According to historical records, pirates (at least in their commonly perceived historical incarnation) may have sailed into many ports but they never quite ventured as far north as Britain – and certainly never as far as the shores of what, at that time, would have been Carrickfergus Bay.
However, British metal’s favourite corsairs Alestorm – two of whom hail from these very shores – once again returned to one of their favourite haunts, the cavernous underground Mandela Hall, as they hove to, hoisted the Jolly Roger and brought their massive Piratefest to Belfast on the third and final (wooden?) leg of their jaunt across Ireland in support of their recent ‘Sunset On The Golden Age’ collection of shanties. And they brought a scurvy band of knaves and rhabscallions along with them to help them pillage and loot the hearts and souls of the native fans.
Things got off to a decidedly weird start, shall we say, with Rainbowdragoneyes (https://www.facebook.com/Rainbowdragoneyes) – a one-man one-console band made up of 31-year old Eric W Brown who sings, death metal style over the top of songs recorded on his 8bit GameBoy – although he mockingly upgrades it to an X Box 360! It sounds like a formula for an attic bedroom rather than a live stage, and certainly the crowd is split down the middle: those closest to the stage are happily dancing away, while many ’round the outside appear conflicted and perplexed in equal measure – a fact he himself recognizes in one of his between song raps. At one stage he is joined by the guys from Lagerstein – including The Majestic Beast resplendent in a tiger onesie! Yes, at the end of the evening, it’s all about having fun doing what you’re doing, and both Brown and a significant part of the audience are doing just that, and his set ultimately is a highly entertaining way to kick off the evening’s shenanigans.
Storming out of that well known haven of iniquity that is the East Midlands, Red Rum (https://www.facebook.com/redrummetal) take to stage with swashbuckling intent and immediately win over nearly every reprobate and press-ganged seadog in the place, as right to the back of the room fists are pumping and voices are raised. Led by the imposing and dynamic Dave Everitt, the six piece deliver an energetic and effervescent set, with a fine selection of shanties which leave the tang of salt on your lips and the fire of rum in your belly – and a thirst for more… there’s also another stage invasion from the Lagerstein lads, who seem overly eager to be treading the boards before their allotted time, during the tumultuous ‘Make Port Drink Port’, which has the whole room dancing. This was my first encounter with Red Rum – but it certainly won’t be my last!
Having already made premature appearances during the two previous sets, it was immediately obvious that Australia’s Lagerstein (https://www.facebook.com/lagerstein) had sailed the seven seas from the land down under with only two intentions in mind – to have as much fun as possible and to drink as much as humanly possible in the process! This is made clear early one when, instead of indulging in a needlessly superficial guitar duel, guitarists The Majestic Beast and Neil Rummy Rackers indulge in a ‘fill yer boots’ drinking competition – in which the latter has a decidedly unfair advantage by wearing equally decidedly un-piratical gutties!
What follows is 45 minutes of alcohol-fuelled insanity which is more fun than a X-rated episode of ‘Captain Pugwash’ – or ‘Jake And The Neverland Pirates’ for our younger readers. There’s plenty of drink related nonsense, mostly involving a beer bong (used to best effect by the return of Rainbowdragoneyes during the set’s extremely drunken finale), and lots of silliness – Alestorm bassist Gaz takes over from the towering Immobilizer as the latter takes over lead vocals for a riotous cover of The Lonely Island’s hysterical ‘I’m On A Boat’ – all combined with infectious songs such as the outrageous ‘Pirate Music Piracy’, newbie ‘The Land Of Bundy’ and the totally OTT ‘Drink Til We Die’.
Usually when drum techs are making last minute adjustments to the kit, it is fine tuning: however, in Alestorm‘s case it is attaching various optics to its steel frame – so, it’s extremely obvious before the band even climb the steps to the stage that the drunken nonsense is far from over… and pretty soon it is time to ‘Walk The Plank’ as Cap’n Chris Bowes leads his band of merry troubadours into a rabble-rousing and rambunctious set made up of established favourites and tracks from the aforementioned new album.
Bassist Gaz is grinning from ear to ear: well, he is playing in front of his hometown crowd, as well as his parents and other assorted family members, and he leaps and runs around the stage with boundless energy – often confusing guitarist Dani Evans by swapping mics at random. ‘Drink’ raises the basement roof with its fist-pumping singalong chant, and by ‘Shipwrecked’ things are starting to get really rowdy. Of the new songs, ‘Magnetic North’ is magnificent in the live environment.
Still the ‘guest appearances’, as we’ll now describe them, continue: Lagerstein frontman Cptn. Gregaaarrr joins his shipmates for the broiling, seething ‘Nancy The Tavern Wench’, which has grown men who really should know better swaying in each other’s arms (or maybe they were just trying to keep themselves upright?). And there’s plenty of typical Alestorm silliness: a staring competition atop the monitors between Dani and Gaz, dedications to celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson and Heather Mills McCartney – do we really need to tell you what one that was?
The main set is surprisingly short – less than an hour – but there is plenty more to come… first encore ‘1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)’ is as epic as its subject material, especially in its percussive bombardment which magnificently evokes the feel of cannon fire, while Lagerstein’s Immobilizer and Red Rum’s towering guitarist Sam Wood join in the action for ‘Hangover’, with the former providing the rap section, before ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’ produces a huge wall of death (described by Bowes as “the best I’ve seen all tour” which culminates in Cptn. Gregaaarrr sprinting from backstage and head first into the melee.
Even if you’re not a fan of this style of metal – and it does cut across numerous sub-genres – you cannot help but be carried along by the sense of euphoria and sheer ‘fuck you’ enjoyment that it induces. And there are not many who can help you attain that sense of euphoria better than the jolly Alestorm crew. Hic!
Walk The Plank / The Sunk’n Norwegian / Drink / Over The Seas / Shipwrecked / Magnetic North / Back Through Time / Nancy The Tavern Wench / Midget Saw / Keelhauled / Rumpelkombo / Pirate Song / Wooden Leg! / Wenches And Mead
1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)/ Hangover / Captain Morgan’s Revenge / Rum
Alestorm’s ‘Piratefest’ lands in Bristol tonight (Monday October 20) before continuing on to the following ports:
Tuesday October 21 – Manchester, Academy 2
Wednesday October 22 – Exeter, Lemon Grove
Thursday October 23 – Reading, Sub 89
Friday October 24 – London, Electric Ballroom
Saturday October 25 – Leeds, University
Sunday October 26 – Cardiff, Globe
Photographs by Marc Leach.