Arborist, Franklyn, Our Krypton Son & Joel Harkin
Saturday 28th January 2017 – Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast
A simple idea, the ambitiously collaborative Independent Venue Week is a week-long celebration of grassroots music venues. Showcases nationwide let us appreciate our local venues, the backbones of our creative scenes, a reminder of where local creativity takes its all-important roots. Oh Yeah Centre’s beating heart of the Belfast music scene, joins 148 other venues to showcase local musicianship. On the bill we have Arborist, Franklyn, Our Krypton Son and Joel Harkin.
We sit down for Joel Harkin making his Oh Yeah debut this year, a previous feature artist for the venue’s ‘Breaking Bands’. Harkin’s vocals capture the essence of storytelling – following a self-styled ‘ambient-folk’, ‘ambient-country’ sensibility – and are delivered to us over an instrumental template of glassy, effects-laden guitar.
Harkin’s set is emotionally-centered. Capturing escapist fantasy, imagined encounters that blur reality and fiction, and earnest memorial for lost loved ones.
There are a number of walk-offs for one track where the song’s narrative of murdering a young woman lands badly with members of the crowd. The track’s graphic imagery is fairly effective in destabilizing the mood of the evening – the good vibes of an early drinks reception under the fairy lights turning black as Harkin describes peeling skin away with a potato-peeler. All things considered, a strong reminder of the influence our storytelling heritage can have.
Surprised by how harrowingly sonorous premeditated murder can be when played back by a young Donegal man, the applause is accompanied by a room-wide sinking of drinks and appropriate feg exodus.
Eager listeners sit back down for Our Krypton Son to take to the stage. An act that is truly on-form, momentum building alongside a collaborative relationship with the folks at Smalltown America, who’ve helped to produce the forthcoming album ‘Fleas and Diamonds’. Derry’s answer to an Elvis Costello-Mark Kozelek cross-over episode, six-stringed flaneur Chris McConaghy has been hotly tipped by AU, Culture NI and received a well-earned Electric Mainline feature towards the end of 2016. After live session-ing for ATL McConaghy now previews tracks from the eagerly awaited new album to the Oh Yeah audience’s eager ears. This isn’t the songcraft you’d expect to be carved out of a child’s guitar, but one that negotiates heavy weight of intimacy, found and lost – all the emotional flux that bubbles up after songwriting sojourn to Creeslough, the cold Throat Lake.
From the earthy ‘Everything Reminds Me of You’ to previous single ‘Relics’, the songs are humbling, effortlessly crafting atmosphere and showcasing the songwriter’s deepening maturity.
The first full band lineup of the evening are Franklyn. Three parts General Fiasco, the electrically-charged indie rock four-piece recently toured briefly in support of Twin Atlantic. Celebrating the release of their ‘Friends/Tongue Tied’ double A-side through No Dancing Records, performance energy runs high as the band unapologetically dominate the venue, setting the stage for Arborist.
Arborist (meaning ‘tree surgeon’, now our official word of the day), are unfazed by the late-late-evening gig, delivering gentler acoustic arrangements, spinning out aching Americana, swirling romance narratives that have seen acclaim from MOJO and a four-star reception by The Guardian. Featuring unmistakable harmonies from Pixies’ Kim Deal on debut album ‘Home Burial’, the new release’s vinyl pressings sold out in record time. With a beautifully tender set rendered from Arborist’s debut release, the evening winds down, the applause sounds and we can only eagerly look forward to more from Independent Venue Week.