Venue – The Speakeasy, Belfast
Date – 22nd September 2011
If you’re a great fan of great upcoming music from Northern Ireland, then there is no better place to be on a Thursday night than the Speakeasy Bar in the Queens University Student’s Union. During term time, it plays host to Radar, which is a free weekly event that plays host to the best upcoming groups in the region. As a showcase for local talent, it is rarely beaten. The rather hefty crowd, made up largely of nubile freshers still adapting to student life, were in for a treat with three rather different bands.
The first band of the night were Pixel vs Nanobot. Whilst I had heard of the band before the gig, I hadn’t really listened to their music in advance, and wrongly assumed by the name that they were a rave influenced chiptune band. Instead I was treated to a high energy electro-rock trio, fronted by the lovely Shauna Donaghy. Throughout their set, their songs could categorized into two distinct types – half the songs were synth infused tunes, which the other half featured Shauna stepping away from the Korg and into a Karon O-esque ‘Diva Mode,’ for Death From Above 1979-esque bass led tunes. The band seemed to get the crowd on their side, particularly two girls at the front who seemed to go crazy to every beat.
It’s been over 18 months since I last saw the Derry based four-piece The Wonder Villains play live, and the group have had some success since then, having had one of their songs used as the theme tune to a BBC comedy series and supporting General Fiasco on a number of UK dates, and has seen lead singer Eimear switch from predominantly using a synth bass to an electric bass.
Thankfully, one thing that has not changed with the band is their penchant for writing pop-culture infused, feel-good pop songs. The youthful energy flows through the teenage band’s songs, which include upcoming single “Zola” (about Gianfranco), “Oh Peter” (about a character from the now cancelled TV series “Heroes), “Running In Circles” (a song loved so much by the band that it has been the b-side to two of their singles), and my personal favourite, “SpaceJam”, which was my 4th favourite song of 2010. Eimear engaged in ‘banter’ with the rapturous audience between, sharing her joy at being able to drink on stage for the first time (“I feel mental”, she informs us). The music of the Wonder Villains serves the purpose of making you feel young, energetic and most importantly, happy, and there is nothing more that you would ever want with a band.
The Wonder Villains: fun personified
The final act of the night is Levity Breaks, who are launching their debut single, “The Floor.” One of my friends described their anthemic rock songs as “music for getting four yes votes on the X Factor to,” which I feel is an apt description of the Editors esque rock that they showcase on the night.