On 7th November Lonely the Brave made their debut live performance in Belfast as part of the Dr. Marten’s Stand For Something 2015 tour; a showcase of some of the best bands in intimate venues across the UK & Ireland. With this in mind, it is not difficult to see why tonight’s line up has been chosen.
Belfast band, R51 kick off proceedings. Loud and energetic, they easily dominate the venue. Putting their own rocking twist on Bjork’s “Play Dead”, they set the bar high for the bands who will follow. With strong guitar riffs and sparingly used vocal effects, R51 really do have their own unique sound which is highlighted particularly well in what will be their final song of the night, “I Hate That Too”. Jonny Woods warns that this is a pretty heavy one and he is not lying. Fast paced instrumental break downs collide with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme and it is perfect. Matt Killen is a phenomenal drummer; when he lets loose here, it is a real treat. Whilst the gig may have been an early one and the venue may have taken a while to fill up, those who have got down to catch R51’s set have been rewarded.
Only Rivals are next on the bill. The Dublin band’s opening track, “Dive In”, is markedly mellower than R51. Yet as their set goes on, they step things up a gear. With an underlying modern pop-punk vibe, their songs are awash with harmonic vocals and little musical guitar gems. Before launching into “Borders”, Stephen Arkins jokes that “It’s our only kind of half decent song, I think” but the positive reaction from the crowd suggests they are better than simply “half decent”.
When headliners Lonely the Brave take to the stage guitarist Mark Trotter verbalises everyone’s sentiments; “Belfast, it’s been a long time coming”. From the get go there are sing and clap alongs; Lonely the Brave’s music demands such input. In fact only three songs in, the audience have begun to drown out the band. An impromptu dialogue seems to take the band by surprise as they reach the infectious chorus of “Backroads”. As David Jakes sings “I’ll be the sky”, the audience are ready with their response “and you be the bird”. A sense of fun fills the venue as Trotter beams between songs and Andrew Bushen dispels any misconceptions about bassists remaining stony faced and rigid during their band’s set. This pace may have been set early but it maintains; “River, River” warrants a similar response with it’s pop-punk meets indie rock vibe.
Yet it seems that energy levels can in fact reach that little bit higher still. “Black Saucers” proves that Lonely the Brave are quite simply infectious. It is noisy in the best possible way, the heaviest track of the evening, seemingly the highlight. That is until the band start into “The Blue, The Green”. The final track of the night is the release of the energy which has been building in intensity until now. With it’s deceptively calm beginning, it is not long until the full force of this band is unleashed. For the second time tonight the crowd take over vocal duties as Trotter makes his way into their midst, playing the remainder of the song from the other side of the barrier. He returns to stage, feedback still ringing and face still beaming. As the band leave the stage, their instruments buzz on after they have disappeared in what feels like a fitting finale. Laura Shields, GiggingNI.com