Ahhh 2001, what a time to be alive, especially for someone who was born in the 90s (myself included) to which not only had the early stages of puberty had begun but so had the stages of listening to better music. Linkin Park, Sum 41, Papa Roach are to name but a few that defined a generation but they sadly were not playing the Empire Music Hall in Belfast. No, the sold out former church had another familiar face in attendance and they were California’s own Alien Ant Farm who were there to celebrate 15 years (has it really been that long?) since the release of their hit album ANThology.
The Alien Ant Farm guys sure did bring quite a collection bands with them on their UK/Ireland tour who had never set foot in Belfast before. Kicking off the night was the first out of two female fronted bands, Kaleido from Detroit and what a way to kick off a night full of early 2000 nostalgia. The second the pink haired Christina Chris and her boys hit the stage to the second they left you would have thought you were watching the headline band rather than an opener. Christina was also the first to jump off the stage and enter the Belfast crowd to show them how to really mosh at a gig, especially since she was with her people (one of her relatives was from originally from Belfast before moving to Detroit.)
As the madness of Kaleido left the stage there wasn’t too much of a breather for the Belfast crowd as the second of two female fronted bands, Sumo Cyco. Cute? Innocent? Insane? Only one of these words can describe lead vocalist Skye “Sever” Sweetnam who seemed to have bigger balls than not just her band mates but every single male in attendance; with a mixture of early Gwen Stefani style vocals to ear piercing screams. Similar to Christina Chris (Kaliedo) leaving the stage to join the crowd, these Canadian head cases were more adventurous; from doing laps around the venue to ending their set with Skye standing on a table in the middle of the club and guitarist Matt “MD13” Drake riffing it out on the bar counter. This was certainly one of the most “cycotic” performances I have ever witnessed.
As the girls finished their chaos it was time for the main support band, hardc…pun…regga…WHATEVER style they were, veterans (hed) P.E. to join in on all the fun. As founding member and lead vocalist Jahred took to the stage, wrapped in a poncho and a mini keyboard in hand, it was time for the musical experience of a life time. Now it’s normal to hear a metal band say things like “let’s start a circle pit” but to have a group ask “who likes reggae music?” and then having an all out Bob Marley-esque (yes, the ganja was mentioned) bop was certainly out of my comfort zone, in a good way. The crowd certainly came alive for this hardcore performance, with tracks like “Killing Time and “Pay Me,” to which Jahred soaked in every single piece of energy in the room; especially when the words “fuck Donald Trump” were uttered. If you are reading this part of the review I am sure you can “amen” on that statement.
There was one thing that can be said about the show, the bar was set very high with such a stellar line up leaving us to wonder, how were the headliners going to hold up? As personal space grew to a non existent it was the moment we had all been waiting for since 2001, Alien Ant Farm in Belfast! As vocalist Dryden Mitchell (missing his classic mohawk) and boys graced us with their presence the entire crowd hung on every word, from tracks like “Movies” and “These Days” as they played through the entire ANThology album. The connection between the band and the audience was beautiful with plenty of high fives and fist bumps all around, including Dryden taking influence from Kaleido and Sumo Cyco’s by jumping off the stage into the crowd. The downside with a band going on so late is the youthful crowd had gotten heavily drunk and rowdy which left a punter almost getting kicked out during the performance and being labelled as “a little fucking Conor McGregor;” I was amazed he was allowed to stay despite disrespecting the band with middles fingers and throwing his t-shirt at the group. A special guest performance from Kaleido’s Christina Chris and a stellar rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” helped bring this sensational night to an end.
From someone who didn’t know what to expect when he walked into a venue he has been going to for years, this reviewer was extremely impressed with the performances from every band that performed. The support bands each put on a headlining performance with Alien Ant Farm adding the icing on the cake and then smashing it to bits.
Review & Photographs by Marc Leach.