Miss Used. The final heat is on Wednesday with another five bands, and the quality so far has been incredible so I see no reason why that will be any different. Thursday sees Semi-Final 1, with Semi-Final 2 on Saturday, and the Grand Final being held on Saturday November 14th. This is an amazing opportunity to catch some wonderful bands in Auckland, all in the wonderful dive which is Ding Dong. Why would you be anywhere else?


Photo Credit: Abner Cestari

 

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