Dutch Shultz, Strait Laces, Rupture Dogs, Key Of Atlas
Opening up Gifted is Lisbane based 4-piece Key of Atlas, who have slowly but surely been making their presence felt in Belfast. Despite playing an uncharacteristically short set, their contribution to proceedings is certainly a memorably one. The band has significantly upped their live ante since ATL last saw them - the vocals, formerly a major chink in their armour, have come on leaps and bounds, while Connor Burnside annihilates the drums with a barefaced psychopathic fury. A broken guitar string impedes their collective momentum; it soon signals an abrupt stop to their set, and we are left wanting more.
Next up is 3-piece The Rupture Dogs, who sear an indelible impression into the collective consciousness. The band works the stage with the kind of effortless cool we can only aspire to be. Thunderous basslines as sturdy as metal girders come in plentiful supply, alongside Allan McGreevy's claustrophobic and painstakingly accurate guitar work, delivered with a black-toothed grin. This kind of cacophonic heaven would be the perfect soundtrack to a violent riot in a run down steel mill. By our watch, The Rupture Dogs win the day.
North West Strait Laces roll on stage, fresh from the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. This reviewer must profess to being left cold this lots studio recordings and generally didn't believe the hype. But, after a set during which the band plays with such intensity that their guitarist physically draws blood, the appeal becomes clear - they are indeed one of the tightest live bands to emerge in recent memory. However their multitude of dynamic changes, while unique, can often be a little jarring, and it seems the strained vocals are the main culprit for any frostiness towards them.
Finishing off the evening is Dutch Schultz, who are operating with a new drummer for the first time. Something seems to missing from the sound that makes their studio recordings so big. Regardless, they perform with a ballsy confidence and trademark fetid humour, and deliver a mighty rendition of 'It Bends in the Middle.'
A peculiar evening, though a thoroughly enjoyable one, this month's Gifted line up demonstrated the diverse range of talent in Northern Ireland. From math core to desert rock, we've got it all.
Words: Chris Johnson