Ringlets – Whammy Bar: August 4, 2023 (Concert Review)

Ringlets

Ringlets played Auckland’s Whammy Bar, celebrating their new album and The 13th Floor’s Simon Coffey was on the scene. Here is his report.

Ringlets self-titled debut LP and vinyl has just been released, acclaimed and proclaimed as devastating, and, a digital single, Sever was aired and celebrated earlier this year. Tonight is the last date of  the bands tour celebrating the albums’ release, and while I’ve seen them twice before: firstly opening for The Damned in June and most recently doing an instore at Flying Out, I’m interested (and hopeful) of seeing them perform as a headline act, in full flight tonight.

Elliot & Vincent
Elliot & VincentI last saw Elliot & Vincent at audio foundation, ensconced in a basement space with a rudimentary sound system, and even then I was in awe over how good they made the situation sound, look and feel. Elliot & Vincent is a Tamaki Makaurau duo (not a duet) of Elliot Finn on drums & vocals accompanied by Vincent Cherry on guitar(s). Comparison to the White Stripes is far too mundane and ends as soon as the two start creating their version of distorted rhythm and dark-goth agit-punk. A lot slicker than my introduction to them, and very much in the vibe of early Cramps and Gun Club, all eyes are on Elliot as she gently, even meekly introduces each song “…and the next one is called…” Her tribal focus on floor toms and snare create the power and the energy, her vocals sometimes get lost (might have been the mix tonight) but it’s Vincent’s guitar mahi that creates the crescendo of audio-aura for the band. Elliot & Vincent should be headlining their own shows, not playing second (or third fiddle)

Oscar Dowling

Oscar DowlingOscar Dowling is still revered for his earlier group New Gum Sarn, which sadly never came up on my radar, though there is an album New Gold Mountain in existence. In 2017 he released a solo album Free and Easy and toured around New Zealand, then Covid hit. Tonight, with a full band accompanying him (guitar, drums and bass) looking like a cross between Peter Jefferies (Nocturnal Projections) and Jordan Luck, with guitar stride and a big bottle of Speights centre stage Oscar Dowling (the band) launched into a driven guitar centred garage punk assault, reminiscent of early Australian-gothic acts like The Laughing Clowns and The Scientists, surprising, given that Free and Easy is a slow, melodic, almost folk piece of work.  With another stern-looking female drummer, smashing out the beat alongside driving basslines, the band worked their way through most of their allotted time with angst-ridden lyrics and discordant sounds, even the warning that the last songs were quiet ones, didn’t mask the continued angst-vibe likened to that of Chris Bailey (The Saints), underscored by the Birthday Party like driving bass, the last few songs were of gothic slowness steeped in dark foreboding. Barry, as I believe they will now forever be referred to as, were enthralling.

Ringlets

Ringlets are mostly of Tamaki Makaurau, though one of them has just been lured southwards to Ōtautahi. Unreservedly post-punk in sound, the band are Lazlo ‘aka The Lobster’ Reynolds (Guitar), Leith Towers (Vocals), Arabella Poulen (Bass) and Arlo Grey (Drums). They are not new kids on the block, having a swath of experiences in their nga kete, including solo releases and stints in such bands as Dirty Pixels, Marlin’s Dreaming, and various free-form groups at University of Auckland Jazz School bands,.

RingletsRinglets had hard mahi ahead of them tonight, the bands they brought to the nights’ bill were astonishingly good. Looking very much the part and living up visually to comparisons to Joy Division and Wire, the comfortably full (thankfully not rammed) room saw the front become sardine-like in anticipation. This I give as my apologies for shit photos of the band as i couldn’t get closer.. 

Ringlets audience are enthusiastic and vocal, though the vocalist – Leith interactions with the punter were sometimes meek and lacking impact, luckily Lazlo (Guitar) was able to put his oar in and pump it up (I’m not sure about his KISS obsession though) as familiar songs appeared it was clear Ringlets have developed a loyal fan base, as the front pogo’d up and down in (almost) unison. 

With their album freshly released, I was expecting a show of mainly songs from it, as the night progressed many did appear: Boundless Heart, Sever, and Snitch Olympics. The version of I Am Pudding was far superior to the album recording, while the lucky last of the night, I Used To Paint (a cracker on the album) lacked clarity and conviction and didn’t have the ‘ending’ impact it should’ve. Included in the show were some more recently post album compositions, including (if I heard right, I didn’t get to see a setlist) Scam Me, Heavenly Wheel and Get It Right, which displayed maturing construction and were fresher sounding.

Ringlets have got the look. Ringlets have the evolving sound. I just think as a live act, Ringlets need to up their game a notch. Definitely, a band to watch out for though.

Simon Coffey

Click on any image to view a photo gallery:

Ringlets:

Oscar Dowling:

Elliot & Vincent:

Simon Coffey