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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Grand Final @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 14/11/2020

Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition Grand Final @ Ding Dong, Auckland - 14/11/2020

17 Nov 2020 // A review by Matt Billington

Wanna know a secret?

Bands that write their own music, record and tour their own albums, book their own shows, play every or almost every weekend, they don't play a Battle of the Bands.

Why would they?

Their mates won't show up.

Why would they?

Pay a door charge to see one band they like or wait a week and see them with a couple of other bands from the scene they know.

Battle of the Bands.

Jesus.

You've been to these.

A venue that wants to up the bar takings with a band comp, the bands hang around in their own circles, their friends turn up for their set to leap around before

bailing to sink super market priced piss until the judges deliver their judging judgmental bullshit.

And unless your mate's band wins, how much do the winners suck? Like you'll ever hear them again.

Nah, Battle of the Bands isn't for real bands.

This is what I'm dealing with as The Flatmate and I pick our way toward Ding Dong Lounge through roadworks that have been going on since that Lorde song was huge.

The streets gouged and dug and scraped and the torn and busted cement shielded by eight foot high steel barriers to prevent hammered patrons from the viaduct twisting an ankle or breaking a knee or tearing a crucial ligament from the bone on their way to find a kebab.

The Flatmate is with me because a show and a sober driver were too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Back at our house, drinking a box of cider like I have to be at this show on time, The Flatmate asks me "you're reviewing this show? Like, you're going to this gig to be a judgmental fuckwit?"

I am.

"And goddamit I'm gunna be a professional and as honest as you are after another couple of drinks."

Battle of the Bands.

Christ.

There is a checklist of shit these bands are going to do.

Straight up, tell me I'm full of shit but here it is.

-How you guys doing tonight?

-Ready to rock?

-I want to see you dancing/moshing/going crazy!

-I'd like to introduce the band...

- Are you having a good time!

Or some variation of. Go on, check it all off.

That's what I'm dealing with.

Ding Dong lounge is playing that Dragon song, you know the one. We make our way into Dead Witch upstairs and the Flatmate tells me "The Enemy is downstairs. The guy that threatened to kill Our Friend."

Glass Throne are about to start. I tell her we really don't have time for that shit.

With Battle of the Bands, you get an MC.

Check him off.

You've been to one, you know the guy.

His name is Murray or Bruce or Pricey and the only other time he has ever been on the mic is announcing the winning raffle ticket for the meat pack. The MC, he tries to hype the crowd up with all the skill of your Dad putting on a Rolling Stones record and playing air guitar at your 16th birthday party.

Battle of the Bands.

Christ.

Except Ding Dong Lounge don't do that. They roll out Jesse.

Jesse usually does the door.

Jesse is the kind of guy who can organise the crew of a pissed up stag party into taxis and get them to the casino.

Jesse tells us exactly how this shit is going to work, and tonight, it's all in the hands of Dave's.

The sound guy, one of the judges, and most importantly the barman are all called Dave.

"If you need a drink, go see Dave" Jesse says. There are $6 tequilas and $6 VBs which Jesse calls 'bum beers'.

Now, read this and tell me it isn't true.

EVERYONE knows at least one totally mental dude called Dave.

Go on, tell me you don't know a loose unit called Dave.

There are 3 of them running this show.

The Flatmate bangs into me and says "I'm soooo hitting up The Enemy about what he did to our Friend. That piece of shit can't get away with it."

A boozed flatmate with a drama.

A gig run by Dave's.

This, will get messy.

Glass Throne kick it off with a sick intro, and they really don't sound or look like a garage band having a crack at playing a proper show.

The Flatmate runs off to find something she can use for ear plugs.

Before she does she tells me that Shaggy from Scooby Doo has cloned himself and started a mosh pit and how I should put that in the review.

"Absolutely fucking not" I tell her. "They're all wearing suspenders."

Glass Throne want to know how we're doing.

(check)

Are we fucking ready?

(check)

Let's have a good night.

(check)

The Flatmate gets back with wet toilet paper sticking out of her ears. "Write down Metallica-esque use of chorus pedals."

I tell her "absolutely not. I don't know anything about pedals."

The guitarist leans over the front of the stage playing a badass tapping solo.

(check)

The Flatmate says "write down how he plays like he has the Pick of Destiny. You know? Like Tenacious D."

When not twirling sticks, the drummer does some very on point vocal harmonies.

The pit is going fucking mental.

"Yeah they're my mates" this guy tells me when I ask him does he know this band. "And they're fucking awesome."

Glass Throne tick the rock boxes. But what sets them apart is their complete lack of irony.

They look the audience dead in the face and play songs they love.

Glass Throne thank the other bands and the venue and tells us all we're in for a mean night. The guitarist hits the key board, the bass payer grabs a gat, and

finishes the set with a ruthless guitar solo that leaves his fingertips melted and dripping from the fretboard.

"Thanks guys."

We go for a smoke.

The Flatmate tells me that what really pisses her off about The Enemy is that he's picking on the Friend who is autistic. Who in their right mind wants to beat up the autistic kid?

I tell her to get a drink and we'll sort it out later.

Channeled are up next.

They tell us that rock n roll is back, baby!

(check)

They want to see a mosh pit.

(check)

They introduce the band members.

(check)

But what sets Channeled apart is their songs.

Their knowledge of how to write a hook, make a riff shine, and increase a song's intensity is text book. They are obviously proficient musicians, but their song writing stands out above their technical skill.

They thank the sponsors.

(check)

They have a new album out on November 27th.

(check)

And then the singer talks about how the last song is about his anxiety over what sort of world he will leave his kids, aged 3 and 9.

Well, I'm a Dad too. So when the singer screams away from the mic after the bridge, a scream not meant to be amplified for the audience but a scream that was a

genuine reflection of the lyrical content, the skin on my back went tap lager cold.

Thanks a lot, you guys have been great.

(check)

Jesse says the last band is on at ten past ten, so grab a drink and a smoke.

So we just do what he says, the Flatmate and I. He's that sort of dude.

Battle of the Bands.

Christ you've been to these.

Of course the last band is going to be the best. They're just cashing in on the energy created by the bands before. The last band gets a room full of people sauced up on $6 tequilas and bum beers.

Except, the last band on is White Noise Mafia, and they could have played anywhere on the bill and still kicked its ass.

As it goes White Noise Mafia are handed a room full of boozed up rockers and they get into it.

They ask how our night has been.

(check)

Are we having a good time?

(check)

Are we ready to hear some music?

(check)

The kick into The Divide, and it is very, very clear that this will be the heaviest band of the night.

The Flatmate has sunk her last Redbull Vodka and decided to "nip this shit in the bud" with The Enemy. If The Enemy beats the snot out of anyone it's not going to be our Friend she reckons.

White Noise Mafia set themselves apart by actually engaging with the crowd. They feed off the heckles, the yells, anything they can use to get the crowd going.

They tell us we're amazing.

(check)

"I just wanna take a second here to talk about this next song" says the singer.

I get ready to check the 'song-for-my-girlfriend' box, but turns out the song is actually about this total asshole that I knew in Rotorua when I was about 19, and we all screamed 'FUCK YOU' when the singer counted us in.

It was cathartic.

A couple of songs in, in a quiet part of a song, the singer stops the set.

"Whoa whoa hold up. Are we cool?"

A couple of guys up the front want to punch each other.

Dead Witch, the venue, is smaller than a UFC Octagon. Gandhi himself would catch a stray elbow in the chops in here if shit kicks off.

"It's okay we're cool. We're cool."

The focus of an entire bar, orchestrated by the calm persona of the White Noise Mafia front man, convinces all parties to calm their farm. And from that moment, the audience was his.

White Noise Mafia had an open pit (twice), fists in the air (check) and asked us to go crazy (check).

But their commanding stage presence also gave way to the most touching, human moment of the evening.

The lead guitarist leaned into the mic and told us "that's my pissed as fuck Dad and I love him."

It was a beautiful moment, then you realise the mad old bastard was at the front of the mosh pit. Not at the back, not leaning on the bar, THE FRONT.

Christ, I shit myself having to dance with my 3 year old at the Ranui Library during story time on a Saturday morning, this old bugger is tearing up a pit at his son's rock gig?!

Must be a Dave.

White Noise Mafia were tight, confident on stage, and write some fantastic songs.

But this a review. So a wee touch of criticism is in order.

They finished on a cover.

Pick your nuts up and finish on one of your own songs. It's not like you don't have the tunes to do it with.

After the set, we stand outside.

The Flatmate had a good talk with The Enemy, who still wants to bash the Friend's head in, but is also open to a mediation. "He told me his side of the story. There's more to it than I thought."

She then runs up the street to tell a woman that she's really pretty.

Judgement time!

We cram back in to Dead Witch.

I tell The Flatmate that there are actual Judges, so I can't be the most Judgmental person there.

"Yeah but they're on stage, you're not. They're owning their shit."

I push my notepad into the bottom of my pocket.

Some asshole yells out "who won?" as soon as Jesse and the show organiser, Andrew, are up there. But it's been a colossal journey for everyone, bands and organisers alike to get to this moment and they won't be hurried.

What struck Andrew, when he started putting this competition together, is how many bands entered who were playing their first gig. How many people the Ding Dong Lounge crew got to meet.

And this is what I'd not considered with my 'Battle of the Bands' eye rolling bullshit.

Mates that were jamming, playing in a band, this competition gave them a concrete goal to work towards.

Bands perhaps a little unsure of how just do you get started in the intoxicating minefield of being a live originals band, this gave them a start.

Their first exposure to gigs was being welcomed into a venue with great sound and staffed by music fanatics.

They met other bands, made contacts.

Hell, they might even want to play more. Probably with other bands they shared the stage with. And they'll get better because that is what happens when you keep doing something you fall in love with.

How much of an elitist, bitter, cynical, jaded has-been do you have to be to write negative shit about that?

Second place - Glass Throne.

First place - White Noise Mafia.

Wall to wall, everyone is losing their shit.

And Hugs? There was some serious hug action going on. Especially among all the bands who looked nothing like competitors and everything like friends who had shared an epic few weeks together.

The Flatmate necked a final drink.

In the car on the way back home, The Flatmate is typing a txt to the friend about how the Enemy might not want to kill him anymore and she asked me "so how was the Battle of the Bands for you, Sober Sam? Did you have a good night?"

I chewed my bottom lip and changed lanes on the western motorway, listening to her fingers tap away on her phone telling The Friend things are better than before.

I thought of the hugs on stage, that dickhead in Rotorua I didn't have to deal with anymore, and a quiet word from the stage that stopped a fight.

"Yeah" I said. "Tonight fucking rocked."

(check)

---

This review was contributed by Matt Billington
Photo Credit: Abner Cestari

 

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