It is a monumental day in the calendar of many local rock fans as the legendary Fighting With Wire opt to close out their career with a personally curated festival in their home town. The bill is jam packed with local artists and a few label mates at Xtra Mile Recordings. Naturally being one of our favourite bands we had to be there and so a small team of us made the journey up to Londonderry for what was a brilliant day and night of live music and arguably a fitting tribute to a legendary local band.
Wood Burning Savages have the unenviable task of opening up to quite a small crowd but the indie rock band are taking no prisoners. From the jangly ‘It All Ends Where It Starts’ to the more visceral ‘Rip It Off’ it is a clear statement of intent that they want to be noticed amongst this quality line-up.
Making Monsters have had a traumatic few months problems in their line-up but thankfully these issues have now been resolved and it is back to the business of rocking out. New single ‘What It’s Worth’ is frighteningly heavy with Emma’s throaty vocals impressing. With Emma declaring that she’s not a big fan of their self titled EP, she needn’t worry as both ‘Instincts’ and ‘Limits’ shine through as impressive hard rock.
The similarly uncompromising Droids manage to keep the decibels loud. You do have to feel for the lads, despite throwing their heart and soul into it, there simply aren’t enough people in the door yet. There are riffs aplenty though and for those that have made the effort there is some suitably impressive head banging and hair tossing to lift their spirits.
Little Hooks strip things back with their acoustic guitars, flanked by their All Star Choir. The three ladies and four guys do an excellent job of adding substance to the band’s sound. ‘Ease Your Mind’ provides the perfect remedy for those ringing ears. ‘Underated a Star’ is charming folky rock at it’s best and it is here that the choir really come into their own. A nice change of pace for all concerned.
Cheltenham based Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun are label mates of Fighting With Wire at Xtra Mile Recordings. There are more than a few similarities to Frank Turner with acoustic led front man Jim Lockey singing soulful, passionate music. ‘New Natives’ is evidence of this, starting off acoustically before his band take things up a notch. ‘Wilderness of a Wild Youth’ is a fine tune even if it is a bit poppier than their normal wares.
Fresh from their album launch show on Monday More Than Conquerors were clearly trying to keep that head of steam building. ‘Bear Knuckle Fight’ is an throttling way to open any set and as per, the riffs are relentless. ‘Smoke, Trees, Lungs, Knees’ is venomous while ‘When the Well Runs Dry’ showcases a less raucous side of the band. But by anyone standards it is still a rocking track. A slick set.
There is a bit of concern as LaFaro have an empty space where the all-encompassing Dave would be causing chaos (on holiday – the cheek!). But thankfully Herb, Jonny and Alan are no less loud and aggressive than normal. The stonking riffs of ‘Easy Meat’ and ‘Full Tilt’ feature prominently in between the usual gritty banter of Jonny. Joking that they are calling it a day too and stealing Fighting With Wire’s thunder is thankfully only jest. Although one does fear with all the various side projects (VerseChorusVerse’s live band, Little Matador amongst others) that we will be seeing less and less of them. They would be a massive loss to the local scene but my ear drums might be grateful of the respite.
It is the reason why we are all here today, to see local legends Fighting With Wire bring their story to an end. Thankfully it hasn’t been ‘All For Nothing’ and Cahir’s wise cracks begin with “Hello Derry, what is the craic?” He is a man with a reputation for speaking his mind but there is nothing but love and appreciation from the front man as we are dedicated ‘Sugar.’ Quite how revered Fighting With Wire were is highlighted by the people who traveled from all parts of the Globe to get here today. The farthest traveller, Fiona, is dedicated ‘Make A Fist’ – surely a suitable reward? Drummer Craig manages to make a meal of the start but it doesn’t matter as Cahir jokes that he is getting sacked. Despite today clearly being a celebration it is also quite an emotional occasion perhaps epitomised by their dedication of ‘Everybody Needs A Nemesis’ (“their only sniff at a hit”) to their friends and family. Mainly for putting up with them being skint, taking them to gigs, allowing them to practice and just being there for them – to be honest we as fans need to thank them too.
‘Colonel Blood’ kicks off the “Atlantic period” smirks Cahir. Much to his own delight Cahir spots his own Dad down in the mosh pit, however he is a bit concerned that people might think he sent him there to get things going – no danger in that trust me. During ‘Graduate’ the security team on site are particularly concerned at the ferocity of the moshing. For the finale of their set we are treated to an extended version of ‘Into the Ground’ with the trio milking that riff for everything they have got. They end with the first track they ever wrote together and appropriately the name of today’s festival; ‘Cut The Transmission.’ Preluded by an epicly emotional speech from Cahir it was a great send off for the guys. Couldn’t neglect mentioning the eejit that is Cahir flinging himself through the drum kit on to Craig.
Future of the Left start as they mean to go with the squealing ‘Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood’ and the heavy rock continues with ‘Beneath the Waves an Ocean.’ For whatever reason I struggle to enjoy their set; yes it’s loud, there’s plenty of riffs and plenty of desire shown by all concerned but it just doesn’t click. The repetitive keyboard on ‘Manchasm’ does add a different dimension to their sound and closer ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ is 1 min 48sec of hardcore punk which sets plenty of heads shaking, however I’m glad it’s over.
It isn’t really surprising that ASIWYFA are so high up this bill as they jet off round the world playing festivals and gaining plenty of plaudits. Tonight’s set is no different with the chirpy yet swaggering ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable’ filling the air with “the sun is in our eyes”. The riffs of ‘Beautiful Universe Master Champion’ wash over a crowd who are simply fascinated by the technical ability of the band. During an impromptu walk along the top of the barrier a guitar nearly disappears into the swelling crowd. Thankfully it is rescued just in time for the ridiculously fast paced ‘Search Party Animal’ which causes security team to look anxiously on a hectic if good natured moshpit. In paying tribute to FWW, they declare them to be the “band with the biggest balls from Northern Ireland” – a fair comment as many will testify. A sweaty and rivoting set is closed by ‘The Voiceless’ and as the band leave the stage there are massive chants for “one more tune” – sadly they can’t oblige but it’s always good to leave people wanting more, something they have done with ease tonight.
Frank Turner’s Belfast shows always sell out so it was a smart move to have the Winchester folk rocker headlining the bill. ‘I Still Believe’ leaves you in doubt that it will be a commanding performance. Lyrically it captures everything that today was about “something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll could save us all.” The nature of Frank’s success in recent years has caught him by surprise and while it isn’t Wembley, there are still plenty of die hards in the crowd. If there is one thing people appreciate is when someone just gets on with something difficult. Turner shows us his bandages and proclaims that he has ignored the doctor’s instructions to stop touring due to his bad back. A nice touch and one that many lap up, plus it’s easy to see why it would be difficult to replace the buzz and adrenaline from performing in front of hundreds or thousands of people every night.
Frank & Cahir are both good mates and there is a nice tough with ‘If I Ever Stray’ being dedicated to him and his family. Noteworthy is his revelation that for all the drunken nights in Londonderry, he can’t ever remember going to bed. There are surreal scenes during ‘Recovery’ as Frank asks us to do star jumps. If anyone else had asked for this mass participation in exercise, they’d have been laughed off the stage but yet again Mr Turner captivates everyone in front of him. The man behind it all has shown why he is a must see live act with every song seemingly featuring the audience as backing vocalists.