Jealous of the Birds, Mosmo Strange
Thursday 29th November 2018 – Zool Records, Belfast
“I am… lost.”
Co-founder of Zool Records Nolan Donnelly stalks the floor of his office. Hopefully, he finds himself at some point, as there’s a show to put on tonight. As I kick back in my chair, a whose-who of local faces enter and exit. Crew carry in merch and equipment, discuss setups and sup alcohol. Over the loudspeakers, math rock duo WASPS ‘Here Comes Mothra’ blares. Part Time Pilots Frontman Enda Mc Crory makes a brief appearance, laughs loudly at nothing and then disappears. Downstairs, recent ZOOL initiate Blxxd mingles with a host of other musicians. Laughter and raised voices ensue.
I never really get over the buzz from attending secret gigs (although ‘secret’ may not be the correct word to describe tonight judging from the ever-growing crowd). There’s a different energy in the air, a musky adrenaline mixed with uncertainty, eliciting an almost ecstatic fear from the onlookers. Anything can happen, and most likely anything will.
Fresh off their first U.K. tour, local alternative darlings Jealous Of The Birds cap off a string of shows with a local, intimate finale. The night feels, however, less of a show, and more of a celebration. There’s an audible crackle in the air, the laughter sounds a little louder and the drinks seem a little deeper. The invitation stated that the gig was to start at 8 pm, but as with much of ZOOL, it’s very much a winging thing as opposed to a scheduled event. Chaos is the natural order of things it would seem. And so, it is half-past eight when all too familiar prehistoric bass lines emit from the downstairs speakers. As I make my way down the corrugated iron of the stairwell, the vibrations travel up my legs into my stomach. Proper primal stuff. It would seem Mosmo Strange have arrived.
As I take my last steps onto the ground level, the introductory jam slithers to a close to a rupture of applause. We are informed that tonight’s show would be a (hopefully) ‘lounge version’ of the regular set. The result is something akin to the soundtrack outlaws would play while they robbed saloons. The stoner rock riffs retain their edge while a creeping rancour snakes its way forth, disguised by the slower tempo. Frontman Gavin Scott growls into action with the opening of fan favourite George Snorewell – “I want a million dollar microphone” hangs in the air like a threat. The thick slaps of the bass and slower pace match the stoned malevolence, creating an air of perilous hypnotism that accompanies their signature ten-tonne groove. Continuing through their set with a purposeful gait and a gradual malice, MS’s potent cocktail of groove, blues and gravel ensured there was nary a silent hip in the room.
While few bands would be able to top such an opener, it would be unlike Jealous Of The Birds to disappoint. I almost manage to miss opener-and-newest-single ‘Marrow’ due to a heated debate as to what the best tobacco drying methods are (“I just split my bag open and let them hang out” I hear as I make a swift exit), but I manage to catch the first of its sweeping choruses. Frontwoman Naomi Hamilton grins wolfishly between lines at the swaying crowd, revelling in their collective enjoyment. The indie thunder of Marrow swells to almost breaking point before disappearing altogether. A solitary ‘Thank you so much’ is managed before a roar of approval from the gathered onlookers. The band shares an inaudible laugh with each other, before tearing into their indie/alternative spiced sangria setlist.
Throughout the set, I am floored by the particular blend of wit and life, laughter and vitality. My eyes are, at alternating times, drawn to different members of the group but are inevitably back on Hamilton before long. The glue that holds this outfit together, the music swings as she does and burns with a gracious, infectious vigour. Their biting, poetic nature is driven largely by the aching soul of her vocals, which walk the fine line between abrasive and thrilling. Lyrics caked in supple, passionate metaphors and stream of consciousness witticism are partly tender, partly aflame and all impressive. Much like their music, Jealous of the Birds have a bohemian aspect to them when seen live, a free-flowing, joyful exuberance that feeds their crowd and fuels their set. Still high off the fumes of their successful UK tour, the clear elation they feel performing these songs is utterly addictive. I couldn’t remove the smile from my face for the entire night.
The night draws cruelly to a close, but not before JOTB return to their bread and butter roots. Guitarist Danny McClelland comes alive with a snarling riff as the punk overtones take charge. Fan favourite ‘Plastic Skeletons’ threatens to blow the door off its hinges, with its electric chorus taking on a life of its own amidst a sea of headbanging. Punchy and swaggering, with a remarkable sense of ease, JOTB bring their show to a close against a wall of applause and cheers. I find myself unable to clap, however, as I am taken back to a point halfway through the show. Hamilton addressed the crowd with a confident head flick and crooned “I love everyone, but especially you.” A singular direction, aimed towards an entire audience, and I can assure you we all felt it singularly. The strength of Jealous of the Birds lies in their ability to homogenise a crowd while making every individual feel special. A rare gift and one wielded for the forces of good, it helped ensure that this gig was a triumph for the local scene.