Live Review: Joe Lally, Girls Names, Comply Or Die

12 02 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – Nov 2009**

Joe Lally is best known as the bassist in Fugazi. Fugazi! It’s not often someone from such an influential act rolls in to town. It’s a pretty big deal and testament to the calibre of acts that tonight’s promoters, Strange Victory, regularly provide us with.

Comply Or Die are up first, and despite what can only be described as an intimate crowd, they give it stacks. It’s nice to see a band that give it their all, no matter what. Musically, they’re a strange beast – basically a post-hardcore band, loud and heavy, layering and building to crescendos of noise – but it’s more raw, more punk; the guitar sound is pure grunge. It’s a unique approach, but it sort of comes across like Nirvana attempting Mogwai covers, it’s just not quite right. Comply Or Die have the potential to be a great punk band, if they cut the songs down and keep things simple. At the minute, the songs drag; they’re not intricate enough to wow technically or engrossing enough to offer any kind of emotional investment, too many ideas being crammed into each song.

Girls Names are next on the bill, a two-piece who describe themselves as “disposable noise pop”. It’s hard to argue with that. They sound like Morrissey singing Beach Boys songs in the shower. The vocal effect genuinely makes them sound like they’re singing through a giant toilet. The bass drum seems to be constantly trying to escape throughout the set, and I sort of want to join it.

Joe Lally is here to steer us back on track. He says a few words, joking that he “can’t see the dots too well” on his fretboard, we might have to forgive him for being sloppy. He’s accompanied tonight by Elisa Abela on guitar and Ricardo Lagomasino on drums. They’re a super tight outfit; the dots aren’t an issue, Joe could obviously play with his eyes closed. And his hands tied behind his back. Maybe.

To say that Lally’s solo efforts come across like Fugazi-lite would be to do him a disservice, but it wouldn’t be too far off the mark. The trademark Fugazi basslines are there, driving the songs along in that customary funk-punk groove, but while Fugazi would occasionally crank the volume, Joe has a more measured approach; there’s a jazzy-blues vibe, his hushed vocals minimal but with a sense of rhythm that accompanies the music perfectly without ever being the focus.

Like A Baby is one of the more minimalist offerings, but a definite highlight in the set. We’re also treated to a new song, tentatively titled Let It Burn, which Joe introduces with these words: “if they tell you that you’re being too kind, and you’re going to be defeated, just be yourself anyway”.

The set ends not on the stage, but with an acapella rendition of Sons And Daughters, in the middle of the floor. It’s utterly mesmerising, a truly special moment, and one which is underlined by Joe’s heartfelt thanks to those in attendance: for coming tonight, for following his bands throughout his career, and for being actively involved in the music community, because that’s what it’s all about – community.

Tonight has served to reaffirm that Joe Lally is not only an amazingly talented musician, but an unassuming, instantly likeable, and utterly genuine man as well. It makes a refreshing change to see that someone so revered is still so humble.


Live Review: The Nightmarchers, Dan Sartain

12 02 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – Nov 2009**

Having opened for John Reis (AKA Speedo)’s previous band, Hot Snakes, in Belfast in 2005, Dan Sartain is back in tow again to kick things off. He’s a quirky character, a wiry, awkward fella with slicked back hair and he wouldn’t look out of place in an old B-movie. He looks a little shady, if truth be told, but his cheeky charm shines through and it’s hard not to like him.

He throws out one song request for being too “depressing”, but he’s more than willing to oblige the others. His set of spookabilly-blues has a whiskey-soaked, Alabama charm and he’s engrossing to watch; on one hand, he’s clearly awkward, but on the other, he’s having fun and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. It’s old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, and one by one, song by song, the members of the Night Marchers join him on stage – by the end, his solo set is a full band set.

No respite then, no changeover, as one act merges seamlessly into the other, and it’s The Night Marchers’ turn to take the limelight. Speedo ain’t happy that some people are sitting down though, brandishing them “rude” and “disrespectful”, hoping that the “lazy bastards wakes up with haemorrhoids”. It ain’t exactly the best way to endear yourself to a crowd, but I guess when you’re him, you can get away with it.

They open with ‘Bad Bloods’, before ripping through a set mostly comprised of tracks from their debut album ‘See You In Magic’. Speedo is an enigmatic front-man, you can see the sweat dripping from him and he has a steely look of determination on his face; it’s hard to not be sucked in by the passion and sincerity of the performance. It’s a set full of fast-paced, straight up punk-rock with ‘I Wanna Deadbeat You’ and ‘And I Keep Holding On’ being highlights, but something’s missing – the huge riffs and fun vibes from Rocket From The Crypt aren’t there, and the anger that was present in Hot Snakes isn’t quite there in the same way either. The Night Marchers seem to have found themselves stuck on the fence between two legendary acts, and the spark just isn’t there as a result. Fence-sitters don’t make legends, and while these guys are definitely good, their previous work shows us that they can do, and have done, even better.

Live Review: Gallows, Rolo Tomassi

13 06 2009

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – May 2009**

Gallows have blazed a trail through the UK over the last few years, reigniting the passion of rock fans and garnering more attention than any punk band from the UK since the Sex Pistols and the Clash. They’ve been to Belfast twice before, and it’s our turn yet again, to experience the mayhem.

Before we get to the main event tonight, it’s the turn of Rolo Tomassi to get us in the mood. They’re a strange breed, these young pups. They’re noisy and jerky, starty and stoppy, there are occasional moments of respite and brief hints at melody but for the most part these guys do things their way. There’s no simple a to b to c stuff going on here like in a normal tune, they go a to p to z and back to a again, just because they can. If they were taxi drivers, they’d drive you from Belfast to Dublin and then back again, even though you just asked them to take you down the pub. They’d still only make you pay the minimum fare though, ’cause they seem like nice folk, but they take you on a helluva journey. RT are amazingly proficient technically and utterly mesmorising, leading lady Eva especially, as she goes from singing sweetly to growling terrifyingly in a split second, throwing shapes all the while. An entertaining live act but unlikely that their recorded output would warrant repeated listens, as it ain’t exactly catchy…

Gallows kick things off with recent single ‘The Vulture (Act II)’. During the intro, Frank is bouncing up and down, hoodie on with hood up; he looks like a boxer getting ready to enter the ring. It couldn’t be more fitting. After about 27 seconds we’ve already have our first crowd-surfer of the night, and half way through the second song, ‘Come Friendly Bombs’, we’ve got another one but this time they’re heading in the opposite direction – it’s Frank who has launched himself off the stage, practically walked across the heads of the crowd and made it the whole way to the seated area facing the stage. This guy is nuts. Two songs in and they’ve set the scene for the evening, no-one is safe from the action tonight, no standing at the back with a quiet pint, Gallows are here to get in your face. Look lively.

For one night only, third song ‘London Is The Reason’ is re-named ‘Belfast Is The Reason’; the crowd lap it up, singing the new lyrics along with Frank at every opportunity. Frank is hanging off the rafters now, still hooded, still singing along. He’s like an over-active kid running around in a restaurant. Except older, not as irritating, a lot scarier and in a bar.

Not even the staff are safe tonight, as next stop is the bar for Frank, who stops mid-song to pour himself a pint before hopping on the shoulders of a bouncer and getting a piggy-back to the stage, pint in hand. “That’s what it’s all about, stealing a pint from the bar when you don’t even f**king drink”. Now, that’s punk.

Mid-way through the set, the band ask for the floor lights to be turned on so that they can see the crowd before requesting a circle pit. There ain’t much space in the Limelight but the crowd duely oblige as best they can. Next, they are joined on stage by Eva from Rolo Tomassi who shares vocal duties with Frank for a song, like a hardcore Sonny and Cher, and it works brilliantly.

The set continues and the songs keep coming, including ‘Black Eyes’, dedicated to politicians and the catchiest track from their new album (possibly a future single?), old favourites ‘In The Belly Of A Shark’ and ‘Abandon Ship’ and several more, before ending with ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’, before which Frank declares “I don’t want to have to sing a word of this song because I’m f**king sick of it”. The crowd clearly aren’t though, as they scream every word right back, regardless.

Of course, the night isn’t quite over yet as Belfast’s usual post-gig chant of “one more tuuuuuune” gets Gallows back for that one which is closer from the new album, ‘Crucif**ks’. It’s storming and intense, just like the rest.

Gallows tore the Limelight up tonight. They’re an incendiary live act and one of the most impressive, and most important bands in the UK at the moment. Very few bands show the raw energy, aggression and passion that these guys do. After 12 rounds with Frank and co, the crowd are definitely the winners but we’ve all taken a beating. Vicious, violent, aggressive, brilliant. See Gallows now, before they come looking for you.

Live Review: mojoFURY, Gaju, The Remains Of Youth

24 03 2009

**As originally published in AU #37 – June/July 2007**

Live Review: Corrigan, Fickle Public, X-Voto

16 03 2009

**As originally published in AU #30 – Oct/Nov 2006**

Live Review: Coheed & Cambria, Civilian

14 03 2009

**As originally published in AU #25 – Mar/Apr 2006**

Live Review: The Debonaires, The Remains Of Youth, The Lingus, Three Tales

14 03 2009

**As originally published in AU #23 – Dec 2005/Jan 2006**