Farriers, 1930's, Phoenix Fire, Elspeth
Gifted showcases are always a treat, forever providing a lush palette of bands from differing genres, and tonight is no exception. It's refreshing to witness a handful of groups who behold a more self-effacing demeanour, and only harvest peripheral attention when compared to more reputed Northern Irish bands.
First up is Elspeth, and from the first moments of their set, it's plain to see that these guys are devout disciples of ï¿½The Bends' era Radiohead: the triad of buzzing guitars, the tantalizingly delicate verses and stellar choruses - all hallmarks of the acclaimed rock titans. This is by no means a criticism of the group; they manage to emulate a similar style of their supposed peers, but without seeming like an unabashed rip off.
Their meticulously crafted guitar lines perfectly compliment a theatrical vocal delivery, and you garner a sense that this is a group who possess a shrewd sensibility for melody. Their lacklustre stage presence costs them marks, but tonight, Elspeth let their music do their talking.
Without so much as a peep, Phoenix Fire take over proceedings. The duel vocal harmonies of Fiona O'Kane and David Jackson are on the pulse, and as always, the duo remains the band's main focal point. The juxtaposition between O'Kane's cool sensuality and Jackson's vibrance and uncanny ability to command the stage make them a unique and wholly enjoyable spectacle.
What's impressive about Phoenix Fire is their collective ability to lull you into a false sense of security; at one instance they are ghostly quiet, then suddenly everything skyrockets into a triptych of sonic artistry. It's high time the 5-piece started climbing the ranks and gaining the attention they deserve.
Trading the atmospherics for a more stripped down affair is 2-piece The 1930's. On first impressions, it seems a little bland, but on closer inspection, you begin to get a deeper understanding of how the band operate. Given such a limiting musical setup of a tiny drum kit and acoustic guitar, they explore all the possibilities available to them to create a simple yet rhythmically varied sound.
Their music has an almost Wild-West American abrasiveness to it, like the kind of music heard sung by a chain gang. As such, The 1930's is a rather befitting namer for the duo, even though it's a web search nightmareï¿½
After a lengthy pause, Farriers finally make an appearance. They have certainly cut their eye teeth on a wide scope of acoustic orientated folk, from the introspective country shuffle of ï¿½Shoreï¿½ to the high-paced bluegrass of ï¿½So Long as I Can Stayï¿½, the latter of which whips the crowd into a good old-fashioned thigh slapping. The vocal melodies courtesy of Rachel Coulter and Stephen Macartney are utterly flawless, propelled along by enormous locomotive drumming. It's hard not to love.
While they end the evening on a wonderfully positive tone, the general ambience seems all too gracious and civil. You can't help but feel that a group of musicians creating such effervescent music ought to be reciprocated with just as much enthusiasm. Farriers' music often conjures up imagery of a whiskey fuelled lock-in in a pub in a seaside shantytown. By the sounds of it, it's where they would thrive.