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Channeled - Gig Review: Channeled @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 10/12/2022

10 Dec 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

This was something of an unusual set tonight in that both Scott and Branden Boondocks plus Dani were all students of Ben Ruegg of Channeled, while Branden is of course also in that band while the other two members, Matt and Michelle, are also music teachers. Both Boondocks and Channeled were recently in the finals of the Ding Dong Battle of the Bands, and I think this is the fourth time I have seen the former in recent months, but Dani is new to me.

Boondocks are an exciting band, doing unusual things with their setup, Branden providing a powerful support and Scott using a pedalboard to switch between just bass and then adding loads of distortion and pedals to mix it up so it sounds like he is also playing guitar. Their sound is quite distinctive, coming at it from a different direction from the other duos current operating in Auckland, but during opener Payday it appeared that Scott was having some problems hitting the higher notes. This was not so much of an issue with Bored, which is sung in a lower pitch, and also not an issue in Alone which made me wonder if he had been able to warm up properly beforehand, or if they need to change the opener. 

There is something about their music which is incredibly infectious, and even though I have only heard them in concert, many of the songs already felt like old friends. There are times when Scott keeps it somewhat simpler, allowing Branden to take centre stage with powerful fills: given there are only two of them, and they don’t use backing tracks, they have a very full sound and Scott relishes the role of frontman and is already performing as if he has been in this position for a long time not just a few short months. He told all the men in the audience they did not want to be known as a nice guy, and managed to get plenty of them dancing down at the front as they went into Mr. Nice Guy. 

They are full of the confidence which only comes from playing a lot in a very short time, as there is no substitute for stage time. By now, Dead Witch had a really good crowd in, and given tonight Auckland also had shows from Guns n’ Roses, Jack Johnson and Christmas in the Park among others, it was great to see so many people supporting local bands. After The Otherside they were then joined by ex-teacher Ben Ruegg as they blasted into Nirvana’s Breed. This allowed Scott to play straight bass for a whole song, and it is interesting to see that even when he is with a guitarist, he is still playing loads of chords as opposed to single notes, something which is incredibly rare for a bassist. This was a great song choice as it fits in perfectly with their own material, and they ended the set with Black Taxi, which again had Scott struggling. Musically they are great but need to work on the placement of songs in the set to ensure the vocals stay true. However, these guys are frighteningly young, doing something quite different, and are still learning. I look forward to seeing them again in 2023

Dani was joined by Ryan on drums and John on 5-string bass, and tonight was billed as Dani Ella which Ben explained is what she calls it when she is joined by her friends as opposed to playing solo. On her FB page she describes herself as an emerging Contemporary Christian artist, and has already released an album, Lost Letter, which came out a few months ago. They started with Top, and I was surprised to see a laptop being a major part of the sound, as they use backing tracks extensively, especially on the vocals, and I would rather they were more in the background as during the chorus it was hard to hear Dani’s live vocals. That is a real shame as she is a great singer who is packed full of confidence and a bluesy style which is certainly modern, and she soon had people clapping along and singing in response. There were keyboards on the backing tracks for Hope U Know, but when they went into American Boy (originally by Estelle and Kanye West) there was hardly any backing, mostly just the three of them, showing what a fine band they are. For the title track from the album, it was just Dani with her acoustic, demonstrating a much slower and far more emotional side, showing she can work in multiple styles. There was no doubt this was my favourite song so far, but that may well be down just to my personal tastes in music as I can listen to this style all night long whereas I can appreciate but not really enjoy the more contemporary style. Musically she is quite a strange act to have between Boondocks and Channeled, but this night was primarily about Waiuku College as opposed to having three bands who musically fit together. 

She put her acoustic down for Waters Rising, which I found strange given it started with acoustic guitar on the backing track, which carried on through the song, along with beats before Ryan and John came in. This was another where backing tracks were used extensively, and to my ears it just sounded too much and took away from the actual performance from those playing live in front of me, but the crowd enjoyed it. Dani is incredibly confident for such a young artist, telling everyone before Nobody Love (Tori Kelly) that everyone was going to have to join in and got everyone clapping and singing before it even started, and they certainly responded well in the chorus. This was another where there was no use of backing tracks which allowed us to hear the band without anything else, and I must confess to wishing they had played the whole set like this. It really allowed us to hear her wonderful vocals, and when she went up the register in this one, she rightly got shouts of appreciation as it was superb. 

Facade demonstrated a rockier side, while Rev.3 was much slower and had quite a gospel element in its style with loads of backing vocals and a nice use of mallets on the kit which provided a very different sound indeed. They finished with Did It All, which started in a reggae style, far more relaxed in nature, which soon turned into something which had much more of a calypso style. The crowd shouted for more, Ben said it was ok, so Ryan and John left the stage, and she performed her song Superstar with no backing tracks, just her and her acoustic, and it was the cleanest and nicest song of the set. The audience were clapping along, and those who knew the words were joining in, and with everything else taken away it really allowed us to hear her great vocals. She is some talent, and certainly one to look out for the future.

Now it was time for Channeled and only the second time I had seen them this year. They started with Maverick, which has a lot of space for Ben before they kicked into Bring It Back, one of the first songs they ever wrote, where Matt was given the opportunity for a nice solo. These guys have a great way of bringing pop and hard rock together and every time I see them, I wonder why they are not more widely known in the scene. Then Ben kicked the riff, and we were into one of their finest songs (in my opinion), Isolation which is a belter from beginning to end. It slows down somewhat in the verse, but the dynamics and contrast ensure that when they come back it is heavier than ever. This has another shred from Matt (who has been really ill this week and wasn’t sure he would be here tonight), while Ben provides great vocals, Branden shows no sign of getting tired, even though he has already played one set, blasting away while Michelle keeps it all together as normal. 

Ben then invited an old friend up on stage, Heidi, as back in the late Nineties she was drummer in a band with Ben and Michelle called Expand, and they then played a song from then, Thank You. On his way off the stage Branden declined Matt’s guitar and went into the audience, although I am not sure if that was a safe decision given that Ben said they used to have a moshpit when they played this and plenty of people happily obliged. One of the delights of this band is the variety of material they have on offer, with both When You Just and Gap showing they can be dramatic with slower tempos as well as when they are really pushing hard. They have great songs, while the four of them are really tight, and it is great to see them back on a stage after everything Ben went through. We were being treated to a real mix of material tonight, not only in style but in age from very old to the new, and Conversation was inspired by the talks Ben had with his grandad not long before he passed away. There is a lot of space in this one, with Michelle really underpinning it, and in the second verse Matt made his presence felt by adding just a few notes here and there with plenty of reverb which lifted the song as a whole. It built to a climax with Ben shouting out the last line and everyone lifting the arrangement, then died away until it was just Ben and his gently riffing guitar. 

Inside The Light was taken from their last album, I Heard Penelope Sing, and Ben dedicated it to all the students who were here tonight and asked everyone to hold up their phones and light the crowd. This is another which is wonderfully emotional, full of presence and power. Deeper took them back into grunge territory, with Michelle again keeping it together and providing the foundation for the others to build on. It is powerful all the way through but is another of theirs which has a dramatic climax and then finishes on a dime. There was just time for cheers and then we were into Slow But Steady, full of power pop passion and multiple sections as they built on the dynamics. From the cleanliness we then were treated to the dirty riff-laden groove monster, which is On The Flip Side, a blast from beginning to end.

Prophets had the band lift both the tempo and the attack, with more than a hint of Shihad, with everyone stopping in the middle (apart from Branden who kept pummelling the kit) and then we had a scream from Ben and everyone was back, with Matt soloing over the top of Ben and Michele again mixing it up so at times she was the floor and sometimes she was right in the melody. They were coming to the end of the set now, but there were still a few songs left, and they treated us to Where Did It All Go Wrong? which I have loved ever since I heard it in 2020, another belter with Ben even throwing in some screams.  

The night ended with When We’re Gone, a song about what world are we leaving our children and their families? This is another I know well, starts slowly, but is dramatic before they bring it down for the verse as Ben really tells a story, asking what is going to happen? This was the final number from what was a great set, and I just can’t wait to see them again soon.


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland


About Channeled

Channeled is ready to release the new album entitled I Heard Penelope Sing.

The new album is truly a sign of the changes that have taken place in Ben’s life. Just listen to tracks like A Conversation With You, Is That Glass? or I Can’t Quite Put My Finger On It and you will know what we are talking about here. In fact, those who heard the album before it’s release were all surprised with the direction the new music went.

The name of the album is semi-inspired by his love of people not being afraid to sing their hearts out. Music is about the experience; one best shared. It's inspiring to hear others write songs and sing them because they love it. So many of us do this in our own homes.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Channeled


Channeled II (Part One)
Year: 2022
Type: EP
Year: 2021
Type: EP
Year: 2021
Type: EP
I Heard Penelope Sing
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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