2 Dec 2022

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Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Heat 3 @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 21/10/2022

21 Oct 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

In 2020 I attended the heats of this competition which was where I discovered bands such as White Noise Mafia, Café Fistfight, Channeled and so many others. Of course, due to the small matter of a global pandemic and a lockdown there was no competition last year, but here it is back in 2022. I missed the first two heats as I was home in Canterbury, but am here tonight for Heat 3, will miss Heat 4 as I am at Others Way Festival but will be back for both semis. It did feel a bit like old times, the major difference being that tonight I was one of the judges as well!

First up was the one band I have seen previously, Electric Moccasins, which was in the heats two years ago! They have hardly played in the last 12 months as they have been bedding in a new drummer, and the line-up is now Sid (vocal and guitar), Hrish (guitar), Simon (bass, backing vocals) and Clay (drums). Sid has a bluesy voice with nice breadth and gravel, and while the guitars provide plenty of noodling, it is the fretless bass of Simon which really brings it all together. They kicked off with Garden, which for the most part was laid back, before becoming far more dynamic and powering towards the end with a nice guitar solo. There is a nice Seventies feel to the music, and they use that as a base as they move off into other areas so Old People contained far more soul and Kerosene Love was way more funk. They ended the night with Passage, which had more of a melodic rock vibe to it. Just 20 minutes to state their case, had they done enough?

Next up was {The Boondocks), a band which have only been together for a little over four months. The line-up is Branden Pritchard on drums (who also happens to be in Channeled who have already made it through to the semi’s), and Scott Parker on bass and vocals, using a pedal board set up to get a guitar sound. They both grew up in Awhitu, in the outskirts of Waiuku, which is the idea behind the name. Their approach was based more in the Eighties, with Split Enz being an obvious influence, except heavier. The approach from Scott was interesting as at times he was playing chords as opposed to just single notes, with the soundboard splitting the sounds into abrasive guitar and bass. There was a real reaction from the crowd at the end of first song, Payday, and I was definitely impressed with what they were doing. Their approach is quite different to the norm, with an unusual sound determined by their line-up while Scott is in the unenviable position of providing bass, guitar and vocals as well as undertaking the role of frontman. By the time they were into the third song, Mr. Nice Guy, they certainly had the crowd on their side. They lifted the tempo for The Otherside, and then sped it up towards the end to get the audience going even more. The drum kit then managed to come off the riser and while that small problem was being sorted Scott got the crowd singing, and then they ripped into last song Black Taxi. Whatever comes of tonight I am sure we are going to be hearing more of these guys. 

Now it was time for The Bulls Rush) who feature Tereora (vocals, guitar), Matt (lead guitar), Ollie (drums) and Cameron (bass). Tereora congratulated us on being at their second ever gig and then they kicked into Aloud which was classic melodic hard rock with a nice lead guitar line over the top. The vocals were strong, while the music had a real bounce and the guys were tight so of course the crowd reacted, digging into the groove which became even more prominent in the stop/start of False Gods. It may only have been their second gig, but it was obvious these guys have all been around as there was a quiet confidence onstage and the commercial bridge was quite unexpected against a downtuned main melody which had more in common with Meshuggah. There is something about their music which is infectious, heavy but with plenty of hooks and a groove to make the body move. Natives started with a sample, and halfway through it came back when the music took a very different turn indeed, moving in a very different direction. Effective. There is no doubt that while they were focussed, they were also incredibly relaxed and Tereora kept his voice all the way through and had been the most consistent singer to date. They finished with Come Back Fighting, their most energetic and high tempo number to date, creating a mighty wall of sound.

Three bands down, and just two to go, with everyone keeping to time so far. Next up was {Pink Plates who feature Michael Redwood (drums), Jake Reid (bass), James Dalton (vocals) and John Kim (guitar). They kicked off with Blackout and we were deep into the world of skater punk, high energy with plenty of hooks. They were the first band of the night to encourage audience participation, getting everyone to shout the title track of the next song, GI John which is about their guitarist who has avoided the mandatory military conscription of South Korea. James is much more of a frontman than he is a singer, always pushing the crowd to respond and in his element while Michael drives the sound from the back of the stage with some nice fills. They then played their new single, Run, which is being released next week and has more in common with the second wave of British punk than the American style. They blasted through Monkey and then were into the last song, Housing Crisis, which yet again was reminiscent of the sound coming from the UK punk scene at the tail end of the Seventies, full of balls and aggression but still with plenty of hooks. They then decided to play a cover as the crowd was up for it, which saw Michael standing on the bar (copyright Mikey Murphy), driving the crowd on that much more.

Now it was time for the last band of the night, Black Jacket, who feature Levi Crump (vocals), Aron Blaise (bass), Neo Fukushima (guitar, backing vocals) and Georgia Holden (drums). They describe their music as alternative rock, blending elements of rock, punk, blues and jazz to induce an honest rock essence. There was certainly a lot of reverb from the guitar which created a wall of sound while the bass was punchy and cutting through. Levi has an interesting voice with a great deal of edge and lives what he is singing, being moved physically by the music. The Wire relies on the rhythm section keeping it together and providing the melody for Levi to sing against while Neo is providing the wall which is a major part of their music, similar in some ways to the likes of classic Simple Minds or U2. I Don’t Mind is taken from their new EP, Take It All, and features some really nice bass, including chords to provide emphasis. In some ways it sounds as if the songs are developed by Levi with the rhythm section with Neo then told to go nuts over the top as it flet quite disjointed at times yet also together, which was quite strange. Normally the vocals follow the guitar but here the focus is on the bass which gives them a quite different sound. They only gave us four songs, finishing with the slower I Can’t Go On, (for which they have recently released a music video). 

Now it was time for the judges to confer, would they be in agreement? Who would be going through to the semi-finals? 

Turned out that both judges heard the two top bands in exactly the same manner, so congratulations to The Boondocks and {The Bulls Rush) who are through to the semi-finals in a few weeks’ time.

Photo Credit: Kev Rowland


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