Often the weight of expectation can be too much for some bands to handle. Given that early press for their new EP, Pillow Talk was nothing short of exceptional there was a fear that R51‘s live show might not be up to scratch. Thankfully such bouts of anxiety were short lived.
Tasked with opening proceedings tonight is Kryptic State, and the grungy garage rock band don’t mess about. Comparisons to Nirvana are nearly too easy but the Maghera four piece’s sound is closely attuned to Cobain’s. ‘Fallout’ is emphatic with Paul Carey’s vocals straining and at one point a slight rotation of his finger sends a hardcore ten into a chaotic state of thrashing. Mini-mosh pits aside, Kryptic State prove to be a worthy addition to the bill and may be gunning for Gascan Ruckus’ place at the pinnacle of grunge in Northern Ireland.
Exit Pursued By Bear are an interesting proposition, they’ve been about for many a year yet with the exception of a few live performances the band have been keeping a low profile. That’s all set to change as they prepare to release brand new material. The first of this batch is ‘Little Moves and Little Glances’ which is slow burning atmospheric rock at its finest. Most of the set in fact is new but there’s a certain grandeur about their material. If anything it evokes the scale of Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism.
With the demise of her last band still a sore spot for fans of local music, the next outing for Shannon O’Neill was greatly anticipated. Unsurprisingly Sister Ghost is the perfect tonic for those needing their fill of blistering garage rock. Front and centre of a full throttle set is ‘Spineless Whisper’ that chugs along at a gripping pace, while covers of both the Pixies (‘Is She Weird’) and Bjork (‘Army of Me’) are apt given their influence on Shannon’s music. It’s not re-inventing the wheel in any shape or form but that is irrelevant when it’s so captivating.
As enjoyable as the evening has been so far, we are relieved to finally witness R51 take the stage. “Do you dream of me ever?” questions Melyssa and when it comes to this band we’re always dreaming of new material and live shows. What makes R51 that quintessential live band is their ability to mix up the dreamy (‘Pillow Talk’) with the almost riotous as Matthew Killen beats the drums within an inch of their life (‘I Hate This Too’).
Far from being content in their own skin R51 treat the audience to a few guest appearances; first an appearance from Runaway Go’s Dave and Fiona for a sparkling rendition of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ before Stevie Lennox’s talents are utilised on a cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Tunic’. Guest appearances done and dusted we are left with a bone shattering rendition of ‘I Could Kill You Sometimes’ to close out a riveting evening of live music.
If R51 can maintain this level of performance and keep producing music as exciting as that found on their debut EP, then there can be no doubts that they are set for a bright future.