A six-month complete live silence was graciously thrashed through by experimental North Coasters And So I Watch You From Afar to the backdrop of last Saturday’s sunset. From moving tributes to poking fun at the ‘new normal’ with their event name and policies (‘raise your fleg’ for bar service), the band walked us through the throes of elation and reflection in a painfully anticipated evening of coming back together, apart.
Humbled and sincere, frontman Rory Friers was tangibly full of feeling, addressing the parked cars with his thanks after their first round of beeps – the ‘new normal’ form of applause. Being back onstage had “replenished their souls,” he said, before diving back into their set with a fervour that backed up his words and spoke as much for it. An immediate sense of collective hunger, audience and band creating and lapping up the atmosphere in a beautiful, reciprocal state of appreciation.
“The easiest thing to do in this desperate situation is nothing,” said Friers. “But every single person backstage and in front of us has decided that’s exactly what they’re not going to do. This is a beautiful and hopeful thing.” Bigger than just a gig – as all gigs are, really – this one surmounted that by nature of its rarity, felt so deeply by audience, crew, and band alike.
Dedicating the next track to the live music industry of NI (queue immense and deserved beeping), “the people who make these incredible moments of escapism possible,” Friers referenced the cogs that keep the events turning, shouting out We Make Events, putting out a call to arms to get involved and support the movement that backs the livelihoods of so many. “This is what it’s all about, this is what makes us feel human,” he said, launching into the bright and crisp guitar lines of A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes A Long Way.
As always, ASIWY’s performance was an all-encompassing, immersive experience. Marrying together a skilful attack of production that resulted in festival-headliner level effect, the boys were dowsed in aggressive strobes, with Ewen Friers (Catalan!) statuesque and centred on bass appearing in flashes under kaleidoscopic visuals. Sadly with it, another dedication. As their Jettison show had been a moving tribute to Andrew Dunbar and Lyndon Stevens, this time a familial homage to late Grandmother, Betty, whose name was emblazoned poignantly over the band’s logo, once again commemorating the greats.
The car horn intermissions and improvisations that peppered the lulls and builds in instrumentation were hilarious and wholesome, at once a strange sign of the times, and an adapted, makeshift virtual mosh. A Christmas morning-esque giddiness at the sheer novelty of having even a glimpse at a return to live music. Watching From A Car didn’t feel normal, or distract us from our bizarre circumstances. Instead, it provided a resounding flash of humanity with every car horn beeped, every headbanging passenger, that makes it all a little bit more manageable, for however long it goes on. We all needed that.