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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Semi Final 1 @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 5/11/2020

Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Semi Final 1 @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 5/11/2020

07 Nov 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

For the second consecutive night it was back to Ding Dong, this time for the first semi-final of  the Bands competition, which is being sponsored by Dave Rhodes Productions, SIS Studios, Real Groovy Auckland and Muzic.net.nz. Speaking to the judges beforehand I admitted I had a #1 in my head, and a #5, but it was all down to what was going to happen on the night, and I was certainly intrigued as to how it was going to play out and was exceedingly happy it wasn’t down to me to make the call! Tonight, we again had five bands, all of whom had won through from their respective heats, but only two could go through to the final. Who was it going to be?

First up were Alchebad, who had impressed me immensely in their heat, and I was looking forward to seeing them again. As with last time, they opened with Lady Diana and everyone kneeling on the stage as guitarist Richard Portch created a sonic soundscape. When the time was right, he stood up and started finger tapping, creating incredibly atmospheric music. The rest of the guys soon joined in, delivering complex music with very strong underlying basslines with Chris switching between hitting notes hard or sliding into them in a manner only fretless bassists can provide, using massive sustain. There were plenty of interweaving melodies combining with complex drum patterns (and an especially powerful use of bass drum pedals). Last Time had much more of a Sixties psychedelic feel, and by now there were people dancing. This has a hook which is a real earworm, while Paradise was far more mellow with a lovely warm bass providing a lot of melodic lead. The set was well-balanced, providing many different styles and moods, with closer Metastatic being far more jagged and harder than what had gone before, and it even turned into something more approaching doom and sludge. Richard again closed the set with more sonics, and the first band had finished. Alchebad set the bar really high, performing even more strongly than they had in the heats, and I was again relieved the final decision would not be mine.

Next up was World On Fire, one of the bands from the previous night, and to be honest I was somewhat surprised they had been put through. Talking to Nick and Saki before the gig neither of them could believe they were there, as they never imagined they would make it out of the prelims, let alone win through to the semi-finals. Apparently, they felt they did not deserve to be in the heat the night before, but now they had been put through to the semi-final they had started to believe in themselves a lot more. This new-found confidence can be the only explanation as to why they played as they did tonight, as it felt almost like a different band. After the first song I turned around to the judges and saw my own feelings expressed in their faces: how on earth can a band improve that much in just 24 hours? The confidence in their music being validated meant it was like watching a band who had been performing together for years as opposed to this being their third ever gig. Everything from the night before was lifted, with Saki performing like a new woman. Whereas there were times the night before when she seemed somewhat shy and timid, tonight she was in full control. Apparently a few people had offered their services as bassist after their set the previous night, but the current guitar/drums/vocals set works very well indeed, although they probably need to work on the guitar sound to make it deeper and richer. At times jagged at broken, others warm, others massively experimental, one is never quite show where the music is going to go with these guys. Sometimes the lyrics are in Japanese, others English, with both Nick and Saki providing lead at different times. I Love A-Minor and Dear Boxer were the highlights tonight, as they became more emotional and dramatic. Their punky, abrasive, non-conforming experimental sound is both really interesting and exciting, and if they keep improving at this rate,  they are going to be a band to take very seriously indeed.

Then it was time for Glass Throne, the hard rock band who for me easily won Heat 4. They launched into Living Dying, and Owen was soon throwing shapes and the audience was reacting, but it was obvious the spark from the night before had somewhat dissipated. I don’t know if they were over-confident, or if they had just put so much effort into the previous night, but whereas in the heat they could do virtually no wrong tonight it seemed much more like hard work. New single, Ghosts, is edgy and vibrant and tonight Justin explained the meaning behind the song Paint Me Black (it is about body modification and covering yourself with tattoos because you hate your body), which was news to Owen as previously to this he had no idea! This starts dramatically but is gentler in the verse, and the use of held-down keyboard chords assisted in providing a Sabbath feel. Again, there was a lot going on behind the drum kit, with Daniel providing plenty of stick twirling, but as well as being a showman he also really knows his way around and provided some dramatic double bass drum pedals without overdoing it. Cage was much better than the previous night, as somehow it seemed to contain much more bottom end, and again it made me think of Atomic Rooster brought up to the present day with powerful keyboards and no bass with Justin switching to lead guitar. Tonight, it was the highlight of the set, dramatic and ballsy with good tempo and stylistic changes. But when they left the stage, I realised we had a real competition on our hands as they had left the door wide open.

Next up were Channeled, who tonight I was seeing for the third time in recent weeks. They had decided to up the energy and of the six songs only three were played in the heat ,as they decided to go for more up tempo and rocky material based on crowd reaction and feedback. All the songs were part of the set when they recently supported Coridian, but I had not previously heard them sound anything like this. Due to where the amplifiers had been placed, Matt and Michelle were on different sides of the stage to normal, something they both confessed they did not enjoy, but they certainly did not let that impact their performance. Right from the off there was loads more energy and enthusiasm, with everyone really into what they were doing. Power pop melodic rock with over the top aggression, they started with real intent, involving the audience from the very beginning. Singer/guitarist Ben Ruegg was like a man possessed, edgy and enthusiastic and taking everyone with him by sheer brute force of personality. Michelle and Branden were in the groove, with Michelle in particular looking far more relaxed yet enthused than before, while Matt was also way more involved. Ben’s lyrics were full of venom, being delivered with passion, but although there was a great deal of angst the set was very well paced and balanced. Highlight yet again was Is That Glass, which is a song of many parts, and at one point has three different melodies intertwining and building. There was a great deal of contrast tonight, but always lots of guitar interplay and a rhythm section on fire with Michelle switching techniques depending on the song and Branden proving he has chops beyond his years with intricate fills and additional dynamics. Some of the songs just stop, bang: there is no messing about, everyone knows exactly where they are in the music and the control among the mayhem is immense. This was a massive performance from Channeled, so much so that it did not really matter what the last band was like as these guys had given everything and left nothing on the stage whatsoever. It was obvious to everyone that here was a band who had not only won the semi, but another performance like that could see them win the whole series.

This then left us with Miss Used, a band who had also impressed me greatly in their heat. Their Seventies-style hard, blues-based rock with two very different lead singers felt very warm and welcoming to me, so I was really looking forward to the show. Tonight, we had the same songs as in the heat, albeit in a slightly different order, but again here was a band who did not seem quite there for one reason or another. It may be possible that they had just been overshadowed by the performance from Channeled, but I did get the impression that not all was quite right, and opening number Collapsing Buildings (their first single) felt quite flat and restrained, although admittedly it did not help that the bass amp malfunctioned during this number and emergency fixes had to be carried out to get it going again. Lochlan has a really strong bluesy vocal style and Hit The Ground Running (the next single) was a definite step up, with the band starting to get into it and gel with some powerful showmanship. They are obviously passionate about the music, with material which often builds yet returns to its roots. Two quite different singers allow them to approach different styles of music, with Ben being more alternative, yet there is a consistent groove throughout. I am not sure why the band were not at full bore tonight, although I felt they had done enough to claim a spot in the final.

But the judges took even longer tonight to make their decision than they had the previous evening, which meant to my mind it was coming down to the wire between Miss Used and Glass Throne. That was indeed the case, and yet again I got it wrong as while Channeled were an obvious choice the judges plumped for Glass Throne to join them in the final. It was a heck of a night, and with Semi Final 2 coming up on Saturday 7th and the Grand Final on Saturday 14th now is the time to discover the delights of Ding Dong.

Photos Credit - Simon Raymond Watling


Other Reviews By Kev Rowland

Scapegoat - Album Review: Reality and the Hanging Tree
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