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ENOLA GAY LIVE IN MANCHESTER

ENOLA GAY LIVE IN MANCHESTER – WHAT HAPPENED?

After a bit of a layoff, The Humble Reviewer is back once again (possibly for the Renegade Master, who knows?) and hurtling down to Manchester (sadly without the mighty Editor Girl) for a second helping of Enola Gay, having already been over the Pennines to see them at The Key Club in Leeds the previous Friday.

Having barely made it out of the carnage with my life, I clearly have NO sense of self-preservation whatsoever, all as I’m coming back for more, but on the strength of THAT performance, I can’t wait to throw myself into the mosh pit of inevitable death that will be the Pink Room at Yes. I’ve made my will and warned work that I might not make it in on Thursday, and so, Dear Reader, for your reading pleasure, I take my life in my hands and head upstairs.

Before Enola Gay take to the stage however, we have Dublin-based YARD who have been operating very much under the radar since as far back as 2018, crafting their sound, building up a healthy body of work and only really raising their heads above the gig parapet earlier this year. Guitarist Dan Malone tells me that in addition to himself, the band includes Ben O’Neill (vocals, synths and guitar), Emmet White (vocals and bass synth) and George Ryan (beats and synth) and eagle-eyed readers of my earlier review of fellow Dubliners Gurriers will spot that both Ben and Emmett are also members of that fine collective.

Their bio describes them thus: “A gripping four-piece electro noise band, bridging the gap between techno and noise rock, their music can only be described as an intense and immersive sensory experience. Visually represented by their eerie mascot ‘Bucketman’, YARD will leave you sweaty, energized and strangely unnerved.”

Having supported such luminaries as Shame, Scaler (whom you might know as Scalping), Enola Gay and Chalk in 2023, having appeared on festival bills such as Latitude, All Together Now, Electric Picnic and Ireland Music Week, and with a slot at Eurosonic already secured for 2024, they say that if you’re a fan of SUUNS, Gilla Band, Death Grips, or Nine Inch Nails, then you definitely should be checking out YARD too. OK, so with all that in mind, let’s see how this Yard act gets on (you KNEW it was coming, didn’t you?)

YARD line up behind a bewildering array of technology – George to the left, Ben next (with a guitar lurking ready for action), then Emmet and finally guitarist Dan, backed up by mascot Bucketman, who is, tonight, merely an upturned bucket with the word, “YARD” written on it, hanging from a mic stand. He is, however truly terrifying when you encounter him on TikTok – check it out if you don’t believe me.

Thirty seconds into set opener, “Defacer” and I’m already hearing the progeny of The Prodigy and Underworld with the whole thing squirted to within an inch of its life through more laptops than a PC World Black Friday sale. We take a very mid-song trance-y break, punctuated by the beeps of a lost satellite, as we wait for the drop that we know is about to come, and come it does – there are going to be some VERY sore necks tomorrow morning.

Broadcaster and Yeoman of the Parish Mr Dermot De Faoite is in ecstasy up at the front, WAY too close to one of The Pink Room’s masseev speakers, while the boys from Enola Gay stare on, as happy as the rest of us with their choice of support. YARD inform us that this is their first time in Manchester, thanking Enola Gay for the slot and Dermot for his unwavering championing all things from Across the Water, to be met with a good-natured retort of “Fcuk Enola Gay!” from Enola guitarist Joe McVeigh.

“Trevor” opens up with some mournful Murder Capital-type vocals with the repeated refrain “Have you seen Trevor?” – this is truly unnerving whilst at the same time enthralling – Trevor, whoever he is, would probably do well to steer clear. The crowd, however are lapping this up like a cat let loose at the Cravendale dairy as they bounce and nod appreciatively.

“A Man Holds” pounds and squirts in a MOST depraved manner as Emmet yells enthusiastically into his tech. Although this one is slower, it’s no less captivating as we’re drawn deeper into YARD’s immersive world and I’m not even sure I need a return ticket. Whilst it’s good to see Ben and Dan switching between tech and guitars, they don’t sound like any guitars I’ve ever heard – The Pedals are strong with these two, hmmm.

Next, we welcome hiphop artist and producer (and on this occasion, Enola’s tour manager too) YINYANG to the stage to collaborate on ECDYSIS, just as she did on the recorded version, and whilst I’m getting strong aromas of Benny Benassi’s, “Satisfaction”, this whole set is satisfying, with its heady mix of punk, electronica, rap, grime and goodness knows what else. If you’re a fan of YABBA or VLURE (and even if you’re not), I defy you not to find something that floats your boat in here.

“CBS” opens with some sampled news reports of a black bear roaming through somebody called Tina’s back garden. I’m not really sure which is the scarier, the black bear, or the sonic pit of depravation into which we’re being further drawn minute by minute. The vocal somersaults through which Emmet drags himself via his Apple Blackberry Pi (or whatever it is you young people call them) are nothing short of astonishing and the enthusiastic crowd are mesmerized and fully immersed in the performance –

I feel sorry for the folk who are only just turning up and who have missed most of this. We drift effortlessly into “Lawmaker” and this time, it’s like being in a submarine with a desperately seeking sonar, before the guys drop beats that are so sick (I so CAN say that, if I want), they need Penicillin.

Before we know it, we’re into set closer “Sunlight”. It’s frantic and downright dirty, and we all make the most of it while we’re dragged back into an Underworld of “Born Slippy” for one last time. I honestly feel like I’ve been made privy to a very well-kept secret and that I’m now a member of an equally special community – YARD are dark, extreme, intense, beautiful and very talented. Please hunt them down by whatever means necessary – you absolutely won’t regret it.

Yard played: Defacer, Trevor, A Man Holds, ECDYSIS (feat YINYANG), CBS, Lawmaker and Sunlight

2023 has been a year of growth and development Belfast-based Enola Gay – having signed to Modern Sky UK earlier in the year, April saw a powerful swipe at the political factions which simultaneously shape and crush the aspirations of the young in Northern Ireland, with the powerful “PTS.DUP”, followed by the hurling of an equal amount of vitriol at the Establishment with May’s “Leeches”, both of which went on to feature on October’s “Casement” EP.

June saw a UK tour around their appearance at Download Festival and September saw them playing Chicago’s RIOT FEST alongside The Cure, Death Grips and Queens of the Stone Age, where they were joined on stage for Scrappers by none other than Jehnny Beth, who calls them, “Her favourite band on the planet”, so no pressure THERE then,

Whilst their anger at the world around them hasn’t abated in the slightest, the latter part of the “Casement” EP shows them taking an unexpected, though pleasing diversion from their usual sound, resulting from their collaboration with Irish electronic producer Neil Kerr, otherwise known as Mount Palomar. In a similar way in which a vicious sectarian attack on guitarist Joe McVeigh was the motivation for “PTS.DUP”, “Terra Firma” affirms the band’s belief that Irish folk music is punk in its purest form, as it’s, “For and by the underdogs of society”.

Starting life over a year ago as a stripped-back folk piece, that might otherwise never have seen the light of day, especially as an Enola Gay track, it’s been whipped into something much different with frontman Fionn Reilly delivering something rather beautiful that veers between electronica and shoegaze and back again with alarming ease.

With its muted, almost funereal vocals, you might not immediately recognize it as an Enola Gay track, if you didn’t know what you were listening to, but it’s clear that Joe and Fionn, drummer Luke Beirne and bassist Adam Cooper now have a far wider palette from which to paint, should they decide to go down this road again. In a recent chat, Joe remarked that they wanted to show that they’re not just another shouty band, but one who will keep people guessing, and they’ve certainly achieved that here in spades. (He didn’t use the word “People” by the way, but Editor Girl will have my hide if I include what he DID say…)

Joe also goes on to say that whilst it’s nice when bands such as Maruja and Gurriers cite them as an influence, to the outside world, it might look like Enola Gay are following in other folks’ wakes, when in fact much of their material has been written for many years, and it’s purely down to a lack of finance that they’re unable to record and release material as often as they’d like.

Hence Terra Firma, as well as being a way to round off the Casement EP, has also been a way to do something very different that’s also not as easy for other bands to replicate. “We’re not going soft, just expanding our sonic palette”, he concludes. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Drummer Luke takes to the stage before his bandmates to kick off with frantic set opener “Cortana”, in whose DNA you might be able to find lurking the likes of Daniel Avery’s “Devotion”. “Salt”, from 2021’s “Gransha” EP sees Adam stage right choking sounds from his bass as though his life depended on it, as stage left.

Joe thrashes his guitar to within an inch of its life. Fionn’s vocals are on point as he climbs as high on the front of the stage as he can, hanging off the ceiling and spitting his vocals to anyone who cares to listen  and, dear reader, we’re already hanging on his every word. It’s clear that, rather than building up their set to climax at the end, we’re going to be treated to one long sonic assault tonight. Fionn scarcely pauses for breath as we launch into EP stablemate, “Sofa Surfing”, chronicling the vicious cycle of homelessness, poor mental health and addiction.

It’s great to see the expressions of delight passing across the lads’ faces as they stare out into the crowd, feeding on the energy that’s opened up in the pit so early into their set. In the meantime, Your Humble Reviewer hangs onto his camera for dear life as I’m flung in any number of directions, depending on how many people collide with me at once.

While I wisely avoid the epicentre that I’d otherwise be dragged into if I wasn’t on duty, it’s a joy to behold and I can already see a knowing glint in Joe’s eye as he looks forward to a repeat of Friday night’s crowdsurfing shenanigans. New track, “Malone” brings us right back to the present and has me scratching my head as to where I’ve heard the hook/Hook emanating from Adam’s bass before – it’s dreamy and gorgeous, backed with Luke’s drum counterpoint.

Joe’s clever guitarwork and Fionn’s vocals which are turned down just slightly, to complement the shoegaze-y endeavours of his bandmates, before the tempo and the vocal echoes pick up again. Leeds was good, but there’s already something in tonight’s set that promises to surpass it.

We’re now treated to another new song, “Naked Names”, reminding The Humble Reviewer of Killing Joke at their dubbiest and Joy Division at their most forlorn. “Leeches”, the opening track from 2023’s “Casement” EP is a frantically paced anti-establishment number, with its insistent refrain of, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, can’t get fooled again” as Fionn spits out a vitriol-ridden message at those who have, at the expense of those who don’t. “Vote to keep your borders shut, lose the people that held you up.

Government that’s full of bigots see a population made up of digits, it’s all just one big joke to them, swan for Christmas in Number Ten, hidden facts about dodging tax, spent eighty million on Big Ben” – and it’s evident that the soon to be outgoing government (all being well at least) aren’t going to be on the top of Enola Gay’s Christmas card list this year.

Having witnessed crowd surfing from both Joe and numerous members of the crowd at Leeds, the whole thing looking like some demented Escher painting with people throwing themselves from the stage, only to appear back on it several seconds later to repeat the process, I’d been anticipating the same tonight.

However, possibly because they’d learned of the damage to pedals and other kit that had occurred as a result of this last week, stage incursions tonight are kept to a minimum tonight – besides, the stage here is harder to climb onto, and that pit is MORE than keeping the people at the front occupied.

A trip into Enola Gay’s past beckons now with 2020’s debut single, “The Birth of a Nation” with its wonderfully inclusive refrain of, “More blacks, more dogs, more Irish”. Enola Gay are on fire, the crowd even more so, if that’s possible. Another new song, “Figures” takes us on a guided tour of Public Image Passage via Rage Against the Machine Road and Prodigy Parade, all backed up with the most laconically plucked bassline you can imagine.

And so, we come to Terra Firma, which gives the pit time to pause for breath and pay attention to this momentary change of direction, although it’s no less powerful or effective than what has gone before – “The ground below, it feels so paper thin, when all you know is caving in, all sense of self, gets swallowed up, the deepest depths in which I never look, and the chances that we wasted, of so much precious time, weigh heavy on these weary shoulders of mine”. Sublime.

We move back into more familiar territory with PTS.DUP – “One hundred years living under the blood-red hand, a state of fear, forsaken by the mainland” tells you all you need to know on THIS particular subject, as anger and resentment positively seep from the stage. The vitriol is turned against door security in the form of “Scrappers”, with the chorus that’s guaranteed to make the mosh implode in on itself:

“On the door, lookin’ for a fight, I’m sorry son, tonight’s not the night”. As we head past the forty-five-minute mark, there’s a sense that we’d better make the most of the rest of the set, because we’re almost done, and Joe has already taken his opportunity to dive into the crowd, to be borne back to the stage by eager and willing hands.

The smile on his face tells you all you need to know about tonight – it’s been a monumental success. “Knives Out” takes us back into the seedy underbelly of Enola Gay’s world, with it’s heavily-processed guitar sounds and vocals humming in our collective earholes like a demented beehive.

The set draws to a close with, “For God and for Ulster” – “It’s another song about Belfast, so you know it’s going to be nice”, suggests Fionn, ever so slightly tongue in cheek. It may be good, but it’s not going to be nice, oh, dear me no. Adam’s bass rings out the same two notes repeatedly, like a summons to the gates of Hell, Luke beats an almost military tattoo, Joe eggs the crowd on for one last time, as Fionn delivers a final barrage of angst, and we crash together joyously, pausing only to pick up those who have fallen beneath the melee of writhing bodies.

To see either of these bands tonight would have been enough, but to see both has been an absolute privilege, with representation from both Dublin AND Belfast. I feel strangely energised, almost as though a little of what I witnessed tonight has taken root deep within me, daft though that may sound. The bond shared by Enola Gay, YARD, Gurriers and their ilk transcends any barriers that people who really should know better might seek to set up between them – even as I’m putting the finishing touches to this review.

I’m watching what’s going on in Dublin tonight and I think it’s safe to say that the people who are doing it are NOT representative of these lads in any way, shape or form, so thank you to The Island of Ireland for everything good that you bring to our ears.  

P.S. Special thanks go out to Dan from YARD and Joe from Enola Gay for their assistance with this review, and to Dermot de Faoite, who asked me in all seriousness, “Am I too old to be standing front and centre shouting and waving my fist in the air?”. In true Enola Gay style, I had but one response for him – “Fcuk that, Dermot!”

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