Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, February 26, 2007

Penguins, metal and a thousand plus pounds

WHEN it comes down to it, Sunday 18th February, 2007 was a landmark day for metal and hard rock in Belfast’s music annals.

From prowling penguins to lashings of damn good locally played and written music; from hilarious antics both on and off the stage; to moments of sublime musicianship there will be many more claiming to be there than actually quaffed an ale or six at the bar of the Spring & Airbrake.

In fact, already at least two people this reviewer knows, who were not within several miles of Ormeau Avenue that day, are claiming to have enjoyed the sets laid down by the 12 bands….

Seeing as the day was in aid of the locally based Fibromyalgia support charity, they should make an anonymous donation, given that they claim to have been there!

When the doors opened on the day the eager early birds piled into a bar area with a smattering of the dedicated wandering around amidst band members. Well, it was a Sunday and the average rock and metal fan around Belfast takes a wee while to find that slippery edge of consciousness!

With crowd numbers surely but steadily rising Vile Intent kicked the proceedings off with a snarl; launching into a ragged but energetic version of So What. If you only know the Metallica version check out the Anti-Nowhere League’s original to appreciate that energy can triumph over precision. Thankfully Vile Intent managed to retain the snarl right up until the crowd-pleasing cover of For Whom the Bell Tolls ended.

The pace changed when Drekk hit the stage, with a combination of tight classic rock melodies, excellent, if under-stated, musicianship; melded with prog rock sensibilities. Genuine wit shone through from opener Galloping Horse, through – amongst others – Horse that Fool and Long Way Home.

By now seating and space at the bar was reaching a premium, even if the front was mysteriously missing headbangers (see previous comment….it was a feckin’ Sunday!). Tribulation’s brash power-tinged thrash sensibilities arrived. Stand-out tracks Doom and Devastated showcased the intricacies that could have been hidden in the wall of noise in less capable hands.

Catch 23 could have expected a tougher time with their more melodic rock coming between Tribulation and Psyiatica, but they managed to lay down a competent set. Occasionally their sound struggled to hitch the melodies together, but as their set progressed they found a rhythm that suited both the arrangements and the building crowd.

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll sang AC/DC, and it’s sure as hell a long way from Limerick to Belfast on yer average Sunday! But Psyiatica made it seem like they were playing to a home-town crowd when they blitzed the mid-afternoon, bursting with metal force, tight tunes and the first confirmed reports of circle headbanging of the day…

There was a furious self-belief as they rattled through Rot & Revel, Greed, Cradle, Tight and Cut-up in what seemed a very short period of minutes. Several people were noted as having either shit-eating grins or gaping in astonishment. As the trio boarded their van to head back to the wilds of Limerick they could have confidently muttered “result!” except they seem to humble to do so….

Last Orders, faced a challenge following the Limerick crew, but they rose to that challenge with their energetic metal tempered with a dash of old-school metal blues sounds. However, it has to be said the Scorpions/Accept-style co-ordinated ‘guitar goes up, guitar goes down’ moves raised a titter – though that’s not always a bad thing – especially when the twin-guitars were bouncing off each other so well!

Arcane Suppression’s trad-British metal followed quickly on, with tight rhythms anchoring the sound down. Given the trad influences and the thrashier vibes, Arcane managed the tricky balancing act.

By this stage the attention of the Jagermeister promotional team and the generosity of Michael (cheers!) put paid to jotting down set-lists – ‘twas as well the day’s running order had been noted down earlier…

Honey for Christ and Bad Boat followed, more definitive proof that the local metal scene is alive, kicking and ready to keep heads a’ banging and pits a moshing when required. Both have very different styles, and on February 18th both proved that when needed, they can produce an epic feel to their music.

Those who only ever get their tracks on an iPod or a Myspace download had before them proof that only in a live setting can you really appreciate what the local scene is producing.

With the crowd still reeling from HFC and BB, Blind Friday roared into their set. They have a recorded sound that verges on the mainstream rock at times, but there was no doubt they came to the Spring & Airbrake to lay it down. Tight tunes and tighter playing were served up as heads nodded and toes tapped…awful image for a rock gig, but you get what was happening to the ever-increasing crowd. Although why name a song LoveBug remains a mystery…

Sorrowfall have worked hard to develop their power metal sound, which made it all the more difficult when bassist and vocalist Steve Reynolds was forced to abandon his lead vocal duties – but never fear cried the crowd, as guest vocalists lined up to do justice to the ‘Fall’s growing reputation. Cult followers crowded round the stage to yell encouragement.

By now Jager and lager had had the desired effect - notebook was abandoned and a beeline was made for the front where heads were lowered for some serious metal, from Residual Effect. I know that some of the band were disappointed with their performance, but suffice to say that even on an off night RE can lay waste. It is a tribute that they can lay down as good a set and get even my ancient head banging when a little off their normally precise brutality.

But the day was more than the metal (never thought I would pen those words!). It was all in aid of Fibromyalgia Support Northern Ireland. More than £1,000 was raised for the charity. Credit, plaudits and genuine respect goes to all involved in getting the gig off the ground and delivering the fundraising promise as well as a fantastic music.

To those that donated raffle prizes (see list below for all those that displayed generosity above and beyond…), to Davey and all at the Spring & Airbrake for facilitating the day, to the bands for giving of their time and energy, to the volunteers of all descriptions, to the efforts of Steve in supporting all the bands and making sure the event ran to schedule, to many many more, and to the penguin…

But most of all to Laura Kennedy. Her tirelessness and devotion kept the dream of a one-day metal fest for a good cause alive when many others would have crumbled! Well done!

Excellent pix from the event, courtesy of Rokpix’s Colin Patterson, coming to this site soon!

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