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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge 10th Birthday Part 2 @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 29/01/2023

Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge 10th Birthday Part 2 @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 29/01/2023

03 Feb 2023 // A review 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.

It took half a song for the mix to really come alive. As the front of house engineer need a bit of time to get adapted to Swizl's music, which required a heavier emphasis on the bass and low-end frequencies. Once that came out in the track, so did Swizl and the show.

Swizl Jager demonstrated why he is of the finest Rap artists Aotearoa has to offer, and perhaps why my band Shepherds Reign have chosen to collaborate with him.

He's a great frontman with a confident straight-to-the-point personality. Despite the on-stage sound issues, he remained confident throughout, compared to a lot of less experienced Rock frontmen, who tend to show a more humble and sometimes self-depreciating personality in contrast.

His tracks showcased a great understanding of songwriting and production. As with any great Hip-Hop release, it’s essential to have a ‘phat’ beat. Then on top of that, the tracks played also had some really catchy musical hooks and layers. His voice standing mighty on top it all.

Mid-way through his set, Swizl Jager presented us a track in Te Reo. Along with his Ta Moko, we see he is proud representor of his Maori heritage and culture. He followed through with a couple more Te Reo tracks that were more chilled out with more chord progressions and melodies, all of which brought in a really nice change of pace. He ended with strong Rap track, going all out with his vocals.

House of Ousey (pictured) in their relatively short time as band has become a mainstay in Dead Witch. Their performance today had perhaps the most attendees I have seen in this venue for them, and this may have played a factor in pushing them to put on their best show yet.

Their set started off with a blistering drum solo intro by Torrance Kam; such was his fury that he hit one his Tom-Toms out of place, and could only re-adjust it after the first song had ended.

During the drum intro, the backing track wasn’t coming through and the bass guitar wasn’t as strong as desired. However Josh Ousey stepped up to make up for this; his tone came in strong and clear, and his technique was the cleanest I have seen.

When the guitar and bass entered after the drum solo, we were brought back to the good old days of 80’s Metal. Vocalist Frank Zhao then jumped up the stage in dramatic fashion, setting the tone of his personality to follow.

Their second track had a slightly different feel from the rest of their songs; with a tempo that allowed the audience to jump along, which Frank encouraged the audience to do.

The rest of their set was filled with power-metal riffs, epic vocals and neo-classical style guitar solos that defined their sound.

Frank was clearly comfortable with interacting with the crowd, as they employed many techniques to make sure the audience stayed engaged.

The next band was Invasion of Piracy (pictured), and they kept us in the 80’s. A true mainstay of Ding Dong who have performing here since the early days, it feels right that they are a part of the celebration.

Their music represented and tributed the great classic rock ’n’ roll tracks, fueled by blues rock riffs, and the use of the blues scale during guitar solos.

The band coins themselves as ‘Sleazy Rock ’n’ Roll’, with lead singer Mazza Wild doing a great job of characterising this with his on stage personality.

Iron Mike, the band’s lead guitarist played in a way that Slash could be proud of. Drummer Glen Dalby was really tight after shaking off the initial nerves, and bass player Simon ‘Mr Inappropriate’ held the groove together.

They featured Swizl Jager in one of their songs, which is combination I never thought I would see. Apart from the Swizl Jager rap break, I’m not too sure if the collaboration really elevated the rest of the song.

They had a nice slow track in the middle, which had a more pop sensibility with the guitar part. The bass part however, ensured that it didn’t go too far in that direction with his choice of notes, which may have diminished the potential of the song. Another wasted opportunity was the guitar solo, in which I thought had the potential to be something memorable. I attributed this through his use of the blues scale here, as opposed to the major or major pentatonic scale which I felt would have fit more.

But ultimately this is what Rock ’n’ Roll is about, not giving a damn about the rules.

Last band to grace the stage at Dead Witch is Afterlight (pictured). The start of their set was like being in a time machine and being flung from the 80’s straight into the world of modern metal. The guitar went from having 6 strings to 7, as well as the bass going from 4 to 5 to mirror, and the singer being… non-existent. The wild raw nature of Rock ’n’ Roll was tamed and harnessed into a more deadly force, as technological advancement has allowed the guitar and bass tone to reach new levels of heaviness and clarity. Scientific research has allowed us to discover the limits of complex rhythms while maintaining groove. And through technicality the heart of music can still be preserved. Afterlight encompassed all these things.

We are taken on a journey as we join them like a cinematic soundtrack. They bring us to many different valleys of headbanging djent-y riffs, as well mountaintops of soaring lead-lines. What is great is the range of emotions they can bring with this, as they can draw out anger within you one minute and push you to cleanse it the next.

Guitarist Daniel Beeler spent a lot of time during soundcheck perfecting his guitar tone, and it pays off as Dead Witch is treated to one of the most pleasing guitar tones I have heard in Dead Witch.

I thought I would never see this but Daniel wore two guitar straps, one in each shoulder, this is so that the weight of the guitar is a bit more balanced between the two.

Small things like these shows he cares about excellence and perfectionism in his performance. Instead of all just attitude and visual performance as is usually accented in Rock ’n’ Roll, Daniel also performed with headphones, and it looked as if he was as comfortable as he would be at home. This is the main reason why many rock/metal musicians are hesitant to use in-ears, as they feel they detached from the audience and music, but in this setting, the music is greater served with the former option.

Drummer Ash Rolston served as backbone as well as frontman. Providing some quirky facial expressions to add to the visual performance. It was interesting that he managed to maintain a natural and sometimes loose tempo feel, as opposed to being quantised and perfectly in time, a common trait in modern metal.

Bassist Isaac Martin did a great job of holding down the groove and played anchor to Daniel as his leads shone.

They ended their journey with a beautiful guitar solo, while the band quietened down. A perfect ending to reflect on all the journey this place has been through.

And with that, thank you Ding Dong Lounge for bringing together this special community and 10 years’ worth of memories, some of which are unforgettable. And from the many bands and musicians that have made their start in the gigging scene here, we thank you for your support. So here’s to another 10!

Photo Credit:
Swizl Jager / House of Ousey / Invasion of Piracy / Afterlight - Chris Morgan / Morgan Creative

View Chris's full gallery here


Other Reviews By Gideon Voon

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Gig Review: The Adventures of Mikejoffa @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 02/06/2023
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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 Bands Competition Grand Final @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 26/11/2022
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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.
Gig Review: Ding Dong Bands Competition Heat 1 @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 14/09/2022
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18 Jul 2022 // by Gideon Voon
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Gig Review: Voodoo Bloo w/ Friends @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 14/05/2022
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