Saturday 15th December – Mandela Hall, Queens Student Union Belfast
The lead up to Christmas was the perfect time for local bands to come together in aid of a great cause and put on a mega gig. Queens Student Union was the venue for Benefit which was raising money for Macmillan Cancer Foundation and NI Bowel Cancer in memory of the loss of musician Bart Lyons. The whole evening was recorded in conjunction with exciting venture 45 Sound and gets two thumbs up from us for providing more quality live recordings from local gigs!
With a string of stand out performances under their belts and a new album on the horizon, an anticipated crowd gathers ahead of More Than Conquerors’ set. Everything they do is done with a swagger, growing more ferocious after every track. New tunes “Smoke, Trees, Lungs, Knees” and “6 Weeks” have all the beefy riffs and exquisite breakdowns which have gained them such a loyal following in recent months. In tandem the crowd rocks their heads back and forth as they close with favourite “Bear Knuckle Fight”. NI’s must see band of 2012 sign off on a high.
The Sub Bar is bunged early for north west noise makers Team Fresh. With grungy guitars driven by funk laden bass lines, the crowd soon turns into a frenzy. “Who’s up for a brawl?” they ask, setting the tone for the rest of the night. The dedicate the rip roaring “Causeway Rebel” to “all you fucking rebels out there” while throwing EPs into the audience (a sure fire way to get most punters hands in the air). Grimey new track “Boss Level” excelled live. Belfast is ready for a lot more local rap we think.
Ed Zealous were a much more meatier affair than what you’d expect from their recordings. The electro-dance outfit were full of energy, buzzing around the stage with style. Potently synth heavy the four-piece slip into some rave beats half way through their set.“Diamonds For Eyes” is the jewel in their crowd, a track which could get the grumpiest of humbugs up dancing the night away. An earworm of a song which was a great finale.
Eatenbybears are an act which have been turning all the right heads recently. This gig showed us exactly why. Although they were tight and played with purpose, overall their set was a mixed bag. Each track sounded fantastic individually but perhaps not as one collective. Shifting in style from the jovial pop track “Simple as Hell” to the intense and dark “Teeth” shows how broad their repertoire is. “Malkovich” dazzled while “Your Pet Is Dead” is still growing on us. Delightfully unique with confidence to burn, comparisons to acts such as Django Django and Howler will do them no harm.
“Leningrad” kicks off the ruckus for Lafaro in the Mandella Hall. Relentlessly they blast through a set featuring “Mr. Heskey”, “Chopper…” and “Tupenny Nudger”. On a lighter note and in spirt of charity, frontman Jonny Black offers a tenner if drummer Alan Lynn plays the rest of the gig topless, with a smile Alan obliges. As their set progresses the mosh pit increases in size until they eventually end with a bash of “Easy Meat”. “Eight quid for ten bands? That’s only 80p per band!” Jonny remarks. “That’s the deal of the fucking century!”. There were very few events in Belfast during 2012 which could challenge that claim.
Following Lafaro is no easy feat, but Axis Of passed the test with flying colours. With a debut album on the way, the Portrush trio were bursting at the seems with an array of tunes which packed a mighty punch. They were simply sublime throughout as they swooned through the clattering “We Dine On Seeds” to the thumping baseline of “Limehammer”. “Mendelssohnstrasse” is undoubtedly the crowd favourite and the anthemic singalong gets the whole room singing. We have a whole host of local bands lining up to release a new album in 2013, but you should put Smalltown American’s newest band at the top of your “must buy” list.
It might be their gig, but as they get into the swing of things there is no doubt that And So I Watch You From Afar are truly the main event. It’s been a while since they’ve played a show in the city but the affection from the crowd is as strong as ever. Mixing up anthems from “Gangs” and their self titled debut LP, we are also treated to a number of their new tracks. “Like A Mouse” is one of their most direct songs so date, it might be short and sweet but has everything you should expect from an ASIWYFA song; fuzzy guitars and a crescendo of epic proportions. New noise “Ambulance” on the other hand is reverby featuring sonic zooms and whizzes, channeling some old school QOTSA riffage for good measure. “The Voiceless” closes the event on a fine note. It might be one of the last big gigs of the year but it sets up 2013 perfectly for a bumper and exciting year in local music.
Photos by Dave Burns. Gallery Here.