Hidden Machine presents: Vokxen, Shadow Police, Jess Edlin & Rebekah Wilson
Thursday 6th June 2015 – Voodoo, Belfast
There’s a whole host of great bands and artists who play regularly around the Belfast music scene. Hidden Machine have certainly hosted their share of them. But last Thursday saw not one, but two new brand new acts in Vokxen and Shadow Police. With a line-up rounded out by the talents of Jess Edlin and Rebekah Wilson, Voodoo hosted a great night of local music.
The first artist of the night was Rebekah Wilson, an artist surely known to many around the local scene. Still in her teenage years Rebekah hasn’t had the opportunity to play venues like this so it’s great to see her on this bill. Having only seen her once before, the songs already feel familiar, particularly opener “Nothing (Me & You)”.
Standing alone with her electric guitar, Rebekah looks pretty small on Voodoo’s stage but musically certainly isn’t. Rebekah’s voice is confident as she moves through her set, navigating an uplifting key change in ‘Mango Dreams’. At such a young age Rebekah always portrays her musical including interpreting a Kate’s Party track on the piano. Rebekah’s last song is the first she ever wrote, ‘One Day More’.
From one talented female artist to another, Jess Edlin takes her place with little fanfare and launches into her first track. There’s plenty going on in Jess’ music but the first thing that hits me is her guitar work which tends to float over the top of the backing music. One or two songs however showcase more direct sounding guitar with one bluesy riff sounding not too dissimilar to a Black Keys effort, with a bit less of the fuzz. While much of the sound is filled out by backing tracks tonight, Jess is joined on stage by drummer Chris. Sadly the drumming overpowers a couple of the early songs but once that is under control, and the electronic beats join in, the two boast a great sound.
There’s a great diversion from their usual sound as Jess moves over to keys and Chris on to the djembe drum. It is distinctly different from the rest of the set, with dainty but eccentric sounding piano and Chris’ seemingly replicating the beats from before, with a very different tone.
However the biggest vendors of electronic beats on the night are a duo barely out of their protective packaging, Shadow Police. The band, consisting of Matthew Duly and Daniel Thornton, both members of Belfast’s Lipstik Lizards, are no strangers to local music. Shadow Police is a very different affair however judging by their stage set up, with a couple of synths, a laptop, a guitar and mics for both. Tonight marks their very first performance.
The band, or indeed anyone hearing them, may soon yawn at the mention of 80s synth pop but it is hard to get away from. Certainly the band already seem to wearing the comparisons on their sleeves. Immediately we’re treated to a deluge of synth, with Duly’s voice swimming through a sea of reverb, singing “I want to talk to you tonight”. First track down and there’s plenty of excitement, already this is a great introduction to a new band, with a throwback sound. Their tracks may vary in tempo but invariably everything tonight is embedded in a neon soundscape.
The self proclaimed “better Jedward” work through a set of the kind of songs any fan of 2011’s Drive would be sure to love. There’s a couple of dancier numbers but largely Duly appears to be yearning with one song evoking a singer lamenting on stage at 3am in a half empty bar. Perhaps 80s film scores had a say in Shadow Police’s sound. With Thornton making full use of guitar volume swells and Duly’s falsetto pushing further up his vocal register, the duo close out their set.
While Vokxen may have robbed us of enjoying their truly first live performance, thanks to a battle of the band set the night before, this certainly feels like a debut. While I maintain that Northern Ireland has an absolute wealth of musical talent from men and women, it is great to see an all female four-piece. Supposedly the band have only been together about five months. While that might be reflected in the relatively short length of their set, it certainly isn’t in their performance.
It’s clear from the opening strains of ‘Dark Side’ that this band has it together. ‘Captivated’, beginning with a little piano and voice, really showcases Claire McCartney’s strong soulful vocals but as with a few other songs, vocal duties are shared almost equally with Samantha McMillan on the keys. The band have a real grasp of lovely three-part harmonies throughout their set as well.
The foot tapping keyboard of ‘Start Again’ is leveraged against distorted guitar but as with everything else, it is a genuine pop song at heart. Something shown by their first single, ‘Somebody’. Not content with one poppy hook, ‘Somebody’ like the rest has maybe two or three. One can never be sure where the real chorus lies.
Belfast loves a good “one more tune” chant but when a band plays such a short and sweet set, one wonders how they’ll respond. Another rendition of ‘Hoping’ is the answer apparently. Not content with the reaction the first time around, Claire implores the band to dance along to the uptempo beat. Something the crowd certainly delivers on.
Vokxen put in a confident performance, sounding like a band who have spent much of their short existence honing their sound and live performance. Indeed it’s a night of great performances from every act tonight.