Review: Brand New Friend – Duke of York, Belfast
The modest and ornately ordained walls of the Duke of York were fit to burst last night as it played host to self proclaimed indie pop rascals Brand New Friend for their first sold out Belfast show. After a huge year, the young four piece were kicking off 2018 with a night dedicated to showcasing our very own, with support from alt-rock Belfast duo MMODE.
Shooting from innocent, Brand New band to officially signing as Brand New Friend to Xtra Mile Recordings within a year, it’s safe to say the young musicians from Castlerock have just tumbled out of a busy 2017. It was a hugely successful year of shows and building their fan base nationwide, playing the likes of Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Sea Sessions Surf & Music Festival and Electric Picnic. Along with their fanbase, their little book of music connections also benefited from a busy year, with the band playing alongside the likes of The Smith Street Band, The Strypes, The Undertones and A Plastic Rose.
It would seem the positively chaotic year Brand New Friend have under their belt wont stunt the band in the months ahead, with a sold out show in the Duke of York opening the way for a second show in the Black Box on 28th April. Meanwhile the band are nearly at the finishing line in the studio, with their self-described ‘energetic sad songs about love and stuff’ soon to be bundled up in one big package acting as album number one.
It seems the busy 2017s weren’t limited to just one band, with sibling duo MMODE starting out just 12 months ago and releasing their debut, self titled album within the very same year. From releasing their debut single Waiting in the Desert to establishing themselves on Spotify as the classic brooding art rock Irish duo, the siblings have delivered a significant amount in an incredibly short time, at absolutely no expense to its quality.
Knitting and interweaving together melancholic melodies with a bouncy haze, MMODE swapped out their electric guitar for this specially acoustic set, with tambourine remaining to keep their signature sound. The duo quietly sneaked onto the small stage and dove straight into their first song, kicking off the night. The set was short but fulfilling, their delicate harmonies showcased in songs such as Gustav and Sunshine in Belfast with minimal chat in between to allow for more music. The buzz of the continuously growing crowd didn’t faze them, with MMODE signing off with the announcement they will be returning to Duke of York soon for Output Belfast.
As the full crowd waited for their headliner the main benefit of a smaller venue became quickly evident, with everyone shielded from the bitter chill outside by the cosy, sold out fit. Silence was soon replaced by the rapid drum intro of Brand New Friend’s first song, the crowd surging forward into the few centimetres of space there was at the front. Playing songs such as Your Friends Hate Me and I Hate it When You Have to Go, the crowd bopped along to the upbeat, lo-fi, pop punk sounds of the bashing guitar and drums, overtaken by the harmonies of the young four piece.
It was evident the band were genuinely thankful for the turn out and support, with rapturous frontman Taylor Johnson repaying the crowd with the promise “I will take my top off, but in due time, you animals. It will happen.” The bond with the crowd continued not only in between songs but during, with the band’s excited shouts of “Belfast!” and “YES” keeping the crowd hooked. While the band are relatively new, their fanbase is as dedicated as ever, the most committed identifying themselves with an excited scream as the band refer to their early American Wives EP days. Thanking those who have been following them since the beginning, the band played older songs such as Settle Down to a bouncing, screaming crowd.
With the warning that it may go “tits up”, the band also treated the crowd to a song from their new debut album to be released in April. Dedicating their last song to their mum, stationed front and centre, the very last beat was swiftly followed with demands for more from the crowd. Not ones to let down a crowd without an encore, Taylor hinted to their plans to continue, exclaiming “wouldn’t it be awkward if nobody wanted more, imagine nobody cheered.”
There was definitely no danger of that, the crowd erupting at the promise of one more tune. At the request from the band to “let’s make this last song absolutely mental”, the crowd surged to the front for one last singalong. As the last note rang and the band made their way off stage, the buzz from a genuinely feel-good set lingered in the air long after the gig was over. If 2017 is anything to go by, the buzz Brand New Friend are leaving behind them will be lingering over more than just the Duke of York, their debut album set to make a mark in Belfast and beyond.