26 Sep 2022
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Melanie - Gig Review: Tsunami Warning @ The Wine Cellar, Auckland - 25/06/2021

26 Jun 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Tonight was my first trip to The Wine Cellar in the centre of Auckland, a venue of which I was aware but just hadn’t been to, and is exactly as it sounds. I had also been told that lighting would be incredibly dark, which was also correct, and given tonight was a sell-out I really didn’t want to fight my way through to take a couple of photos on my phone and then fight my way back to where I was perching to write the review, so I have no shots of the night. This was a three-band bill, and I was quite excited to see Melanie as I had heard good things about them. Before the gig I was chatting with singer/guitarist James Dentice and drummer Joe Gasparich and they were stoked that the gig had sold so well. I also need to make mention that not only did they have a couple of different t-shirts for sale, but they had pressed their debut album on vinyl and that was also available, along with free stickers. If only more bands were this organised and had merch at gigs, it would make their lives so much easier. They told me they were somewhat worried about over saturating the scene by playing so much and had decided to cut back, but somehow were still gigging every weekend in June and July. This was in stark contrast to the first two bands on the bill, who for each it was only their third gig.

First up was Jiahu Symbols, who comprise Andrew Murray-Brown (vocals, guitar), Mitch Cramer (bass) and Howl Griffiths (drums). These guys had a lot of friends in the audience, and although there was a false start they soon settled down and were soon being appreciated for their shoegaze/Nirvana/New Order approach. The main issue for me was with the vocals, which were quite off-key, and while that is fine for this style of music, it is probably one of the reasons why I don’t listen to much of it out of choice. They dedicated their set to John McAfee and were obviously out to enjoy themselves, and Howl played the first few songs using mallets before changing to sticks as the band switched things around. Love Ephemera saw them start slowly, building an atmosphere which gradually developed into something quite powerful. They have developed songs which often contain different sections, and the changing between these sometimes worked better than others, and the impression was that this is very much a work in progress. Halfway through closing number Northern Exposure (which is available on Spotify), Howl picked up the snare drum and a cymbal and finished the set at the front of the band instead of sat at the back. There was no doubt that everyone there had a good time and enjoyed what they had delivered, but they are not a band I would personally rush out to see again for some time.

So then we had Finger Tight, for whom it was also their third gig, but no-one would have guessed this from the way they approached it. Here we have a quintet of Jesse and Glenn (guitars), Jasher (bass), James (drums), and Red (vocals), but while the musicians all go about their work noisily and effectively (special mention must be made of James who was highly effective at powering the band with different rhythms and attacks), Red is one of the most effective and energetic young frontmen I have come across for some time. Even before the gig started, I was looking at the singer wearing a bandana, in-ear speakers, who had dispensed with microphone stand. He started the night wearing a t-shirt and denim jacket, but by the end of the gig he was topless as throughout he was a ball of energy, living and screaming every word. This is pop punk with real balls, both guitarists chunking the riffs while Jasher was on a 5-string, James driving it all on, and then in the middle of it all was Red who simply never stopped giving his all. The audience were reacting strongly as Red brought everyone with him by sheer force of will, but at the same time everyone was having fun and there wasn’t the over the top nastiness that can sometimes come through. Apparently, he had been unwell earlier in the week and the band had rehearsed without him, but when it came to My Aphrodite they were unable to sing it just because the lyrics are so personal between Red and his girlfriend. Tonight, that was of course not an issue, and Red dedicated the song to her. There was a good pace throughout the set, and they have a knack of delivering songs which contain anthem-like choruses and hooks. I was extremely impressed by the end and found it hard to believe this is just their third gig – we are going to be hearing a lot more of these guys.

It is safe to say that everyone was warmed up for the headline and Melanie were not going to disappoint. Alongside James and Joe, the line-up is completed by Robin Davey Lusk (guitar) and William Dentice (bass, vocals) and they commenced with some very atmospheric looping, repeating chords and bass effects with the drums only slowly making an entrance: all extremely dramatic indeed. Then James shouted the song titleCollide, and we were off. One always knows when a band have been playing together for some time, there is the knowledge that everyone can do what they are supposed to, so everyone relaxes, and has a load of fun. Everyone was throwing themselves into the music; there was no time for anyone to stand still and relax, as whereas the first band didn’t have much energy, the second was concentrated on the singer, here it was everywhere and because of that it was infectious. There was so much passion and belief onstage that it was palpable, and although this was high octane stuff, they were developing complex patterns and interplays yet could also stop on a dime. These guys are tight, incredibly tight, which only comes from doing the hard yards of playing anywhere and everywhere.

Although vocally it was quite different, I found myself being reminded of the frenetic energy of The Undertones and given that this was the band who recorded John Peel’s favourite song, the lyrics of which are on his tombstone, that is high praise. They feel very British in their approach, much more than many of this genre who often look towards American for inspiration (although they did admit in a moment of madness that they have been known to play early Blink 182 songs at house gigs). They build songs up, then just stop – no messing, and then it is off into the next. Kachow was one of the highlights of the set, really packing a punch with a nice use of feedback at the beginning to lead it in. They also broke this into sections with the bass sometimes being at the forefront and others not there at all, and there was a real good use of dynamics. They can also really build a real groove, and it was hard not to move when listening to these guys, immensely powerful indeed, and I look forward to seeing them again.

Overall, tonight was a mixed bag, but as I said to the guys before the gig one never knows what one is going to get when attending bands not heard before, but that I expected to come away with at least one find, and a name to follow in the future, and I probably did better than that. There is so much live music out there at present (I was supposed to see Melanie in May, but it clashed with Beastwars), and often it is dirt cheap (I think tonight was $10) so get out into the scene and make some discoveries yourself.

 

About Melanie

James and Robin, along with De Stevens and Jordan Whiu, initially came together to play pop punk covers at Robin’s 19th birthday party. They originally met at SAE (School of Audio Engineering) where they studied how to record and produce music. One of the songs they played that night was Fountain of Youth’s Stacey’s Mom, with the twist that it was instead about their friend Max’s mum whose name is Melanie. Muriwai hardcore band Lookin’ Up then asked Robin if he had a band that could open on their tour, and so Melanie was formed, losing Jordan for James’s brother William. After procrastinating for a month, they realised they only had two weeks to come up with some originals for the shows, and so they set to and wrote what would turn out to be the Melon EP (2018).

De Stevens later left the band due to not being the biggest fan of pop punk, who was then temporarily replaced by Joe, drummer of sister band Snitch Jimmy. After three years it's safe to say that he’s no longer a temporary drummer. During 2019 they worked on more originals, recording all the instruments for their debut album 42 Losers before the first big lockdown hit, with James then recording the vocals separately before the band mixed it together over voice chat. The album was released to great acclaim in April 2020, along with a music video for No Shoes. It was later followed up with a physical release on vinyl through Holiday Records.

“Emo/punk isn’t usually my go to when I’m picking something to listen to, but I can see myself going back to '42 Losers' again and again. Melanie could be considered one of the bright new bands in the emo scene. If they were based in the northern hemisphere, I could see them on the same line ups as bands such as The Menzingers, Spanish Love Songs and Joyce Manor and other top bands.” - Colin’s Punk Rock World

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Melanie

Releases

ABCD
Year: 2022
Type: EP
42 Losers
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Melon
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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