23 Sep 2021

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Cafe Fistfight - Cafe Fistfight @ The Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 07/08/2021

08 Aug 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Back to DD for the second night in a row, but tonight was going to be a very different crowd and musical experience to what had been happening here only 24 hours earlier.

First up tonight was Green, which features three members of Big Tasty and in some ways is quite a similar band. Mitchell Goodfellow (guitar), and Niki Te Whaiti (sax) are joined by bandmate Martin McGaw (who before tonight I have only seen play trombone but tonight is on bass), and Green are completed by James French (keyboards), Marlowe Bigham (drums) and Billie Webster (vocals), with Niki and Billie being the main songwriters. They started tonight with Hot In Here, a slow number based heavily on keyboards and vocals, which also brings in some wonderful sax and a lovely distorted guitar solo. Billie has a gloriously sultry and expressive vocal style, with the rest of the band providing perfect support. She is so into the music, with the guys also well into the groove, and it is hard not to dance and smile. They segued Good To Me into Smooth Operator, and one could not hear the join. It is quicker and more edgy than the original but works very well indeed. This song also allowed us to have Martin provide a small but perfectly formed bass solo while Niki is always on hand to provide additional emphasis. They even went back further in time, with Just The Two of Us, and were definitely kicking up a real soulful and fun sound onstage.

In Been Bad, Green showed just close the relationship can be between soul and blues, mixing the two together, changing tempos and allowing Billie to throw a real broad blues edge into some of the vocals. The crowd loved it when Niki came down into the audience during Disco Was to lead the dancing, as there is no sax in this one, which is primarily led by some wonderful walking bass. Mitch was even playing some of his lines with his hand over the top of the neck, just for a change. Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams was given a more soulful approach, but it showed just how similar Billie can be to Stevie Nicks when she wants to. Overall, it was a great way to kick off the evening, although there were a lot of covers in the full set. I would certainly be interested in seeing them again, but I could not help but think that this was an interesting opener to have for one band who favour Shihad and Linkin Park, and another who is far more progressive in nature.

The last time I saw White Nøise Mafia play, Neo lost six drumsticks during the gig, and apparently, he broke two during practice earlier today– I told Dan it was a very brave man indeed who lets Neo play on his kit. The previous band may have been soul and niceness, but the boys kicked into Medicate and showed right from the off that there was a totally different act onstage now, cranking straight into top gear. They have upped their gigging schedule recently, and given they won their heat of battle of the bands on only their second ever gig it is incredible to see how much they continue to grow. Neo is an animal behind the kit, hitting the drums incredibly hard while also providing massive fills, Matt S provides stability, Matt H is a metal monster on guitar, and then at the front there is Chris – when he hit the scream in Let It End all the band sat back and let him nail it before all crunching in again. War allowed them to get into a more downtuned Meshuggah style as they turned up the heaviness.

Intimate Hell let the guys to show they can mix it up with different tempos, attacks, and vocal styles but always with incredible intensity being driven from the back. As they launched into Attack, a fan at the front of the stage fell over and hurt himself and immediately Chris stopped the gig and jumped down to check he was okay, which was definitely the right things to do. After a short break while he was checked out, the band came back up and kicked back off as if there had never been an interruption, ramping the intensity straight back up to 11. Everyone was soon jumping up and down, even members of Green who had been so delicate on stage just a little while earlier. The tempo was changed totally with Memory of You, which starts off far more pop rock in style until they hit the chorus where the harmony vocals help lift what has become a suddenly very heavy song indeed. The Divide just keeps getting better each time I hear them play it, check it out on YouTube and Spotify, and they of course ended with My Mind Sedate and ripped the place to shreds.

Having had a soul band, followed by a hard rock act, the scene was set for Cafe Fistfight, who never disappoint with their progressive (in its truest sense) music. They went straight into Free Wifi, without even making an announcement, but right from the first notes everyone was interested and invested in what was going on onstage. Their complex style of music is like no other band I have come across, with four distinct musical personalities who on paper should not work, somehow creating magic each and every time they play. Dan is a powerful drummer who throws in nuances while keeping it tight (some great cymbal work), Jesse plays a bass as if it is a guitar throwing in counterpoint melodies when the time is right, Josh is a metal shredder adding additional elements and then in Chris they have a wonderful singer who also provides superb acoustic guitar. Second song was the hard-hitting King Hit Quiche, which had people dancing (even the Aussie in the Wallabies shirt who had just come in). They throw breaks into their music, all hitting a point and stopping for a split second before kicking off again, but I don’t think I had ever heard them quite as intense before as they were during this number: following WNM obviously agrees with them.

Pocket Change is just downright funky, and just should not belong in a set like this, but there is something about it which is incredibly catchy and drags the listeners into the wonderfully melodic world which is Cafe Fistfight. This was followed by Service With A Smile, so within the first four songs we had already had all three which are on Spotify. They launched into Kings of Leon’s Notion, and I realised I had not heard them play this one before, but given that tonight was going to be the longest set I had seen from them, perhaps that wasn’t a surprise. By now the crowd were really bubbling and into everything the guys were doing. The wonderful Take Two got us to halfway through the set, which again had them ramping up the intensity with Chris and Jesse keeping it solid while Josh revelled in a killer solo and Dan beat the hell out of the kit with some great rolls. This is one of their number which contains loads of breaks as they throw in multiple different sections.

Reflections has Chris being incredibly passionate and involved, and is another song full of sections, with Josh providing a gentle distorted solo, Chris being allowed to undertake some delicate picking while Dan gives us rimshots and Jesse is just mellow. Best Before starts off in a much gentler manner, displaying yet again that one never knows what one is going to get from these guys, as yet again this built up to a climax – they just have no idea on how to write a song in 4/4 with a simple verse chorus structure, which is what makes them so interesting. Toxic was again a showstopper, with everyone moving, and then they finally finished with Gimme One Reason and the night was done.

Three very different bands tonight, and a bill which in all honesty should never have worked, but for anyone with a broad taste in music, then tonight was yet another killer at Dead Witch. 


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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