|Tusks / Elder Druid / Black Market Thieves – Belfast, Eglantine Inn – 1 December 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Monday, 05 December 2016 17:30|
It had been a while – almost eight full months in fact – since your Uber Rock team had visited ‘The Eg’, the last pub on the left, literally, before you hit the leafy suburbs of south Belfast. As I noted on my last visit, it’s basically a nightclub and function room which, until a few months beforehand, had not exactly been noted a live venue: and it’s not entirely suitable, with the dancefloor acting as an improvised stage and no house lights or built in PA system! But, all praise to local promoters Shizznigh for taking the bit between the teeth and putting on weekly free showcases of local talent… and personally hauling the sound system in and out of storage on each occasion to ensure that the gigs go ahead: that's fucking dedication for you right there folks!
The task of kicking off tonight’s 44th chapter – a hell of an achievement in its own right, you have to admit – fell to youngsters Black Market Thieves, from just up the coast in Larne. And when I call them youngsters, I mean they are fucking young – looking like they had just downed their schoolbooks and picked up their guitars, never mind old enough to drink!
Nevertheless, their post-grunge indie pop is filled with youthful spunk. Their inexperience – this is only their fourth gig after all – shows in their nervous demeanour and static stances, as they concentrate hard on what they do: but, they do what they do well enough, as the music speaks volumes for their enthusiasm and potential as songs like ‘Get Up’ possess a punky verve which harken back to the likes of The Undertones and Energy Orchard.
By way of total contrast to BMT’s energetic poppy punkiness (and one of the attractions of these Shizznigh shows is their combination of different musical styles on the same bill), Ballymena quintet Elder Druid deliver the kind of fuzzed-out stoner-edged doom that is steeped up to its neck in the tradition of Sabbath and Pentagram, combined with the modern psyche sensibilities of Electric Wizard and Kadavar, via the desert plains of Kyuss.
Their dense, smoky bass riffs sound like they have been drawn from the darkest depths of a County Antrim peat bog combine with winding guitar melodies which evoke the spirit of a more acid-duelled, less-PC age! It’s a very mature sound for such a young band – they’ve only been together for little over a year – with their taut rhythms underpinning it with a solidity many more experienced bands lack. There is a suitably dense darkness to the underbelly of their sound, before vocalist Gregg McDowell lifts his lyrics out of the mire and into a backlit illumination, while retaining an angry viscerality that many in this genre lack, spitting each syllable with a deeply personal intent.
Overall, the five lads are very tight and it’s a professionally presented set, which, although already running over, leads to the audience demanding (and getting) a deserved encore – which is always a good sign! I definitely look forward to hearing more from this particular up-and-coming beat combo…
Headliners Tusks completely change the musical mood, and tempo, again. Their grungy post-apocalypse punky sound is delivered with the spit and venom of ’76 and the “fuck you” attitude of the pre-Nirvana Sunset Strip, but at the same time is infused with a huge post-Cobain vibe, especially in the bottom end, which evokes pre-‘Technical Ecstasy’ Sabbath. It sounds like a confusing mix but, feck it, it works, as the elements fuse and maturate with a natural energy.
The four guys are totally lost in what they’re doing, but are in no way lost themselves, as they mix elements of stoner, doom and psychedelia with good old-fashioned sleaze ‘n’ brawl sensibilities in a way which comes across like members of QOTSA and G’nR playing Sabbath covers with a sober Jim Morrison on vocals. Heady stuff indeed.