Gig Review: Patrick Gardiner, The Jepettos, Master and Dog

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Hidden Machine 01 - Patrick Gardiner, The Jepettos, Master and Dog
Voodoo, Belfast
Thurs 27th February 2014

For an 18-year-old, singer-songwriter Patrick Gardiner shows very few nerves as he takes to the stage, and as he sings the first few bars of 'He Isn’t Right For You' it becomes clear why. This is the first Hidden Machine, a new monthly gig night showcasing local talent, and Magheralin’s Gardiner is most definitely talented. As he introduces new track 'Carcassonne' he apologises in advance for “messing it up” and you can tell that he isn’t too confident about this one. However, his unique voice and Northern Irish twang help him make it through with ease. It’s humble moments like this that really showcase Gardiner’s quest for perfection; his charm is inescapable and the audience warm to him straightaway, filling up the edges of the venue with approving smiles and attentive eyes. Aside from playing his own music, Gardiner mixes things up with Chaka Khan’s 'Ain’t Nobody', an odd choice, but like everything he does, somehow it just works.

Lullaby-folk act The Jepettos are up next and they sort of creep onto the stage without anyone really noticing. Before you know it, husband and wife Mike and Ruth Aicken are serenading the crowd with their distinctive, fairytale-esque sound. With only three people on stage, this is a cut down version of their typical live set-up, yet that doesn’t stop this trio playing every single instrument available to them. From the gentle harmonica in 'Even Though', to the interesting melodica (a sort of hand held piano/flute hybrid) in most of their other tracks, The Jepettos create a weird and wonderful sound that conjures up images of music festivals and daisy chains. As the final song 'Water' from their latest EP Troubles comes to an end, Ruth hugs herself tightly, showing a vulnerability that you just can’t take your eyes off.

Master and Dog (formerly John, Shelly & the Creature) are the main event of the night, and another act that need no introduction. The ethereal and unearthly 'Weathered' washes over the audience like an ocean wave - it’s a quiet start and an unusual choice to kick things off with, but Belfast foursome Master and Dog don’t seem to care too much about tradition. This act are creating a lot more noise than the previous two and it takes the crowd a little while to adjust to the change in volume, however a few jokes later and the brash announcement that they are “the best band ever to come out of Northern Ireland” and the audience are in the palm of their hands. They may not be the most energetic crowd, but it’s a Thursday night and any attention is greatly appreciated. The musical highlight of the night is undoubtedly 'Frost', lasting well over 5 minutes; it’s hard not to get lost in the repetition of the mournful lyrics. The band end on a high note with their latest single 'Canada', inviting singer songwriter Rory Nellis up on stage to them help out. It’s a tender, emotive moment from Master and Dog who never seem to take themselves too seriously and the perfect way to end the night.

Laura Caldwell

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