Katie and The Carnival Tea and Garden Party
At first glance NI seems like an unwelcoming place of RAWK, full of snarling guitars and venom-spitting frontmen. If you take the time to look deeper though, you'll find a wealth of musical talent who celebrate harmonies, home-made instruments and theatricality. Taking this idea and running with it, Katie Richardson invites us to a musical love-in with more free cupcakes than you can shake a stick at, all in the name of Katie and The Carnival's first single release. The day starts with a Black Box swathed in patterned fabric and mystery, Katie's Carnival providing the backing band and a host of local acts queuing to take their place centre stage.
Each band adapt their songs acoustically to allow for the backing band and some succeed more than others. Seven Summits lose something in the change, their quirky misery seems dour and it's all a bit low-key, whilst Silhouette fare better, the ominous rumble of the piano lending itself to the dramatic nature of the songs. Sound problems dampen her set though, continuing throughout Richard Clements' set. Sound issues aside, Richard treats us to a quirky brand of easy-listening, his duet with Katie stepping right out of a Doris Day musical, an early highlight of the day. Duke Special also sings a duet with Katie, his camp storytelling the perfect foil to her melodies. Sons Of Caliberï¿½showcase repeated refrains that gradually expand and rise with Mumford And Sons-esque harmonies. A mandolin adds a plaintive terror to songs about death and although it remains to be seen how much would be lost without the backing vocals of The Carnival, with songs that catchy a singing audience could easily fill the void.
The evening show is a change of pace with full bands playing full sets. Queer Giraffes are known for being a lil' bit country, but also channel elements of early 90s grunge, giving us something we didn't expect; something to dance to. Clown Parlour, on the other hand, play a game of two halves. Starting off a little too serious, they seem to suck all enthusiasm out of the room, the only standout being the stealthily atmospheric basslines. However, spurred on by audience support ,they shake themselves out of the rut, morphing into a smoothly operating machine, 'Stanley Kubrick' sang with full intensity by both Mike Mormecha and his female companion.
The Lowly Knights are perfect for this sort of event. They have a band of devoted followers who know all the words, all the handclaps, and whose enthusiasm is infectious. Sure, they have slow songs but they have enough dancing material to keep the momentum going and they attack their instruments with vigour.
After a marathon of a day, it's time for Katie And The Carnival. Brand new material is showcased, one song in particular letting Katie show off her voice to its full potential, a rolling spiritual of a song featuring almost Gospel-like call and response. The single 'Went To The Fair' is a slice of upbeat pop containing wistful lyrics that recall 60s girl groups. In fact, each song seems to represent a different bygone era, 'Can't Get No Sleep' bringing to mind a Speakeasy in Prohibition-era Chicago, and 'Spring' bursting out with old-time music hall glamour.
It's basically a band on top of their game, knowing exactly what messages they want to send sonically and visually, and they're only releasing their first single. Roll on the album!