Lives, Havana House Party & Thee Penny Dreadfuls
Thursday 19th February 2015 – The Menagerie, Belfast
Have you ever got that feeling; perhaps being on holiday or in a different town for a night out, where you find an underground bar that might not look that inviting from the outside, but the sounds coming trough the little windows just drag your legs towards that little scratched door? While walking through and making that first step the notes heard from the street finally hit your ears as you move into a cosy atmosphere – with candles lit on the tables and a movie projector sparkling pictures on a raw wall between the stage and the soundman who’s tuning in. The Menagerie on University street in Belfast is exactly that kind of a place where Lives – a freshly formed band from Ballynahinch, more a group of good friends: Paul O’Hare (vocals,guitars), Allan Hunter (guitars), Aaron Hunter (drums) and David Walsh (lead guitar) finally decided to engrave their music in the heart of the Northern Irish music scene on Ferbuary 19th. The band is currently in the process of recording and the songs are ready to be heard. Support came from Thee Penny Dreadfuls and Havana House Party who are both getting ready for recording sessions also.
Thee Penny Dreadfuls are a five piece band, a very unusual collaboration of characters and sounds.They were the first to walk on stage and opened their set with ‘Zombie’, laying down grunge noise accompanied by lively, pleasantly psychedelic organ (under Denny Dreadful Dennison’s fingers which echoed the sound of The Doors in my head) that grounded Benny’s wild vocals. The cold he struggled with lately only added to his already edgy voice. He played his left handed guitar with heavy distortion and pulled the strings leaving the noise hanging in the air to smoothly move to the next song of the set. It seemed that instead of interacting with the public he preferred to sink into song after song. Kriss (guitar), Paddy (drums) and Norm (bass) were also creating fresh blasts of the 60’s best; because of the stage layout Norm played the bass holding it almost vertically, yet there was no awkwardness in his movement, just steady, solid rhythm. The very energetic performance was delivered to warm up the guests for another treat.
Havana House Party does indeed represent a very different, but still unconventional style. With the new songs under their sleeves they opened their frisky set with ‘Kettle Black Pot’. The song flows in between various guitar rhythms, starting off slowly to build up into upbeat drums (Aidan Stow) and very unique ‘Havanish’ guitar combo. Deano Kelly (guitar, vocals) Marty Gallagher (guitar) and Brendan McQuillan (bass) were clearly experimenting with a range of guitar pedals and perfectly plotted the sounds alongside their front man’s voice. The ability of singing between the higher to lower notes runs perfectly along with the new arrangements, giving each song a different musical dimension. In between the tunes from their previous EP Demons another surprise was served from the stage: ‘Billy Bog Roll’ – a humorous ballad with a reggae twist that spread a warm, fuzzy feeling throughout the room. They kept the spirits high with their laid back, happy –go-lucky, rock’n’roll style intertwined with cheeky chat to the crowd leaving the stage ready for the headline band.
Lives appeared on the stage starting with a very strong guitar riff for ‘Down By The Sea’ rolling their fingers slowly up and down the guitar frets. After a weighty intro Paul’s voice arose steady from the speakers and ran smoothly alongside the stable drum beat. The next song they played was ‘Falling Apart’ followed by ‘Ballad Of The Brack’ which began with a simple one string build up backed up by drums only to blast like a strong river delta into a sharp, full steam tune just to flow back to that first unshakable beat. In this song the vocals slightly reflected Radiohead’s mellow tones, only to be disturbed by a great guitar solo in ‘Lies’ after which the front man swapped his six stringer for a .. . bass guitar in ‘Visions’. After this unusual switch more vibrant, à la The Vaccines riffs were played for ‘That’s What They Call Heartbreak’ and ‘Awkward Friends’.
It truly felt like the group knew each other for a long time; they presented good tight timing in songs and a flawless swap of sounds. The only noticeable flaw was the lack of interaction with the crowd in between the songs where sometimes longer breaks were taken in order to tune their instruments, but as with many other artists out there, it might be just their style or simply the focus they had put into their debut gig.
Overall the performance left me hungry for the upcoming EP, with great songs delivered in this rather quirky venue. It was an enjoyable evening, filled with a mixture of styles, stage movements and musical talent. The musical prognosis for Spring 2015 in Belfast looks very interesting indeed.