Bad Fit and Franklyn
Thursday 23th June 2016 – McHugh’s Basement, Belfast
After a year of enigmatic online presence, Belfast’s “baddest” new band Bad Fit decide to reveal themselves. Choosing McHugh’s Bar for their literal underground debut show emphasises the band’s clandestine nature, and exacerbates the trendy hype surrounding their name. The night’s tone is set with a 1990s pop-punk soundtrack, with glitter décor surrounding the walls and electrical equipment, reviving a nostalgic era as well as producing a feeling of warmth from the moment of entering the room. As the seats very gradually fill up for the opening act, the atmosphere becomes one of slight impatience overpowered by fashionable carelessness. Franklyn, the opening act, arrive late and must hurry to set up their gear (and in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, get their drinks at the bar).
Franklyn open the night with an aesthetic twist of heavy indie rock to conflict with the expectations that silver glitter and softcore soundtracks forecast. Sounding very much like The Boxer Rebellion fusing with The Beatles, Franklyn’s bass-heavy tone dominates the quickly growing crowd and invokes even the beardiest hipster (the man sitting beside me) to clap (eventually). There is very little interaction from the band, done perhaps in such a way that the music talks. They communicate their collective individuality with some interesting chromatic shifts, and their instrumental synchronicity becomes apparent as the driving force behind their appeal; the snare drum and vocal line match up to produce resounding plosives, dovetailed by a surprising pairing between bass and lead guitar riffs. In particular, their song ‘We Don’t Want To Live’ comes closer to a modern day equivalent of 1960s rock music than the likes of Oasis or One Direction, despite what Paul McCartney says – he clearly hasn’t looked far enough.
Leaving the stage, the crowd now waits for the headliner’s first appearance, the coming together of frontwoman Grace Loughrey, bassist-vocalist Megan O’Kane, lead guitarist Danny McConaghie, and drummer ‘Rad Pando’. When they begin their first song, I can’t see the band at all because there are just too many people in the room, and so I resort to doing what everybody else seems to be doing: I climb on a very unstable chair and try to balance myself while enjoying the music. Bad Fit have worked hard online to correlate their name with a sense of mystery, similar to Where’s Fluffy from the film Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, so it is not hard to guess why so many people overwhelm the room.
By this time, the tiny room was filled to burst with eager fans desiring to hear Belfast’s recently rumoured ‘next big thing’. This is perhaps the most surprising part of the night; this brand new band have somehow oversold their debut show without any prior accolades bar their previous bands. Not only this, but during the middle of Belsonic, attesting to the powerful combination of good music, musical community, and alcohol. Bad Fit ease into each song as they deliver a set-list laden with rough phasing tones, playful percussive dynamics, and powerful vocal and guitar crescendos, to an overeager crowd of incipient fans – like me – standing ridiculously on seats and spilling alcohol everywhere.
From song to song, between verse and chorus, Bad Fit exude a sense of instinctive cohesion in both musical structure and stage presence, powered further with every glance they chance at this growing sea of face. Each cadence shift and minor vocal harmony contributes to the raw tone of Bad Fit’s unique soundscape, which some might view as imperfect or incomplete. However, this is how Bad Fit can so easily evoke feelings of nostalgia or love, and communicate the realism of life in their songs.
Although difficult to hear the lyrics, Megan O’Kane and Grace Loughrey’s harmonic mastery shook the walls. Playing off of each other’s distinct register, they provide a high-low contrast that shouldn’t work but does, producing a satisfyingly jarring effect to accompany their softcore instrumentalism. However, the obscured lyrics did nothing to stop the audience singing the eponymous line of ‘Strong Forever’ in a communal show of affection for the band. A contrast can be drawn between the soft nature of the band’s music video and single, and the crazed audience members, forcing the band out of their comfort zone and into a performative reflection of this enthusiasm.
Bad Fit conclude with a simple and dynamically playful song, as mysteriously unnamed as the rest of their set. This song perhaps sums up what Belfast’s baddest band is all about: seemingly easygoing and straightforward pop-rock, until the band decide to shake things up and take us by surprise. Each new aural twist introduces a fresh approach to the pop-rock genre. In addition, their ability to entertain a large crowd at such an early stage of their career is a testament to where they stand as of now, and from where they can expect to grow exponentially into sensational entertainers.
Their glittery and colourful visual brand perfectly reflects their pop-rock style, added to by enchantingly sweet over-saturation of harmony, melody and high-end solo guitar work such as that of Rivers Cuomo. It’s a hard style to pull off, but Bad Fit seem to deserve this defining quality more than the many other bands who attempt this appropriation of genre. In this respect, Bad Fit can perhaps fill the Wonder Villains-shaped gap left in the Belfast music scene, especially if they capitalise on their popularity and graceful affinity for musical performance and production. We should all look forward to what comes next from Bad Fit, which will undoubtedly add to the mysterious nature of the band, and perpetuate the incredible success of their first show.