This was my first time over to Big Fan in Morningside, for an all-ages gig being headlined by Crooked Royals. The venue apparently has a capacity of 150, and tonight was a sell-out, so it promised to be a load of fun.

First up were Stacked, a band I have seen a few times now and who always impress. Tyler Jamieson (vocals), Leaf Wright (guitar), Benji Perez (guitar), Alasdair Miller (drums), and Connor McNab (bass) know how to hit hard, being driven from the back by one of the hardest working drummers around and after a melodic short introduction we were off into Pick Me Apart. Tyler took enough time to tell everyone they were Stacked and then they were kicking into the high-octane Atlas, and the place went nuts with a mosh pit already in operation.  Connor stays towards the rear, standing solidly on the stage but the guitarists and Tyler are always well into it, the microphone stand being dispensed with immediately, and plenty of jumping taking place. 

We had the short interlude of Quiescent and then we were banging into The Blade Embedded: I really like the change in dynamics, works well, and the way this ended with gentle harmonics was quite powerful. The use of contrasts allows them to really blast out, as the gentleness means the heavy songs sound even heavier, so when they went into Decadence the place just bounced. We even had a taped interlude with acoustic guitars before Every Word You’ll Never Speak, and while the band were pouring energy into the crowd with their actions and music they were certainly getting it returned may times over. Red and Blue was probably their most intense song yet, and their brand of high octane melodic hardcore had certainly won everyone over. They finished with Remain, which is broken into sections to provide that contrast they use so well – too many bands feel the need to always be loud, always fast, without realising it is the use of dynamics and elements of shade which really make it stand out.

This was my first time seeing Wellington band All I Seek but I had been massively impressed during the soundcheck as not only are there two 7-string guitars and a 5-string bass on show, but everyone knows what they are doing with them. The line-up is Sam Minot (guitar, backing vocals), Alex Maggs (guitar, backing vocals), Jordan Ross (drums), James Gill (lead vocals), and Finn Perring (bass) and they are mixing progressive metal with mathcore and making a complex racket. The short intro of House on Fire allowed them to warm up and then we were into Moonlight, and I was already quite in awe of what these guys were doing. First off, they are very heavy indeed, complex, and massively tight, with huge note density and a singer who is able to do just that, throwing his vocals in quite different styles, yet it all makes sense. In many ways he reminds me of Michael Murphy in the way he not only uses his voice but the way he uses his hands and is very much a frontman. The crowd were all moving during The Comfort as while it is complicated music with multiple threads and layers it is also very much a bouncy up and down song. For Someone is planned to be on their next EP, which is due out in the next six months or so and somehow brings plenty of melody to join in with the heaviness and complexity.

Jordan never stops providing complex patterns, which allows Finn to either lock in to provide a platform or provide counter melodies to accentuate what Sam and Alex are doing, and then we have James providing yet another melody, but it all comes together with songs like Waves being somewhat commercial yet totally uncompromising at the same time. I would love to see these guys support someone like Protest The Hero as that would be a load of fun. There were loads of cheers when it was announced that Lee and Christian were going to join them for The Bay – apparently it is Keane’s favourite All I Seek song and he had already given them grief in the soundcheck. Christian was harmonising with James on the high clean parts, and Lee was revelling in providing his intensity on the rougher sections. There was a lot of jumping taking place and it was hard to work out who was having the most fun, the audience or the band. Envy has a more staccato approach from the guitars as they lock in more with the drums, allowing the bass to provide lengthier notes, and then they throw in some doom elements just for good measure. They ended with Ballad Boulevardwhich is nothing like what the name suggests as it is one of their most raucous of the night. The guys from the capital made loads of friends here tonight and I was massively impressed and cannot wait to hear more from them. Come back soon guys.

Now it was time for Finger Tight, and it was nice to see the baseball shirts out again as it really provides a nice solid image. The band of course are Red Rogers (vocals), Glenn Mullins (guitar, backing vocals), Jesse De Silva (guitar), Jasher Simmons (bass, backing vocals) and Matt Townshend (drums) and this was going to be their last Auckland gig for 2023, so they were bound to be going for it. They toured with Coridian earlier this year and their album Messages From The End of the World, was deservedly well-received so they are very much on a high. They commenced with their back to the crowd as the intro tape started, hitting the riffs when the time was right, then turning around as they went into Rose Coloured Retrospect. Red is a singer who never stops moving, and puts his whole being into everything he is doing, melodic with a rough edge at times, moving into the really abrasive at others. My Inner Child is in Amityville allows the guys to show their different styles as they move through metalcore and melodic punk, 

Why Should You Care? starts with a tribal drum pattern and Red singing sweetly, but it soon becomes a punk singalong, and there were obviously plenty here who knew the words, The staccato chorus invites everyone in, and the whole place was bouncing along with the band. Red is the consummate frontman, never stopping and always doing whatever he can to get the crowd going while Jasher and Matt provide the platform for Jesse and Glenn to crank it out. Red split the crowd in two, and everyone relished the opportunity to really mosh while the tempo was only cranked up for Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult, where the lyrics were spat out through gritted teeth. The mosh was getting more intense all the time, with the crowd certainly reacting to the intensity of what was coming from the stage. The guys were running one song into another, not taking a break, with According to Socrates, I’m a Philosopher somehow moving it to the next level with the crowd reacting to what was happening in front of them. When it came to the end of the song, everyone sang along, as we all knew the words. The announcement of the over-the-top punk of No PP Left for This Move riled everyone up even more, with people moving and having a blast. Finger Tight are a heavy outfit who always have a load of fun onstage, and it is impossible not to get caught up with what is taking place. They finished with I Hear It Rains In Seattle, one of their most commercial numbers, yet it is still a belter with Matt not letting up and really blasting around the kit. The audience had not stopped grooving all through the set, and this was yet another triumph for the band. It will be great to see what they come back with in 2024.

Crooked Royals were looking a little different tonight as bassist Conor Lawson was not here so Finger Tight’s drummer, Matt Townshend was covering for a few shows on second guitar with the rest of the line-up of course being Lee Mackley (heavy vocals), Christian Carstensen (clean vocals), Jake Andrews (guitar), and Keane Gilles (drums). During the short intro tape, Christian and Lee joined the rest of the guys onstage, and we were into the mayhem which is Glass Hands. There are few bands who genuinely have two frontmen, both doing everything they can to support the other and get the audience going. Their original coming together may have been an accident, but it certainly was a happy one and this band just keep going from strength to strength. Keane is one of the hardest working drummers around with both feet and hands, A broken string meant Matt had to leave the stage to change it, which meant we were then “treated” to a rap from Christian, and it must be said that both Christian and Lee were extremely relieved when Matt returned, as that allowed them to get away from the frivolity and nervousness and blast into Ill Manor. The crowd needed no encouragement whatsoever to separate for a wall of death. 

With two singers who complement each other yet naturally have very different styles indeed, it allows Crooked Royals to push that area of the band, yet this is just the icing on top of a cake packed with ingredients as the band thrown djent and downtuned riffs into the mix: metalcore may be at the heart of what they are doing but they throw so much else into it. Counterfeit kicks off with Lee at the helm, but Copacetichas a much gentler approach which builds and builds into a monster. Christian may start it off and then move it into something different but when Lee comes in it soon turns into something way more dramatic. This has long been one of my favourites of theirs, and in the live environment it becomes even more brutal as Keane drives it from the back and the twin guitars lock it down. They can stop on a dime which allows them to drop in space which provides a respite before we are right back into it. They called for a circle pit for Paper Warrior, and the crowd were happy to oblige, ensuring it was hot inside even if it was cold Auckland evening outside. That there is a melodic breakdown in the middle is both fitting and a nice way to bring in a contrast, until it is time to go crazy again, and it was lucky we were on the ground floor as everyone decided to bounce as one.

Phones were held in the air for the delicate Between You And I, which had a very different style indeed to what had come before, and is certainly anthem which deserves this approach, and even when it started to crank it still felt majestic. This is Christian’s time to shine, demonstrating what a great singer he is. The night had gone on a little late, so instead of going through the encore rigmarole they just told everyone they would not bother doing that, and instead launched into the final blaster of the night, Rumination. They mix loads of different styles into this, showing just how to blend and move, even bringing in some dance styles yet somehow making it all Crooked Royals.

Photos by Ginny C Photograohy

Yet another great night in Auckland with stunning bands. The local scene is very healthy indeed.