2 Dec 2022

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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Semi-Final 2 @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 19/11/2022

Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Semi-Final 2 @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 19/11/2022

20 Nov 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Back down to Dead Witch for the second of the two semi-finals, and tonight was going to be quite different for me as I had already seen three of the bands play (one of them twice), and while I had not seen the last one, I did see one of the guys in his previous band. This was also a night when Auckland had been hit by severe rain, it sounded as if part of the venue’s roof had collapsed, the fire alarms had gone off, and they had leaks!

This all meant it took longer than normal to get everything sorted and almost as soon as it was completed it was time for The Boondocks to open the show. This was my third time seeing them recently, and there is no doubt there is something really interesting in the way Scott (bass, vocals) plays his bass through a pedalboard which allows him to provide bass and/or guitar while Branden enjoys the freedom to do far more work behind the kit than one would normally expect. They provide complexity which also has a rough rawness behind it with plenty of distortion – I have said before that they remind me of Earth Tongue except they approach from the bass instead of the guitar, and that is definitely the case. It would be interesting to see those two bands do a gig with Ripship as that would allow music lovers to see what can be provided with just two musicians onstage from three bands, all working in very different ways.

Interestingly they were also playing a brand-new song tonight, My Chick, which only yesterday had a different name, which displays a certain amount of confidence as opposed to just relying on what they had recently been playing live. This has some interesting syncopation and an underlying groove, with Scott dropping the bass at one point to allow a few bars with the “guitar”, which created a strong dynamic. Nice Guy commences with a “guitar” lick which is repeated, before the bass and drums kick off. One never knows what is going to happen with these guys as although they are young, they are excellent musicians. Branden has already qualified for the final with Channeled, so it was going to be interesting to see if he was going to be (possibly) the first to ever be in two bands in a final. He was certainly doing everything he could to make that happen, as this is a band of equals, as they each need to the other to create the sound they are after, and I can imagine that when they run their own gigs, they will set up on either side of the stage so they can see each other more easily. This is powerful rock music which contains elements of loads of other genres, always rocking, always complicated as they change time signatures and styles but always staying locked together. They finished with Black Taxi, another belter and they certainly set the levels for the rest of the bands tonight.

Next up we had (Antebellum) who I saw here some four months ago when they played with Forty Bucks Till Tuesday at the last ever gig with singer Shinobi Mishinoku. They are an instrumental trio featuring Daniel Beeler (7=guitar), Isaac Martin (5-string bass) and drummer Ash Rolston, and used a backing track to start us off, with Ash coming in with a few touches until finally the band kicked into Origin. There is no doubt they are all very clever musicians, and I can see them going down well with fans of Black Sands However, while Ash is certainly animated, providing not only great fills but wonderful facial expressions, both Daniel and Isaac are concentrating intensely on what they are doing, and their stage act is mostly them staring intently at the frets while nodding their heads in time to the music. The use of a backing track also meant they were tied into what was happening with the laptop set up in front of Daniel which meant they were quite restricted in what they were doing. There appeared to be a lack of freedom, no room for the guys to really enjoy themselves (apart from Ash, who was having a blast) and I soon realised I was totally lost in the set and had no idea where we were anymore as the only crowd interaction was Ash asking a few times how people were doing. 

They combine mathcore with many other technical elements, and they could even be described as prog metal given the sheer complexity of their music, while they were more than happy to shred when the time is right. Yet while they were complex, I also noticed some repetition within songs, although new single Zodiac (Ash announced this one) was quite different with far more reverb. Their music is incredibly intense, with very little space and all the layers compressed which means there is not enough in the way of contrast and dynamics to differentiate much of what they are doing. They ended with Rapture, and while enjoyable I did feel it was somewhat of an opportunity lost.

Next up was Mull Brain, the only band I had not seen before tonight, but guitarist/singer Ben Woolford reminded me I had reviewed his previous band Miss Used a few times when they took part in this competition a few years ago. The rest of the line-up is Hamadri Podder (guitar, vocals), Max Barrett (drums) and Tyler Diprose (bass) – I was looking forward to seeing what they would do as I recall Miss Used also had two lead singers (apparently the band broke up when some of the guys moved to Christchurch). They kicked off with These Things Never Phase Me, and I was immediately taken by just how much they reminded me of The Cure with Hamadri definitely sounding a lot like Robert Smith. There is great deal of complexity coming from the bass, with Ben having a larger pedalboard than Hamadri and using it to provide effects over the top. They were set up with the two guitarists/singers stage left and right, and I had expected them to switch lead vocals for Bride In Black, but that proved not to be the case. This was more dramatic with more space than the opener, and there was no doubt that the crowd were certainly with them as there was a real reaction with plenty of people dancing and videos being taken, even by the bar staff who have seen loads of bands. While the guitars and vocals are what normally grab the attention, I found I was being mesmerised by Tyler’s bass, which was tying in with the drums to really drive the foundations which allowed the guitarists to play around the melody.    

Go On My Dear allowed the band to lift the passion and the power, and by now there was pogoing taking place, although everything slowed back down with the rather more psychedelic Orange Tinted Sunglasses where Ben took over on the vocals. They said this was the first time they had played it live, and this certainly did not sound as polished as the others, although yet again the rhythm section was spot on. He then asked the crowd to singalong with a harmony vocal which was provided by Hamadri but there was no doubt the fans wanted to dance as opposed to sing. They ended with Freakshow, easily their heaviest umber to date and when Hamadri asked for a mosh he certainly got a very animated response indeed. They may have only played a few gigs, but Mull Brain certainly had many fans here, even if it was the first time many had heard them play. 

The day after I saw Antebellum play, I was over at Tuning Fork for the Crushfest gig, and the opening act was Lost Vessels, who feature Eileen Jolly (vocals), Cameron Faulkner (guitar, vocals), Kyle Martin (lead guitar), John Faulding (bass) and Ethan Page (drums). The band have grown immensely in confidence since I last saw them, with a strong American pop punk vibe, kicking off with Echoes, which certainly got the crowd warmed up. Interestingly, they were also the first band of the night to feature a standalone singer, with Eileen being way more positive in her approach since I last saw her, while during Gone she swapped with Cameron to great effect. This is a high energy act and while there was plenty of movement in the crowd it was not quite as over the top as it was for Mull Brain. When they crunch the whole band gets into it, all putting everything into it. Apart starts off more slowly but soon moves into a belter with Cam providing some harmonies as well as some gruff vocals which contrasted well with the far more delicate    

Sleep is another which commences with just Eileen, before it crunches into life, and was also the first of their songs to feature a guitar solo. This music is consistently being driven by the rhythm section which allows the guitars to riff over the top while Eileen than placing her vocals in a higher register so she can cut through the melee. If anyone thought they were going to quieten down anymore they were in for a shock with the arrival of I(D)OU which is much heavier, and while the punk is still very much in the melodic American style there is an edge which is far more British in nature. This even turned into a singalong with the band dropping back and Eileen in full control (some wonderful drum fills on this one). The next song started sweetly enough, but Fuck My Brain soon picked up with strong Blink 182 influences. The difference in their performance in just a few months is remarkable. They were showing no sign of slowing down, and the energy was still coming off the stage onto the audience who were reacting powerfully to Nostalgia. There may not be much originality in what they are doing, but boy is it a load of fun. They finished with Voice, and Eileen dancing in the crowd. Now it was time for the judges to have a conversation and come up with the two names which were going through to the final. 

The winners were The Boondocks and Lost Vessels who will be joining Are We Dead Yet and Channeled in the final here next Saturday. Definitely one not to miss.

Photo Credit: Kev Rowland


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