The Killing Spree & Friends
The one-off reunion of a long-beloved and sadly long-defunct band, along with some of the best the city has to offer these days? And it' for charity as well? Would be rude not to.
Opening up is an alternative Jonny Black, as in alternative to how we usually see him. Yes, he's still the sarky ne'er-do-well talented guitar-hero as always, but this time it's just him and an acoustic going a little bit country at times, like that other Johnny associated with Black, old Mr Cash, a Jonny Black In Black, and denim, and a scarf. However, he still manages to insult religion, guitar tuners, and admonish his audience while delivering old classics from Leadbelly interspersed with his own stuff. Really, this relatively unusual appearance just shows we probably don't appreciate him enough.
The non-acoustic Ablespacer are noisier, driven from the rhythm section that gives a base and anchor for front-man Robin to belt out the emotion in the alt-rock with stings in the tail. Bringing back oldie 'Nine Feet', it rumbles along, a crunching instrumental in the vein of Mezzanine-era Massive Attack, with a dash of hope, before going straight into 'Small Town', like Radiohead returning their Bends-era and re-doing it with their current experimental experience.
Barely fitting onto the stage are Pocket Billiards, with 8 people squeezed on there, possibly with a cast of thousands hiding in the back. 'Dirty Money' is impossible not to at least nod your head to, all ska-punk frivolity, their stand-in drummer filling in more than admirably. Professing that the return of The Killing Spree is up there with the reformations of New Kids On The Block and Spandau Ballet, they continue their punk-influenced ska, angry street poetry and punk-defiance raised a notch by the inclusion of brass and keys, recalling The Clash, The Pogues, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, with a dash of American punk and country funk to sweeten the mix. Ending on 'Belfast High' with an ironic repeated "f*** that punk s***" chant, it's as punk as they come, Clashing The Specials and Rage Against The Machine.
Any fatigue we may be feeling at this point has to be quickly dismissed by the appearance of Lafaro, although opener 'Climate' has the concession of a slow to the point of taunting rising introduction until the release of the unsettling thrash. Then the fashion show as Alan strips and Jonny proves he's a sucker for fashion donning the evening's must-have gig t-shirt. Meanwhile the music keeps getting greater, with 'Great Conversationsï¿½' threatening to collapse the old place under the pounding drums. A new song is not quite the jazz that was promising, more like the dark satanic stuff that Nick Cave does if he fancies a little hoe-down but by the time we get to the always impressive 'Leningrad' I swear Alan has shrunk from sweating. No matter as the sound is big enough to hide any diminishing musician. There may be more cerebral ways to pass the time, but none as enjoyable.
Approximately two minutes into the Killing Spree, a thought comes to mind: "What is the number of those guys who refurbished the Ulster Hall? Because we may have another job here."
It's mostly instrumental thrash-art-noise-chaos, but wonderful for it. More so for the impromptu vocals provided by the helpful stage invader. Riffs are everywhere, and you'd swear that they'd had more than one practice session, such is their tightness. 'Hamster v Spider' is yet another demonic deviant bit of pleasurable assault of the nature that you usually pay specialist ladies for. These black sheep cousins of ASIWYFA are nice guys though, passing round a shoe for donations to the evening as we're busy going deaf for the twin causes of chaos and charity.
(NB - photo of Lafaro not from gig)