27 May 2022
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Gig Review: Rock Resurrection @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 29/04/2022

30 Apr 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Tonight, was my first gig at Dead Witch since we moved into Orange, so I was looking forward to a hot and sweaty night from the three bands involved. First up was Venom Dolls, whose EP I reviewed last year, then Living State who’s single One Sided I had in my top 10 for 2021, while the only band I had seen previously was Gravity Road, who now had a new bassist in Nathan Field who told me he had joined in February, but this was his first live gig in two years. There were definitely a lot of nerves on stage tonight, and it was going to be interesting to hear how it was all going to come together.

Up first were Venom Dolls, a punk trio who have been making quite a name for themselves with a heavy gigging schedule = in fact this was their second gig at Dead Witch inside a week! Lead guitarist Carawei Gao, drummer Summah Auvae, and vocalist/bassist Jessica Frank have their own look and musical style, which is traditional UK/NZ punk with more breadth and depth. They have so much confidence that they can mess with the timing, as they did during opener Obsessed, but were incredibly tight. Even Carawei breaking a string in their first number didn’t stress them out as she just got on with changing it at the end of the song. When she was sorted, she had a massive smile on her face and riffed straight into Fucked Up and we were off again. From that we went into Don’t Wanna Be, which is totally different with a relaxed beginning, gentle riffing and no bass or drums. This was the opening track on their excellent debut EP, and was one which really stood out to me, and live it had just the same impact. 

In a trio there is never any room to hide, everyone must be on their game all the time, and Jessica told me beforehand they all genuinely enjoyed hanging out with each other and this comes through clearly in the way they react onstage. All their songs are melodic, and some have quite a pop edge yet never fall into the American bubble-gum style, while Jessica has a voice which can be gentle and sweet, or dynamic with real edge. Summah hits the kit hard, using some dynamic kick drum patterns which link in with the bass to create a huge foundation for Carawei to provide slabs of riffs. The sound is both heavy and low in the register, with Jessica’s vocals in stark contrast. Their first cover of the night was Slave’s White Knuckle Ride, which fitted in well with their own material, and anyone not knowing it would probably have thought it was one of theirs. They have no issue with dropping into doom and then back into high-octane punk, all in the same song, so one never knows what is coming next. There is a lot of contrast and dynamics within the performance, ensuring that each element is emphasised, and they are just as good as I expected them to be. When they kicked into Ace of Spades, they weren’t the only ones with smiles on their faces, and there was loads of movement to be seen in the crowd. It was so great to see so many people out again and enjoying a real live gig instead of staying at home. They ended the night with A.L.A.B. and all too soon their set was over. What a blast!

I have been waiting to see Living State ever since bassist Lex sent me the video for One Sided, but it has taken a very long time indeed for the stars to align, but finally they were here. As well as Lex the band comprise Marissa (vocals), Peter (guitar), and Cam (drums) and having already heard the soundcheck I knew I was in for a real treat. They are a bass heavy hard rock outfit with an incredible singer, which really makes them stand out. Add in complex melodies and they were kicking from the off with Pseudo Halo. Cam was hitting the kit hard, really hard, and providing fills while Lex was laying a Chris Squire style foundation, with Peter switching between gentle and powering while at the front there was Marissa who soon had the crowd in the palm of her hand. This is straightforward simple hard rock in many ways, yet there are also layers of complexity which combine with polish and hooks to produce a sound which is quite different to many other bands at this level. Black White Man is a solid groove from beginning to end, slower than what had come previously but with real energy.

Then we were into the riff hungry monster which is One Sided. It bounces along like classic Living Color and is even more powerful in the live environment, something I was hopeful for, but not sure what would happen, and they absolutely nailed it. Outside of Written By Wolves, who have been somewhat dominating my YouTube playlists over the last year, this is easily my most played music video, and here they just nailed it. That one performance of that song was worth coming out tonight all on its own. After that it would have been very easy to keep up the energy levels, but instead they dropped it back with Vantage which had a far gentle chorus, although it did allow Marissa to let rip in the chorus. It is another real groover, and many of their songs really encourage people to just bounce along to the beat. The one question which kept going through my mind was when are they going to release something else? Just the one single and video to date, as they have been caught up like so many others with the live scene being all over the place due to COVID. This is a heck of a live outfit, with everyone on stage having just as much fun as the audience.

Their heavy melodic sound is the perfect backdrop for Marissa who is one heck of a singer, always in control, and lifting the songs with everything she does. The music is punchy, classic and classy while also modern, driven up from the floor with a rhythm section which is playing incredibly loudly, so much so that Peter is sometimes not the most dominant sound, and then Marissa is in stark contrast, very different but also fitting in perfectly. Alter Ego is dominated by a round the kit drum pattern, which was again a slower number until it hit the bridge and the riffs piled in, and then they finished with the crunching high octane You Do You which got everyone jumping up and down and sweaty. Hopefully, I will be able to see these guys again soon as this was a heck of an introduction to them in the live environment.

I had a great time when I last saw Gravity Road, so I was looking forward to their set, and they kicked off with the atmospheric Land of Trees. They are a quartet with David Pandey (vocals), Nathan Garton (guitar), Llew Morgan (drums) and newbie Nathan Field (bass), and I have previously compared them with Spook The Horses, something I still believe to be incredibly valid. Nathan F uses various effects to provide different sounds, while David sometimes sings above what is going on and at others harmonises with the sounds being coaxed from Nathan. Llew was dynamic, hitting the kit hard (as did all the drummers tonight, it was just one of those gigs) and throwing in multiple patterns while Nathan G was incredibly solid. There was no doubt he was nervous and was concentrating totally on his playing which is not a surprise given how long it has been since he last played a gig, but musically he was right there. One trick used incredibly effectively by David is shifting into falsetto at times, which gives a totally different feel go the music.

Gravity Road use atmosphere very well indeed, so at times one can almost drift away while at others they are far more in your face. They build up layers of sound, at times with a great deal of separation while at others it is far more compressed as if it is a solid weight. They are also more than happy to have songs which are somewhat longer than the norm, as it allows them to build the dynamics, taking the crowd on a real journey. They also mix up time signatures, not content to stay within 4/4 which also provides a different edge to what they are doing. North City Frequency commenced with some great bass from Nathan Field, really providing punch which cut through the guitar as he and the other Nathan locked in tight and Llew crunched it all together at the back. The heavy use of a pedalboard means the sound can be switched around a great deal, and in many ways their sound is far more progressive in nature than what had preceded it, with the audience gently nodding their appreciation or swaying on the spot as opposed to jumping up and down, but there is no doubt that at times it was incredibly heavy.

With songs containing multiple sections, time signatures, and approach, one never knows what is going to come next, which is part of the joy of Gravity Road. They ended the night with the belting Southern Cross, which kicks off with Llew belting a pattern on the kit and then everyone is off and rocking hard in what was their heaviest number of the night. 

Yet another wonderful night at Dead Witch with three great bands and hopefully I will catch all of then again soon. They all have material available on various platforms so wherever you are in the world, check them out.



Photo credit: Kev Rowland

 

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