So it was back to Ding Dong Lounge on a Friday night for one of their infamous Emo nightswhich tonight was a three-band bill with {Stray Dogs} having an extended set, supported by {Altaea} and then up first we had {Blindr}, a band new to me. 

Blindr are a quartet featuring Bill Caldwell (vocals, guitar), Blake Woodfield (lead guitar), Jack Power (bass), and Charlie McCracken (drums). They kicked off with Break, and while it may have a slow start we were soon into a pop punk mash up which is a load of fun. While Bill is often behind the microphone he is also determined to move when he can, and both Blake and Jack are obviously having a blast. When a band is relaxed and having fun it is obvious the audience will do the same, and even though it was early they had brought some fans in who were having a great time. The band feels more early Eighties than Nineties, with Let Down continuing in a similar vein, creating a fun groove for people to move to. Next we had their version of All Time Low’s version of Rihanna’s song, Umbrella, and there were people in the audience both dancing and singing along. This is certainly riff hungry, with a great drum fill near the end which pumped up the energy. Having a guitarist playing solos and lead melody lines over the riffs certainly make a difference, adding polish.

Give It is one of their more high-octane numbers, containing different sections, like The Knack on steroids and is a blast from beginning to end and I was not surprised to hear the reaction from the crowd at the end as this was just banging. Lover.Fighter has a real groove yet with bite, and then there is a delicious guitar solo at one point which has a very Seventies feel while Charlie keeps pushing from the backputting in rolls to drive it onWe were then told that the next song was the best they have ever put out on Spotify, Outrageous, which apparently is also the only song they have ever put out. This shows them moving more towards pop before bringing the punk back in, quite reminiscent of Blink 182, and guaranteed to make the listener smile. They ended the set with another All Time Low cover, Dear Maria Count Me In, which again had lots of people singing and dancing along. This was a fun set, which was way too short, and I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of these guys on the circuit.  

This was the second time I had seen Altaea, the band reborn out of {States}, and I was looking forward to hearing them again. Josh Parbery (vocals), Reuben Parlane (guitar, backing vocals), Nik Dobbin (lead guitar), Rob Woodman (bass), and Chris E. Birch (drums) are a heavier proposition to Blindr so it was going to be interesting to see how they would be received by the ever-growing crowd. They kicked off with Envyand a blistering drum attack from Chris showed they meant business and we were soon being assaulted by a band who fully understand the need for dynamics and contrast, throwing in different tempos and styles so when they crunch, they really do. Sunrise showed the band in a more restrained mode with Josh actually sat down at one point, right until it was time for them to come in hard again. Josh relishes the role of frontman, living what he is singing, putting everything into his mannerisms and performance. Reuben takes the vocals and band in a different direction when he comes in, Rob and Chris provide a rhythmic locked in foundation which is always moving which allows the guitars to construct sonic patterns over the top.

Hi hat and feedback led us into Never Enough which has definite elements of NWOBHM, while also containing plenty of groove. Chris was stood up at one point, and when he sat back down the band bounced, as did the crowd. Altaea are a band of contrasts, with Nik and Rob on one side of the stage intently concentrating on what they are delivering, Reuben is on the other side, with Josh next to him, going all out, while at the back Chris is the definition of a manic drummer, so they really are engaging. Favourite Kind starts with some electronic drums, and is very much a song of multiple parts, being quite indie at times (it was noticeable that Josh was wearing a Joy Division shirt) and very heavy at others. Powering riffing from Reuben did make me wonder what these guys have in common with Emo, although tonight they had made an effort with some eye liner and mascara being utilised, as musically they are quite different to what I would expect from the genre and are far more post hardcore in their approach with metallic elements. Relentless starts with a driving bass, then we get the guitars in over the top, again switching through multiple sections, allowing the band to bring it right down, so then they can crash against that. They ended with their heaviest groove of the night with Down The Well, ending the night with a bang, with Josh even attempting to get a circle pit going. This band have only been together for eight months, and this was the biggest crowd they had played in front of, but they rose to the occasion, and made many new friends tonight.

Now it was time for {Stray Dogs}, who tonight were playing the longest set I had seen from them, so it promised to be interesting. Josh Pinho (vocals), Cameron Brookes (guitar), Grant Kirkpatrick (drums), and Steve Shyu (bass) have a reputation as a fun dynamic act, and the change in name from {Fire For Glory} has seen them just drive onwards. Josh got everyone to get closer to the stage, and then the band promptly left! We were treated to a comic introduction tape, which had the band finally coming onstage as if they were conquering heroes, and then as soon as they kicked into Stray Dogs the place just took off. The guys have the tightness which only comes from playing together for many hours, a stage presence which comes with experience, great songs, and a manic frontman in Josh who is determined to get everyone moving by sheer force of presence. Life of the Party had everyone bouncing, Josh stood on a stool to make himself even taller in case anyone could not see him, Cameron riffing like a madman and Steve planted on the stage doing his best rock god impression while Grant kept pounding. The groove became heavier with Ko Koe Taku Ūkaipō, with people coming forward to make sure they were not missing out. Josh promised to provide some additional fun tonight as it was emo night, but he wanted some help singing, and when they blasted into Fall Out Boy’s The Take Over, the Breaks Over there were huge shouts of recognition and Josh had fun hitting the falsetto while the band created a mighty noise and there were certainly plenty of people singing along while they danced.

n celebration of NZ Music Month they then brought out the old {Steriogram} song, Walkie Talkie Man, and that chunky riff was met with huge shouts and the whole place moved in the most intense reaction of the night so far. How Josh managed to get those words out at that speed I have no idea, and we had the first beck and call of the night as the audience responded happily. Musically, Cameron, Grant and Steve are incredibly tight indeed, locked in as one, and then at the front they have Josh who is the perfect foil and together they have so much fun. The crowd were well warmed up by now, and when Josh told people to just bounce if they did not know the songs they were more than happy to do so, with Smile getting a huge reaction. A pit soon started and then someone fell down, and Josh immediately stopped to ensure she was okay, and when it was obvious she was, the band looked at each other and cracked on as if nothing had happened to spoil the flow, not an easy thing to do. Not The Enemy saw Cameron taking more of the lead vocal lines, swapping with Josh on the chorus, while we also had some rough and raw vocals. Stray Dogs have the perfect combination of punk attitude and pop melodies to create music which feels real and very Kiwi as opposed to an American knock off. They have also been having some fun with song titles, and Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls must be one of the most interesting I have heard this year! Josh was enjoying himself bouncing on the small stool, and I was worried that at some point he might fall off but halfway through the set he was still stable so far.

If one band is the ultimate emo then surely it must be My Chemical Romance, and the drumbeats and riff of Teenagers had everyone singing at the top of their voices. This was followed by Teenage Dirtbag and the party was on, really on. Josh stopped singing during the chorus as there was just no need for him to do so, while Steve and Cameron enjoyed 

some synchronised jumping. We went back in time for Phantoms Ghosts & Monsters, and {Swizl Jager} was in the house, jumping up on the stage to add his distinctive style, taking the song to a whole new level. We were then being treated to songs they had never played live before, kicking off with Back to Before, slowing it down slightly but still getting the crowd involved with one girl up on someone’s shoulders, not something you often see at this venue. Carry On was a total contrast to everything else which had happened tonight, with Cameron and Steve sat down, Josh singing his heart out, and phones and lighters held in the air. It was delicate, full of emotion, right up until the time it wasn’t. Brand New Bloom saw the band lift the mood again, lighter and bouncier as they headed into the home straight, and we even got a key change. They ended the night with the blaster which is Loser, their quickest song, with plenty of passion and one last energetic blast of pop punk.

There is no doubt that Straw Dogs are one of the most enjoyable bands to go and see, and audiences always come away rabid fans, it just does not get better than this. 

Photo Credit: Ó Ginny C Photography