21 Sep 2021

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  • Cafe Fistfight - Gig Review: Cafe Fistfight @ The Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 15/01/2021

Cafe Fistfight - Gig Review: Cafe Fistfight @ The Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 15/01/2021

16 Jan 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

After going back home to Canterbury for Christmas, it was back up to Auckland last weekend and looking forward to my first gig of the year. When I realised that Cafe Fistfight had organised a 4-band bill at the Ding Dong Lounge on the Friday then of course that was the only place to be. I had a long catch up with bassist Jesse Hudson before the show, who showed me some exciting new merch the band is designing, and then I noticed the On Tick guys coming into the venue, so I popped over for a chat. I had seen some posts from guitarist/singer Aidan O’Loughlin, which made me wonder, was he really moving from Auckland to Dunedin? The answer to that is “yes”, which means that gigs from On Tick are going to become few and far between, at best. Apparently, their album should be out next month, which should be well worth hearing, but if you have yet to see these guys play then I suggest you get down to The Thirsty in a few weeks when they are playing with White Noise Mafia.

They were kicking off the proceedings tonight, so it was upstairs, and tonight there was a crowd right from the off. They were playing a fairly different set to what I had previously heard them play and they started with Nothing New, which while it has the hard hitting punk hardcore attack one expects from the trio, also has some far quieter moments. The Box also contained interesting dynamics, but when they kicked into Hound it was like the band had suddenly lifted and took it to a new level. There was far more passion and intensity, with the band working as one to really switch the energy levels. Tonight, there was time for just a six-song set from the guys, with their cover of Bullet In The Head also saw them winning many new friends.

Next up was Halo of Ashes, and from the off I was really surprised as while I have seen them before I had never really seen them like this: they were operating at a different level, with incredibly high intensity and real tightness. Matt is one of the most engaging and enjoyable front men around, always with a massive smile on his face (there are few who seem to enjoy themselves as much on stage as he does), and tonight everything gelled, and the band were pulling no punches whatsoever. They started with Won’t Back Down, and Matt was determined the crowd were going to be involved, and there were plenty of people reacting. Kein Herz is incredibly heavy, with a huge number of riffs and many different drum patterns: it really is one of those songs where it is fully driven from the back and the guys all lock in and react, but it was probably their final song, Loaded, which was the highlight. Matt said it is going to be their next single, and it is both strangely commercial and hard hitting, with a chorus and riff that really work. They really stepped it up this evening, and I look forward to catching them again soon.

After two hard-hitting acts it was time for a different style of music with the pop punk of Mariner, which was very different to what had gone before. This is another band I have seen a few times previously, and as soon as they kicked into Treehouse Stories both myself and the crowd started paying very close attention indeed. They are heavily influenced by the likes of Blink 182, and are all about having fun, and this was the first time I had seen them really relax into their music. Their confidence is building, and tonight it showed as they were tight and having fun, and the crowd reacted to it. The energy levels were high, the guitars were cutting through, there was a lot going on in the rhythm section, and at the front singer Adam Salim was in his element. He is starting to revel in his role, and enjoying getting the crowd going, and tonight the audience and band were definitely reacting to each other. One Idea has some wonderful nuances and harmony vocals, while Stabby was far more energetic with some powerful really nice bass and drum patterns. Their version of All The Small Things was massive, with everyone reacting to it and Matt Hammond (On Tick) even jumping onto the stage and straight back off again. The band had the audience exactly where they wanted them and got everyone to squat down on the floor (shades of Slipknot’s Spit It Out), all jumping up at the same time. They finished with Vaype Nayshe, and that was it. The only problem for them was that although this was genuinely the end of the set, and they were starting to changeover, the crowd were egging them on for more. This is one of the few times when I have seen an audience really demand another song, as we all know that encores are planned and they are only ever for the headline, and Mariner were genuinely surprised at what was going on. They soon got over it and reset themselves, then gave the crowd what they wanted. Speaking to the guys at the end of the night they were still somewhat in shock, as they had never had that reaction previously, and it is definitely going to set them up for the future. 2021 is going to be an interesting year for Mariner.

So how do you follow that? Quite simply you have one of the most exciting and interesting bands currently operating in Auckland. Up to this point the night had been a load of fun, with some great acts, but Cafe Fistfight took everything to a whole different level altogether. I was trying to describe the band to someone earlier in the day and I had failed miserably: Chris Moutter is an incredibly powerful singer, and a very strong acoustic guitarist, while to his right there is Josh Barker on seven-string electric guitar who has a totally different style which at times contains some shred elements, and at others more melodic. The two styles should never really go together, but instead of clashing they mesh and create something incredibly exciting. But what makes this work is the platform provided by drummer Daniel Barker, who provides lots of different drum patterns and styles, and his partner in crime bassist Jess Hudson (who also provides backing vocals). Together they constantly move the rhythms and styles, which allows Chris and Josh to ramp up the attack at the front.

Best Before started with just Chris, before Josh started finger tapping, Jesse came in on the bottom end and Dan started a strong bass drum pattern, and we were off. The quartet perform some of the tightest and most complex music around, always within the rock area but truly blending and mixing styles, so they defy being pigeonholed into one sub-genre or another. One of their distinctive elements is the use of short, sharp, breaks in the music where everyone hits their mark then stops for a beat before starting up again, often on a different musical tangent. This relies on the band being incredibly tight as there is no room for error, but this is one of their trademarks and something which they have off to a tee. This is a massively layered song, and it is hard at times to realise there are only four musicians on stage as they are all weaving intricate musical threads which somehow all come together to create a rich tapestry. Dan knows when and what to play, but more importantly also knows when not to play at all, so there are times when he sits quietly, waiting for just the right moment to come back in while at others he is driving complex patterns with both hands and feet.

Pocket Change is going to be the next single, and as with all their songs, is both related to and totally different to anything else they are doing. This bass driven number also contains a great deal of space yet is also hugely complex with loads of harmony, layering, control and power. The arrangements are key, and Free Wifi is built on yet another totally different drum approach and musical approach: it has a really commercial and catchy sound yet is so very different to anything else in the scene. The use of dynamics and contrast is incredibly powerful, yet all the time they are delivering the complexity they are all having a great time with loads of smiles onstage. The band is brimming with confidence, and the only real shock of the night was Jesse wearing a perfectly sensible black polo shirt as opposed to his normal “interesting” taste in clothing. As always, they finished with the most recent single, “King Hit Quiche”, which saw them tearing up the stage in the way only they can. Someone needs to sort out a gig with these guys and Outside In, as surely, they are a match made in heaven, as if ever two bands should be touring together it should be these.

Four bands tonight, all very special in their own way, all of whom I look forward to seeing play again. Yet another great night at Ding Dong Lounge, and I am sure I will be returning there soon.

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.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Cafe Fistfight


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