Susie Blue album launch with support from Foreign Owl & Molly Sterling
Saturday 17th February 2018 – Sandinos, Derry
The launch of Susie Blue’s new album was something that kept people talking, a good two weeks prior to the event. On Saturday, Sandinos opened its doors to the band and welcomed another two supporting acts in the upstairs bar – Molly Sterling and Foreign Owl. The room was freezing cold and the concert didn’t start until after 10pm – but in the end, it was all worth it. By the end of the night, the atmosphere would be unreal and the room boiling hot. Two hours through, the walls shook with noise as each band managed to give the audience the shivers in their own way.
Molly Sterling performed as an all female two piece, with Sterling joined by a cellist. Molly Sterling on keys has the biggest earrings ever seen and she sings with a voice that is somewhere between Adele and London Grammar. There is a melancholic vibe in the duo’s heartfelt songs and their music belongs in Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse.
Molly performed for over half an hour, punctuating each song with words of greetings and gratitude for the audience. The two girls echo each other in warm music that contrasts the coldness of the room. Their music is simply stunning, something you would pay big bucks to hear. There is a bit of Lana Del Rey and a bit of Julee Cruise with all the very powerful vocals. It is sad and beautiful and the red curtains of Sandino’s only exacerbated the Twin Peaks touch. Molly Sterling then left the stage to thunderous applause. Not too accustomed to playing in Derry, they gained plenty of love and respect.
Foreign Owl was next to play – a radically different band that imposed itself after one song. Foreign Owl is composed of three guys and the dress code is somewhere between the English 60’s, Ezra Miller and American rappers.
The interesting thing is that the two guys on the mic couldn’t be more different, and yet their music perfectly works. The way Simon and Garfunkel’s voices aligned perfectly to create a pleasing melody, Foreign Owl managed to make the vocals sound right. One of the guys plays barefoot, a great achievement given how cold the stage must have been. He is a bit OTT and should focus more on the music but he adds to the charisma of the band in a sense. Their music comes from another world – it is Cigarettes after Sex meets Nirvana, due to one of the boys’ smooth and feminine voice. No matter how they make it happen, it works. It is Greg Gonzalez’ voice with harsher music, one that’s more rock’n’roll and 80’s combined. Something out of your teenage years.
At that point, the room had significantly warmed up and the ultra-loud battery was making the walls shake violently.
Their music plays a lot on echo. There’s a bit of The Knife and a bit of Die Antwoord, a combination I didn’t think was possible. It is a bit loud at times but all songs have a very powerful beginning with vocals that sync very nicely. Foreign Owl sang four songs and occupied the stage for about half an hour before leaving to loud cheering from the crowd.
And then, the plat de résistance.
Susie Blue arrived on stage with ‘Lisbeth’, a song written in reference to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. The rhythm is good, it sounds a bit like Placebo with a female voice. A few notes in, the second song, ‘She’s a Keeper’, shows a strong Cranberries influence. It is an interesting phenomenon to observe, because every song from then on bore similarities to the Cranberries in the beginning – an influence, however, that the band would dissociate from as the music progressed.
Frontwoman Susie has a wonderful and transporting voice. Her music is filled with angst and melancholia and a remote 80’s vibe, like synthwave or shoe-gazing music. A powerful voice for such a tiny body. As the songs go on, her Dolores O’Riordan voice gets stronger. It is the same vibe, the same voice, the same charisma. A new Cranberries in the making in other words. ‘Doing My Head In’ sounds like ‘Dreams’ and Susie, punctuating each song with anecdotes about the making of the music, explains “writing this song was a very long process, but it was very beautiful.”
It is a great performance, Susie is natural and fluid. But THEN, there is ‘People Like Us’. From the first beat set by the batter, the tune is unreal. It is a totally different atmosphere, more rhythmic and funky than the oneiric tunes played so far. More songs in this world should be like this one. Words do not even cover how amazing the beat was. Everything about this song was perfect. Susie dedicated it to local politicians, she said “When we get equality, I might stop singing about being gay, but until then go f* yourself.”
Susie finished off the gig with a cover of ‘Zombie’, something that seemed legitimate and necessary. It was a brilliant cover that brought the crowd together, singing along.
That night, Sandinos was filled with a crowd of eclectic people, all gathered in the one room. Outcasts, weirdos and hipsters – amazing people living up to Sandinos standards. Each performance was different but equally received a warm and cheerful support from the audience. An atmosphere that perpetuated long after the gig was over, as fans and artists shared the dancefloor until closing time.