Friday 9 November 2012

Caught Live: Belfast Music Week Showcase

Venue: The Limelight Complex

Date: 9th November 2012

This year's 2nd annual Belfast Music Week doesn't seem to have had the same buzz around it as last year. Perhaps because it didn't have a worldwide event, like the MTV Music Video Awards, to coincide with it as it did last year. Nevertheless, it's great to have a week set aside every year to shine the spotlight on some of the brightest prospects that 'our wee province' has to offer.

The central event to the week is the Belfast Music Week Showcase. The recently redeveloped Limelight Complex has opened all three of its venues to play host to twelve of Northern Ireland's most promising upcoming artists. The purpose of the night is to allow them to play to the 20 or so international music executives who have descended upon Belfast for the purposes of snapping them up. I couldn't recognise any of them during the evening, although that's largely because they all declined to wear a 10 gallon hat with "MUSIC PROFESSIONAL" emblazoned on it. I did see Radio Ulster DJ Stuart Baillie in attendance, but then again, as the old saying goes, "If you are at a gig in Belfast and Stuart Baillie isn't there, then you're not at a gig in Belfast."

Each of the artists has been given 20 minutes to perform, so each performance is rather frantic and crammed solely with each artist's most notable songs. Here are some brief thoughts on all the artists playing:

Katharine Phillipa - given that her style is strictly minimal, in that the space in between music is just as important as the music itself, an unappreciative audience can be quite detrimental to her performance (or as one person on Twitter put it, the crowd needs to STFU). Nonetheless, she puts in a decent performance. Notably, she has brought in a new minimal mash-up, combining "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers with "Some Nights" by fun..

Pretty Child Backfire - Some rather decent shifty-pop from the group.

David C Clements - My initial thoughts about seeing David C. Clements was that this is the sound of an incredibly polite apocalypse, as brought about by Bruce Springsteen (although on Twitter, I appear to have gotten his band mixed up with More Than Conquerors). A lot more engaging live than on record.

Tom McShane - Mr McShane is something of a throwback to the traditional songwriter, given that his live setup consists of a cellist, double bass player and trumpeter in addition to guitar/vocals. Didn't know much about him prior to seeing him, but any artist that writes songs with epic trumpet lines is a keeper in my book.

Wonder Villains - tonight, the band have established themselves as the best, most fun act on the local scene. A few new songs were played this evening, included "Blonde", a song that just screams 'future single'.

More Than Conquerors - rather decent.

VerseChorusVerse - I hadn't seen ex-ASIWYFA Tony Wright, aka VerseChorusVerse before this evening, but he sure does know how to make a great first impression, playing the first song of his set whilst balanced on the railing of Katy Daly's bar. He's one step above the average Belfast acoustic singer/songwriter, that's for sure.

Lafaro - I wasn't too keen on Lafaro's riff-heavy rock. Thankfully for them, everyone else in attendance disagree, with the band pulling in the biggest crowd of the night. "Tupenny Nudger" is pretty great though.

Runaway Go - Perhaps the best performance I've seen the band given to date. The short set is a great reminder that they've got some really great songs in their arsenal, like "Electric" and recent single "Jump Start".

Ryan Vail - all his equipment worked. There was a flute.

A Plastic Rose - win the award for best quip of the night. "This has been the fastest 20 minutes of my life. Although my girlfriend would disagree". It's a reliably strong set from them, with "Boy Racer" and their traditional closer "Kids Don't Behave Like This", being the highlights.

Rams' Pocket Radio - it's great to see Shauna Tohill back on bass for Rams' this evening. The performance is rather good.

It's great to have an evening sampling some of the best emerging artists coming out of this region. There were some flaws with the setup of the evening though. As none of the performances overlapped, there was a mad rush to get to the next venue whenever one artist finished. Also, with one artist playing at a time, the venue that they're playing in could become quite cramped, especially in the relatively small Katy Daly's.

Still, it was a great event, and I'm hoping that some of the music people in attendance like what they've heard and help to push our best and brightest into the stratosphere.

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