27 May 2022
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Gig Review: Beauty and the Bogans @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 26/02/2022

26 Feb 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

I have lost count of the number of times I have been to Dead Witch, but I do know that tonight is my third visit of 2022, and definitely the very first time I have been here when everyone had to be seated. For those outside New Zealand, the current rules are that there are set maximums which venues have to work with, everyone must be seated, and wearing masks with spacing between seats. This means that the floor which normally turns into a mosh pit, now looked far more sedate with stools and tables, certainly not what I am used to at all! The idea of tonight was a benefit gig for Dead Witch/Ding Dong Lounge, who like all hospitality venues have been massively suffering under the restrictions. Bryce Patten (Downfall of Humanity) came up with the idea of playing an acoustic set instead of his normal metal, with Lorenzo Hazlewood and Cloudy coming along for the fun.

Cloudy is the beauty, and she kicked things off tonight with Mirror Maze. She has a wonderfully delicate yet emotional voice with the impression of power when she wants to use it. Her picking and voice make for a serene sound which captures the listener, and when she changes to striking chords, it has an immediate impact. She was then joined by electric guitarist Connor for the next song, Unrequited Love, and having a more forceful arrangement to pitch her voice against meant she could open up and let some of that power out. This was Cloudy’s first gig for quite some time, yet she started the night with confidence which just built the longer her set went on. Although this was the first time I had seen the venue set up like this, the seating combined with the wonderful performance coming from the stage made for a very special ambience indeed. Cloudy’s voice and songs are incredibly inviting, and by the time she was halfway through the set with Self-Help Guide I was already wondering when I could come and see her again. Connor was adding noodling and additional nuances, but the atmosphere was all about her voice and acoustic

Worth It is the latest single, and apparently is in line with music Cloudy is planning to release in the near future and is another where she lets her power shine though. Upbeat and rockier, with some nice soloing from Connor, this was much more direct showing that whatever style she is demonstrating, she is totally at home. Addicted To You is a love song, slower and with a heavy focus on the words. They finished with the Franz Ferdinand number Take Me With You, another slowie which really shows off her voice. This was a wonderful start to the evening, and I am definitely going to be looking out for more from Cloudy in the future.

Next up was the first of the bogans, Bryce Patten, who was the man behind tonight’s events. Bryce is one of those guys who really loves music, and I have seen him in the audience at folk gigs as well as being in audiences at metal. He may well be in one of Auckland’s top metal acts but here he was showing off his chops in a totally different setting. His individual style is more traditional folk, with complex guitar, combined with an incredibly melodic and powerful voice. It was only when he started singing that I realised I had never heard him sing lead prior to this, and he is a fine vocalist. He kicked off with Disposable Man, which allowed him to show off his vocals with long-held notes as well as many different guitar styles. Blind Eye is a new number, and one would never guess it had been two years since he had performed in this manner as he is full of confidence and relishing in the role of solo frontman, one would never think that normally he is an axe slinger in a metal band. After two of his own numbers, he gave us a cover, a rearranged version of Ayreon’s Dreamtime. Before he played, we were chatting about Ayreon and he said he was surprised I knew of him, then corrected himself and said no he wasn’t, not at all. Ayreon has built a strong reputation with his complex arrangements and the use of singers like Damian Wilson, Floor Jansen, Anneke Van Giersbergen and so many others, so it was a brave man to do this, but he carried off well.

The longer the night went on the more I felt how perfectly suited to folk this venue is, okay there are some skulls on the walls and the water cooler is another skull, but folk isn’t always brightness and light after all. Bryce was full of confidence, and as with Cloudy the crowd were totally focussed on the stage. I have been to very few gigs indeed where the audience have been so quiet during the songs, just bursting into applause at the end of each one as they were enthralled by what was going on onstage. No Reason gave him the opportunity to show off his double tapping skills, not as easy on an acoustic as it is on an electric. He even took the opportunity to plug Downfall of Humanity’s superb Deceit from the EP of the same name, totally rearranged for the occasion. It certainly sounded very different without Daniel on lead vocals and a forceful melodic metal band providing the accompaniment, but it worked incredibly well and certainly worked in this format. He finished with Space Within, and yet another excellent set was over.

To end the night, we had the other bogan, Lorenzo Hazlewood, who has been releasing some acoustic material but is probably best known for being the lead singer in Close To The Bone. He kicked off with Turn Me Gray, a track from his last EP, Vol. 2 (Vol. 3 comes out in two weeks). Right from the off we had someone showing here is a rock singer with stacks of passion and power. Whereas Cloudy was seated, Bryce was fairly static as he was playing complex guitar as well and singing, here we had a rock frontman just playing acoustically, and Be Myself was belted out. He can play it softly and emotionally when he needs to, such as on Frightening Words, and it is then that his grunge influences really come through clearly. When I reviewed his last single, Same Mistake (which he did not play tonight), I said he reminded me somewhat of a cross between Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, which I still stand by.

Shadows is the lead track from the next EP and is released as a single on the same date. It may start with picking and an interesting, repeated melody on the guitar, but it soon moves into a rock belter, just played on acoustic. There is a great deal of passion and force behind what he does, and while both Cloudy and Bryce would fit in well at a folk gig, Lorenzo would probably frighten the punters away as this is something very different indeed. He then segued straight into Sin, the second track from the forthcoming EP, which continues in a similar vein, full of passion and drive. It was hard to realise we were coming to the end of the night, but the huge positive was that the audience stayed for all three acts, which was great to see. Nothing Man was another belter, with Lorenzo putting his very being into his performance. He finished with Pharos, a single he released almost two years ago now, which is both powerful and refined, with more heartfelt emotion and we even get some falsetto.

So, for one night only Dead Witch became a seated venue for some great acoustic music and the night was an absolute blast. We definitely need some more of these as this was a load of fun, we had some great music, and money flowed into Dead Witch and Ding Dong Lounge. We are at serious risk of losing some iconic venues and the more support they get the better, as if they close where will new bands learn their chops? Losing The King’s Arms was bad enough, we can’t afford to lose anymore. Support your local venue, buy their merch, and buy a beer.

 

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