By Charles Cook, Arts and Entertainments Assistant Editor.
As Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention fame once said, “To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity.” If that truly is the case, then this month the students union played host to its own cast brave loons: a truly wild bunch playing at the inaugural Queens Radio Sessions’ acoustic night.
Hosting six hot new acts, the night provided a great opportunity to gauge the caliber and depth of Belfast’s thriving acoustic scene. RD Herdman, Queen’s Radio’s music head honcho and tonight’s organizer/curator spoke of the Session’s goals; “Sessions’ ultimate aim is to get exposure to new and upcoming local talent. We do live lounge sessions, a radio show (listen in Tuesdays) and showcase nights. Belfast has got a wealth of talent and we want to help it find an audience!”
Singer songwriter Josh Dodge got the evening off to a flying start with a great selection of original blues inspired belters. Follow up duo of Chutes and Tramps proved to be early highlights. Combining classic acoustic folk with a violin twist, the pair played with boundless energy, stomping about the stage with sweaty brows and wide grins plastered across their faces as they cut through a number of upbeat and interestingly structured songs. As is the normal harbinger of greatness for any band starting out, the covers they played were blasted out of the water by quality original numbers. Speaking to the ensemble’s guitarist/vocalist, Gus White, he told me about his philosophy on performance; “I just try to be passionate in everything that I do and play, especially onstage. If you’re not having fun you can be pretty sure the audience isn’t either.”
After stellar mid-evening sets from Mere Moths and Wolf Like Me, the evening headed up with two incredibly talented acts. Supporting the headline slot were electric/acoustic duo Back And To The Left, who played a selection of excellent covers and original numbers. Headliners Hillspeak arrived onstage with an extra gift for audience members: a free copy of their EP. They proceeded to show exactly why they deserved to head up the evening, playing a set of warming Mumford-esque stadium folk tunes that would have sounded equally at home in a venue ten times the size. The night ended with a euphoric encore from the band, and a coming together of the musical community on the dance floor.