Friday night’s Bonnevilles gig was the first time I had ventured into Belfast’s Voodoo and it was everything I had been led to expect. It was jam-packed, it was sweaty, it was grungy, my feet stuck to the floors – and I loved it! With support provided by Our Native Devils, Petty Youth and the mighty Paranoids this promised to be a loud one.
Headliners The Bonnevilles took to the stage after 11.30 in their signature monochrome style. Duo Andy McGibbon and Chris McMullan, from Lurgan and Banbridge respectively, have both coined the phrase “Garage Punk Blues” and they define it. Their gritty brand of guitar and drum blues is fast securing them a dedicated fan base and a reputation as one of Northern Ireland’s coolest “must-see” bands.
The rear of the stage was swathed in a ceiling-high banner with their distinctive yellow skull band logo. It was a happy coincidence that this was National Band T-shirt Day as theirs is one of the most prevalent and most easily recognisable ones around and there were many of the leering little skulls to be seen peering out from under biker jackets all over the venue.
Kicking off with a couple of abiding favourites, Machine Born to Think and Good Suits and Fighting Boots, Andy McGibbon was in fine, gravelly voice. Self-styled on the great blues singers of the last century like Otis Redding and Robert Johnston, his voice together with his sexy slide guitar style and McMullan’s frenetic drumming is what comprises The Bonnevilles’ unique sound.
A couple of tracks from the last album Arrow Pierce My Heart were next; I Dreamt of the Dead and My Dark Heart. The heaving mass of punters pressed towards the front and more beer seemed to be spilled than drunk as swaying and pogoing ensued.
Excitingly, The Bonnevilles are planning to release an album of new material early next year with Alive Records. A couple of new songs dotted the set to sustain eager fans until that release date arrives. The Poacher’s Pocket, and Long Runs the Fox augur well for an album worth looking forward to.
The remainder of the set list was taken from across their previous releases. Hardtale Lurgan Blues, I’ve Come Too Far for love to Die, Kneel at the Altar, No Law in Lurgan; all the favourites got an airing. Son of Reverbio and 10,000, both taken from Folk Art & the Death of Electric Jesus, were particular high points, showcasing McGibbon’s slide technique at its finest.
By the time they reached the encore, Andy’s once pristine shirt was saturated from the effort of his frenzied performance, and newlywed Chris was sipping from a bottle of Buckfast secreted behind the bass drum just to make it to the finish line! The show ended with C’mon and the aptly titled By the Time November Comes. “It’s the month of the dead, It’s the weeks of ghosts” Andy sang, fitting lyrics from an album once described by another reviewer as having “grief lurk over (it) like a leaden spectre”.
If it’s raw, earthy, downright dirty blues you’re after, you could do worse than The Bonnevilles. Their thematically dark lyrics and their edgy style make for a potent mix and they aren’t afraid to get REALLY loud!