Brooklyn folk rock band Woods came to Belfast on a warm early autumn night, with their new album With Light And With Love in their back pocket.
Dublin band Jet Setter jumped on ship first. The energy was apparent from the get-go with tune number one ‘Archipelago’. It had that Velvet Underground feel to it, that urban grind with a sweet top. The drums were seriously tight from Neil Dexter and the highly dexterous lead guitar from Paddy Ormond prevailed on this and pretty much everything else.
“This one’s a bit groovier” we were told as they launched into ‘Never Have Kids’, which gave us more noticeably tight drums, neat harmonies, and fine moves from Jeffrey Courtney on bass who had a slow groove going on there on the right hand side of the stage. All was good in McHugh’s tonight.
‘Forget About It’ had a cracker valley in the middle of the song where they sank for a while, then a jangle guitar climbed up over the top and pulled the rest of them out after him. ’Out Of Bed’ brought us on a bit of journey with its opening bass and strong riff. I noticed a joke passing between Jeffrey and lead singer Ross Hamer, which confirmed my suspicions that the band was enjoying this as much as I was. Jeffrey, by the way, carried on with that groove I was telling you about.
Debut single ‘Not Yet’ was available for sale “on wax” Jeffrey told us, with a paper plane enclosed and a link to instructions for those of us who are crap at that sort of thing. Standing sideways on stage, Paddy’s high energy guitar stood in contrast to the Ross’s cooler handling of the instrument strapped to him. Neil Dexter on drums was excelling. This was cracker live, and a good choice for their single.
(Incidentally they are signed to Any Other City Records, with compatriots like Girl Band and Villagers). I want to see these boys again. Pure big guitar and drums that’s managed to keep the tune. Nice one.
It was feeling a bit late on a school night when Woods came to the stage. They opened with Leaves Like Glass from With Light And With Love which introduced us to the unusual voice of Jeremy Earl, the lead Singer, guitarist and founder of the band; whose higher pitch was shored up with low bass and nice drums. This then led on to Cali In A Cup opening with happy strummed guitars while Aaron Neveu played drums and harmonica simultaneously. (Impressive multi-tasking with an indie folk feel to it) All of this ran parallel to that higher pitch of the lyrics. It all felt easy and sunny and yes definitely harking back to that summer of love.
There was an enjoyably muted feel to the vocals on Shining as that Byrds/The Mamas & The Papas vibe kept rolling on through. With the tight super sweet harmonies and eyes on their instruments, they were in their own summer up on that stage. The guitar led onto the next song Bend Beyond, the title track of their previous album. There was a landscape feel to this one with a War On Drugs touch to it. A story was about to unfold either in lyric or music. Jeremy’s voice had a wah wah peddle for company which added to the drama.
By the nature of the song, we were quite suddenly belted into Size Meets The Sound with opening bars sounding like a children’s rhyme. Half way through we were treated to big guitar and drums reminiscent of Love. Then It Ain’t Easy from Bend Beyond had a warm Americana tone with a gorgeous simple melody.
Is it Honest beautifully brought us back to The Bryds; and Green Is The Colour was a cracker Pink Floyd cover from the film/album More. I noticed a lot of appreciative nodding heads from the heavily male audience for this one. Shepherd is a stand-out track for me on With Light And With Love and the live version didn’t disappoint. Aaron Neveu had his head and shoulders down for the drumming on this and the high harmonies seemed to pull each beat up.
The tone and harmonies of Be All Be Easy were evocative of Phosphorescent, after which they left the tiny stage to warm applause and a growing “Ah gwan do one more song”, which was probably indecipherable to them but still, they got the message and returned for an encore of the title track of new album With Light And With Love. This was an impressive final flourish with superb almost funky guitar. There was a definite sense of jam, and that suited. It suited the song, and their talent and its place as the final number of the night.
With that they truly did leave the stage after inviting us to the merch table to talk, and of course to buy. A good measure of the night is that a queue formed immediately for the vinyl and CD versions of With Light And With Love. An album well worth checking out. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com