It’s only mid October but already our thoughts are turning to the picks of 2009. For those aching to tip the nod to And So I Watch You From Afar, the possibilities are nearly endless. Album of the year. Irish, Northern Irish or new band of the year. Best post-rock, instrumental or metal band. ASIWYFA tick a lot of boxes. Not to mention the best live band of 2009….by miles. It’s a part of their armory that they’ve certainly been honing of late, with over 180 shows under their belt already this year and a schedule that takes them right up to Christmas and a homecoming Belfast gig – via Poland, Austria, Hungary and Russia.
There is no sign of any kind of toll being taken however as they bound on to stage to prepare. What is also clear is that this head on approach to building a crowd is working here in Dublin at least, with Whelans nicely full for a Sunday. They’re eager to be entertained too, with a veritable sense of excitement filling the room. As the band tear into their opening number it becomes clear as to why – within seconds the stage is a mass of flailing limbs and instruments, with the sound hitting us out front like a claw hammer. It’s a mind blowing, if not particularly subtle, way to kick off. The message of intention is clear – prepare yourselves for the night of your lives.
Yet something doesn’t quite click. The problem comes with in the form of their heavy handed approach, with any of the band’s more subtle moments being lost in the wall of noise. As on their astonishing debut record, there are moments of great restraint and melody but in this environment (unlike their incredible Tower Records appearance a couple of months back) they are fighting a losing battle to the booming bass and thumping drums. Of course this could be just one of those things, an off night on the sound desk, but you also get the sense that here is a band who have been used to getting in the faces of unfamiliar audiences night after night. Here though we are already aware of their power, we have come because we know there is so much more to them than just that. As it is it takes a while for the crowd to match the energy coming off the stage, despite a few aborted attempts and getting some sort of pit on the go.
However, even a below par ASIWYFA show has got more highlights than most. Whereas support Enemies stay within the confines of the post-rock rulebook, the Northerners tear it to shreds. Never is this more clear than on the new tracks played tonight, both from January’s forthcoming E.P. and the next album, the latter getting all hardcore punk on our backsides. In the end it does all come together, the glorious racket that we now they can produce finally emerging, with band and crowd uniting to end the night on an undoubted high and making sure that proper order has been restored. Band of the year? Pretty much. Album of the year? Up there for sure. Gig of the year? Could have been, should of been but sadly not quite.
Photo: Tom McGheehan