Amateur Historians, Joshua Burnside, My Sunday Hat, Like a Ninja - Auntie Annies, Belfast
Not many bands play their second ever gig headlining a four-act bill at such a reputable venue as Auntie Annie’s. Like it or not, it normally takes a few months of endless haggling, unspeakable support slots, and a fair bit of backslapping to arrive at such a position. Luckily for them, though, Belfast indie-pop three-piece Amateur Historians have somehow sidetracked such protocol by heading a ridiculously diverse line-up at their sophomore show tonight.
A Strabane-based four-piece playing scuzzy, slightly confused hardcore, Like A Ninja are the first of tonight’s completely opposing acts. While their youthful enthusiasm is entertaining - contagious even - you can’t help but get the impression you’re at the wrong gig. That said, despite nods to the likes of InMe and being in possession a bassist who thinks it wise to play with his teeth (actually), it would be stupid to completely write off so early in their career, even if there’s more chance of Gary Glitter receiving a knighthood than them making an impact in 2012.
Leaning more towards the pub-rock end of the gigging spectrum, My Sunday Hat are a more endurable manifestation of Stereophonics’ sound but with undeniably bold and brazen undercurrents reminiscent of Springsteen and Tom Petty’s more strong-minded material. A four-piece also in the early stages of their career, they have all the potential to go far if they choose to move beyond classic rock cover versions and look more towards a compositional slant less reliant on their all-too obvious influences.
Quickly revealing himself to be one of this country’s most aspiring and thoroughly convincing songwriters, the folk musings of Joshua Burnside and his band effortlessly shift tonight’s atmosphere to discreetly triumphant. With a voice sounding somewhere between a male Joan Baez and a less comprehensively wounded Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon) it’s Burnside’s inconspicuous playing style remiscient of Wilco and Bill Callahan and the inclusion of lingering, melancholic harp that confirms this musician to be right up there with Katharina Philippa and Derry’s Best Boy Grip as Northern Ireland’s most promising musicians.
At the end up, though, having enjoyed scuzzy hardcore, advanced pub-rock and understated folk-pop ruminations, tonight’s crowd are eventually treated to the main event: the starry-eyed slackerdom of Amateur Historians’ lo-fi indie-pop. Upbeat, angular and carefree without being clumsy, the markings of Pavement/Silver Jews, Folk Implosion and Cap’N Jazz are undeniable throughout whilst frontman Chris Curry’s appreciative exuberance makes for a welcomed change of sentiment. More than anything, though, it’s a fun and compelling introduction to a band that concludes a night with all the promise arriving at the end.