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In the wake of several other album launches already echoing through the early part of this year, and the many yet still scheduled to come – 2011 is proving to be a year of salivating ears for many local audience members here in the North of Ireland. Yet the one thing that perhaps strikes the strongest chord is that the wealth of talent over here which we savour so much is actually branching its growth out from the roots of the homelands towards much farther flung sets of rapt lugs. You only have to cast a glance across the strong reviews aimed at Mojofury’s début release, garnering accolades that have landed them cover spots with Artrocker and choice picks of their single with iTunes and NME to see that it’s not just us holding up the flags anymore.

After a well received tour of the United Kingdom with stalwart audio warriors And So I Watch You From Afar, Mojofury’s album launch date (little more than a fortnight after ASIWYFA’s own launch, and sandwiched in between the two) is sitting in an interesting well on the gig calendar. One might imagine that with the force to which the crowds took to the Mandela Hall at the end of April that we would be more than a little spent of emotion come their own stroke at the Spring & Airbrake; but none the less, both show and fans were yet another mark for the intensity which has been bred over the last few years and is gathering pace – almost alarmingly.

With much recent aplomb Eatenbybears, competition winner for the slot to open the evening for Maybeshewill and Mojofury, were more than a little shocked (delightfully so) to find themselves on the bill for what could be held up as ‘quite a serious line-up’. Coming into the fray with just a few months of solid gigging behind them, and touted by both local and regional media as the pick of the bunch of the new bands flying high from the beginning of the year – they more than held up to the rather lofty position bestowed upon them last Saturday night.

A mixture of quirky (and in using that I bequest the term in no mere an indie-band context) mathematical-rock substance and a genuine talent for showcasing a knowledge of technical music, having formed on a sonic arts course – they held the attention of the somewhat slight early audience and proved exactly why they may have been chosen ahead of other more established acts. In fact, I’d go as far as to point out the similarities in quite open experimental performance as to what the lads in Mojo themselves foster in my own head when listening to their music. Watching people who know their craft, but can express it eloquently is always fun. When it comes to overt stylistic attempts at pushing the finer edges of music, it can grate with audience members out to follow a melody and little else. Delivery and patience of course play a factor, but with honest announcements of timing signatures backing up their more well known songs such as ‘Vanderhoof‘ their disjointed yet clearly flowing sound is the perfect introduction to a night that will only promise more of the same.

Another band out on the touring circuit constantly, and with a very strong fan base not just in their native England but also too in Germany and IrelandMaybeshewill have created an ethic of instrumental music that homes in on trying to embrace their instrumental peers and yet at the same time pushing for their own sound. It’s a hard sell speaking honestly, as has been quite openly poked into by many others aiming slurs at the instrumental/post-rock genre. I’m in love with it, but then admittedly it can get old if the mood is odd. Sometimes it falls into a well seen structure that is tried, tested and a joy to listen to, but when it does positively pop through to that little bit of a higher plane – such as with their newer, less overladen album material (‘Critical Distance‘ pointing the way) and of course their golden oldies off of début album ‘Not For Want Of Trying‘ – it really flies. Connection with the audience, presentation and admission of emotion is in my opinion key. And as said, with a strong fan base and a will to connect they make a fantastic bridge between the lighter notes of Eatenbybears and what we all know is just minutes over the horizon.

Anticipation is rife, and the crowd has swelled to capacity, oiled up by the previous offerings – at the end of the day many have waited five or more years for this moment. Myself personally, and perhaps just slightly with a bit of a bashful admission only the two – but I wager no less excitement as like most others around me the songs are known off by heart. So when Ciaran McGreevy, Gerry Morgan, James Lyttle and the deliriously eccentric Michael Mormecha finally take to the stage to swing us on our way towards giving them a little piece of their musical sunshine, I imagine they found themselves in a position from which it would be hard to disappoint – though not one of complacency. Fresh from their meanderings the band that we thought we knew is now a tightened animal (further still from previous events). Professional to a tee, and backed up by quite the explicitly tuned light show they fire into single ‘The Mann‘ with considerable force. We’ve seen them good and we know they are assured, confident musicians (craftsmen really) but it’s safe to say that with ASIWYFA performing their new album sequentially in its entirety not long in the past, I like others was honestly expecting much of the same. With a welcome departure of both song order and an effortless addition of non-album tracks to the set-list they didn’t dip once.

As mentioned about audience, it’s interesting to note just the fervour with which not the single, or the populist tracks received but the entire performance. Unprompted mass sing-a-longs throughout ‘Lemon Marine‘ and ‘We Should Just Run Away‘ made the meat of the set a wind of smiles on stage. We know these songs and we know them well – and yet for many it was like an official release of outpouring for an album which has been on the cards now for some time. After a blinding finish there was a special return of the three original members (minus the laudable Gerry Morgan, for whom this was my first time seeing behind the sticks), with Mike resuming the captain’s position not at the front of the stage but back on drums for ‘Deep Fish Tank (Factory Settings)‘. The ego in me would love to think this was something special just for the home crowd – but why hide such a finale from those on the circuit? Hopefully it plays out over their festival run this Summer.

I never would have guessed it to be ‘thee’ song to end on, but in hindsight I can completely see why. With Lyttle and McGreevy careening around the stage, strobe lights jetting off like photons on the starboard bow of the Enterprise, and the meek circle-pit of earlier turning into a massive free for all riot I’m left with perhaps one of the defining memories of the year.

Oh, and there was a pig’s head in the crowd.

If there’s a highlight, it’s a moshing pig’s head.

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