Radar Presents Pocket Billiards with support from Chocolate Love Factory and Tied To Machines
Thursday 20th September 2012 – Speakeasy, Belfast
It was the first Radar of the new academic year in the Speakeasy bar at the Student Union. To say I was quite apprehensive about covering a gig in the students union during fresher’s week was a bit of an understatement. First impressions didn’t let me down I was able to follow the smell of beer up to the Speakeasy bar, where at 9 o’clock I found a rather rowdy bunch of fresher’s enjoying the beer and other drink offers.
The atmosphere was one of excitement and Chocolate Love Factory was to be the first act on with the duty to get the crowd revved up. The three-piece formed in 2009 and had been compared to “QOTSA on coke”, so I was eager for their set to begin. The dry ice was sprayed and as the guitar exploded through the speakers the crowd rushed to the stage. They started the show with ‘Rat Bag’ and before long the crowd were jumping in time with the beat. The guys were full of energy and didn’t disappoint as their guitar riffs and raw vocals filled the room. Next came ‘Townlands,’ their set included a touching tribute to Joe, and an impromptu happy birthday to Mary Clare, a girl in the audience. The set list included a mix of old and new songs, perfect for fans and first timers alike including; ‘Scarlett Blues’, ‘Green’, ‘Coral Lady’ and their new single ‘Motivator’ which fools you at the start with its poppy riffs but before long Rory’s soul steaming screams hit you in the face. It was an exciting performance and one that left me wanting to see and hear more of this band.
Before their set I managed to chat with Ed from Tied to Machines, it was great to get an insight to the guys and their music. With the release of their second EP in August their sound is evolving and is mind blowing to your ears. Ed told me how he himself had studied at Queens and reckoned he had been present at around 100 radar gigs. The fact that his band was going to perform here on the very stage where he had seen some “insane bands” play was not lost on him. The crowd was building and he was looking forward to a great show. The fact that he was playing Radar had filled him with butterflies, he explained though that he needed that rush of adrenaline to be able to perform with the energy that he does. He was looking forward to converting some folks in the audience and he also told me of the bands hopes to tour Europe in the near future explaining that bands of their genre find it difficult to crack the UK market whereas in Europe the punk scene were more open. I couldn’t wait to see that energy that Ed had been talking about and he didn’t let me down. They bounced from the minute they got onstage. Opening with ‘Otamendi’, then swiftly into ‘Kid Icarus,’ I could actually feel the floor bounce beneath my feet. The guys were truly mental on stage. Ed announced two songs in that he was wrecked, which didn’t surprise me in the slightest. He had a quick chat with the fresher’s before playing ‘No Worries’ and ‘Pigs’ from their new EP. They blasted into ‘S is for Salamander’ (by ASIWYFA), then ‘Sociopath’ by now the crowd were as mental as the band themselves. A quick last word from Ed about Pocket Billiards and then the last song ‘Wookie’, a hard and fast song to make sure the audience wouldn’t forget them. We had members of the band crowd surfing to finish off. An amazing show from start to finish left me wanting more and looking forward to blasting their EP on the long drive home.
Pocket Billiards had the honour of headlining the night. The crowd after being thoroughly warmed up by the two previous bands were ready for them and their unique mix of ska, punk and a little bit of everything. They started their set with the title track of their new album ‘Last Chance to Dance’. The crowd clapped in time with the music. I felt like I had been transported back to the days of the Specials. The crowd sang along. And it was easy to see that the bulk of audience had come for Pocket Billiards. This was followed with ‘Panic’ and some interaction with the crowd about how glad they were to be back at Radar. ‘What you want followed’, the crowd surfing began in this song. The crowd was a sea of bouncing people. The sound of the trumpet and saxophone give a real edge to the music. The next song was ‘Tetrisaurus Rex,’ a hint of electro pop with ska based on the computer games of the past not the shit they have today (their words not mine!). The crowd were united in their chants of “fight fight fight” with fists in the air. This led into ‘So Many People So Little Time’ full of gritty lyrics and an urban sound. The crowd went wild when ‘Drinking’ was played. With the crowd chanting madly “oi oi oi oi” the band began to play ‘Dirty Money.’ The unique thing about Pocket Billiards is that at times it’s like listening to 2 bands play simultaneously, it shouldn’t work but it does. We were guaranteed the future of the Billiards as with the arrival of 2 more babies this year they now have enough for Billiards juniors. The next song culminated in the first Radar circle of the year when ‘Drinking’ started which I felt was rather appropriate for fresher’s week. I must admit I have never seen so many men up dancing on their own. There were calls to get down on your honkers. What a sight it was to see the whole audience down and bouncing and then jumping up and wildly dancing. Their finale was ‘Belfast Town’ a perfect song to end the night. The lighters in the air at the beginning then the crowd went wild. I really didn’t know what to expect with Pocket Billiards when I arrived but I had an amazing night and whether you are the age of me who can remember ska first time round or you are just a young fresher, for a mad night of fun the Billiards won’t disappoint. Neither did Radar as the calibre of the acts from opening night have set the bar high for the rest of year.