The upstairs venue of the Ulster Sports Club is bathed in red light, ironic given the go ahead nature of tonight’s celebrations. After all, with this being the first chance many of us have had to return to the aul’ standing gigs malarky, you’d think green would have been more sufficient. Restrictions, seemingly, are completely gone and tonight’s crowd of young, vibrant punters are making the most of it. Groups mill into each other, wearing slacker fashion, trying their best to seem uncool. A mix of shoegaze and post-rock in on the playback, soaking the steadily filling room and drilling into to the garish, beer soaked carpet. It’s a true assault on the senses. God, I missed it.
First on the night we have Newry songwriter Lauren Ann. With a selection of session players rounding out the outfit, I was keen to check out the voice that had grabbed the attention of the CB editorial team in recent months (particularly her latest record ‘Lucy’). Despite her young career, the talent is evident and clear. With vocals that harken back to the dreamy indie of the 90’s, Ann’s set is brimming with character and she looks the part of a band leader ready.
Don’t let the vocals full you however, there’s an aggressively nostalgic alternative edge to these tracks. Grungy rock makes up the backbone of this set list and tracks like ‘Lucy’ and ‘Angel Eyes’ translate flawlessly in the crowd setting (which is significantly large by this point in the evening), with the fledgling stagecraft and presence improving as the evening continued on.
NewDad are on stage an hour later and are every bit as good as advertised. One of the lockdown’s breakout bands (alongside the likes of Kynsy and The Magazine Club), seeing a band discover themselves in darkness, for perhaps the first time this decade is fascinating. With a sound and persona entirely shaped online and grown throughout the pandemic, watching a culmination of their efforts in a rammed venue on opening night of their first Irish tour was a treat.
A tight set from start to finish with minimal crowd back-and-forth, the Galway band are shy but effusive. Playing a mix of already established fan favourites and some unheard tracks (producer Chris Ryan watches lovingly from the crowd), NewDad are in the grips of discovering their live sound and are already hurtling down the path – newsflash, it’s both the sound of right now and of tomorrow, the sound of TikTok and Instagram reels crashing together into an impossibly addictive and magnetic blend. Sprawling, dream-like guitars and vocals tumble over each other in a vibrant cascade of alt-pop meets indie-rock. They don’t need the crowds support, but they receive a roar of it anyway as we delve deeper into the instantly recognisable arrangements that have buoyed their career to this point. The night ends with an encore and a riotous applause. Welcome back gigs.