THERE is a camaraderie about rock and metal fans that is beyond compare - and for the past several days that has been demonstrated time and time again...but the scenesters and their chequed designer shirts will never know how to give and receive respect. (More of that later.)
First let us rewind back a week or so. 'Twas a Saturday evening and all was well in the world. A healthy gathering of like-minded souls congregated in the vicinity of Ormeau Avenue, many graduating to the hallowed Distortion Project residency in Limelight1.
Once inside there was a four-band treat, at which many nodded in agreement at the mutual enjoyment.
This was a celebration of the launch of Gacy's Threads split 7" with Swiss monsters Colossus Fall.
Opening up was the rhinoceros like charge of Tusks. In your face, in your ears, in your way if you wanted a casual early evening pint, because this was an unrelenting, groove assassination on your senses. Outside Limelight1 casual drinkers and scenesters winced. Where there was calm once there was now mayhem; and it felt good. Tom was manic in this his second singing slot of the weekend, and more than aware of how 'under the weather' he was and how 'angry' he was at everything and everyone while he was on stage, despite being a model of congeniality off-stage.
As more and more people in checked shirts and coloured jeans gathered (hand in your mancard people!) for the early show with Jimmy Eat World in Limelight1 Lantern Gale came on two doors away. Self-proclaimed 'post-hardcore, melodic hardcore they quickly into the groove and the obligatory singer, Paul on the dance floor.
Post-hardcore and melodic post-hardcore has always been a slightly mystifying to us here at Belfastmetalheads. Apart from 36 Crazyfists and local act Escape Fails there has been a lack of coherence to 'post-hardocre' acts. Lantern for a Gale kicked up a noise but only held together with some of the melodic sections. Of note was the title-track of their ep Cut Throat Blues, which had more than an echo of the Cancer Bats but cleared the decks with a frenetic energy and an edge that left more than a few nodding their heads in appreciation.
As more and more pints were consumed - naturally - we broke our Fivewilldie cherry. First time seeing these guys from Cork and wow! Sludge, metal, doom, prog all mixed together in a wonderful brew of noise.
This is where the camaraderie of rock and metal was in clear evidence. This was a band unknown to more than half those present, but each person appreciated their effort in making the journey and their effort on stage. And what an effort it was.
With more groove than a 12" long player, more noise than a flag protest and more focused energy than a thousand Duracell Bunny Fivewilldie are a potent force. The homage to Sabbath was done perfectly with a modern take on the riffmeister's sound.
But, let's face it we were there to celebrate Gacys Threads split launch with Swiss Noisenicks Colossus Fall.
How come we can celebrate such a furious assault? There has been some recent research that listening to loud, aggressive music makes you happy. Well, f**k me pink, we already knew that!
And when Gacys Threads came on stage they made us happy. Furious, aggressive hardcore metal played with an intensity that was frankly scary at times - but scary in a good way.
Life Struck, Titans and the tracks from the split Plague Wielder and Salvation struck the assembled like a smash in the face by a knuckle-duster wielding thug.
Aaron Vance prowled the stage like a caged animal until let loose off the stage, rampaging and tearing loose. On this night in particular Gacys Threads were at a peak, rhythm rolling, guitars furious and an attitude that bound all in attendance together.
Contrast that with the crowd at Jimmy Eat World. Wandering two doors up from being pummeled by Gacys Threads and smiling faces we were immediately taken aback by the numpties there as it was an 'event' to be seen at rather than a gig to enjoy.
Would you rather actually watch performers and enjoy the effort they put in, or would you rather talk amongst yourselves?
For the vast, vast majority of rock and metal fans you pay your fee and enjoy the show. You do not talk, chat, compare styles, take selfies, watch the gig through your phone and keep on talking, and talking and talking....
While the Belfastmetalheads crew were divided over whether Jimmy Eat World were great or insipid it was difficult to make up one's mind when the people next to you are talking, or complaining about getting bumped into (it's a rock gig for Odin's sake not an opera!).
After the sheer exuberant joy of The Distortion Project Gacys Threads show (and the three superb acts with them) it left a slightly sour taste in the mouth.
Fast forward a few days. A double header - The Distortion Project were hosting four bands and Rockradioni were promoting a Motley Crue tribute band.
Unfortunately we missed the debut of '84 at Stiff Kitten, but there were smiles all round when Bakken brought the thrash - and grins were in evidence. Darkest Days and Sasquatch were awesome. This is a band that deserves more exposure!
As to exposure we saw a Scottish invasion in the form of Mair. Now we like a band that shows enthusiasm, and we like a band that enjoys being on stage, and we really like a crowd of people of people gathered together for the music, not to chitter and chatter.
Mair provided a refreshing take on groove metal, with Del's broad Glaswegian accent transmogrifying into a deep bellow, verging between Tom Araya and Howard Jones. Miranda's bass playing was outstanding, but her off-stage antics, running around the crowd while playing, egging on the audience kept the momentum flying during the set. The easy, between song banter, showed a cohesive unit leading the line. Scotland are lucky to have these crowd of glorious nutters. If Scotland gets independence will we need to show our passports to see them...
What can one say about Sinocence? They are players par excellence, with a fine sense of subtle songwriting. Noise and finesse, excellent playing and sheer talent. No Gods, No Masters Vol1 is an obvious platform to build upon as they march onwards.
Again this shows what a rock audience is about. Appreciating the band, acknowledging the effort and being genuinely entertained by the likes of Sinocence - and if you want to chat go outside and have a smoke or take in the fresh air.
Having been so thoroughly entertained smiling groups of people wandered amiably from the Stiff Kitten to The Empire. Genially chatting before hooking up with friends old and new before Screaming Eagles ripped apart the Botanic Avenue venue. Quite literally - in the same way that Gacys Threads and Sinocence rise to new heights - the Eagles lay it down. Three bands, three very different genres within the spectrum of rock and metal and three performances that earned admiration.
The Eagles seem to be growing with each performance, as if the spirit of DC, Cream and Free has inhabited all four band members.
And this returns to our main theme: when two or more are gathered together at the altar or metal, the tribe honours the music and upon completion of the music the congregation - whether in clusters of friends or at the bar contemplation and critiquing the tribe has a camaraderie no other genre has.
That particular evening concluded with Motley Crew UK, headed by the irrepressible Ash. While more entered into the spirit (get drunk and party!) there were others - Anto for example - who did not find it as appealing - yet no-one fell out over it, no-one took the hump.
No matter which genre of hard rock and metal there seems to be a genuine camaraderie, a general feeling that we are one tribe.
Yes, there are always a few numpties out there, who spoil it more for themselves than the people around them, and there bands that part ways due to 'musical differences' but in general it seems that the tribe holds together better than any other group of people. As Eamonn Nancrow says: "protestant, catholic, black, white, or Bangorian" rock 'n' roll transcends boundaries.
And a big hand to all the promoters and publicists, from Stephen Currie and Savour Your Scene through to MCD, from Derwin and the Diamond Rock Club crew, from James and the beloved Distortion Project to Shine and the Limelight, from all at the Voodoo through to Rockradoni - all deserve a hearty slap on the back for enabling bands to play for the benefit of the tribe.