26 Mar 2023

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  • Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge 10th Birthday Part 1 @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 29/01/2023

Gig Review: Ding Dong Lounge 10th Birthday Part 1 @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 29/01/2023

03 Feb 2023 // A review by Kev Rowland

The original Ding Dong Lounge was founded in New York City in 2001 by Bill Nolan, opening on the upper west side of Manhattan and slowly gaining a following of talented artists, writers, actors, and musicians. In 2003, Bill Walsh opened Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne, branding itself with a live gig atmosphere that easily upheld Ding Dong’s rock reputation. Fast forward to 2013 and Ding Dong Lounge opened in Auckland, a proud rock dive which to this day continues on in the same proud tradition even though the others are no longer with us.

To celebrate the major milestone of their tenth anniversary, tonight things were happening on all three floors as Infinity Nightclub is no more and has instead been transformed into a new larger rock venue called Aux, and bands would start playing there from 5:30, DJ’s would be in Ding Dong from 5:30, and bands would also start from 8:00 in Dead Witch so plenty for everyone. I arrived at 4:00 as there was a VIP pre-event which involved free beer so it would have been churlish to refuse, which did mean I heard the end of Dead Favours’ soundcheck which was nice, as due to an early flight in the morning I had already agreed I would leave before they came onstage (sob). I also decided there was no way to cover bands playing in two venues back to back for so many hours, so Gideon Voon of the amazing Shepherds Reign (album out later this year - it will be insane) was reviewing those.

First up was Swerve City (pictured), one of the new bands playing Aux which I had not previously seen and comprise JP (vocals, guitar), Kev (guitar, vocals), Shannon (bass, vocals) and Adam (drums). Although JP and I had never met before tonight we have had many conversations over Messenger and email as he also is the one-man band Arrays. They kicked off hard and stayed that way throughout, melodic and blasting right from the off with JP front and centre with everyone really into the music – it makes such a difference to see everyone working so hard right from the beginning as it gets the audience massively on side. That was obvious when JP decided to try a call and response with the crowd in just the second song, which I never thought would happen, but it went off very well indeed. They have a pop element to some of the melodies, but are also very heavy and riff hungry, staying at the bottom end. They crunch it up, pack it with power and are always vital and full of energy. The 30 minutes everyone was being restricted to was just not enough and I very much look forward to catching up with these guys again later this year.

Next up were the recent winners of the Battle of the Bands competition, Lost Vessels (pictured), who would be the only band tonight with a female singer in Eileen Jolly. They kicked off with Echoes,  and it is difficult to equate these guys to the same band I saw at Crushfest (which they say is their worse ever gig), yet when I saw them in the semi-final I knew they were the band to beat as this is hard melodic punk with influences from the likes of Blink 182, all driven from the back with punchy and powerful drums. They were the youngest band playing at Aux tonight, yet were full of confidence and were wonderfully tight – they were working with Dave Rhodes in the studio yesterday, which I am sure was quite an experience for them, and tonight they were just blasting it out. They do mix tempos, so not everything is high energy, and they also utilize twin vocals at times, and the way they mix it up allows for a nice approach. When I grabbed the setlist from them earlier I was told that Fastboi was not the name of the song, which is I Don’t Owe You, which has that band name as it is the fastest song they play, and it is certainly a lot of fun. Melodic, but very high bpm, The Ramones would have been proud, while I thought bassist John Faulding was going to break himself in half given he was bending so low in time to the music.

Fuck My Brain had a slower verse with a strong concentration on the vocals, but the chorus was again rocking and quicker, with the twin vocals being used here to good effect. They segued from this straight into Gone with a single guitar until it was time for it to be really ramped up and everyone kicked in, hard. Guitarist Cameron Faulkner also took some lead vocals on this one, showing just how the band can change things around, while there was also a large break in this to allow a reset. The other members of the band are Kyle Martin (guitar) and Ethan Page (drums), and the latter had a massive workrate, really pushing all night with lots of double strikes on the snare as well as plenty of rolls around the kit. What I like about Lost Vessels is they may play melodic punk, but there is still loads of rock in their music whereas many other bands in this genre tend to forget, which means they have huge crossover appeal and are so much damn fun to listen to! They ended with Voice, which started with Cameron singing and accompanying himself, then the song kicked in properly and we were off. They are proving themselves to be a great live act and are well worth seeing if you have the opportunity.

Next up were Mudshark (pictured), who up until recently I had not seen for a long time but have already seen once this year already so was really looking forward to this. Frontman Rory made a point of finding me beforehand, as mutiny in the ranks had led to a total change in the setlist, for which he was very apologetic. They kicked off with the psychotic Nebgatables, and I was quickly reminded yet again that there really is no-one quite like these guys. As well as Rory there are Mort (guitar, vocals), Parsa (drums, vocals) and Nate (keyboards) with the bassist being replaced by a machine when he had the temerity to go to the UK. There is a sense of humour in everything they do, song titles being a case in point, but the reason they get away with it is because they are such a great live act. Rory never stops moving, going from singing to screaming with ease, and while Mort tends to stay fairly rooted, Rory more than makes up for it, a ball of energy. Nate is a picture of concentration behind the keyboards while Parsa is another drummer who never stops driving his band forwards.

They move through many different styles, and Bwen Stefani is staccato melodic pop punk which is a blast from start to finish (although it is not unusual for them throw in a Lamb of God cover, which shows their diversity). Panda is much more of a “bouncy up and down song”, with plenty of aggression from Rory, sweetness from Nate, complexity and bite from Mort and punch from Parsa which means a load of fun for the audience. Emperor Fenguin has some nice keyboards, but while Nate is moving in one direction the rest of the band are blasting in another which makes for an absolute classic. Rory never stops working the crowd, encouraging everyone to be as involved and energetic as he is. Eight starts with a monstrous riff, and demonstrates just how powerful these guys are, with double kick drums driving them forward in the chorus. Monstrous guitar shows they can crunch metal with the very best of them if they so desire, even if Mort is smiling and enjoying himself much more than the normal metal guitar slinger. This band has many musical strings to their bow, yet first and foremost they are determined to enjoy themselves and have fun, so everyone else does as well. They ended with Nate providing the introduction to Neb Flat, which contains some influences from My Chemical Romance, and such a deep groove that everyone has to move. When I saw them the other week they promised to be playing more in 2023 so let’s hope there is much more to come as this was a blast.

Pale Flag (pictured) are everywhere at the moment – there is no excuse whatsoever for not catching one of our most exciting metal bands if you live in Auckland. This is the third time I have seen them inside two months, and the tightness which comes with a band playing together so much is unbeatable. They have an EP coming out later this year, and if it is anything like their live performance I just can’t wait. They kicked off with Demise, and there was a rush from the comfy seats onto the floor as the pit was starting right from the off with their dynamic groove-laden metal. The band were all moving in time with the music, pouring energy into the audience who were responding in kind. I was just realizing that this was probably the first time I had ever seen them straight on, as while I have seen them many times it is always at an angle, but this new venue has so much more space, while the stage is also better. Isaac creates an incredible sound with his vocals, classic death, drummer Cody is recognized as one of the finest drummers around, 5-string bassist Matt is known for his technical ability in bands such as Black Sands, and then there are guitarists Jack and Liam who can riff like monsters or bring the crunch. The problem with seeing a band many times in short succession is that it can be difficult to find the right words without being too repetitive, but when a band is as good as Pale Flag I am never going to turn down the opportunity to see them play.

They had turned everything up a great deal, going into full-blown over the top metal, and the crowd were definitely reacting in kind as they were just so tight, so very powerful indeed. Isaac is the ringmaster, riding the wave of sound being delivered by the guys, and even with everyone moving at all times, he is the focus of attention. The hair was untied by the second song tonight, as the guys were kicking up a storm, even though this venue actually has working air conditioning! There were certainly going to be many people in the morning with sore necks, as the headbanging was severe. If it had been intense up to this point, the announcement of Human Error took it to another level, and the necks started hurting even more as the groove was both deep and quick. This ended with Isaac staring into the crowd, his eyes full of passion, Cody driving with double kick drums, and the rest of the band punching through. The last song of the was night was The Summit, allowing the audience to create a circle pit for one last time. Well, it was supposed to be one last time, but a combination of the crowd shouting for one more song and Dave letting them get away with it, they were not allowed to leave the stage until they had given the crowd what they wanted. This really is incredible stuff, and I am surprised we have not seen these guys get picked by a label up yet, as if they were in Europe as opposed to New Zealand I am sure we would have seen them supporting on some major tours by now. Pale Flag are very much a band all metalheads need to be aware of.

This was my first time seeing Animalhead (pictured), a trio comprising Dan Rooke (drums, vocals), Josh O’Brien (bass) and Campbell Mickell (guitar, vocals). They started with some frantic riffing on the guitar, a repeated drum pattern, and then we were into Rabbithole and a frantic blast into blues-based rock. I was enjoying what was taking place, and then to my surprise Dan took over from Campbell on lead vocals, as it is highly unusual for a drummer to sing leads due to multiple reasons (breath control being one, microphone bleed being another). Trios are a very special format indeed as there is never any room to hide, and while Dan was constantly blasting around the kit, Josh was keeping everything tight, while Campbell was giving himself the opportunity to provide the bite. There was a great of intensity in everything they were doing as Campbell is a shredder while Dan is a maniac, with Josh doing everything he could to keep it all one place. The audience had grown substantially by now, and it was obvious there were a great many people here to see Animalhead, a band I had heard of before tonight as being an incredible live act and they were certainly proving that in front of me as they blasted through Romeo. It is like Seventies rock on steroids being taken to the next level. It shows just how much they were into the music as Dan managed to lose his hair tie due to so much movement and had to beg one from the audience before they kicked into Lizard Eyes.

They never stop driving the intensity, with plenty of distortion when the time is right, and when they hit the groove it is inane, moving straight from something that is Seventies inspired to something which is far closer to the Nineties but is being massively overdriven. It is impossible to describe the sheer intensity, and then when one thought it was impossible for it to be lifted any further we got the first cover of the night, Bliss! When Campbell kicked into the riff I was quite shocked as I don’t think I have ever heard this Kiwi classic played by anyone except Sir Dave Dobbyn, and here they were moving it into modern metal. Needless to say everyone responded in kind, and soon the audience participation was in full flow and everyone was singing along as well as dancing like idiots. I am sure Th’ Dudes never shredded it quite like these guys. They ended with Devil Told Me So, which starts with a filthy bassline, before Dan joined in on the beat, and then we were off into something which had a monstrous blues at the base, but being taken into something quite different, and when Campbell and Josh stood in the middle of the stage facing each other as they duetted on their instruments it was something else. Powerful and dramatic, this is music from the heart, and when they sped it up to a climax, I am amazed no-one got hurt as the audience went wild.

It seemed like everyone was just getting warmed up, and certainly the crowd in Aux had expanded once again, as soon we would be treated to the mighty Coridian (pictured). For some strange reason I only managed to see them twice last year, but hopefully I would be able to do more than that this year, and here we are in January, and I am already seeing them again. They started with Algorithm, and anyone who did not know them might have thought they were a trio as the Raven boys were kicking up a storm while Dity was still in the audience. It was certainly an effective way of getting the crowd ready and moving forward to see what was going on. When Dity hit the stage for State of Mind the band were fully formed and we were into the magical world of Coridian, one of the finest live bands around. With three guys who literally grew up playing music with each other and a singer who is simply remarkable, there is no-one else quite like them. Their take on progressive hard rock turns into soundscapes and while the ear is often drawn to Dity’s clear vocals there is a great deal going on behind them to provide the platform. Kris is a drummer who is constantly moving the rhythms, putting in a lot of work with fills different patterns, Nick keeps the music together while Mike provides the force. Endless War had everyone moving and it was nice to see so many people right up against the stage, yet still plenty of room for everyone to dance.

Dity often spends nearly as much time in the air as he does on the stage, but the first three songs tonight had him fairly grounded, but they were upping the energy now with Rite of Passage, driving the groove and soon he was pogoing while Mike was forcing the riff and the audience really got into it, so much so that Dity had no issue with getting everyone to singalong with the chorus while he went up even higher. We were then treated to Rakshasa, the single they released last year with Michael Murphy from Written By Wolves duetting with Dity. No sign of the WBW frontman tonight, with the boys kicking up a storm and showing what a fine song this is, no wonder I voted it my #1 for 2022 (if you haven’t already, then check my Top 10’s here). There is just so much going in every area, complex fills and layers from everyone, with wonderful vocals over the top.   

We then went back in time to the groove-laden Seed II, and for all the air conditioning everyone was becoming a sweaty mess as the energy poured from the band into the audience. Blind Faith continued in the same manner, blasting from the off, and then settled back as Coridian demonstrated just how much thought goes into their arrangements with a high use of space within the dynamic shifts. They ended the night with Seed, which commences slowly but soon takes off with some wonderful rolls around the kit driving it on. Dity asked the crowd to go with him and then suddenly everyone was pogoing and jumping, before the band stopped. Dead.

That was it, I was off as I had a plane to catch and still Dead Favours to go in Aux as well as still bands playing in Dead Witch and DJ’s in Ding Dong Lounge. Congrats from everyone at MNZ to Ding Dong for celebrating their tenth anniversary, and we know there are many more amazing musical years to come.

Photo Credits:
Animalhead / Coridian / Lost Vessels / Mudshark / Swerve City - Ginelle Cocks / Ginny C Photography
View Ginny's full gallery here

Pale Flag - Chris Morgan / Morgan Creative
View Chris's full gallery here


Other Reviews By Kev Rowland

Shepherds Reign - Single Review: Ua Masa’a
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When it comes to different cultures and music there is no doubt we are incredibly blessed in Aotearoa, and surely anyone into metal, wherever they are in the world, are aware of Alien Weaponry and the way they blend groove metal and their Maori roots. However, what may not be known by those outside New Zealand is that there is another band down here who are also making huge waves in their own country, Shepherds Reign.
Brawler NZHC - EP Review: Hard Truths
23 Mar 2023 // by Kev Rowland
Over the last 12 months I have been fortunate enough to catch Hamilton hardcore outfit Brawler NZHC a few times, and although I have always been a little concerned that singer Joe Steiner is going to pass out before he finally removes the balaclava, I always know we are in for a high energy show with plenty of angst and passion. They have also impressed NZ hardcore royalty along the way, with Luke Manson of Xile joining in on vocals for Pay The Price.
Mice on Stilts - Album Review: I Am Proud of You
22 Mar 2023 // by Kev Rowland
Some ten years ago I was a member of the ProgArchives Crossover Team (yes, to be allowed to be included on PA each band is judged by a committee). We were asked to pass our critical eyes and ears over the somewhat strangely named Mice on Stilts and I was somewhat surprised, nay amazed, to discover they hailed from Auckland.
Gig Review #1: Homegrown 2023 @ Wellington Waterfront - 18/03/2023
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I have been waiting for this festival for ages, well over 12 months in fact as last year’s had to be cancelled due to Covid, but finally it was here. I flew down to Wellington in the morning and caught up with the MNZ crew of Reef, River (read River's review here), Amanda, Garry, and Bevan for brunch: two reviewers and four photographers meant we were one of the largest media contingents at Homegrown 2023.
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17 Mar 2023 // by Kev Rowland
When On Tick released their debut album, Nothing New, towards the end of 2021 they were already in a state of change as it was recorded as a trio of brothers Brendan (vocals and drums) and Aidan O'Loughlin (vocals, guitar) along with bassist Matt Hammond, who also produced it, but they had now brought in Matt Perry to play bass while Matt H had moved to lead guitar. In 2023 things have changed again as Matt H is now concentrating on Pale Flag, while Matt P is also not involved any longer, so it is back to just Brendan and Aidan.
Written By Wolves - Single Review: Give 'Em Hell
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Written by Wolves may not have released any new material in 2022, but everyone knew the boys were working on their next album, and if you were fortunate enough to see them play then you will have already heard Give 'Em Hell as they were using this track as the opening number. In many ways this encapsulates everything which is Written By Wolves in one song – if you want to know why so many of us keep raving about them, then this will demonstrate why.
Anthony Coulter - Single Review: Younger
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BAkeR - EP Review: Eternal Now
16 Mar 2023 // by Kev Rowland
Mike Baker has been involved in both the Australian and NZ music scenes since the Eighties, running the import/export operations for Australia’s Hot Records at one point, releasing an album himself as a member of Not Really Anything and also managing Glide. Last year he created his alter ego BAkeR and started recording this five-track EP, entitled Eternal Now, with Daniel Hewson (the son of the late Paul Hewson of Dragon).
View All Articles By Kev Rowland

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