Ten Gallon Hat & The Big Salute + stellar support
On any other bill, all of tonight's bands could have been headliners. Opening band Phoenix Fire toy with the delicacy of shy, unassuming pop for no more than a few bars, before breaking into a frenzy of finely tuned chaos. As ever, the dual vocals of David Jackson and Fiona O'Kane are the driving force and are used to devastating effect. Each song arrives in waves with music and vocals creating a tsunami of a climactic cadence before guitars and drums retreat to the still waters of stripped back musical serenity.
An impressive crowd responds to Jackson's boyish charm; his enthusiasm and sheer enjoyment of the experience infect the crowd as one and the band leave the crowd practically begging for more.
Here Comes The Landed Gentry take to the stage to a smattering of applause before stealing the crowds attention with a relentless set. Theirs is a very different affair to Phoenix Fire as the night takes a turn towards the states. Front-man Marty Doherty has all the airs of a spirit-possessed Southern States preacher, gesticulating, glaring and growling at his captivated congregation. There's the unmistakable country swagger, but with stomping drums and bluesy rock guitars, HCTLG give an unforgettable performance of the highest-class rock and roll. With hardly a second between songs the performance has the feel of a hit and run. Blink and you'll miss them, but miss them at your peril.
Jackson Cage cool proceedings off with a stripped back line-up and a much less abrasive sound. Before long, a congregation of dancers assemble in front of the band for a good old knees up and the band respond accordingly with a great performance. An otherwise average set is greatly enhanced by some excellent guitar work by Paul Wilkinson and the dual vocals of Declan Doherty and Edelle McMahon. Offerings such as 'Help Me Mama' among others highlight the song writing class within the band and the expertise with which ideas are executed to fullest effect.
Ten Gallon Hat and The Big Salute take to the stage, and their launch performance goes without a hitch. By now the dancers are in full swing with limbs flailing wildly under the stage. The addition of keyboards adds a new dimension to the sound, making TGH stand out on the night.
More bluesy numbers are reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but apart from this it's straight up country on the menu. Neither of our final bands could be said to be reinventing country music, any of the songs could be finished by a few tuneless 'skiddle-de-dees' but their music and musicianship is of a high standard and with such a crowd, they almost make it cool to be country.