Live Review: Dan Sartain, Lost Brothers

26 05 2010

**As originally published on Culture Northern Ireland – May 2010**

Belfast seems to be having a 50s revival right now. You can get the hair-do sorted at Vintage Rocks, we’ve our very own Whistle Bait Babies burlesque troupe and we’re spoilt for choice of an assortment of vintage fairs or throw-back events, where retro is celebrated and costume is essential. It seems like Dan Sartain – born about 50 years too late himself – is the right guy, arriving at the right time, to entertain a time-warped Belfast.

Also fans of the retrospective are the warm-up act The Lost Brothers, getting the evening started in a slightly curious, heart-warming way, their sound possessing a Mumford and Sons vibe. They have a unique look, a sort of old-fashioned, working-class Irish chic.

The Lost Brothers play a cover of Ricky Nelson’s ‘Lonesome Town’ and at Sartain’s request, ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ by The Everly Brothers, which are fine bedfellows alongside the Lost Brothers original material, which is lovely, but a bit Father Ted ‘lovely’.

For those new to Sartain, he’s a punk-rock troubadour from Birmingham, Alabama. Tonight is his third visit to the city having supported Hot Snakes and The Nightmarchers previously, but this is his first headline show, and his first with his backing band.

Sartain looks every bit the rock-star in his leather jacket, slick hair and shades, with his certain awkward-charm, there’s definitely an aura of cool-geek turned bad-ass about Sartain. With the way he carries himself on-stage with tongue-in-cheek banter, it’s impossible not to smile when watching.

Although fun to watch, the music itself is pretty dark. It’s a mesh of rockabilly, blues and surf-rock with a Mexican Mariachi twist. The set tonight is filled with tunes from the upcoming album, Lives, including ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To The Party’, ‘Yes Men’ and ‘Praying For A Miracle’ with a selection of old favourites like ‘Atheist Funeral’ and a Samhain cover of ‘The Hungry End’ to name a few.

Most of the tracks are two-minute jives that have an assortment of movers and shakers in the crowd strutting their stuff in an erratic fashion, which is brilliant to see. Sartain has an inspirational, intangible quality that makes you want to forget your inhibitions and get your groove on. Tonight’s encore includes a crowd request for ‘P.C.B. 98’ and ends with a cover of The Ramones classic ‘I Believe In Miracles’.

Amidst the tequila and whiskey-soaked B-movie horror-tinged spectacle, Sartain remains a genuinely down-to-earth, self-deprecating, humble, human being. Living as he does in his own self-constructed vintage bubble, for Sartain, it’s most definitely not a fad, a revival, or a scene. It’s the Sartain way of life, delivered with effortless cool.

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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.