Quite a bit of variety on show at Lavery's, for anyone still left in Belfast this weekend. First up were The Misaligned Men of Automaton - as strange as their name suggests. Three blokes in those Venetian-blind-type sunglasses, sat around laptops emitting various bleeps and bloops of an electro nature, and occasionally screaming into the mics lyrics you'd assume are very profound indeed.
At times it looked like it could've been part of a Bill Bailey stand-up routine (not necessarily a bad thing) but there's certainly enough intrigue to encourage a second look.
Next we had the charmingly offbeat Robotnik. At first glance, Robotnik (real name Chris Morrin) may seem a little gimmicky. The blue plastic shades, the hair, the mad antics on stage - it would be easy to think that that's all there was to him. But like fellow Dubs Fight Like Apes, there really is something underneath all that jumping around. And kudos for taking audience participation to a new level with the use of a super-soaker.
The music is electronica-indie-pop with a gloriously sunny and quirky (for want of a less overused adjective) tinge. Not to mention catchy - and you won't realise how catchy until you go see Robotnik again a year later and realise that you not only remember but can sing along to half of his songs. Songs that, like the man himself, have a certain air of childhood and innocence about them, but enough edge and blinding beats behind them to keep you paying attention. 'People Walk Away', 'Michael Grady Went To Mexico', 'Pat the Baker' are brilliantly bonkers and sweet, and should be investigated immediately by all persons interested in dancing around like loons. The likes of 'Weird Road' brings out a softer, quieter side which manages to be a little more introspective and bittersweet than the more upbeat stuff, but no less engaging.
And speaking of artists who are inexplicably not a huge success (as I was), we have our headliners for the night, The Jane Bradfords. Certainly, the crowd seem to agree - everyone seems to have a ball watching these guys. And it's easy to see why - superbly crafted songs, with warmth and depth which really shines through so much more now that they have an expanded and more acoustic live line-up. Comparisons to the likes of The National, Joy Division, Interpol et al, seem all the more deserved.
The new song opening the set shows great promise for their sophomore effort, which looks set to be every bit as engaging and captivating as their debut. 'The Evening Angels Gather Here' and 'Strategy #2 (Fight Them All)' are their strongest live offerings - and perfect examples of the range and height of their debut album. 'Evening Angels...' shows them at their most aching, yearning and beautiful, whilst 'Fight Them All' ends the set with an indie poppyness which turns into a full on electro dance-a-thon. Something for everyone, indeed.
It has been said before, but it needs to be said again - these guys have something special. They have a quality that stands head and shoulders above anything you might expect from an unsigned "local" indie band. Most definitely ones to watch.