Friday 21 September 2012

Caught Live: Rams' Pocket Radio/Pretty Child Backfire/Katharine Philippa

Venue: Limelight 2, Belfast

Date: 21st September 2012

It’s the start of a new era at the newly christened Limelight 2 (previously The Limelight), as tonight marks the start of a new weekly event in the venue. Transmit is to be a weekly showcase of three upcoming artists from Northern Ireland. In that respect, it finds itself in direct competition with Radar Live, an event with a similar outlook which has been running every Thursday in The Speakeasy for several years. That’s probably why the organizers have nabbed a headliner who is on the verge of making serious waves for their debut event.

But before that we’ve got two artists whose music couldn’t be any more different. The first act up is Katharine Philippa. She is performing on her own, ably assisted by a loop pedal and a laptop. She seems to be rather awkwardly placed on the stage, as her keyboard appears to be angled away from the audience. There is a lot of space in her music, with most of her songs sounding as if it they have been situated somewhere between the xx and John Cage’s “4:33”. Her vocal style seems to share the same eccentricity as Bjork, although she appears to be a somewhat more reserved character. The highlight of her set is her mash-up of songs by Gotye, Labrinth & Lana Del Rey, which is about as odd as it sounds.

There is a complete change of pace for the next artist, heavy indie quartet Pretty Child Backfire. They inform us that this is to be their last gig before they record their debut album, so they aim to ensure that the crowd keeps them on their mind before their enforced hibernation. Their songs make use of unconventional rhythmic structures and short but memorable guitar hooks which call to mind Vampire Weekend (although I did spend the set arguing with someone who claimed they sounded more like U2). “We Can Last…” and “All The Things …” have a great feel to them, whilst “The Swell & The Break”, with its terrace chant backing vocals, sounds like it could be a potential live favourite. Unfortunately, a technological problem means that they are left unable to perform their intended set closer (“I Wish I Knew You Better”), but they soldier on and perform “Gentlemen’s Afternoon” instead, concluding what has been a solid set from the guys.

Following massive support slots for both Snow Patrol and Matchbox 20, this evening’s headliner is Peter McCauley, aka piano-rock maestro Rams’ Pocket Radio, who is performing tonight as a four-piece. The set gets off to an incredible start, with three of his most epic songs, “Dogs Run In Packs”, which features some of his trademark keyboard breakdowns, “1+2” & “Dieter Rams” being fired off in quick succession. Putting his biggest hitters at the very beginning of the set is perhaps not the best move, as the crowd appears to get less enthusiastic at the set goes on. Other highlights of the set include the Billy Joel-esque “Numbers/Letter/Architecture” and the sprawling “Sickness & the Taste.” They finish off the set with a brand new song, “Aria”, with begins with a bleepy-bloopy intro and concludes with an enthusiastic three man drum breakdown. As the band leave the stage to a great applause, it is clear as to why Rams’ have been so highly tipped.   

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