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.
For their third Sound of Belfast gig, Shizznigh Promotions managed to put together another sublime line-up of performers. Consisting of new and established acts for a brilliant week night expedition to the Empire it certainly motivated a lot of people to come out in full force. Starting the night off is Whale Talk who despite being a fairly new band have been making a considerable breakthrough on the NI scene. They are the perfect band to help introduce and begin the evening with delicate harmonies and casual indie vibes.
Up next is singer-songwriter Aidan Logan whohas brought a full band with him for the night. Recently returning from Nashville where Aidan spent his time writing, recording and soaking in all that Tennessee has to offer. Very charming and confident on stage, Aidan immediately attempts to build a good rapport with the audience by telling them anecdotes about his songs and travels. His song ‘Higher’ is an incredibly catchy and infectious song and is the highlight of the set. Having spent so much time in Nashville it’s evident how much Aidan has been influenced by country throughout his set while also putting his own twist on songs . Towards the end of his set Aidan takes a moment to dedicate a song to his friend Margaret who just passed away ‘Seems You Better Go’. As the rest of the band step aside it’s just Aidan and his guitar accompanied by soft and gentle piano and is a beautiful tribute.
Four piece ‘No Oil Paintings’ arrive next on stage and begin their set with ‘God Only Knows’. Lead singer Chris Kelly’s vocals sound immediately strong and powerful accompanied with George Sloan’s solid drums makes for a bold entrance from the band. Their second track ‘Cut Me’ has guitarist Sean Doone take the lead for vocals with a deeper and darker tone to his voice adding a melancholic element to the song. Finishing the set with their latest single ‘Icarus’ which the boys have also just released a video for the song begins with gorgeous harmonies. There is a really good synergy between all the members on stage and you can truly feel the connection that they not only have as musicians but as friends. The biggest triumph for any band is to be able to sound better live than they do on track and this is certainly true for No Oil Paintings.
Finally the main act of the night, The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan takes to the stage with No Oil Paintings joining for the band’s debut gig. Inhabiting the full character of Dr Hannigan, Tony Wright appears with a top hat and long coat and it’s clear from the start that not only are we in for a musical treat but a theatrical performance as well. With so many people onstage it felt like a huge jam session was about to take place with an array of players and instruments. Dr Hannigan’s first release ‘Hey Little Worried One’ begins with impressive harmonies before the hypnotic drum beat kicks in. There is an electric atmosphere in the Empire as the audience become increasingly more and more excited as the band continue.
There were points during the set that I felt as though I had been transported to a real blues bar located in Louisiana as my senses were completely overwhelmed by the incredibly funky ‘We Can’t Breathe’. Inviting Steven McCartney to the stage for the slowest song of the night ‘You the bottle and me’, Tony comes right down off the stage into the audience. Making his way over the tops of tables and across chairs it was almost as if the vigour of the crowd had carried him. Inciting the audience to begin chanting, the crowd continue to clap and foot stomp even after the band leaves the stage. Setting the bar for future performances, The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan’s first gig was a truly overwhelming and successful night for a band at any stage of their career never mind one’s debut.
As part of the continuing Sound of Belfast festivities, Shizznigh Promotions presented a showcase of up and coming local bands and acts on Friday in the Oh Yeah. A remarkably versatile and talented line up of performers, it was great to see so many fans arrive from early on to help enjoy and support the evening. Another wonderful Sound of Belfast gig it was refreshing to attend an event with acts that were not only new to myself but a few that I had been meaning to catch for a while.
Arriving just on time to catch the last few minutes of Darren Doherty and the Heathen Choir there is an upbeat atmosphere as everyone seems excited for a night of good music. Despite what their name might suggest the heathen choir helps support Doherty’s extraordinarily melodic musical offering and I look forward to catching the band in full next time. Up next was ‘Les Pantalons’ who providedmore of a jam style routine with the three of them remaining seated throughout. The very chilled and relaxed position from the band made for an easy and enjoyable performance.
‘Part Time Pilot’s take to the Oh Yeah stage nextas the audience starts to build. The bands energy and vivacious presence on stage helps to encourage audience members to gather at the front. Their great audience interaction ensures that fans are kept very interested and attentive for the whole set. Lead singer Enda Mc Crory has a very strong and alluring voice which along with their accessible rock sound has ensured that Part Time Pilots are a band worth keeping your ears open for.
Catchy, melodic girl group Vokxen are next to perform as they enchant the audience with their atmosphericpop sound.The group shimmers on stage with both their glittery outfits and seductive harmonies creating the perfect pop storm. The trios synth heavy sound accompanied with sweet melodies and electronic dance tunes makes Vokxen the most memorable act of the night.
Headlining the evening was the incredibly talented Anto and the Echoes, the six-piece who have a distinct look certainly appear the part on stage. It can often be difficult waiting to go on all night especially after so many acts before them but Anto and the Echoes take it completely in their stride. Lead singer Antony Breen is certainly a confident and self-assured front man who knows how to work both a crowd and a stage. Moving effortlessly from catchy pop songs to heavier indie rock sounds serves only to highlight the bands versatility. The band carries a very positive upbeat vibe when they perform and was something that the audience certainly reacted to helping to end a very successful Sound of Belfast showcase.
By Aine Cronin-McCartney
Photos by Carrie Davenport Photography
For the second event of Sound of Belfast’s premier night, I made a quick dash over to the Empire where Gifted had put together an absolutely amazing line up. Unfortunately I missed alt rockers ‘Let Go Dive’ as I was making my way from one venue to the next but will be sure to catch them next time.
Self described as polite rockers from Belfast ‘The Sea, Close by’ are up next and by this stage The Empire has started to fill out. Starting of their set with ‘Never Ever’ the band grow in confidence as they continue and become more relaxed throughout. After a few songs the drummer interrupts to tell the audience that bass player Kate and singer Alastair have just recently got married after originally meeting in the very venue we are standing in, ‘The Empire. Finishing off their set with ‘Humphrey’s Got a Heat Lamp’ they tease the audience briefly with the Friends theme tune before launching full force into their track and ending the set with their strongest song.
North Coast post rock four piece ‘Born Only Yesterday’ are next to the stage. The boys who released their EP ‘The Eyes, The Heart, The Sin’ in September have been busy making their rounds on the local scene. Clearly having built up a burgeoning legion of fans there is a small crowd gathered at the front of the stage who are attentive throughout. Front man Danny McClelland is a commanding presence on stage and the band have an addictive energy with a great vibe between members. Above all Born Only Yesterday are enjoyable and fun to watch and they exude the kind of spirit that makes you want to join a band and I look forward to see what the next few months bring for them.
Finally finishing off the night is the ever confident Sister Ghost who assuredly take their position on stage. Lead singer Shannon O’Neil is an incredible force to be reckoned with as she navigates and leads the rest of the band with ease. Already entrenched in the NI rock scene it’s easy to see why they have become favourites with their ferocious rhythms, diverse textures and distinct delivery. With highly rhythmic, rapid paced songs and O’Neil’s vocal power and ability always make Sister Ghost a very entertaining act to watch.
After months of anticipation, Sound of Belfast has finally arrived and what a perfect event to start it all off, ‘Getting to Know with Leah McFall’. A festival dedicated to showcasing everything that’s great about local music Sound of Belfast also helps to provide a platform for artists, bands and performers. ‘The Getting to Know’ event which has been part of a regular series at the Oh Yeah gives artists and bands an opportunity to connect with an audience in a more personal and intimate environment. As well as performing songs the artist is able to give insights behind the writing and recording process of each track and allows the audience to become involved by asking them to participate.
For the special ‘Sound of Belfast’ edition of ‘Getting to Know’ we were treated to the remarkably talented Leah McFall. After capturing the nation’s attention with her mesmerising voice in BBC’s ‘The Voice’, Leah has spent the last few years crafting her own sound and style. Her rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will Survive’ helped to demonstrate Leah’s powerful vocal prowess and secured her runner up in the show. Leah who released her debut six track E.P ‘Ink’ back in March is currently working on brand new material for her next record.
The evening which was hosted by the very charming Emer Maguire made everyone feel immediately at ease as we settled in for the show. For her first song of the night Leah performed her track ‘Language’ which was very accurately described by Emer as vocal acrobatics. Starting off the discussion by asking how Leah would describe her music to someone who hasn’t heard it there is a lovely relaxed atmosphere in the room.
Not only asking questions, Emer also provided entertainment throughout the evening with a few games. As well as involving the audience and developing a good rapport with them the games also helped us find out a bit more about Leah. Learning that Leah had not only eaten grass before but that she had also practiced kissing ‘Michael Jackson’ on his ‘Bad’ CD left everyone not only laughing but definitely feeling as though we knew her a bit better.
With an audience of both new and older fans the crowd was transfixed for her second song of the evening, ‘Wolf Den’. The song which Leah describes as incredibly emotional and about her journey to becoming an independent artist is flooded with sentiment. The song truly emphasises Leah’s unique vocal ability as she flawlessly’s moves from one note to the next.
Leah’s final performance for the evening was an unreleased track that she has been working on ‘On My Own’ and was the perfect song to end the night. Emer Maguire’s completely natural sense of humor along with her charisma made the night thoroughly enjoyable. ‘Getting to Know’ is a wonderful event where you come away really feeling as if you got a personal insight to one your favourite performers. Despite, being very well known Leah was incredibly warm and open and just genuinely good craic, making it a really fun event for everyone involved.