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Swerve City - Gig Review: Swerve City @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland - 11/02/2023

12 Feb 2023 // A review by Steve Shyu
As my first live gig review of 2023, it had to be a good line-up. Then I heard that Swerve City had announced a headlining show at Dead Witch, so I knew that had to be it.

For those not immediately familiar with either of those names, let me catch you up. Swerve City is a rock quartet fronted by my fellow Muzic.net brethren, JP Carroll, plus members from other acts like Armed in Advance and Fire at Will. So something of a supergroup. And Dead Witch in Ding Dong Lounge is the second floor dedicated to live music, a part of Tamaki Makaurau Auckland’s best rock & roll joint, Ding Dong Lounge. Recap done!

For the warm-up acts, Swerve City enlisted fellow hard-rockin’ groups Dead Empire and Silcrow as the evening’s openers.

Hell of a line-up, and hell of a nice way to kick off my gig reviews for the year.

The four-man act Dead Empire were enthusiastic as they hopped on stage, with the bass player Joel tying a bandana around his head, then proudly declaring “We're from Mount Maunganui and we’re here to jam and rock the f-ck out!!”, and pumping out their grunge-heavy number, Window. Some cool rhythm changes were delivered by drummer Matt, while singer Kaine delivered howling blues-ish vocals, like some Jerry Cantrell-Neil Fallon hybrid. Impressive stuff!

As the bass boomed out nice full low ends, the Jesus-looking guitarist Mikey artfully picked out excellent riffs, particularly on Buckley. For songs like Slither and Divine Intervention, Kaine switched from microphone to tinkering away at his synthesiser, adding zips and zaps to the latter.

Personally, Divine Intervention was the set’s highlight, with the faster pace and riffs commanding heads to bang and people jumping on the spot. The double-kick bass drums rolled well with the basslines, and the stadium-sized, Muse-like guitar work near the end all worked together to serve up a fantastic hard rock hit.

On their final number, the band presented their namesake tune, Dead Empire, noticeably more prog-metal than their other songs, and there was something very Rage Against the Machine-esque about it. Maybe it was the twangy six-string sounds. Or maybe it was the vocalist’s use of a megaphone, repeating the final lyrics “We! Are! The Dead Empire!”.

What a smart way to end a set, leaving the band’s name in the ears and brains of every attendee, even after the four-piece had left the stage.

I had to apologise in person to the second act, Silcrow, prior to them performing. I had been messaging them ahead of the show but had completely forgotten they were previously under the name Close to the Bone, which I had seen before! Albeit the slight personnel change, the new name still stood for pulling off hard-hitting shows, and I suspected tonight’s set would be no exception.

Kicking off with Ethereal, which boasts some brilliant vocal acrobatics from frontman Lorenzo Hazelwood, the tune balances grunge atmospheres with delicate guitar work, all to a mid-tempo pace. By the time the third song Stuck in a Lie came around, I realised that I had taken for granted how tight the quartet’s performance was, and has been over the times I’ve witnessed their shows.

A couple of new, work-in-progress hits were presented as a treat, tentatively titled Roland and Shihad. The former was a nod to 2000’s post-grunge, akin to something Shinedown would write, with the bass player Conor liberally filling just about every space available with tasteful flourishes.

To my surprise, the tune of working title Shihad was dedicated to me, according to Lorenzo! Earlier in the evening, when asked if the current name indicated that it was a cover, the frontman simply replied “No, unfortunately. But there are inspirations behind it” and it became clear what he meant as soon as the song kicked off.

The riffs and drumbeat was strongly reminiscent of Pacifier’s 2002 material. However, as a stamp of their own efforts, some very heartfelt and melodic choruses were employed, a pummeling breakdown was included, and a double-time tempo change added in for extra energy.

After performing the powerful single Keep the Silence, the band reminded the audience to check out their YouTube music video (which you should too, here), before rounding things off with the fan-favourite Sink In, which boasts a nice beefy bass intro, some nu-metal swagger, and brilliantly bouncy vocal rhythms. Consider this live audience sufficiently warmed up!

Before you know it, it’s Swerve City o’clock.

Even though I had already seen them play a week earlier, there’s always a buzz when they perform.

Like a revving engine, their set starts with Sink Like Stones, a powerhouse of dizzying guitar lines from Kev, swirling basslines from Shannon, and commanding vocals from lead vocalist JP. Wrapping up the song is a super crunchy series of riffs, and man - It’s not one I’ll get tired of anytime soon!

The importance of engaging with your audience is certainly not lost on Swerve City, as JP commanded dialogue with the gig’s attendees, getting the crowd to clap along to Avalanche, making everyone shout along to the refrain of Air Support.

Unless you have no sense of fun, at a gig like this it’d be hard not to pump a fist or nod along to the rhythms, at the very least!

As evidence of their prowess, a cover of Audioslave’s Cochise was brought out, with JP letting his guitar rest and focusing on his mic, capturing the power behind the voice of the late Chris Cornell, paying a solid tribute.

To know how Swerve City could best be summed up, it’s to see and hear them perform songs like Life Back and Conspiracy. The four-man act offer a lesson on the ability to shift from intricate sounds and delicate riffs, snarling every other line and making listeners move to their music, through to huge melodic choruses.

And while I’m at it, special mention must be given to Dead Witch’s lighting technician Shane for deftly pre-empting changes in the band’s songs, and switching the stage lights accordingly. Having dedicated personnel help accentuate one’s performance can make a universe of difference, and this show is testament to this!

Perhaps that buzz from seeing Swerve City perform is thanks to the unique mix of the four lads; there’s the stoic and punchy Adam providing rhythms, the smiley bassist Shannon who’s always entertaining to watch, the quiet yet prominent guitar-artist Kev, and of course, the force and soul behind every song, JP.

In hard-to-define ways, the balance of personalities exhibited on stage is what makes Swerve City such a marvelous live experience.

“Is ONE MORE good enough?”, joked Shannon, as the band teased an already-anticipated encore, at which of course, they pumped out their key hit, Good Enough. Tapping into some Guns n’ Roses-esque energy, JP leans into a Scott Weiland vocal vibe, while the song drives off into a rolling swagger of guitars and serious drum beats.

It was just past midnight as the bands and sound guys were packing up the Dead Witch stage. As majority of the crowd dispersed, I noted clusters of smiling faces that still remained to chat to one another, as well as to thank the bands who performed. It’s nice to see, regardless whether they were old mates of band members or if they were new fans.

Before the evening's gig began, I spoke to JP downstairs at the main bar, and he reminded me that this is the first headlining show we’ve done in two years, with no thanks to Covid and lockdowns.

If events like this was to be a recovery of lost time, 2023 could have a tonne on its horizon!

Photo Credit: Ginny C Photography
View the full galleries here:
Swerve City
Dead Empire


About Swerve City

Swerve City are an exciting new rock band from Auckland featuring members from Fire At Will, Armed in Advance, Sematics and Saints of Taboo.

Swerve City possesses a sound that blends Melodic Rock with undertones of Metal and Pop sensibilities.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Swerve City


There are no releases to display for Swerve City.

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