Not Squares, Lafaro, Adebisi Shank
Strange thoughts go through your head at gigs. Normally it's your ordinary weird stuff like "how much jelly would it take to fill this place up?", but one thought that has repeatedly come to mind (other than the one about jelly) at gigs recently is "if something went wrong here, the local music scene would be destroyed". Now of course all the venues are perfectly safe, but it's indicative of the spirit of friendship, rivalry, support and encouragement that goes on that gigs tend to be full of people who love their music - from other bands to journos to DJs to your "normal" punter. This was definitely in effect with about every band in Belfast represented in the Stiff Kitten.
After the above description of the local scene, it is somewhat ironic that the opening act were in fact a bunch of escapees from south of the border, a bunch of bandits here to pillage and destroy our ears. The obvious comparison is with ASIWYFA, but Adebisi Shank are, relatively, more concise than their North Coast soul-mates, as the tighter three-piece set-up doesn't seem to generate the same sense of space and grandeur. Again this is relative as they bludgeon us. Running the gambit from RATM to deviant computer games and dirty pop, at one point the masked man ditches his instrument to play with his pad, leading to more sonic assault, alternating between playful and relentless, they display virtuosity without the pretence that so often accompanies it.
Stuck in the middle tonight is the relative sanity of Lafaro. Again, relative, for from opener Leningrad, it's all power and fury, with a teased out ending to tantalise us. Dropping in some new material, 'Say What You Are' has a country-grunge vibe to it, a sort of Seattle over the last 25 years sound, encompassing The Melvins, Nirvana and Modest Mouse. 'Tuppenny Nudger' - no more really needs to be said about this, or indeed the front-row head-banging. 'Great Conversations...' is louder (and more unhinged) than ever, with the quiet bits still probably enough to annoy the council, and another newbie 'This Is Not Even A Song' is cut from the same mad template of loud grunge mayhem, with an added dose of irony. There's an album on the way, your ears should be afraid, very afraid.
Our headliners Not Squares are releasing their new single/EP tonight before disappearing off to convert/pervert (delete as appropriate) the rest of the world with their jittery electronica. Ranging from The Fall to the Rapture's and Foal's more experimental offerings with a healthy nod towards pioneers of futurism such as Kraftwerk and John Foxx, they retain a pop element, and 'We Can't Dance To That' is superb dance-punk rivalling Lafaro's earlier offering for the 'Ironic Title Of The Year' award as it is immensely danceable chaos. They also tread the darker end of the spectrum recalling Gang of Four or The Pop Group, a kind of bastard offspring of post-punk and a virus-infected Tetris machine, like some sort of dirty John Peel (blessed be his name) favourite. Locally they're a bit like Oppenheimer and Cutaways, albeit more electronic. Single 'Aye Yo Pa' prompts the biggest reaction of the night, other than the invitational stage invasion, but it's a track based around counting that sticks in the mind, a acid nightmare in that Tetris with siren-like wails and racing heartbeat rhythms. These people are definitely Not Squares.