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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Grand Final @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 26/11/2022

Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Grand Final @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 26/11/2022

28 Nov 2022 // A review by Gideon Voon

Weeks of hard work and preparation culminates in the Grand Final of Auckland's Ding Dong Lounge's Band Competition. As this was a competition, I had a bit of fun trying my best to make a calculated guess as to who would win.

First up was Alternative-Rock band Channeled, the only act I was previously familiar with, all the way from the very first heat. This time however, their front of house mix was much better, the guitars and vocal was much clearer, and they overall had a good balance between all the instruments.

Channeled’s winning point is their maturity and understanding of songwriting, a few underrated techniques used are having an instrument drop out (not play), so, that when they play next, it makes it more effective, and builds dynamics. Another one is having the guitarists (Ben Ruegg & Matt Garratt) and bassist (Michelle Anderton) not play the exact same thing for the riffs, and having them playing different rhythms, you get more interesting grooves and ideas by doing this. And I love the different parts between the two guitarists Ben Ruegg and Matt Garratt, with Matt having a lot of smart lead parts over Ben’s crunching riffs. And during some instrumentals Matt shows you don’t always have to be a shredder to achieve a great and effective instrumental section. Drummer Branden Pritchard's parts are incredibly thought out, and is part of the great songwriting itself. They also had a smooth transition between their first two songs and they left no gaps in sound, which I think is quite important for the beginning of sets.

And so the bar for the competition was set.

Second up was Lost Vessels. After a metalcore sounding guitar part, this band came out swinging with a strong pop punk energy, from the sound to the visual aspect.

This brought me back to 2000’s pop punk, which will always get me as it is one of my favourite genres. This is evident in their choice of chord progressions and melody. As well all the tones and sounds of their instrument, which blended well through the mix. Although lead vocalist Eileen Jolly didn't seem to cut through the mix as clearly as Ben from Channeled did.

Both Channeled and Lost Vessels shared a lot of songwriting maturity; they both had great dynamic changes within a song. Lost Vessels use this in a more dramatic fashion, for example, having a starting section of a song with just one guitar, then having the entire band come in the next. I think this is great, and keeps the audience on their toes. They are the only band tonight that has more than 1 vocalist, which they used to great effect. Adding backing vocals, guitarist Cameron Faulkner also has a few sections where he takes the lead while Eileen would back him up. What is most special is that they would harmonise at parts, which is rarity in the Rock genre as a whole. But with harmonies they need to make sure to work on their pitch with each other, as this could quickly turn to dissonance if not done right.

Where they lack I think, is their frontman skills; to be able to have the full attention of the audience, especially in the breaks between songs. But this is something that will come with time and experience. And they have two members to share the load, with this they could try have a bit of a dialogue between them, which I’ve seen from Crooked Royals for example.

Disaster strikes in the middle of the set, as lead guitarist Kyle Martin breaks one of his strings. Here he displays professionalism, as he takes a moment to re-tune his guitar, and continues on as nothing happened, he still displays the same energy he had prior. And because I didn’t know the songs, I couldn’t tell if that affected the songs at all.

Overall, a great band that showcases a lot of talent with room to grow.

Up next was three-piece Metal Band, Are We Dead Yet. I’m really loving the variance of bands so far. First thing I noticed was the problem with the mix, the balance between the guitar and bass was drastic, as the guitar would not be audible when the bass starts playing. Which takes away a lot of colour from the sound. But as most genres, all you need is drums and bass to drive the sound, as you can feel the Classic Metal Energy they brought with their sound.

Bass player and Vocalist, John Ropiha , was the most confident front man of the night so far, he spoke directly and clearly, and had the attention of the audience when he speaks.

They also had the best look of the night too, with John and Drummer Ash Beynon having identical haircuts and beards. And guitarist Kyle Farrow having a great 70’s Guitarist look.

They took a bit of time before the groove really locked in. As to be expected looking at the Ash Beynon, who was smashing away at the drum kit. The harder you hit, the harder it is to stay consistent due to fatigue. This happened especially when he hit the ride cymbal, as the cymbal would bounce uncontrollably (One time even hitting so hard that the cymbal stand fell over), meaning he would be hitting it differently every time, affecting the groove. This became more controlled the more the set went along. Nonetheless, he put on an impressive performance as he had a flurry of fills that were expressive while tight, and an even more impressive visual performance. I would’ve liked to see the other two members try and match his energy a bit more. If there was an ‘Outstanding Musician’ Award, I would have given it to Ash.

The aspect I would like to see improve with the band is John’s vocals, he has a great scream and when he is singing more aggressively, he is very confident. He loses a lot of this however, when he is singing softer and clean. He could also think about his mic technique, he might want to sing closer in to the mic in the softer parts, so they are more audible. It is already difficult enough to riff and be a frontman at the same time, so a bit of slack could be cut for him, others might not be as forgiving, however.

Overall, they brought a great energy and show, which is very enjoyable to headbang to.

The final contender of the night was, The Boondocks. Yet again, we are treated to something different again, a two-piece rock act. Comprising of Scott Parker on Bass, and drummer Branden Pritchard, (also from Channeled). Bringing an array of blues-rock riffs, Scott perfects the sound of having the bass produce an electric guitar sound as well, through the use of effects. An arrangement used by a band such as Royal Blood.

Scott was a great frontman too, perhaps with the most natural stage presence from tonight. He was very comfortable on stage, and that made the audience feel comfortable too. So comfortable perhaps, that I wasn’t trying to think of what to write as much, rather just enjoy and get lost in the music.

The problem with this two-piece setup, is that it can get 1-dimensional easily. There’s only so many tricks you can pull out. However, the Boondocks managed to keep us entertained through the different feel of each song. People enjoyed so much that they were asked for an encore, with obliged with permission from host Andrew Treeby.

As we eagerly await the winner’s announcement. It was a tough bet on who would I thought who take it out. I thought it was between The Boondocks and Channeled. I thought The Boondocks was overall the most entertaining and had the best performance of the night. However, Channeled was the most mature and have the songs that are ready to be recorded, as the grand prize included a studio recording and commercial push.

Channeled was then announced… As 2nd Place. Congratulations to them! At which point I thought, “well we know who is going to win.”

In a twist of events (for me), the winners were Lost Vessels. Congratulations to them! Although surprising, I was stoked for them, and upon second thoughts, realized that they displayed the most potential tonight. With a bit guidance from Dave Rhodes (in their prize of studio recording time), I’m sure they will learn and improve in certain aspects, as is the nature of recording.

I really liked the variance of the acts tonight. Every had their own strengths, which they can learn from each other. I wish all the bands well as they continue their journeys. That wraps Ding Dong Lounge Bands Competition for 2022. I hope to see this continue for next year, and can’t wait to see what undiscovered talent awaits.


Other Reviews By Gideon Voon

Gig Review: Dead Favours @ Galatos, Auckland - 16/06/2023
18 Jun 2023 // by Gideon Voon
Tonight's line-up included some of NZ best upcoming rock acts to form in more recent years, so I had great expectations. Animalhead signaled their start by having all members fist-bump at the start.
Gig Review: The Adventures of Mikejoffa @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 02/06/2023
05 Jun 2023 // by Gideon Voon
Tonight’s programme comprised of Rock and Metals acts, of which has some ways of stretching the boundaries of the genre with some interesting influences.First up was Holy Crime.
Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge 10th Birthday Part 2 @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 29/01/2023
03 Feb 2023 // by Gideon Voon
With the new AUX stage promising better things to come, the Dead Witch Stage reminds of us of the events that were that led us to this point. First up on the Dead Witch Stage, we had Swizl Jager (pictured), if you thought Ding Dong Lounge was exclusively reserved for Rock and Metal, then you will be proven wrong, as Swizl brings the world of Rap and Hip-Hop to us.
Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Heat 1 @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 14/09/2022
16 Oct 2022 // by Gideon Voon
I remember entering this competition for 3 consecutive years (if I remember correctly), during my early days of playing in bands. Each time with a different act, 2 times making the Grand Final.
Gig Review: Banks Arcade @ Tuning Fork, Auckland - 13/08/2022
17 Aug 2022 // by Gideon Voon
In you are a fan of the newer generation of Metal or Heavy Music. You really missed out.
Gig Review: Coridian @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 15/07/2022
18 Jul 2022 // by Gideon Voon
Coridian, who I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with in my band’s most recent NZ gig, have put on a gig titled ‘Power to Rock’. But we do not get the power part straight away, we build up to it.
Gig Review: Midwave Breaks @ Whammy Bar, Auckland - 03/06/2022
05 Jun 2022 // by Gideon Voon
Tauranga and Hamilton joined forces to send some of their best Alt-Rock acts to show Auckland a thing or two. First up is a 5-piece band from Hamilton, Retro Valley.
Gig Review: Voodoo Bloo w/ Friends @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 14/05/2022
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