Pigstock Unplugged at Love&Death
Mojo Fury, abandcalledboy, Jackalfeud w/ guests The Answer
Pigstock Unplugged, Love & Death, Belfast
Friday 4th November, 2011
Spirits are riding high as Friday night of Belfast Music Week arrives and with the buzz of the imminent EMAs electric, Pigstock promoter Jonny Tate has instead opted to unplug.
So while A Plastic Rose take on the Menagerie and Kowalski entertain Auntie Annies to name just two of countless citywide goings-ons, a formidable selection from this year's Pigstock festival is lined up to bring the real spark of vintage MTV to Love & Death.
Aiming to capture the often primal vibe of the channel's celebrated Unplugged series, which hosted classic acoustic sets from the likes of Nirvana and Alice In Chains in the mid-90s, the performance area is adorned only with candles and progressively nagging disco ball lighting - sure it's a little tacky, but also a warming homage that casts a real edge of intimacy into proceedings.
There's also the promise of a mystery guest to round off the night and hints pointing towards Downpatrick rockers The Answer, who join LaFaro and Therapy? in raising hell at the Ulster Hall this same night, has brought about an excitement for a sneaky rock'n'roll treat late on.
Acts we know as noiseniks and industrial beat-freaks are tonight forced to rethink their strategies and peel back the electricity in a bid to create second lives for their songs in this somewhat alien setting.
As a band who trade primarily in metallic riffage Jackalfeud are arguably most far removed from their comfort zone. The rancid beatdowns and throat-ripping delivery that identify their sound is stripped leaving the Belfast band unrecognisable. The title track from this year's 'Structures' album in its skeletal form is especially haunting and although this reviewer doesn't quite catch their whole set, the work put in to transform themselves for one night only is plainly obvious.
abandcalledboy too, you'd assume to find the transition to quietude difficult. The Banbridge foursome normally thrives on sheer volume terrorism and a set of perforated eardrums is practically their calling card. Though some bare bone renditions like the opener 'A Feeling Post Load Dropping' work better as their caustic counterparts.
The introduction of unheard material is another risky move here. It's unlikely to resemble its intended form and if a newbie does go down well, the proper version mightn't at later gigs. Unperturbed, abandcalledboy debut a number that more than sustains itself acoustically, which can only make us hope the inevitably grunge-ridden original stands as tall.
The change in pace also affords their weighty lyrics room to really strike a nerve and the addition retro keyboard to 'Take It in Parts' is playfully inventive. A humble go at Nirvana's 'Something In The Way' further impresses before the merciless single 'Teenage Parasites' is gloriously disembowelled, leaving only a haunting husk behind. Thrilling stuff.
You mightn't think it with all their distorted mechanics and digitised rhythms but alt-rock chameleons Mojo Fury are probably most adept to this sort of change. And boy, do they take it up a notch.
Mike Mormecha's voice becomes a tortured croon, rendering 'Colour of the Bear' a stark rephrasing of the screeching mauler we knew while 'The Mann' is drilled with stuttering violin to great effect.
Despite their canon in this nature being shy of the muscularity and carnage, they somehow reconstruct it with startling impact before a sing-along of 'Eleanor Rigby' rewards the crowd's hushed appreciation.
Sure enough The Answer arrive, well lubricated and ready to tear down the acoustics and reward the patient riff-cravers. It's a short set but the main meal has already done the work. The Answer just wash it down with drink-soaked loudness. This isn’t meant literally until frontman Cormac Neeson begins dishing out tequila shots to the crowd. Calls for one more tune fall on deaf ears, probably due to 'Rock'n'Roll Outlaw's volume alone, but what a way to end tonight.
We might just call it the dark horse of Belfast Music Week, but if one thing is certain it's that this isn't the last we'd like to hear from Pigstock Unplugged. It could well be the next 'G Sessions'.