Alternative pop chanter Alice LA’s brand new single ‘Flowers and Florentines’has provided the perfect step into spring. Having certainly secured a reputation for producing inspired content the Banbridge native has been a welcomed breath of fresh air in a sometimes-predictable musical landscape. Currently a part of The Oh Yeah Music Centre’s prestigious Scratch My Progress programme which focuses on talent development it has been energising watching Alice progress over the year.
A refreshing and joyous opening the overtly pop vocal feels like a warm friendly breeze before reaching the grandeur of the chorus As with Alice’s previous singles there is a thrilling high with sharp expressive lyrics supporting a song that will resonate long after you’ve finished listening to it. The expanded sound and pulsating beat along with the gale force power of LA’s vocal has truly cemented ‘Flowers and Florentines’ as a modern pop presence.
A cornerstone of Belfast’s arts and music scene right in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, performing at ‘The Mac’ for many artists represents a distant dream. For burgeoning alt pop starlet,Rebekah Fitch not only did she achieve her goal in what many would still describe as the infancy of her career, but she made it look easy. That is not to discredit all the months of hard work leading up to Tuesday’s career defining performance but one that many would have found difficult. A bold move by an any artist Rebekah Fitch proved that for some, taking a risk and refusing to let anyone tell you what you can achieve is exactly what the moment called for.
Opening the evening’s event is Derry’s resident songbird,Reevah. Earnestly taking her place at the front of the stage she begins her set with ‘Spaces’. Tender lyrics and even softer vocal tones are delivered in a calmly iridescent hue to a very receptive audience. A relatively new song, ‘Older Now’ is performed in a lower register than we are used to hearing Reevah sing. Proving a welcomed change, it helps to highlight Reevah’s impressive vocal range and intensify her dreamy aesthetic. Often, it seems as though acts feel pressure to move hurriedly through their set but Reevah has this ability to make it feel as though time is standing still with her pensively poised performance.
Inviting the rest of her band to the stage they begin with the ever atmospheric and riveting ‘Nights’. Instantly changing the dynamic, we are treated to amplified adaptations of Reevah’s songs, enhancing the folky simplicity. A culmination of both Reevah’s pop and country instincts, ‘Runaway’is elevated with dynamic drums and crooning guitar. The openness of the Mac’s downstairs theatre provides the perfect space for Reevah’s amplified voice to float through the audience. New song ‘26’ which will be released at the end of the month is particularly poignant and I believe marks the new era of Reevah’s journey as a songwriter. Closing her set with ‘Daydreamer’the song builds to its dramatic conclusion with Reevah’s typical high and haunting vocal melodies.
A brief break ensures the audience return eager for the performance to begin. The stage shrouded in darkness adds to the suspense as playful lights bounce across the theatre and set the scene. Emerging onto the stage with her trademark soaring vocal, Rebekah both looks and acts every bit the self- assured popstar. Moving with coolness towards the front of the stage she takes her position at the keyboard. Starting her set with ‘Another Show’it is immediately obvious that this is anything but another typical performance. An explosion of pop perfection the sound begins to swell, flooding the auditorium with the assistance of her impressive band.
Gliding through her set to ‘Fake Smiles’ the high drama and quintessential pop drum beat all serve to emphasise her defining emotional vocal. Brand new song‘Poison’considers all those outside influences that have managed to gain power over our true purpose. A creatively charged rendition of the song the ominous undertones add a little darkness to the otherwise bright affair. Surprising the audience by surging into ‘Gimme Shelter’ by the Rolling Stones the song is sustained by rumbling drums and roaring vocals.
Introducing new track ‘Enigma’ Rebekah moves away from her keyboard weaving in and around the stage. A visceral force of nature it’s not hard to imagine her holding down even bigger venues with her fiery stage presence. With the band briefly leaving the stage we are left with just Rebekah and her string ensemble. A poignant performance of‘Afraid of the Light’ there is a profound passion in her vocal which along with the strings is simply beautiful. Similar to a lot of Rebekah’s songs the lyrics are introspective and carry a raw sentiment through to the audience. The band return just in time for‘Need to Feel’ and again we are re-introduced to the beguiling stage show.
Leaving the stage in darkness the same way she began the reaction from the audience is a crowd desperate for more. Returning for an encore Rebekah sincerely thanks the audience for one of the best nights of her life. Leaving us with a message of hope, she begins ‘Hosanna’ and has a similar feel to being present at a religious homily both musically and lyrically. Ending in epic fashion with ‘Love So Crazy’, Rebekah receives a much-deserved standing ovation from the audience for her whole performance. A majestic affair with one of Northern Ireland’s most auspicious hopefuls, it is a triumph in every sense of the word. There is always a moment in an artist’s career when it becomes clear that they are destined for bigger things, tonight in the Mac was Rebekah Fitch’s.
It’s my first gig of the year and while initially only attending the event as a faithful gig-goer I am so impressed by the end of the evening I decide to put together a review. Starting off my 2019 by attending one of my favourite musical venues, Belfast’s ‘The Empire’ there is a palpable buzz. The crowd gathered all drawn to see an amazing line-up of female led talent featuring Jess Edlin, Gemma Bradley, Reevah and for their very first show Problem Patterns. Organised by Shizznigh Promotion’s, Jonny McKee, Gifted has deservedly earned its reputation as one of Belfast’s prominent gig nights.
After a substantial crowd had gathered Jess Edlin opens the evening, my first time seeing her perform. There are definite hints of nervousness as she begins which is understandable giving the quietness of the room. The contemporary singer songwriter seems to find her stride and along with a grungy guitar we are treated to a very fragile and delicate vocal. Edlin has a charming vulnerability to her performance and provides an enjoyable start to the evening.
Songstress Gemma Bradley is next to the Empire stage bringing her eclectic fusion of RnB and pop. Having already built a remarkable repertoire Bradley’s aptitude to coin soul baring pop songs has helped influence her ever growing following. Performing her most recent single ‘Hollow Heartbeat’ it was impossible not to nod my head to the enchantingly catchy and pop-soaked tune. Often with some singer-songwriters their set can become a little lacklustre however Bradley possesses enough power as a performer to keep the audience constantly engaged.
Dreamy folk singer Reevah is up next, taking her place on the Empire stage and beginning her set with just herself. Performing new song ‘Bee’s’ the delicate vocal delivery exposes a darkness and despair to some of her lyrics and is tinged with a sweet melancholy. Joined for the second half of her set by her band the extra additions give another level of depth to Reevah’s songs. Accompanied by her band ‘Nights’ is a palliative and immersive song with an entrancing and calming melody. Whether Reevah is performing solo or accompanied by her band she maintains the ability to hold the audience in the palm of her hand.
Finally, for their very first performance five-piece feminist punk outfit Problem Patterns are ready to show us what they are all about. There is a huge surge in energy in ‘The Empire’ with the group having a considerable crowd of supporters who occupy the front of the stage. Originally forming as part of Girls Rock School NI, there had been talk for them to write originals for the better part of a year. Finally, in Autumn 2018, they got it together, and haven’t stopped screaming since.
Performing their debut track ‘Allegedly’ the song is a formidably charged and derisive reproach against a society that has become tolerant to sexual assault and even more powerful live. Sometimes amid uncertainty a band like Problem Patterns come along who are not only able to soliloquise certain issues but make you feel like change is possible. What also makes this group so interesting aside from their topical lyricism is the fact they do not have a clear front-woman but instead switch roles and instruments making it an exhilarating watch. Setting the bar for their future performances insanely high, Problem Patterns debut gig was an overwhelming success for a band at any stage of their career.
Announcing their brand-new name, Derry based trio Sugarwolf are rapidly building anticipation and intrigue around upcoming shows. Rising from the ashes of former band Making Monsters the band have returned with a new name, sound and attitude. Originally formed in 2011 the band navigated their way through several line-up changes before finding success both locally and throughout the UK.
No strangers to the DIY graft of the Irish and UK rock scenes, Sugarwolf previously released all their music independently. Juxtaposing the two sides of their new distinctive sound, Sugarwolf, represents both the rock-oriented side as well as having a melodic and pop base. Led by front woman Emma Gallagher the band previously secured a reputation as one of Ireland’s most exciting rock outfits and plan to continue to do so.
Following a multitude of successful releases, they received extensive airplay on BBC Radio One, Across the Line, Kerrang Radio and others. In support of their last record ‘Bad Blood’ in 2016 the band performed at Camden Rocks Festival in London and the BBC Introducing Stage at T in The Park. Sharing the stage with the likes of Black Peaks, Young Guns, Fightstar, We Came As Romans, andSkindred helped earn the band the reputation as one of the best live acts in Ireland.
Before going on hiatus their last E.P ‘Bad Blood’ surpassed all expectation, receiving gushing praise from the likes of BBC Radio 1, Kerrang! Magazine, Rock Sound, Metal Hammer, Team Rock, Scuzz TV and many more. With debut single ‘Better’ picking up spins from Daniel P Carter and Phil Taggart with their video also being to the main playlists for both Kerrang! TV and Scuzz TV.
Sugarwolf are set to release their brand-new single at the beginning of 2019 accompanied by an even bigger and better live sound and set-up.
Fresh from supporting Welsh rockers ‘Feeder’, Donegal six piece ‘Don’t Fear the Natives’ have released their debut E.P ‘Stupid Heart’. After initially performing and releasing music as duo ‘Palomino’, singer Claire McDaid and guitarist Denis Kelly wanted to expand their live performance. Eventually progressing into a full band with the addition of extra members ‘Don’t Fear the Natives’ is the next chapter in their musical journey. Along with their enhanced line-up the band officially launched ‘Stupid Heart’ at the Buncrana Music Festival in June and have slowly built momentum with several shows.
Opening their E.P with title track ‘Stupid Heart’ singer Claire McDaid takes the lead with an impassioned vocal. Exploring the anguish of a broken heart throughout the song the lyrics seem to touch on personal experience. As the song progresses McDaid’s vocals are supported by a flurry of soaring guitars adding an angsty feel to the alt-rock track. Taking a change in pace with a softer more delicate guitar ‘This Tide Will Turn’ is a wistful and contemplative song.
‘Just Talk to Me’ is again a gentler track by the Natives with thoughtful lyrics as each song has explored the tenuousness of relationships and the varying emotions you experience through them. Completing the E.P with ‘Another Lonely Day’ the song which was premiered on Electric Mainline with Stephen McCauley is a melancholic and melodic track for the band to end their first full release. Showcasing their range of diverse influences throughout ‘Don’t Fear the Natives’ demonstrate how they can move from a full bodied alt-rock to a more tender relaxed sound. The ‘Stupid Heart’ E.P is a substantial offering for a debut and leaves room for the band to continue to grow for future releases.
‘Stupid Heart’ will be available from all digital stores from the 27th of July
Rebel rousers, ‘The Wood Burning Savages’, released their highly anticipated album ‘Stability’ to the world on Friday the 27th of April. Persistent purveyors of punk since 2013 the band have become a relentless force of energy on the music scene. ‘Stability’ which was produced by Rocky O’Reilly in Start Together Studios, Belfast, is the band’s first full length album and follows a string of single releases.
Opening title song ‘Stability’ is short in stretch but ferocious in nature and at just over two minutes is a sharp starting track. Bass player Dan Acheson drives the song along with lead singer Paul Connolly’s use of the words security and stability making it evidently clear the bands gritty political agenda for the rest of the album.
The anthemic ‘I Don’t Know Why I do it to Myself’ is a stark observation about the terrifyingly high rate of suicide in the Savages own hometown of Derry. Despite it’s serious nature it’s fast paced and funky while showcasing the bands ability to create stadium sized songs. ‘Purple Heart’ explores post-traumatic stress disorder and elicits a similar sentiment to other album tracks articulated through Connolly’s expressive lyrics.
‘Living Hell’ is fast and furious with a fierce riot of relentless guitars and pounding drums and one of the most intense songs on the album. Closing track ‘Freedom of Movement’ starts slow and builds in emotion and momentum. The anger and frustration in Connolly’s voice is clear as he cries “Freedom of movement well I don’t think that’s what she meant”. Capturing perfectly the unease and apprehension facing all of us in light of Brexit it is a strong and poignant track to end their album.
Passionate about inflicting real change through their music ‘The Wood Burning Savages’ album is ten-tracks of fury, anxiety, angst and rage. Attempting to not only challenge various establishments but provoke movement among one another ‘Stability’ has provided fans with their very own WBS manifesto. While the message and themes remain wholly the same there is enough variation throughout to keep fans listening. A triumphant debut album, ‘Stability’, is bursting with recognisable political reflections preformed with musical and lyrical conviction.
Derry based band Susie Blue have released their highly anticipated album, ‘Didn’t Mean to Care’. The album is a carefully crafted collection of songs which the band has been writing and playing over the past few years. The self- reflective title ‘Didn’t Mean to Care is an ode to lead singer Susan’s teenage years after coming out. Chronicling her past relationships, both bad and good, the ten tracks have come together to make a refreshingly pop centered album.
After an astonishingly successful 2017 with numerous festival appearances including Glastonbury, the quartet are on track to out-do themselves with the release of their debut album. Opening the album with ‘Lisbeth’ the song is a strong indie rock track with a certain gravitas in the lyrics as Susie sings ‘I’m not asking you to die for me, only asking if you would’. Anthemic in nature and sound ‘Lisbeth’ is sure to be a stand out song in the bands live set and is a compelling opening track. Followed by ‘She’s a Keeper’ the album moves seamlessly with Susan’s signature and tender vocal tone carrying the song to fruition.
‘May Ninth’ is an inspired alt-rock song with enthused and pulsating percussion keeping the vibe of the album upbeat. Having embodied the role of the angsty and troubled purveyors there is still feeling of hope throughout many of Susie Blues songs. Unafraid to put their own twist on songs or be unconventional ‘Doing My HeadIn’ is a bracing take on a usual love song.
Already showcasing the bands rockier side, we reach the midpoint of the album with two slower acoustic songs ‘Till You Started’ and ‘Trust Me’. The aching and hypnotic lyrics are expressed by Susan’s invigorated vocals and are a nice change of pace. The album’s title track ‘Didn’t Mean to Care’ begins cool and composed before building into a rousing and stirring chorus. The anguished lyrics which are a redeeming feature throughout are particularly poignant on this track as we hear the cry of ‘I don’t to live to keep on dying’.
The albums closing track ‘No Shade’ oozes pop rock melodies and is possibly my favourite on the record. An eclectic collection of songs, it is the bands passion and fervour that truly shines throughout. It is undeniable that Susie-Blue’s popularity is at its peak after securing necessary support through a successful GoFundme campaign. The band who have used their position to create a powerful dialogue with politically motivated tracks have created an important piece of music that will stand the test of time. The release of ‘Didn’t Mean to Care’ has helped to truly cement Susie Blue’s position throughout the UK and Irish music scene.