Stepping up its game with its own mini tour the Open House Festival spreads it legs and brings Michigan locals, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, for a handful of intimate shows in and around Northern Ireland.
With chairs arranged in rows, making the room feel a little bit like a school assembly, the sole focus of the audience is with Bangor based singer songwriter Stephen Macartney from the offset.
Faded Better Days, a song drafted in his days with Farriers, proves to be the perfect opener for the set. Immediately evident is the sheer power of his all-encompassing voice which when teamed with the heartfelt thoughtful lyrics perks most members of the audience’s attention. Mixing his carefully crafted set with songs written with the Farriers and from his solo career things are kicked off to a very suitable start.
Before the headliners commence their set, Lindsay Lou apologizes for having contracted the ‘lurgy’ and instructs everyone that they are going have to sing along as much as possible to help her. Without the first song even beginning the audience already happy to oblige as they join in with no hesitation, an impressive accomplishment for not even being on stage for five minutes.
Content that the audience are raring to go the quartet launch into an up-beat toe tapping instrumental coated in blugrassy brilliance that brings a smile to everyone’s face. A quick switch up in instruments (the first of many), Mark Lavengood finds himself in front of the solo mic. After giving a slightly quirky speech on the importance of the circle of energy between the crowd and the band, he introduces the entrancing Old Song, a song penned by Lindsay Lou herself. Beginning with a solitary banjo the song builds to wind its way around beautiful melodies and genuine lyrics that anyone would struggle not to be moved by.
Back to the bluegrass we get treated to the bands cover of Flatt and Scruggs ‘Till the End of the World Rolls Around’. With a tempo that sounds like a train running out of track, the audience start resemble a bunch a raucous hillbilly’s with foot stomping and hollering a plenty. Taking a break the band express their beloved feelings of Nashville and its song writing culture making it sound like a haven for all country music lovers.
Lindsay Lou finds herself lonesome on stage as she performs a song written in Nashville during a twelve a song-writing session. Her anthemic voice just about manages to hold up throughout the beautiful melody which evokes a complete hush over the crowd.
Back with the full band on stage, Lavengood is once again in front of the mic introducing song ‘Sometimes’. With the controversial lyric ‘a women needs a man sometimes’ the audience good heartily play along with some booing and hissing. Personally, I find it hard not to fall in love with the tune, whether it be down to the effortless swaying beat or the infectious lyrics.
Next we learn that a Banjo Babes Calendar is actually a thing and that Lindsay Lou has featured in it (more than once). Being treated to the song that got her there, Sun to Sun, the Appalachian influence on the group is once again made evident. Believe it or not, what comes next is a mandolin solo. With the incredible speed and beautiful harmonies between the two instruments the short snipet of music proves to be mesmerising.
Met with an onslaught of applause the band leave the stage for a brief moment. ‘The Farm’ is the upbeat track the band chose for the encore. The song Lindsay Lou wrote for her Mum and Dad once again induces a hillbilly frenzy upon the crowd who lap up every last second.
With more instrument changes and singer switching than I could keep track of, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys prove that if it has strings they can probably play it all while producing music that is sure to bring a smile to your face.