Wonder Villains, The Varionis, John D'Arcy, Southern
Tonight is a night for the brand spanking new, the young hopefuls, the re-invented, and the last waltz - four tasty slices of indie-pip goodness.
First up are Southern, a three piece drum, guitar and vocal outfit that make you forget there's anything "stripped back" about them. They move from ballads to blues to full on r'n'b , which may indicate they haven't quite settled on "their sound" just yet, but they're certainly one of the most promising new acts ATL has seen in ages.
The drummer is creative, if sometimes over complicated, while main man Thom is a natural on guitar and vocals. The stage presence is a little reserved by all but you can't help but feel this is just the beginning of something special.
Having seen John D'Arcy too many times to recount over the years, this reviewer was pleasantly surprised by the man's new persona with "the Great Bunch Of Lads". Old songs are reinvigorated and the new songs sound ready to bring John & Co. to the "next level". Beefed up with excellent punchy baselines, muted power chords and straight up beats, John D'Arcy has moved from twee teenage songwriter to the Weezer/Blink 182 radio friendly guitar driven indie-pop that so many try and fail.
The old favourites are there, but the most exciting prospect is the quality and catchiness of the new songs in the set, making me yearn to know the words so I can sing along.
It's the Varionis last ever gig, and you can't help reach out to the guys and hope it's a good send off. Tonight they open with 'Blood, Sweat and Cheers', with the apt chorus of "This Is It". There's little interaction between band members which makes for odd viewing and atmosphere, but perhaps it's just part of the final gig nerves.
Songs like 'Concaves', 'Greenhouse Party' and 'Everybody's Got A Story' prove they could write hooks, but they never finessed their performance or developed their truly own sound, owing a little too much to British indie guitar bands like Oasis, The Libertines and even Kasabian. They play an homage to the Buzzcocks before ending with 'Just Runaway', cementing that they're better live than on record, but fell just short of the mark.
Wonder Villains on the other hand, are brimming with enthusiasm and excitement. 'Mars Vista', 'Oh Peter' and 'Space Jam' show their ability to write great catchy pop hooks, while new song 'Wimbledon' shows a slightly more serious side sound wise.
However, it's their attitude and performance live that wins time and time again. Eimear is a natural front gal, talking between songs at ease, and the audience is well aware the Wonder Villains are first and foremost friends having an absolute ball on stage.
They end the set with 'Ferrari', which Eimear declares a "disaster" after a mistake, but they quickly recover showing that mistakes will happen, but if the act can love what they're doing this much, everyone will forgive the odd guff note.
The End Is The Beginning Is The End... Or is it The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning? Either way, it's looking good for Northern Irish music.