Night Marchers, Dan Sartain
Having opened for John Reis (AKA Speedo)'s previous band, Hot Snakes, in Belfast in 2005, Dan Sartain is back in tow again to kick things off. He's a quirky character, a wiry, awkward fella with slicked back hair and he wouldn't look out of place in an old B-movie. He looks a little shady, if truth be told, but his cheeky charm shines through and it's hard not to like him.
He throws out one song request for being too "depressing", but he's more than willing to oblige the others. His set of spookabilly-blues has a whiskey-soaked, Alabama charm and he's engrossing to watch; on one hand, he's clearly awkward, but on the other, he's having fun and doesn't care what anyone else thinks. It's old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, and one by one, song by song, the members of the Night Marchers join him on stage - by the end, his solo set is a full band set.
No respite then, no changeover, as one act merges seamlessly into the other, and it's The Night Marchers' turn to take the limelight. Speedo ain't happy that some people are sitting down though, brandishing them "rude" and "disrespectful", hoping that the "lazy [person] wakes up with haemorrhoids". It ain't exactly the best way to endear yourself to a crowd, but I guess when you're him, you can get away with it.
They open with 'Bad Bloods', before ripping through a set mostly comprised of tracks from their debut album 'See You In Magic'. Speedo is an enigmatic front-man, you can see the sweat dripping from him and he has a steely look of determination on his face; it's hard to not be sucked in by the passion and sincerity of the performance. It's a set full of fast-paced, straight up punk-rock with 'I Wanna Deadbeat You' and 'And I Keep Holding On' being highlights, but something's missing - the huge riffs and fun vibes from Rocket From The Crypt aren't there, and the anger that was present in Hot Snakes isn't quite there in the same way either. The Night Marchers seem to have found themselves stuck on the fence between two legendary acts, and the spark just isn't there as a result. Fence-sitters don't make legends, and while these guys are definitely good, their previous work shows us that they can do, and have done, even better.