Live Review: Cheap Fakes + Chocolate Strings @ Soundlounge, 17.04.15

After a tasty steak at the Palmy Pub, we were greeted at The Soundlounge with friendly door staff, ambient lighting, well dressed people… even those longer, slightly classier looking beer glasses. We arrived around 8.00pm, by which time a crowd was already forming, everyone happily paying the $15 door entry.

Having had the pleasure of seeing and playing with Cheap Fakes a number of times, I already knew that everyone was in for a night of high energy dancing, spectacular musicianship and catchy ska, reggae and funk influenced tunes but, like any show, there’s a bit of foreplay, a build and the climax.

I was excited about seeing Chocolate Strings for the first time. The band hail from West End in Brisbane, but bring together members from different parts of the world and draw on a variety of influences. I could quickly tell that there would be some authentic one-drop reggae, soul and motown in their set just by looking at the 8-piece setup. I’m a big fan of these genres myself, and The Strings, as they’re affectionately known, opened with an acoustic curtain raiser, which was filled with emotion and possibly some nerves, which I could feel from the unique voice of Ofa Fanaika, who led this track. The track got everyone’s attention before the migration to the dance floor began, their second song literally inviting you to dance.

Chocolate Strings progressed through some reggae and dub grooves, infused with soulful Motown flavors and then a mix of neo-soul and old school soul as I’d predicted. I don’t remember the exact order because I don’t keep notes when I’m enjoying myself, but their set was thoroughly enjoyable and dynamic.

One after the other, members of the band displayed their vocal talent. Ofa, Nia Falekakala and Nicole Loa McWalters were particularly high energy and helped get the dance floor firing. The brass added that expansive sound; the percussion and drums were tight and combined with the driving bass kept us all moving to their groove.

I related to the songs Dedication and the Polynesian inspired doo-woop style track Polyamory and recommend getting a copy of their EP for sure and getting along to see them next time they’re in your hood.

After their set we had the pleasure getting grounded (having a seat on the balcony floor) with Ofa (band leader), Alex (guitarist) and some of their mates that came down from Brisbane to support them. We shared a chat about culture, co-ops, music and enjoyed one of the best pizzas I’ve tried in a while. I cut the chat short and got inside just as Cheap Fakes kicked into their set.

Their lead guitarist Scott French told me that the show was the last of Cheap Fakes’ JUST IN CASE single launch tour and although there was room for more people in the Soundlounge, the crowd was an ideal size to enjoy the show. Without a doubt I knew they’d put on an exhibition to jump and dance too and they did! This extremely talented six-piece just keeps getting better each time I see them. Their musicianship is rock-solid. They awed everyone with their pop infused, brass fuelled funk and ska sounds and it’s always good to see how a room full of people schmoozing early on can change through the night into a wild bunch of dancers. For some reason I kept thinking of Thomas the Tank Engine which could be due to the words ‘Fat Controller’ in one of their tracks or due to the freight train energy and fun sounds that revert everyone to a childlike state of joy.

Although in my opinion their catchiest track is Sand On The Beach, everything they play live is full of energy and captivating.

I loved their choreographed jumping or dancing if you can call it that; freeze poses that sequenced with the lighting, classy brass lines, bass grooves and insanely talented and tasteful drumming solos where Hayden Andrews(lead singer) puts down his gat and picks up some sticks to join Aaron (drums) in a very well arranged drum workshop. Great musicians and in my experience nice guys, but they are wearing OP shop suits and are called Cheap Fakes so be wary. If you love a dance, check them out if you haven’t already.

Benji Guerrero
(A.K.A – Ben Michaels)



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