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Lowly Knights, Matthew and The Atlas, Marcus Foster, Pete Roe

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ATL | 14:33 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Black Box, Belfast
Sunday, 12th September, 2010

What a week it's been: from beard grooming to barn dancing, from black markets to body art, from vintage fairs to Villagers - the 12th annual Open House festival has seen it all. And finally things are drawn to a close in the Black Box with the Communion showcase.

Singer songwriter Pete Roe eases us nicely into the evening with a short set of acoustic folk. It would be a cliché at this point to list the various similarities between his work and other folk troubadours, but the influence of the likes of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell here are quite apparent.

Hot on his tail is London based Marcus Foster. Things are a bit slow to start with, but by the 3rd song, Foster begins to pump the bellows and the set gets a much-needed gearshift, with pounding drums and fierce guitar scratching. It's at this point we really get a sense of his true capabilities. Upon the 4th song, where Foster offers a display of exquisite vocal acrobatics, it becomes evidently clear that he is a graduate of the 'Jeff Buckley School of Musicality'. From the vocal styling, right down to his guitar tone, there's a striking resemblance between the two musicians.

Matthew and The Atlas put the atmosphere temporarily on the back burner. With not much happening in the way of visuals, they seem to be a little bereft of any gripping stage personality. At the beginning of the set, each song seems to coalesce into one after the other, and there are little distinguishable differences between them. But once it seems like they've been figured out, towards the end of their set, they unleash an unearthly 4-part acapella. Although regrettably short, it's arguably the most impressive moment of the night thus far.

But the night ultimately belongs to Lowly Knights, the main attraction of the evening. Making their second consecutive appearance at the Open House Festival, with a new EP to boast about (which they are launching this evening), they are noticeably beaming with pride. The band shift between instruments as if it's a game of musical chairs, treating the welcoming audience with tracks ranging from all three of their EPs. You Can't Help Who You Love radiates from the stage with cheerful sanguinity. Local singer Rachel Austin also joins the ensemble to provide some ethereal vocal work.

But in spite of their merits, the set is marred with technical snags. The vocals seem to be struggling to surface under a current of incessant bass hum. While the hospitable crowd gracefully forgives any shortcomings, they are difficult to ignore. Nevertheless, Lowly Knights don't set a foot wrong in delivery, and achieve a very healthy response, ending this year's incarnation of the Open House Festival on a humble high.

Chris Johnson

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