23 Oct 2021
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  • Cafe Fistfight - Gig Review: Cafe Fistfight @ The Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 27/11/2020

Cafe Fistfight - Gig Review: Cafe Fistfight @ The Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 27/11/2020

28 Nov 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

Today was set to be the launch party for the second album by Channeled, I Heard Penelope Sing, but unfortunately singer and songwriter Ben Ruegg was rushed into hospital on Tuesday, only being allowed home on the Friday itself. The thoughts of everyone at Muzic.net.nz are with him and his family at this time, and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

Given that Channeled were supposed to be the headline tonight there had to be some changes, but Cafe Fistfight’s front man Chris Moutter said he could play a solo acoustic set made up of originals and covers, then Limited could play second and Cafe Fistfight would close the show so it would mean two sets for him tonight. Due to some technical issues Limited were very delayed in being able to undertake their soundcheck, but eventually Chris was able to get onto the stage, plug in his acoustic, check the microphone and he was off.

If he was having any nerves in playing in front of an audience which included his bandmates, he showed no sign at all, and immediately relaxed into the music he was creating and having great fun. He has a wonderful clear voice, yet it is packed full of emotion and he is not afraid to put on an edge and force it when he has to, while he is also an extremely adept guitarist moving between different styles, always fluid and melodic. Something which was really interesting is that quite a few of the songs chosen by him as covers are not ones would normally expect, such as The Curse of Curves by Cute Is What We Aim For and John Mayer’s Why Georgia. All the songs came across as incredibly interesting, passionate, and he was having a blast on stage. His cover of Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason was inspired, but the highlight of the set was probably the closer, Sunny Side Up. This is an original which the band have yet to bring into their set, a real builder of a number which starts slowly but becomes far more frenetic and frantic in the chorus. All too soon it was over, Chris was all smiles having had a blast, and I was definitely looking forward to seeing him again later in the evening.

When I was at City of Souls the other night I was chatting with Ben about this evening, and was telling me that they had played with Limited at The Thirsty, and they were a covers band with an amazing singer and that I really needed to hear their version of The Immigrant Song. I was definitely intrigued at this as anyone who covers a Led Zeppelin song is asking for trouble unless they really nail it. He also told me that the whole band was made up people stuck here from overseas due to Covid 19, and a chat with bassist Cam before the gig basically confirmed this as he is proudly the only Kiwi in the band! Drummer Aled and guitarist Dave join with Cam to make up the musical backbone, and then there is Martina. If someone asked me to describe her voice I would say she is probably closest to Gwen Stefani, but with hints of Alanis Morrissette, and while she is a wonderfully controlled singer all areas it is when she is belting that her full power and presence come through.

She told me before the gig that she was quite worried about her voice as she had been having a few issues the previous few days, and I wonder if this had an impact at the beginning of the set as for the first few numbers she was fairly rooted behind the microphone stand. She was singing well, but this lack of animation somewhat confused me as the physical presence was not fitting with the voice, but after a raucous All The Small Things with all the crowd joining in and a superb Just A Girl, she took the microphone off the stand, visibly relaxed, and started putting on a show. The band’s version of You Oughta Know was powering, and it was obvious by now that Limited revolve totally around Martina, with everyone else rooted to the spot and providing the musical support and backing to allow her to let rip. When they went into Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good) I was impressed, as Skunk Anansie have always been a favourite of mine, but something weird was happening onstage as the guys seemed to be getting into something of a musical mess, but Martina carried it through and even made a joke of it at the end. They did lose the audience somewhat with a rather lacklustre performance of Wonderwall, a song I have always felt massively over-rated, but they did get them back, and while Immigrant Song may not have been the masterpiece I was expecting, that was due mostly to some rather lacklustre guitar as she was killing the belts. Even to the very end and Plug In Baby she was able to hit falsetto with ease, and I came away very impressed indeed. It must be said that in general I am not a fan of covers bands, but I would definitely go and see Limited again as they were such great fun.

For those who have yet to see Cafe Fistfight in concert, you really have no idea what you are missing. I had seen bassist Jesse at the City of Souls gig the previous week and we were both discussing just how good Outside In  are in concert and he was saying how much they would like to gig with them, and that would certainly be an incredible event worth seeing as while both bands are very different musically, they are both creating great art and have wonderful frontmen. Alongside Chris and Jesse is 7-string guitarist Josh, who also has a huge pedalboard, plus drummer Dan. The four of them create music which has an awful lot going on, yet they all have a blast while doing it. If anyone ever wants to understand what musical nirvana looks like in reality then just watch Jesse play, as while he is providing intricate lines his eyes are often closed, head punching with the beat. Dan is providing complex fills and patterns at the back, while Josh is musically all over the place, sometimes shredding and then providing sounds similar to held-down keyboard chords at others. Then of course there is Chris, rested from his set earlier in the evening and determined to have even more fun this time around as his mates were with him on the stage, as opposed to heckling him and providing 'advice'.

Their arrangements are massively complex, and there are times when all three are providing different melodies and countermelodies, intertwining their threads to create music which is very powerful indeed, yet is always bright and clean. Nothing muddy about this at all. They were relaxed and having fun right from the off, but by the time they got into the third song Pocket Change they had really hit the groove and it was incredible to hear all the different nuances everyone was throwing in here and there. They certainly do not believe in being straightforward, and it felt like they had harnessed a breathing visceral being called music and they were bringing it all home. I was sat with Miss Peach, Miss Peach and The Travellin Bones, and she told me that not only did they remind her of Counting Crows (which I understand), but their music is like an eargasm! Take Two is definitely one of my favourites with great vocals, a chorus which rocks and stacks of energy. One thing which is incredibly impressive with Café Fistfight is the way they all stop on a dime, the sign of a band who have rehearsed and played together a great deal.

Feel A Little starts with just acoustic guitar before the rest of the band comes in and it is a hugely emotional song which really builds. Many groups are very focused onstage, and while that is also true of these guys, there is no doubt that they are having so much fun at the same time and the audience definitely reacts to that. Free WiFi has an unusual staccato tempo, which really changes when they get to the chorus, and at times Dan is driving this just with the kick drum. They ended with King Hit Quiche, their debut single, which is released at the end of the week. Another acoustic start belies the belter it becomes, and by the end of the set I found myself wondering why on earth they have yet to be picked up by a label, surely it can only be a matter of time?

This may not have been the gig anyone expected tonight, and again our thoughts are with Ben and his recovery, but it turned out to be a massive success.


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland

 

About Cafe Fistfight

Cafe Fistfight are New Zealand's leading Cafe-themed Acoustic hard rock band. Nourishing the soul and enriching the eardrums with bopping classics like Service with a Smile and King Hit Quiche these four fellas are sure to get you back for seconds.




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