CQAF - ASIWYFA v FWW
The big fight, the rumble in the jungle, the wham-bam in the wig-wam (TM ATL) - there was excitement and anticipation in the air on Saturday night, as two of NI's rock-legends-in-the-making faced up for a show down. ASIWYFA vs FWW: it was ON.
And to a certain extent, that itself was the downfall of the first act to take the ring, Maybeshewill. They're an instrumental post-rock, electronic tinged outfit hailing from Leicester - think And So I Watch You From Afar with samples. Which isn't at all a bad thing in its own right - they were intriguing, they were tight, and any similarity to our headliners is never, ever a bad thing. But with the crowd eagerly awaiting blood, sweat, tears and potential Pineapple-of-Truth-juice, they suffered a little from simply not being either FWW or ASIWYFA.
Stepping up for round two, we have A Plastic Rose. Lately these guys have gained quite a following, and deservedly so. Even if their hint-of-emo, catchy and melodic alternative rock isn't your thing, it's tough to deny that they know how to work the crowd, leave them smiling and thus doing their job as a warm-up admirably. A valiant effort from the underlings.
And so we come to the first contender in the battle of the acronyms. Fighting With Wire come bounding on with their usual bravado and energy. And they treat us to a barn-storming (or should that be tent-storming) performance, also as usual. They sound fantastic - tight as all get out, energy levels never dipping for even a second, making sure that even in this lofty marquee everyone is having a ball.
Their new songs are sounding better with every performance, making at least this reviewer impatient for a new record. And as for their old favourites (for which read pretty much every song off of Man Vs. Monster)? Well, it's hard to conceive, given the singing-along and mile-wide grins in the crowd, that these aren't already chart-toppers. Surely we don't have to wait too much longer before the rest of the world wises up to what we've all known for a long time, right? With tunes catchier than swine-flu (which front man Cahir is apparently "all about" these days), world-domination cannot be far away.
Speaking of which, Cahir is another reason why going to see this lot is always so much fun. Between giving the audience grief, jumping around like a loon, and giving it a powerful amount of welly, he's the perfect front man. Tonight, his cocky banter turned itself to the brilliance of the Northern Irish music scene (no argument from anyone in the marquee there), the Norn Irish scaring the bejeesus out of the Yanks at SXSW and his underwear.
So, FWW are on fire, the rock is turned up to 11 and the craic is ninety. Tough to beat. Can And So I Watch You From Afar clinch it and walk away the undisputed champions?
It really is hard to find anything else to say about ASIWYFA that hasn't already been said about a gazillion times before. Everything about them is astounding. Every little thing. Their musicianship and songwriting is overwhelmingly intricate and jaw-dropping, having developed a unique sound that is all at once labyrinthine, mesmerizing and absolutely blindingly storming rock. To be able to have half your audience moshing, and the other half standing practically open-mouthed, lost in the aural experience going on about them, is something very special indeed.
And they certainly don't disappoint tonight - they sound totally, completely and utterly wonderful. Even in a big aul drafty (but sold-out) tent, every note, every nuance, every everything is pitch-perfect and more. If you think ASIWYFA sound pretty great on record, prepare to have the ears blown clean off your head when you see them live. They give everything they have, playing like it's the last time every time. Yet the immediacy and force of their live show doesn't in any way diminish the intricacy of the music.
So at this point, it looks like ASIWYFA may have the edge, in this showdown of the century - nay, millennium. But just as we think it's all over, the grand finale takes us by storm before we even know what's hit us. The FWW guys take to the ring to kick some behinds, and suddenly we have both bands decked out in their DIY wrestlemania costumes, complete with masks, body paint and tiny blue underwear. They basically re-enact their fight videos which started this whole shebang, threatening each other with pineapples and hilariously dodgy Mexican accents, before launching into a blinding, banging, mosh-inducing cover of Nirvana's 'Territorial Pissings' which may possibly have been better than the original (though, granted, the original didn't come with costumes).
And with that, we'll have to call it draw. A great wee evening, fantastic bands, and a good night to be Northern Irish indeed.
Words: Orla Graham