Documenta, Sea Pinks, Team Horse
There' a line in 'Losing my Edge' by LCD Soundsystem, "I hear your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars". Attending a gig in Belfast these days is more like, "I hear your band have sold your keyboards and bought effects pedals", as the somnambulant beast of shoe-gazing awakens, trampling the blips and beats that were such a feature of the past two years underfoot.
Not that you can accuse Geoff Topley of bandwagon jumping. With various names and projects he's been worshipping at the sonic cathedral for longer than I can remember, and his latest incarnation, Team Horse continues in this vein. It's a one trick pony and the stagecraft is firmly 'bloke in a Spiritualized T-shirt staring at his feet', but the music is something special.
It's the more muscular end of shoe-gazing, recalling Rock Action era Mogwai, or the first Interpol album sans vocals, rather than they fey, spectral songs of Slowdive. There's a genuine craft behind his work and a true understanding of what makes this style of music tick.
It's safe to say that many people are down to see Sea Pinks, by now the bar is full of the young and affected. It's revivalism in its purest form, and as bands like The Drums have shown, there's still some mileage to be had in the surf-rock genre. The tunes are simple and catchy, with plenty of potential, but something's not right.
Aloofness can be cool. You couldn't imagine Lou Reed chimping round the stage like Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but there are limits. Four words are spoken during the set - "Thank you", and somewhat fittingly, "More reverb" - aside from that there is zero audience interaction.
Pop music should be fun, and one wonders how a band can expect the audience to engage, when their bored expressions would be more at home in a bus queue, rather than a packed out rock venue on a Friday night?
There's a shameful drift outside as Documenta set up, with the brutal simplicity of Spacemen 3's 'Revolution' blasting through the PA setting the scene admirably for the reclusive outfit. Sitting on a barstool amid a sea of pedals and guitar leads, Joe Green acts as ringmaster for a truly immersive sound.
The Menagerie's PA is pushed to the limit as an hypnotic drone emerges from the band's many guitars. With the vocals low in the mix, it's easy to just close your eyes and let the music carry you away to a better place, borne on a wave of hypnotic grooves. It's more than just clichéd loud-quiet-loud dynamics, there's a genuine sense of texture and control here; it's relatively simple to plug in pedals and launch a sonic assault, without any of the sense of restraint displayed by Documenta.
But when Documenta kick in properly, no prisoners are taken. The last song is announced and ATL looks at its watch - 45 minutes have drifted by in what felt like five. There's no encore, Joe apologising, clearly not expecting to be asked. He refuses to play gigs in the winter. I'd strongly advise you to catch them before they go into hibernation.