Thursday 20th August saw four exciting and emerging bands take to the renowned stage that is the Empire to perform both covers and original songs, promoted by SONI.
Three of which made their Empire debut. The first three acts of the night were all finalists in the Jagermeister Battle of the Bands, where they all proved their undeniable talent. Stromtree, Monkey Bath, EQ1NIX and High Sundays are all local up and coming bands successfully making a name for themselves within the Irish music scene.
It was a slow start to the night, with the crowd slowly growing in numbers as the first act High Sundays took to the Empire stage for the first time. The band slowly drew in a crowd with their first original song of the night – Shake Shook Shock, taken from their debut EP. Luke Kerr was the perfect front man, engaging with the crowd, making him the perfect choice to start off the night.
High Sundays set list varied from originals to Red Hot Chilli Peppers covers, which they made their own, incorporating their unique funky style and their infamous dance moves. The original songs played were memorable and no doubt the band will go far and plan to – as they spoke of future plans to keep recording and delivering. The funky and infectious rock band from North Down were not afraid to show who they were as people, which transpired into the music, causing them to be extremely likeable as a band. They left the crowd wanting more of their contagious feel good vibe and unique sound.
Next to take the stage for their first time, was passionate indie rock Belfast band EQ1NIX. For this extremely down to earth and likeable band it was their first gig since launching their second single – Hidden Truth. By the time they took to the stage a crowd had been well formed within the Empire, who were keen to see the bands deliver. Singing all original songs EQ1NIX showed their talent and worth, kicking off their set with Home, which they plan to record shortly for their debut EP.
The band engaged well with the crowd, informing them of the many more things that were to come for the local band and the new sounds set to be recorded and realised. They enticed the crowd throughout with their catchy and memorable songs, which no doubt was left in the heads of many of the crowd. Their first single they released – Pushed For Time, went down extremely well with the crowd, with many singing along, indicating that this was another band that were set to go far and do well within the music scene.
Throughout the set it was easy to forget that this band was a recent formation due to their passionate playing. Playing their set with sharp timing, it was clear to see that this band was well rehearsed and connected with one another. When front man Colin Mallon was unfortunate enough to not only have one string break on his guitar but two during the set, he made light of the ill-timed mishap and continued to play on impeccably, displaying his and the bands professionalism.
When the infamous pink monkey was attached to the mic stand, the crowd knew it was time for Monkey Bath to return to the Empire, playing their longest set to date. This was another band that showed their worth at the Jagermeister Battle of the Bands earlier this summer, again, showing themselves to be an up and coming band within the Belfast music scene.
Monkey Bath took to the stage to open with Let Me Down Easy and brought with them a faithful following who quickly took to their feet. Filling up the floor and creating a high quality atmosphere within the Empire, before their dance moves got rowdy and had to be settled down. Never the less it showed that the crowd was clearly enjoying the rock feel the band brought to them. Front man Shane McKee combined the harmonica with guitar, to bring a different sound to the night. Monkey Baths set included all originals bar one cover of Monkey Wrench.
Last to take to the stage for the night was Roots Rock at its finest, StormTree. Having recently opened the main stage of the Sunflower Fest on the opening day, there is no doubt that this Belfast band is making their mark within the Irish music scene. Taking to the Empire stage for the first time, they brought the crowd back in time to true Irish rock.
StormTree are the perfect example of a band with a true passion for the music, who find the time to commit to each other and the band, which transpires in their tight presence on stage, giving the impression they have been playing alongside one another for years, where as in fact, the band is no longer in the former original line-up. Front man John Guilar was comfortable on the stage, taking time between songs to engage with the audience.
Playing songs from their debut album – Unchained, they came across extremely comfortable within their genre, sound and style and displayed their strong local roots. StormTree combined guitar with the violin and whistles, which brought a different feel to the night, combining rock with Irish traditional. It was surprising to learn that Violinist Mick Conlon was in fact classically trained in the violin as he give off a strong Irish traditional feel, however, the band came together with their different songs and worked immensely well together.
Many of their songs were based around the earlier years in Belfast, for example Castle Street, about the hype around the taxi depot and the buzz of the city. Ride On and Paradise were another two songs taken from the debut album that went down well with the crowd. The band talked of future plans to continue to recording new material and realising it. They successfully display their commitment to the band as they are concentrating on continuously producing more sounds, showing their love for the music scene and as a group of working men, gigging on a week night shows just how willing they are to commit and do well. Siobhan Murphy, GiggingNI.com