Spectrum Festival 2014
Saturday 7th June 2014 – Speakeasy, Belfast
It was an event that many had been talking about for weeks in advance, helped in large part by the tremendous line-up of eight local bands. A bill headlined by Mojo Fury is impressive enough but when it also includes a homecoming show for the revered A Plastic Rose, one can only imagine the excitement.
Opening band Go Swim are on-stage a mere 15 minutes after doors open which naturally limits their exposure as the venue remains largely empty. Yet the Bombay Bicycle Club-esque tones of ‘Call Sign’ demonstrates that they are a lot tighter with a forthcoming support slot with the Kaiser Chiefs perhaps focusing their minds. The current indie darlings of the local scene, Hurdles run through a short yet technically impressive set for those down early enough. A bit of a surprise that they’re so low on the bill, however they comfortably punch above their weight with the fulsome ‘Control’ justifying all that early hype. New song ‘France’ is perhaps the standout of their set, giving off a refreshing hint of Friendly Fires. Closing out the opening trio of indie electro bands is Affleck, a band who sound so steadfast on their debut self-titled EP but have so far failed to realise the potential of their live show. Whether it is the recent run of big support slots or a newly discovered confidence, the four piece seem to have found their feet tonight, evidenced by an electrifying rendition of ‘Cat King Lightning.’
The Late Twos are a different entity altogether, full of energy and flair in their attempts to purvey their own brand of lad rock. It may not be in vogue but one can only appreciate how well polished the Belfast lads are. Matty Legge is the perfect front man for this band, constantly grinding and writhing throughout the appropriately titled, ‘Don’t Want To Stop This Dance.’ Closing the set with ‘Never Mind’, it is quite clear that the Late Twos have cornered the market on modern teenage angst. The New Ancestors‘ arrival coincides with the first swell of the crowd; sadly their set fails to have the same impact. The venue is now busy and front man Jonny Solari struggles to be heard on the opening solo acoustic number. Their two big numbers ‘Don’t Feel Sad’ and ‘If You Let Me’ have the requisite impact but one suspects tonight’s performance sadly won’t be living long in the memory of many. The announcement that Kasper Rosa would be on the bill raised a few eyebrows, as the band haven’t played on Northern Irish soil for nearly 12 months. A sweaty, visceral half an hour later and it’s clear that the old school band have lost none of their appeal or hunger. Ruthless riffs and a confident aura beg the question of why they haven’t reached the heights of the likes of ASIWYFA.
Many in tonight’s crowd have been waiting for the best part of 12 months for A Plastic Rose‘s homecoming show and thankfully the lads didn’t disappoint. From Gerry’s opening proclamation that “It’s great to f*cking be home”, the crowd are taken on a tour de force through their past, present and future material with plenty of Belfast love thrown in for good measure. It’s re-assuring to see old school favourites ‘Boy Racer’ and ‘Oceans’ play well alongside the likes of ‘All You Know and Love Will Die’. Yet it’s testament to how far the band have come in developing their sound when you compare and contrast the poppy hooks of ‘This Side of Winter’ (relentless touring or late nights partying and drinking unfortunately prevent Gerry from reaching the highs of the opening falsetto) against the blistering rock of ‘Foreign Soil’. Some were a bit shocked by Gerry’s comments in the Belfast Telegraph that “the Belfast scene was shutting down” but apparently he was mis-quoted. Feeling guilty and to make it up to us, there is a first play of forthcoming album track, ‘Pumping Blood’. It is the finale of A Plastic Rose’s set though that shows what the band is all about. An emphatic and rousing rendition of ‘Kids Don’t Behave Like This’ sees a cry of “Taps Aff” and Ian demanding some traditional river dancing before being swept aloft through the Speakeasy towards the bar. The lads wear their heart on their sleeve and alongside some epic tunes, it is clear why us Northern Irish folk are so proud of our go-getting lovable rogues.
Quite a few bands would be quite daunted following up such a striking set, but Mojo Fury are one of the few bands up to the challenge. They opt for a different opening than usual with the chant worthy ‘Terraform’ fading into the extended narrative of ‘Safe in the Arms of the Sound’. Mojo’s set are always a combination of audio and visual, and while there are no matching jumpsuits on show tonight, the light show maintains that sense of drama we’ve come to expect. There may not be tonnes of banter or displays of showmanship but instead all their craft and energy is poured into their songs; ‘Colour of The Bear’ and ‘We Should Just Run Away’ being prime examples while ‘Origami Bird’ is still that irresistible and charming ear worm that pulsates round the venue. The curtain is brought down via a surprising but satisfying all the same, cover of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’. Before Mr Norman left the stage with APR he noted that “Mojo Fury are the best band in Ireland” and based on their ability to put on consistently sublime and talked about shows, one would be foolish to disagree.
Photography by Alice Kearney