Like most provincial holiday resorts, Portrush – stuck on a rocky promontory on the Atlantic-facing north-west coast of Northern Ireland – is a pretty dismal place outside of the holiday season, populated by handfuls of hardy locals, manic-depressive transient students and hungry seagulls. And, with this being the St Patrick’s Day weekend, even the hardiest of the student populace have cleared off to Belfast or Londonderry to drown their shamrocks.
So, with the March winds whipping off the ocean and the annual North West 200 motorcycling extravaganza still some six weeks’ away, it takes something to attract a hardened rock hack to make the opposite direction from the bright lights of the big city to the (rather duller) ones of a half-closed out-season resort. One this occasion, it’s a bill full of young (and some not so young) and up-and-coming (and some not so… you get the picture!) bands determined to kick the Bank Holiday festivities off in style.
Things don’t start too auspiciously, when the belated arrival of the opening act puts soundcheck back, and back, and doors don’t open until more than an hour after the advertised time. Fortunately, two of the acts have also pulled out, so no real damage is done to the event’s overall running time. Those responsible of the delayed start, Audio Illusion, do little to impress, however, despite some highly impressive guitar work and a sound that is hard to pigeonhole – indie touches mixed with some serious metal riffs… but their cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’ is shambolic. Locals Town Cried Wolf fare little better, and the fact that this is their first live gig in a year is evident: soundwise, they can’t really make up their minds, playing jangly indie mixed with second-rate sub-metalcore.
Black Sheriff, on the other hand, really ratchet proceedings up several notches. This is the middle night of a three-date holiday tour for the Cologne quartet, fronted by Northern Ireland native Glen Ravioli: the most experienced outfit on tonight’s bill, this is a real rock band – cowboy hats and sunglasses, dirty cut-off denims and funny shaped guitars, which in deliver equally dirty riffs. ‘Stole My Heart’ sets the standard – rowdy, outlaw punk ‘n’ roll played loud and proud, with other set highlights including the anthemic ‘Coming Home’ (which Glen claims was written on the flight over from Germany), the singalong ‘I Want You’, the fiery ‘Vietnam’, which sees Glen go walkies around the venue, including behind the bar to pour himself a drink (much to the barmaid’s chagrin – the trick works much better the following evening in Belfast) and the rousing ‘Be Your Man’. The basnd look and sound like they’re enjoying themselves, and the effect rubs off on the enthusiastic audience.
The Red Velvetines follow that with aplomb. Their sound is big and rich, grungy, soulful stoner blues played with energy, enthusiasm and style. Understandably, most (male) eyes are on sexy frontwoman Claire, who also possesses a fantastic voice, and keeps the set moving along nicely with her non-stop movement. Highlights of their set include ‘measure Of The Times’, with its pumping bass rhythm and tight, joyous hooky riffs, and the punky, metallic finish of ‘Bang Bang’. This is a young band with a bright future: great musicianship, brilliant songs and a sexy singer – almost all the perfect ingredients.
Dead Till Friday literally kick the living daylights out of their set – well, the drumkit at least as, after just one song, running repairs have to be made to the bass. This short delay doesn’t stop the band delivering another kick-ass set of rap-metal of the highest order, frontman Adam McKee spitting his rhymes and lyric with the sort of venom that would have good ol’ St Paddy turning his battered VW Beetle around to look for the snake he left behind… the rest of the band are in stunning form as they blast through a slightly shortened set, highlighted by the ferociously catchy ‘Water’, the heavy beatdown of ‘MBL’ and a caustic version of ‘California’.
Which leaves only headliners The Space Muffinz… what can we say about them? Well, to be brutally honest, as little as possible. They were atrocious. Chilled out, ambient noise – a totally inappropriate conclusion to what had otherwise been a great evening of top class rock ‘n’ roll, especially from Black Sheriff, The Red Velvetines and DTF.
Review by Mark Ashby aka DJ Monk