Gascan Ruckus - Auntie Annies, Belfast - March 29th
Gascan Ruckus, Strait Laces, Jamie Neish
Auntie Annie’s, Belfast
29th March 2012
Look outside — chances are the length and the breadth of the country is still experiencing something of an early summer heatwave. As they would say back home, the craic’s ninety and, so far as today is concerned, there’s seems to be no better way to rejoice and act the collective eejit than at Gascan Ruckus’s first headline slot in Belfast since the release of their Vitamins EP in October last year. Exciting times, no doubt, but with material both old and absolutely brand spanking new at their disposal, will there be any visible musical progression for the Armagh four-piece?
Continuing to carve out subtle acoustic tales all on his lonesome, the choice of More Than Conquerors’ drummer Jamie Neish as an opener tonight may initially seem a little misjudged. But while his placid approach is ultimately the antithesis of what’s yet to come, the keen response from tonight’s crowd reveals the dazzling efforts of a truly versatile songwriter. Somewhere between the heartfelt jauntiness of ‘Belly of the Beast’, the Nashville twang of the aptly-titled ‘Sickness In The Sunshine’ and set closer ‘My Lungs Don’t Breathe’, Neish proves that, although there are quite a few solo musicians in this country going for the “fragile but positively determined” angle, he manages to command a brand of subtle storytelling faring as charming as his offhand banter throughout.
With a quick changeover underway, much of tonight’s crowd meekly make their way to the front of the stage at Auntie Annie’s — standard protocol in advance of local riffmasters general and/or the slightest prospect of an impromptu, good-natured scuffle. Right on cue, then, are North Coast schiz-punk three-piece Strait Laces, whose frantic Drop-D attacks are immediately felt via the first airing of the band’s new split single with Hornets, ‘Break Their Crutches’. With an almost psychobilly lead guitar line and a particularly pummelling rhythm section, it exposes yet more intrepid progression from Dave Hanna and co — progression rooted in the likes of the riff-laden ‘Chariots’ and ‘Guiltshake’, the latter tune’s brilliantly bobbing verse at the mercy of several rampaging interludes across a thoroughly fierce five minutes. Righteous stuff.
But, as is fast becoming the Word, with their incredibly judged blend of raucous punk rock and compact classic rock (the good stuff — not Whitesnake), Gascan Ruckus are a band truly on the cusp of really going places. Not entirely unlike Jamie Neish, while there’s no shortage of local comparisons to their approach in general, these four guys possess a singular, head-turning sound that cannot go unnoticed. While new material in ‘Bread and Butter’ and ‘Pieces’ condense what they’re all about, it’s an especially furious rendition of ‘Don’t Fret’ that typifies their plan of action best tonight: frenzied riffage, gang-like backing vocals and one catchy-as-hell chorus. Better still, more than any of their tracks, old or new, it reveals frontman Micky Woods’ increasingly incensed drawl à la LaFaro’s Jonny Black and Gascan’s ridiculously well-honed blitzkrieg. Ending on recent single ‘Vitamins’, there’s a definite sense that the future of this band is extremely bright – whether the awesome weather remains so is a totally different matter altogether.