The Empire Music Hall in Belfast was alive tonight with a killer lineup of local talent. The gorgeous, historic venue made for a regal backdrop for these budding bands with Northern Irish roots.
The first support band, Sister Ghost brought pure garage band power with songs with lyrics you could almost feel being etched on your skin as surely as they were scrawled in ruled notebooks. The frontwoman, Shannon D O’Neill, presented us with an anthology of her song-writing and personal history over thrilling harmonies and catchy hooks. The tight set of poignant tunes culminated in a wall of sound whose crescendo saw O’Neill creating feedback by jumping down into the front row and sawing her guitar against the edge of the stage.
When the second support act, CATALAN!, took to the stage, they brought with them a more upbeat vibe with tropical, summery tones. Beckoning the meagre but steadily growing audience to take several steps towards the stage and “express their enthusiasm with vocalisations”, frontman Ewen Friers and his insurgency rock band managed to disarm a wary crowd and liven up the room with their unison anthems and detailed ditties.
The hall was in full swing by the time the New Pagans hit the stage with their dark and driving sound. With absolute bombshell, Lyndsey McDougall behind a dual-mic setup—one spewing an over-driven distortion—the band produced a phenomenal musicality that begs to be performed live and blew away the recorded counterparts.
From the moment the band stepped on stage, McDougall set the mood with her listless yet forceful stance, clutching her flowy black dress up to her side and pulling at her hair vacantly. She spent the better part of an entire song doubled over, seemingly in agony of life’s cruel ironies, all the while belting out spell-binding vocals. The New Pagans’ collection of singles, with strong lyrics and smashing drumbeats, seemed to grab you by the ear and drag you down the hall to the principal’s office.
With grunge-alt influences like Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and Bikini Kill, the New Pagans are skipping down the path of fire and brimstone forged by those who’ve come before in a tradition that bears no risk of flaming out anytime soon. With the talented people behind this musical endeavour, the New Pagans are well worth checking out and will hopefully be making their mark on the international stage in the near future.
New Pagans Setlist
I Could Die
Ode to None
Review by Krysten Maier
Photography © Michael Lockheart