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SONI music - Sounds of Northern Ireland
Live review...
SONI: Class of '09
These showcase gigs, highlighting the best of what's around locally, are becoming ten-a-penny between all the festivals, special gigs and what-have-you, and they all seem to have different line-ups, reflecting the diversity and strength of local music. Tonight it's (broadly) the turn of the rock fraternity to grab us by the thingemies and demand attention. And while they've got our complete and undivided we'll give them a chance, just be gentle with those...

Opening the night are Dead Zebra, heavy good-time twin guitar rock, with a gradual drift into metal territory. Get You and Runaway are good clean fun, albeit not the most original, while By Yourself, from their EP, reflects wider and interesting influences as it marks a change into darker and more complex sounds veering away from melodic rock, while closer Head Held High hints at potential, edging into stoner and grungish areas, with more challenging drums and greater variety. The change in direction shows a maturity, signposting a way for them to move away from some of the flabbier excesses - seemingly writing guitar and bass lines for hair flicks is not good - and they should continue on this path to ensure that although dead, the animal is still kicking.

Second up this evening are Bandwagon, who are more of your classic Irish rock aficionados, drawing heavily on Rory Gallagher and Thin Lizzy. The comparisons are not unfair either, guitarist Phil Edgar marking himself out as one to watch, particularly with a strong voice to compliment his guitar skills. Dreamcatcher appears to start with a rapidly dispensed with bit of Eye Of The Tiger, but it's Stuck In Your Ways that's the highlight, a bitter kicked in the teeth undercurrent and a hinted of coiled venom allied to the riffs. In comparison, Barbara is a romantic ballad, but still has a pang of melancholy to prevent it being sickly. Closing with a Rory Gallagher cover, Shadowplay, the best compliment that you could pay is that they do it justice. Having already supported The Answer, these guys are ones to watch.

The final support of the evening is from the slightly unfortunate Invinyl. I'm sure they're lovely chaps, but it's not a booking that helps them, and their gentle, middle of the road country-influenced gentle Stereophonics type of sound doesn't gel too well with the other bands on the bill. At best they're reminiscent of The Broken Family Band, and they're aiming for the soft British bluesy-country sound, but don't seem to get there, instead coming up short in the middle ground. Shine A Light and Cold Light of Day are inoffensive, but ultimately forgettable. It's been a hard slot for them, although the bloke giving it the big one down the front seemed to enjoy it.

Headlining, presumably being top of the class, best boys, and pulling pig-tails are Thrones Of Roll. Opener Zookeeper is sleaze-tastic, in the vein of Eagles of Death Metal, while Rise Up has an operatic theatricality. Hurricane is dedicated to the mouldy old fans of the Thrones, and apparently describes front-man Shane's digestive system. Four Fingers is grungier, with a dark chorus and the end marks a temporary reduction in numbers, before the pounding rock thud of Videostore prompts the reappearance of Shane, now attired like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, dishing out ultraviolence before sprinting off to return to normality. Voodoo Period and it's exhortation to "see you rock and roll" is seized by the crowd, with outbreaks of waving hands, moshing and general partying down the front (kids these days, honestly). Rather bizarrely, 'Dead Dogs Bones' sparks some impromptu nipple licking from our front-man, before the medley of 1980 and Go-Go-Go sends out a happy crowd. Bow down before the Thrones indeed.

William Johnston

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Gig Details
Venue: Empire Music Hall
Location: Belfast
Date: 11/9/2009

Line Up
Thrones of Roll
Dead Zebra

Related Links
+ Thrones of Roll (myspace)
+ Invinyl (myspace)
+ Bandwagon (myspace)
+ Dead Zebra (myspace)
+ SONI (myspace)