The first thing you’re met with as you enter the Empire this evening is sheer excitement. Excitement from the fans, the bands and even the bar staff. Packed with familiar faces from the local music scene, it is up to 3 piece post hardcore band Pigs As People to kick things off. And that, they do. The sound they make for being a 3 piece is amazing. Playing tracks from their recently recorded EP ‘The First Four Months’, these guys are definitely ones to watch.
Next up is the 1930’s. Self-described folk rock band who write songs with folky hooks, infectious melodies and perform captivating live shows. Check, check and check. After the wall of noise that Pigs As People provided, it’s the 1930s job to level things out. Their previous 2 EPs, 2010′s ‘All These Things’ and last years ‘Blood And Water I’ get aired tonight and although this was my first time seeing them and hearing them perform, I will certainly be checking them out in the near future.
As the foot stomping Mumford-esque closer of the 1930s set , ‘Sisters And Brothers’ is still fresh in people minds, Belfast’s own Ska Punk legends Pocket Billiards keep the collective feet of the crowd beating the ground as they start proceedings with ‘Last Chance To Dance’ from the album of the same name. And from there on in it doesn’t let up for the Empire. New song ‘Give It Up’ is sure to be another Billiards favourite and ‘Tetrisaurus Rex’ with its nintendo vs sega style beeps and whistles has everyone skanking along. Old favourites ‘Spide’ and ‘Belfast Town’ finish their set this evening to epic proportion and I’m sure some people will be very sore in the morning.
It is now time for Axis Of. 'Finding St Kilda' was only released a few weeks ago and tonight is the official album launch. The house lights are dimmed as the 3 members take the stage. Then with an explosion of lights and distorted chords, Axis Of begin with ‘Cardiel’, the first track off the new album. Within a few moments it’s very clear the band are having the time of their lives. Fresh from a supporting tour with American punkers The Bronx and rave reviews from Kerrang! and Rock Sound, this is their time.
Without coming up for air, they dive head first into ‘Stan Winston’s Rough Seas’. Singer/Bassist Ewen Friers asks the crowd “Are you with us?” It is apparent that everyone is. The lyrics being sung back at the band are enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. The energy between the band and the fans is electric. Singer/Guitarist Niall Lawlor screams his lungs out on ‘Rewritten In Big Ink’ and drummer Ethan Harman is a force to be reckoned with throughout, pounding the drums and providing backing vocals. The band are extremely gracious throughout, thanking everyone who either has been there since day one or just recently discovered the band. Many have travelled far and wide to see them. Older tracks ‘Aung’ and ‘Brobdingnagian’, which appear on the new album incite quite the mosh pit as does ‘Edge Of The Canebrake’.
The band finish with ‘Edge Of The Canebrake’ but the crowd want more. They return to the stage with ‘Port Na Spaniagh’, their first single that gained them the attention of Rock Sound in 2010 and a clear fan favourite. Halfway through the song however there is an altercation in the pit. All 3 members immediately drop their instruments in an attempt to resolve it. Thankfully it It is done so swiftly and they return to the stage. “It’s alright, everybody’s friends, let’s all just have a good time. Don’t go ruining Nialls night” Ewen jokes to a round of applause. “Less talk, more rock” he says, a philosophy echoed by Canadian punk band Propagandhi who they name check as one of their influences. They pick up exactly where they left off, cleverly changing the lyrics of ‘Port’ to ‘That bouncer’s the hardest man in Belfast’. The night ends with current single ‘Lifehammer’, with everyone chanting “the scratches on your knuckles won’t hurt no more”.
A great night for local rock music and a diverse range of bands. As the last chords echo out, it’s clear that no one wanted this night to end. The fans, the bands, not even the bar staff. It’s been quite the year for Axis Of. Supporting The Joy Formidable, And So I Watch You From Afar, Lower Than Atlantis and Twin Atlantic to name but a few. But one thing is certain, 2013 is going to be their year.
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