A Plastic Rose, Axis Of, Before Machines...
Before Machines kicked off proceedings on Friday night with an understated yet nonetheless impressive performance. With a sound reminiscent of early Idlewild, the group delivered their set without fuss. Older songs such as "We Were Stayed" sounded better than ever, while finale "Stalagmites" was the highlight of the set: a dreamy track with a dark undercurrent, with the occasionally vulnerable vocals of Andy Melville backed ably by the mesmerising drumming skills of Dan Larkin. A little more crowd interaction wouldn't go amiss, but it's clear Before Machines have something special about them. Hopefully they can continue their rapid growth displayed since forming in 2008.
When Axis Of took to the stage, this reviewer subconsciously took a step back from the speakers. They're loud, they're proud, and they've got a few decent points to make as well: similar to At The Drive In, but with a North Coast twist. The vocals from Ewen and Niall were shouty and impassioned but the lyrics were a little lost upon us: it was only possible to make out every second or third word which is a shame. That aside, it's one hell of a performance. Stonking basslines and shifting time signatures are integral to the Axis Of sound, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with their single Brobdingnagian. Not for everybody, but an exciting band that are perhaps beginning to justify the hype.
Few people can hold a grudge against A Plastic Rose: they're widely acknowledged as one of the hardest working bands in Northern Ireland at the minute (as well as being lovely lads). Industry, however, will get you nowhere without catchy tunes which this band have in abundance. Even new song and opener "I Can See Oceans" is infectious. The vocal partnership between Gerry Norman and Iain McHugh is perfectly balanced: the boyish charm of Norman, working the crowd like an American pastor, and the shy and restrained McHugh, getting on with the job in hand with a sheepish smile on his face. Well known tracks such as "Silence, You" showcase their heartfelt-indie-rock-with-a-bit-of-inoffensive-shoegaze-thrown-in style, but the band rely a little bit too much upon the crowd to sing along: occasionally songs became ropey in places.
However, all was forgiven when the single "Kids Don't Behave Like This" was played. It's a genuine singalong anthem that could propel the band into the mainstream, with an explosive ending. The crowd were separated into two for a "sing-off" of sorts: needless to say, a ball was had as a mosh pit developed at the front of the stage. However, the highlight of the set had to be "Sun's A Shadow" as members of various local bands joined A Plastic Rose on stage. The added instrumentation (including an extra drummer, a violinist and a trumpeter) created this lush, orchestral sound and helped to reinvent an older track into something stunning.
Music has always been a fickle mistress, but with a little luck A Plastic Rose will become yet another success story from our shores.