It was William Shakespeare (and how many times would you expect to see The Bard quoted on PlanetMosh?) who penned that immortal line about parting being such sweet sorrow… tonight, marked a parting of the ways for Belfast-based Safe Ships, as half of the band members prepare to return to their native Yorkshire (where they will continue to perform under that name…). But would it be a farewell which was sweeter that it was sorrowful, or vice versa? There was only really one way to find out, wasn’t there?
Openers Spittin’ Teeth (https://www.facebook.com/spittinteethDIRT) – one of this PM correspondent’s favourite young Belfast bands of the moment – are typically tight and suitably aggressive as these rising stars of the local hardcore scene prove that they are one act more than capable of plugging the gap that will imminently be left by Gacys Threads when they knock it on the head later this year… Vocalist Corin Gillespie perhaps tries a touch too hard to get the healthy crowd of early comers into the groove, but above all it is another proficient and highly enjoyable set.
Usually when you see a band you’ve never (perhaps somewhat criminally) never heard of before, you can take a stab at what they might be like by the T shirts they choose to wear: in the case of the frontline attack of Small Hawk Orchestral (https://www.facebook.com/smallhawkorchestral) are respectively sporing Cancer Bats, Mastodon and Red Fang merch… in this case, it is proven that such preconceptions often are ill-founded as the Belfast fourpiece touch none of these bases, but instead produce a sound which is hard to categorize – which is, of course, a good thing for both fans and critics. Part pop punk, part desert rock, part hardcore, part classic rock, it brings all these various elements together in a way which takes a couple of songs to get into but once you’re there is disturbingly entrancing: you don’t know if you want to enjoy/like it – but you do!
North coasters Lantern For A Gale (https://www.facebook.com/lanternforagale) are another band with a reputation for the intensity of their live performances, and once again they do not disappoint, with their sound built on tight harmonic riffs and solid rhythms and their superb use of melodies counterpointing the hurricane force impact, especially of vocalist Paul, who manages to trash not one but two microphones with the ferocity of his delivery. However, despite a performance that hits with the fiercesome intent of a 30-foot Atlantic roller, the audience response is surprisingly and disappointingly lacklustre: nevertheless, the complexity of the songs broils and seethes below the surface, adding to the depth of the performance, by the end of which the frontman is visibly shattered and seems almost glad to have weathered this particular storm!
Despite this being the end of the line for the band in this particular incarnation of the band, headliners Safe Ships (https://www.facebook.com/SafeShips) are brimming with energy, enthusiasm and (s)punky attitude – highlighted not only by guitarists Lips and Ginge jumping into the pit halfway through the first song, followed by J climbing on his kit to encourage the crowd but also their blatant audacity at unveiling new material at what is supposed to be a ‘farewell’ show! However, it’s all a bit all over the place – as if, while singing from the same hymn sheet each of the four guys is in their own little sphere: they are at their most effective when J takes control – such as on the aforementioned new track, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (which actually lives up to its name in that its as tight as a late night shutdown, with a nice line in vocal harmonics, a mean, rasping, rough edge – and the best bass riff of the night) and most recent single, ‘Fighting Fit’, when the drummer actually steps up to the stagefront mic for a suitably rambunctious finale to what nevertheless is a very enjoyable night and not a half bad way to take your final bow.
Lantern For A Gale photograph, by Paul Verner, taken at a previous show at Limelight 2, Belfast.