Tonight’s setting is Voodoo Belfast. I am slightly nervous because I have never been the biggest fan of progressive rock and I appear to be the first person here. Dim lighting and a free lollipop from the lovely girl Nikki at the door however help calm the mood.
The first act of the night are The Stonemasons, a Belfast trio known for their unique sound and undeniable stage presence. Immediately the boys explode into their first song ‘Machine Men’. Having given their sound a complete overhaul, I am excited to see what exactly we have in store and it’s not long before we see just that.
Hard hitting, sweat fueled drums from Patrick Blaney show the lads are ready to make their mark. Roaring through the venue, it is impossible to take your eyes off him and his animalistic treatment of the kit. Further into the set we are treated to vocalist and guitarist Connor McCann’s unique blend of folk and harsh grunge vocals. Bellowing over their songs, it is perfectly complimented by bassist Padraig Kerr’s intertwining backing vocals in ‘I Killed Lincoln’.
In their brief hiatus, it is clear the band were hell bent on perfecting every detail. As most of these songs are brand new to the set, I must admit I was most interested in how old classic ‘Black Widow’ would survive against their new sound. To my pleasant surprise, the recording no longer does the live performance justice. Having carefully adapted it to fit their new song criteria, I am far from the only person in the crowd that’s impressed. Ending their set with possibly their most interesting song ‘How To Fix Everything’, the band are in their element as Kerr and McCann throw themselves into the final performance, which goes from heavy and monstrous to delicate and light with the band chanting over the top of it. We are left with the feeling that there is far more to come of The Stonemasons.
Next up to perform are L.A’s very own math rock duo, 100 Onces. Opening up their set with ‘Shredders Of The Universe’ , we are sucked into an unfathomable psychotic wall of sound. As per math rock, the time signatures and rhythms are well and truly warped. However, my eyes are immediately drawn to drummer Richard’s infectious sense of fun and calmness throughout. Smiling delightfully into the crowd, he seems almost unaware of the unmistakeable talent he possesses, becoming almost a blurred vision with the insane pace and complexity of his playing.
The entire show becomes mesmerizing.
To the delight of their fans ‘Oh Me Gee’, the band’s most well known song, is requested by organiser Nikki. Happy to lead into it, it is now time for guitarist Barret to shine. Stomping on his ME70 pedal and appearing almost possessed by the music. I must admit this song puts me in mind of local instrumentalists And So I Watch You From Afar but with 100 Onces quirky twist.
It is the band’s personalities that brings the entire performance together. Interacting with the crowd and sporting local band t shirts, it seems the boys feel at home here in Belfast and there is an overwhelming feeling of comfort between the crowd and the band that is very unique.
Now to the most anticipated band of the night. Matua Trap, the brand new prog-rock trio consisting of Steven Butler and James Bruce of Kasper Rosa, and Clark Phillips of Affleck. The crowd has well and truly filled out at this point and the mutual feeling of wonder and excitement is palpable. Armed with pints, the band burst into their darkly romantic debut single ‘Cleave’ with an impacting chorus that is helped ably along by the booming drum sound filling the room, courtesy of prog rock veteran Bruce.
Clearly, Matua Trap have already waves. Members of the crowd are already mouthing some of the words and nodding with appreciation. Teamed with visuals on stage, the band are already a well established and professional band. Superimposing their logo across the screen behind them, their impact is undeniable.
It is during ‘Alutien Low’ that the visuals appear to work best, almost accidentally timing with the music. Although ‘Meandar Thralls’ and ‘Cleave‘ are acting as the band’s singles, every song in the set is as strong as the next in this mind-blowing performance. The harmony drenched vocals of Butler and Philips are incredibly powerful and the influence of Kasper Rosa is apparent. However, it is safe to say that Matua Trap are definitely independent of Kasper.
Singer Steven, in a heartwarming moment admits to being absolutely overwhelmed by the crowd that has gathered for their debut gig. Ending their set with their deepest and most haunting song ‘Tephra’ ,
Matua Trap’s hard work over the past year has well and truly paid off and if I wasn’t a progressive rock fan before, consider me converted. Ciara King, GiggingNI.com