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ENOLA GAY

ENOLA GAY LIVE IN BELFAST – WHAT HAPPENED?

Sunday evening finds your Humble Reviewer and Photographer Girl (for that is who she now is, having been promoted from her earlier rank of Editor Girl) standing worriedly at the entrance to Belfast’s Limelight, trying to find a friendly member of Enola Gay or Gurriers who will come downstairs and vouch for us, so we can get our camera kit through the door.

We’d caught up with Belfast’s Lauren Hannan AKA YinYang recently as part of a bill with Material Goods at Darwen’s Sunbird Records, so had a pretty good idea what to expect from tonight’s’ opener. She’s another artiste who wrested SOMETHING good out of lockdown, taking time to learn the technology that powers her energy-driven solo sets.

Seamlessly blending hip-hop beats with industrial sounds and intense, powerful lyrics, you’d swear that YinYang was powering her lighting setup of vertical neon tubes all by herself, whilst spitting out her songs at the same time. Delivery-wise, she bounces up and down with the same ferocious energy as fellow wordsmith Meryl Streek, (although his motion is more back and forth than up and down, to be fair).

Opening her set with 2022’s, “Happy Money”, she entreats us to, “Keep me happy, take my money” as the crowd, many of whom haven’t even realised she’s taken to the stage, rush to grab the best spots up front against the crash barrier.

This is a dirty, intense sound, coupled with startling lighting that flicks between green, blue, red and total darkness in rapid succession. Whilst YinYang is a totally DIY operation, she’s spreading her wings in the background too, collaborating with other artistes some of whom I can’t mention yet, and some of whom I can, the latter most notably in the form of YARD with 2023’s ECDYSIS.

She hardly pauses to draw breath between songs and it’s pleasing to see members of Enola Gay and Gurriers front and centre providing shouts of encouragement alongside the predominantly young crowd who have made the effort to be here on time to see her. The bonds between Belfast and Dublin-based acts have never been stronger and Belfast’s current output is ferocious – we were lucky enough to see Chalk in Manchester on the Friday before we flew over and they’re another act you should see, should the opportunity present itself.

Voices and sounds sampled from heaven only knows where (but none of whom you’d pick a fight with) of underpin the set as YinYang throws herself around energetically in the semi darkness and treats us to the full range of her output, from 2020’s, “Black Mamba” through 2021’s, “Skitz”, and the anger and outrage of, “Dumped me in the Smoking Area” (“And I didn’t even get a chance to finish my Guinness before you did it… I never gave up on you and you spat me out pretty fcukin quick – no, I don’t want to be friends!”) Just rude.

Tonight’s brief set closes with the powerdrive of ECDYSIS, described as being, “About getting into something that you know has the potential to cause you harm, and when it inevitably does, you have to pick yourself up, shed your skin of it and (hopefully) grow wiser for the next time”. With its plaintive accusation of, “You were never really there, were ya?”, it  clearly resonates with many of tonight’s audience.

Her work done, Lauren/YinYang leaves the stage to huge rounds of applause. Offstage, the former is as charming an individual as you could hope to meet (and you can do that on the 3rd of May at London’s Shacklewell Arms – YARD are also on the bill and it’s free in, too – what’s not to love?), but you sure as heck wouldn’t mess with her alter ego.

YinYang played: Happy Money, Black Mamba, Poison Darts/Boyish Charms, Ghost, All I Ever Did Wrong, Not Bad for a Woman, Skitz, Dumped Me in the Smoking Area and ECDYSIS.

It feels like forever since we crossed paths with Gurriers (although it’s less than a year, at gigs supporting the mighty Mary Wallopers at Manchester’s Ritz and the Leeds Irish Centre last May) and since then, they’ve undergone a change in lineup, with bass man Emmet White leaving to concentrate on his career with YARD, to be replaced by Charlie McCarthy, who has stood in for Emmet on a number of occasions previously, so already knew his way around when he joined.

Ben O’Neill on guitar continues to split his energies between Gurriers and YARD whilst frontman Dan Hoff, Mark McCormack on guitar and Pierce Callaghan on drums prefer to stick to just the one band, thank you very much.

Gurriers were one of the many Irish acts who recently travelled to Austin, Texas to take part in the annual SXSW festival, only to discover that some of the event sponsors weren’t what you’d refer to as ideologically sound. As a result, they all withdrew from the festival, with all the inconvenience and financial impact that their decision involved, preferring to play at venues that weren’t affiliated with SXSW, and winning much respect into the bargain.

Dan cheerily announces, “How’s it going – we’re Gurriers – enjoy – come a bit closer if you want!”, before the trademark siren of “Nausea” threatens to tear the roof off – no slow build up for these fellas. Reading from left to right, Mark is already threatening to choke his guitar to death whilst next to him, Charlie looks like he’s been there all his life. Dan grips his mic with all his might as he spits his vocals out to an appreciative crowd who punch the air in approval.

At the rear, Pierce somehow manages to look like he’s scarcely breaking a sweat, whilst over on the right Ben is equally as enthusiastic as Mark on this side – this is NOT going to be a peaceful affair. Current single, “Des Goblin” is dedicated to, “Anybody from Castleblayney in Monaghan – I want to see yas fcukin move and dance, yeah?”, yells Dan, and indeed we do – it’d be bad manners not to.

There’s an almost middle eastern air to the guitarwork on this one. One of my favourite lyrics so far tonight has to be, “No I don’t fear, it I need to hear it – when the world is burning make sure to watch your tan line” – the song slows to a near stop , lulling us into a false sense of security, before picking up the pace again with everyone on the stage vying to outdo each other moth in movement and volume in a style very reminiscent of tonight’s headliners (especially Charlie’s bass). Dan introduces,

“Dipping Out” and repeats his plea, “Let’s se yas fcukin’ dance now, yeah – what else can you do on a fcukin’ Sunday?”, and to be fair, he DOES have a point. Three songs in and it’s clear that Gurriers have come on in leaps and bounds since we last saw them – there’s both an increased tightness and quiet confidence bordering on swagger about them, and they’re taking their music in new directions, which is most pleasing.

One or two suggestions of an album in the offing are tactfully dropped after the gig, and I for one will be placing my order as soon as possuble. “Dipping out” is about people going to live in other countries and bounces along on its clever, “No tax, no VAT, I love livin’ in the UAE” refrain.

We slow the pace just a little for 2021’s, “Top of the Bill” with its mournful guitar intro, but Dan has one more try with, “We’ll dance if you dance – you gonna dance?” – this time, he’s won us over as Gurriers launch into 2023’s “Sign of the Times” with Charlie pumping out a bass line that Killing Joke wouldn’t turn their noses up at, alongside lyrics of which Mr Coleman would have been proud: “What is the root of all madness – we idle watching our screens – when the frames become violence, the eyes never leave their seats”.

“Approachable” donates its name to Gurriers’ FB fan page, if you haven’t already come across it at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2680988088700192 and is a high-octane romp that has the crowd echoing back the “I’m approachable, I’m approachable, at least I think I am, at least my friends say I am!” refrain.

Tonight’s shoutnanegans are topped off by Dan thanking us for turning up, and hoping we enjoyed both them and YinYang, and though he announces that Enola Gay who are we’re all here to see, it’s clear from the range of merch being worn by the crowd, that that’s not strictly true. Gurriers close off tonight’s proceedings with the wall of sound that is” Come and See” – the dreamy shoegaze-y intro leading us astray before these five fine musicians choose to take us off in another musical direction, rather than the obligatory crashing finale that we might have expected.

On the strength of tonight’s performance, the future shines bright for Gurriers and I’m glad I managed to catch them reasonably early in their career, if only to witness how far they’ve come.

You can catch up with Gurriers at amongst others (where DO they get their energy from?) the Dot to Dot Festival in Bristol on the 25th of May and Nottingham on the 26th of May of the 5th of May at Burgerweehuis in The Netherlands, Festival Les 3 Elephants in Laval, France on the 31st of May and the Best Kept Secret Festival on the 7th of June, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous. We’ve just done Belfast, so why on earth not?

Gurriers played: Nausea, Des Goblin, Dipping Out, Top of the Bill, Sign of the Times, Approachable and Come and See

And so, to tonight’s headliners – as another of the honourable cohort who stuck firmly to their principles over SXSW, Enola Gay are, we hope, also destined for greatness, if indeed it hasn’t already arrived. 2023 saw them achieve much, with the release of the Casement EP, including the aforementioned Mount Palomar collaboration “Terra Firma”, a UK tour, plus appearances at Download and Chicago’s RIOT FEST, to name but a few. Frontman Fionn Reilly, guitarist Joe McVeigh, bass monster Adam Cooper and drummer (and on this occasion, the patron saint of Gig Photographers)

Luke Beirne take to the stage to a wave of applause and whoops, and even though they’ve taken their music around the world, it’s clear that nothing comes close to playing on your home turf in your home town.

Even from the opening bars of “Cortana”, you know tonight is going to be fierce, and I’m torn (as I often am) between the desire to capture the evening photographically, and the desire to just throw myself into the crowd and immerse myself in tonight’s sonic onslaught. You don’t just listen to Enola Gay, you experience them. The sampled horror of Margaret Thatcher (ask your parents, kids) spills out of the speakers as the precursor to “Salt”, from 2021’s, “Gransha” EP ( a vinyl version of which I’m expecting to drop through my letterbox any time soon. Well, actually, maybe not, because that would mean it would have been folded in half, but you get my drift).

Adam’s bass riff is so downright dirty, as he delivers another one of those Block Rocking Beats (look, it’s not MY fault if I remember the 90s) you sure as hell wouldn’t take it home to meet your parents, whilst Fionn spits his lyrics with the rapidity and force of a Gatling gun that you probably could have bought somewhere at SXSW if you’d looked hard enough. Meanwhile, over on the right, you can see the glint in Dan’s eye that tells you that whilst he’s not planning on taking his customary crowd surf JUST yet, it’s not going to be long in coming.

There’s something almost apocalyptic about an Enola Gay set, with many of the tracks being deeply unnerving, nay verging on the threatening, and I wonder how it’s possible to wrench so much power from two guitars and a drum kit and a shout needs to go to the man at the back, who’s busy holding it all together, wrenching some fearsome sounds from his kit and some snazzy looking Roland electric drums too. It isn’t long before Luke’s top disappears as he loses another couple of pounds every four minutes – who needs Zumba?

As I look up from the camera, I hear something very Cold indeed that sounds like the hellish offspring of the theme from Twin Peaks and Joy Division’s, “Day of the Lords” – just HOW have these guys managed to work their way so far into my subconscious, and who would have thought that handing a demo to Just Mustard back in 2019 would have spawned the liviathan we see before us tonight?

We’re driven on a breakneck guided tour of Belfast-spawned anti-establishment, anti-government and anti-sectarian fury, drawing on over four years’ worth of material with more recent tracks such as Figures, Cold and Malone blending seamlessly with the likes of Leeches, with its angry, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, can’t get fooled again” refrain, with which the crowd join in joyously.

No Enola Gay set would be complete without the inclusion of debut single “The Birth of a Nation” and Joe is unable to rein in his enthusiasm any longer as he puts his guitar to one side and leaps gleefully over the pit barrier to be borne aloft on a sea of willing hands that take him to the rear of the crowd and back again. Not willing to be outdone, Fionn too makes a foray into the crowd too as the cries of, “More blacks, more dogs, More Irish” threaten to take the Limelight’s roof clean off.

“What the fcuk is going on?!?” queries Fionn as they launch into the drum and bass diversion of “Terra Firma”, but isn’t long before he’s spitting venom in the form of PTS:DUP, which he introduces as being about, “The invisible fcuking borders that are put in between us by the ruling classes, in order for us to fcuking hate each other… but it’s not fcuking working no more!”, to whoops of agreement. Crowd favourite “Scrappers”, dedicated by Fionn to,

”The Limelight bouncers, who are notoriously sound”, and the whole venue bellows, “On the door, lookin’ for a fight, I’m sorry son, tonight’s not the night!”, as Joes’s guitar is given the thrashing of its life.

“For God & For Ulster” is introduced as Enola Gay’s last song, as Adam’s bass pounds a single not over and over, for all the world sounding like a summoning to the end of the world In fairness, if the world DID have to end tonight, there would be many folk who would die happy, having witnessed a gig that, whilst it may well have more people in attendance than the Pistols’ gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, will doubtless go down in musical folklore as one of the gigs that everyone in Belfast will claim they attended.

Of course, it isn’t the last song – the honour of “One More Tune” goes to the scarce-contained chaos of “Knives Out”, before sixty minutes of musical mayhem draw to a close.

If you haven’t experienced the joy of Enola Gay live, dear reader, then I strongly urge you to do so as soon as humanly possible, as given the amount of energy they generate, there’s every possibility that like a black hole, they’ll explode and take half the universe with them, and then you’ll have missed them – yes, they really ARE that good – also check out their Facebook fan page, “Sofa Scrolling” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/271136355121135.

 “As the cries of “Free, free Palestine” ring out, the flag of that nation is unfurled and carried across the stage. It’s fair to say that tonight has been a success on a number of levels – firstly musically, with three fine acts giving us their all, but secondly, (a)politically uniting Belfast and Dublin to present a common front to their own governments and history whilst supporting those far way who no longer have a voice with which to shout, and so must rely on others to shout on their behalf. You can’t ask for much more out a gig than that – so I won’t.

Enola Gay played: Cortana, Salt, Sofa Surfing, Headphones, Figures, Cold, Malone, Leeches, The Birth of a Nation, Terra Firma, PTS:DUP, Scrappers, For God & For Ulster and Knives Out.

PHOTOS BY ALISON MORRIS

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