For those of a superstitious mien, Friday the 13th is not exactly a lucky talisman – and so it proves, at least partially, for the organizers of this charity fundraiser gig (in aid of the hugely-underfunded Belfast Rape Crisis Centre) as, despite huge advance marketing and PR campaigns, other mitigating factors – such as it being the hottest night of the year to date and the World Cup on the telly – mean that there is a disappointingly meagre turnout. This is not say it was a bad crowd: no, there were a respectable 60 or so paying punters present – but, it could have been better…
Openers Sentinel are very much the ‘new kids on the block’, to coin a phrase: drummer Jordie Kelly is only 14-years old, and the rest of the band – guitarist Joe Connolly, bassist Ryan Maguire and vocalist Rebecca Feeney – don’t look much older, to be honest. And it is only the combo’s third ever gig. Well, to be brutally honest, on the evidence of tonight’s showing, they have a lot of work to do. Musically, each of them is impressive in their own right – Kelly belies his diminutive stature with a solid and cohesive performance, while Connolly produces some nice melodies and Feeney has a powerful voice – but the problem is that they are very disjointed – as if they are four different bands all trying to play the same song at once… the result is an inglorious confusion of gothic punk and sub-thrash which, combined, fail to make the sum of its constituents. This is not to overly denigrate the band, as they are still very young and enthusiastic, but they are very much in their nascent stages – so, good luck to them!
StormTree are completely different proposition: six seasoned musicians from varying backgrounds coming together to share their mutual love of heavy blues rock and roots music which draws as much on The Horslips as much as it does The Chieftains and Rory Gallagher.
Opener ‘The Rain Came Down’ is a cross between a traditional Irish lament and hard-edged country rock, building from Billy Causby’s rumbling bass line and topped by Mick Conlon’s fiery fiddle playing. It’s a slow burning start, but they are quickly in their stride, with Conlon’s violin taking the place of the lead guitar, in turn weeping and wailing like a forlorn banshee and then jumping with the effervescence of a youngster discovering his first taste of Yellowman at the Oul Lammas Fair, before withdrawing into the background to let the modern instruments drive the rhythms and melodies forward. John Guilar’s vocals add the necessary grit and lustre to the superbly constructed songs, the best of which include the blistering ‘Burning Skin’, the remembrance of faded glory that is ‘Castle Street’ and the lamenting ‘Johnny’, which turns the set full circle.
The venue has turned into a literal sweatbox by the time headliners Baleful Creed take the stage. One of the hardest working (this is the third time your reviewer has seen them in the space of a fortnight) and most consistent live acts in Northern Ireland at the moment, as a result of which they have attracted a devoted following – a small handful of whom have resisted the counter attractions of barbecues and football matches to support both the band and the night’s chosen cause.
Right from the off, the quartet set a pace as blistering as the heat in the room, the momentum of the acerbic opening tritych of ‘Baleful Creed’, ‘Crazy Man’ and ‘Double F.S.’ interrupted briefly only for the presentation of a birthday cake to drummer Mark Stewart. As always, the towering ‘Thorazine’, with its dark broodiness and instrumental lull, counterparted later by the densely melodic ‘Autumn Leaves. In between, the band storm through most of the tracks from their recent self-titled debut album (reveiwed here: http://planetmosh.com/baleful-creed-baleful-creed/), as well as a mean and moody cover of ‘Heartbreaker’, before finishing their set by getting a brief circle pit going during ‘Suffer In Silence’, making a suitably hot and sweaty conclusion to a comparably hot and sweaty evening.
The gig – which was actually inspired by the recent imprisonment of a local music journalist for child pornography offences – raised £190, with more to come from online donations.
Sentinel play The Gypsy Rose in Dublin next Friday (June 20), Limelight 2, Belfast (supporting Altus and Mohican Jack) the following day and the Victoria Bar in Armagh on Saturday June 28.
StormTree play Arthur’s Bar, Keady next Saturday (June 21): https://www.facebook.com/events/1479653005603484/
Baleful Creed play Limelight 2, Belfast (with Stormzone, Midnight Transmission and Cavehill) on Saturday June 28: https://www.facebook.com/events/1497494857131621/
Baleful Creed photograph, by Marc Leach, taken at Limelight 2 in February.