A cool autumnal night was the setting for a night of bars at the American Bar in Belfast as ASPHYXIA hosted their second night post-lockdown with a Leo Miyagee headline set with support from Lacuna and Polatol.
The bar which sits on its own little world outside the drama of the city provided a cosy room for the night, it fitted the DIY aesthetic of Asphyxia which was born out of the grunge of student flats around Belfast where they put on shows pre-Covid. The walls covered with a cascading collage made up of posters of indie icons and pieces of art-putting their stamp (quite literally) on proceedings.
Interestingly, the gig began with two short films shown via projector, the first film by Carrickfergus director Sam Bell called Carrier, an unsettling yet moving piece. The second was Truth and Dare by renowned director and photographer, Jonas Lindstroem which depicted an array of stark images of fire and blood. It went over a few heads as some were confused and amused at the Avant-garde beginning, though it is another case of Asphyxia asserting their identity on proceedings.
The first act of the night was Polatol, Millisle rapper who brought his trap-heavy tunes to the stage. This was his first gig in over a year he explained to the audience stating that be a “tiny bit rusty”. He relied on lip synching to get him through, but it felt like he was holding back as his vocals couldn’t be heard above the track. As the set went on the audience sympathetic to Polatol started to engage more, a particular table of his mates were offering their own support by singing along. When performing ‘Blackout’ he was most comfortable as this track had a sing-along chorus of La La La La La La La which allowed the audience to get involved.
After a short intermission, it was the first EVER gig for Dromara’s Lacuna who was a late replacement for Jack Bashful. He performed mainly unreleased tracks including a banger produced by Bashful which brought energy amongst his brand of moody and off kilter rap. It didn’t feel like a first gig performance though as he seemed natural and comfortable in front of the audience commanding the stage and the room. He too relied on his backing track and vocals but you could hear him live on the mic as he spat his bars with bravado and coherence. This was shown when performing his track Fivefingers he had the audience laughing at his bars “Chubby little bastard with a shaved head and some existential dread”. As he broke into the track …PARAFIN he quipped to the audience “This ones sad again, sorry” who at this point where eating out of his hand. In the final tune he ended with a tune he’d made in dedication to the late rapper MF DOOM of whom his influence is seen throughout Lacuna, who himself had made quite the first impression.
“Need to put some effort in for them to think it’s effortless” Miyagee rapped, and this sums up his performance who showed why he was the headliner. After a brief introduction it was into the song that broke him into the scene Akulalake, Miyagee said he wasn’t sure if he was going to perform a full set and that it would depend, though this was met with disapproval from the crowd who were not going to be short changed. He broke into the next track Jeff Hardy, a hype track which had Miyagee pacing about the stage like a lion tracking its prey. He held the mic like a water bottle as he spat the speedy verse with ease. He took things down a notch going into a slower track from his latest LP Act III Steez Royale where he grabbed a stool to get personal with the audience and look them in their eyes. Miyagee’s ability to make sure what he is saying is heard is seen with Blackmoon where he raps “The best advice I got was just let it sit” and pauses to let the audience to feel it. In between tracks he took the time for a shameless self-plug asking the onlookers to follow him on Spotify and social media. It was smart though, as Asphyxia has been typically associated with an indie crowd, all performers had the task of winning them over. Miyagee showed that he is still learning as a performer too though as at the end of Kudos, he had missed the chance for a sing along with the catchy Na na na na na na chorus. “I probably should’ve told you guys to sing-along” he notes wryly as the crowd laugh. Before he knows it he’s done a full set as he closes with the banger Westy to send everyone on their way.