STA is now Ten Years Old

ASIWYFA Xmas Bash

"A giant screen broadcasts images ranging from a scratchy Blair Witch style version of their logo, and The Machine has a slightly disturbing Santa."

And so we got an early Christmas present... ASIWYFA have always had brass necks combined with a can-do attitude and the work ethic of Olympic athletes. This has taken them from the Limelight through the Mandela, the Cathedral Quarter Marquee, the Waterfront, festivals around Europe and to this spiritual home of live entertainment in Belfast in just twelve months.

However, it's always good to have help from friends, and invited tonight are their brothers in chaos, Adebisi Shank - a trio of noise terrorists rampaging about starting the unplanned demolition of the old hall. It would be unjust and inaccurate to compare them directly to ASIWYFA - for a start there's only 3 of them, and secondly they're more combustible, more frantic and throw an assault of 200 punches a minute compared to the marginally more measured cruiserweights of their Northern soul brothers. All thoughts of frostbite from the walk here are long gone.

Cashier No.9 return to the stage after 'Do You Remember The First Time?' gig a few months back. The Lighthouse Will Lead You Out has lost none of its kooky charm, gently building to a close like the wave of high tide. While traditional closer Goodbye Friend is ridiculously simple and brilliant song-writing, tonight's version inviting comparisons with The Coral. It's the new material that intrigues though, 5 Years In A Row has a sweet lick to temper the country jailhouse bitterness vibe to it, and Tonight So Long is a lost guitar pop gem promising that the album will be excellent.

After the gentle diversion of Cashier, Lafaro promise to restore some anarchy, at least until they reveal themselves to be wearing shirt and ties. Either they've been earning money as Christmas party waiters, or today was their court date. They claim the latter. With Jonny swigging Lurgan Champagne, they get us going with 'Tuppenny Nudger'. They rattle through the familiar hits like All These Things before time forces them to drop new material for "something you might like", as Leningrad parks its tanks on our lawn and shells us mercilessly. Assuming there's no re-trial, the fun will continue next year.

And so And So I Watch You From Afar. It's a home-coming the lads seem touched by, thanking everyone involved with them. It's a touch which, if we didn't know them, would seem false - but it's a trait wonderful to see in these guys who didn't pick up anyone else's flag, but made their own and made us follow it. Yet their path of struggling musicianship hasn't made them hard or cold as they fought, kick-drummed and guitar-screamed their way here.

Behind the band, a giant screen broadcasts images ranging from a scratchy Blair Witch style version of their logo, and The Machine has a slightly disturbing Santa (reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers' Evil Clown) to accompany it. And that's a fair comparison, from the way that the new material 'S is for Salamander' and 'D is for Django' (anchored by powerhouse drummer Chris Wee, showing both his strength and his jazzier side) seems more rhythms and beats based than before, to the way that the lighting is not directly on them, often leaving them as smoky silhouettes, as though the music is the show, not the performers. Even still, they thrash about, probably adding money to our rates bills next year to pay for the damage. It's well worth it.

- William Johnston, Across The Line Radio Ulster