“We didn’t expect so many people to make it out tonight” admits Ryan Vail, “thanks”. Such messages of thanks from artist to audience are commonplace at live gigs, but you suspect that there’s genuine sincerity in Northern Irishman Ryan Vail’s words. Tonight’s show takes place as part of Belfast’s Out To Lunch Festival in the Black Box; hidden in the mazy streets of the city’s Cathedral Quarter. Add to that the heavy snow that has been falling for most of the day, and you begin to realise just how impressive it is that such a substantial crowd has gathered. There are, no doubt, many who weren’t able to make it down for tonight’s show, but those in attendance have the chance to see two of the brightest stars in Irish electronica in one of the city’s more intimate settings.
Derry man Vail’s stock has been steadily on the rise over the past few years. The producer’s impressive Colours and IN/MOTION EPs have both showcased a lightness of touch that is certainly evident tonight; whether it’s on the Burial-indebted percussion on ‘Sea Creatures’ (a remix of a SOAK track he released with mysterious electronic producer Unknown) or on the steady, gradual build-up on ‘These Words’ – Vail’s material tonight more often than not has the crowd engrossed. It’s a set which relies almost exclusively on the strength of his discography given the bare nature of the on-stage setup; Vail is joined by multi-instrumentalist Katie Cosgrove and a few synths and wires, but that’s about it. Nevertheless, tonight’s performance consolidates a growing reputation as an exciting live act, and certainly plays it’s part in warming up a snow-soaked crowd.
But it’s the live band and performance of Irish producer Jack Colleran that really excites tonight, as the much-lauded MMOTHS – who many may have thought of up until now as being a laptop musician – is joined on stage by an energetic ensemble which help lend his tracks an impressive clout. Not to be constrained by the ‘bedroom producer’ tag either, some of the new material tonight even manages to edge towards instrumental post-rock territory, thanks to We Are Losers’ Gavin Elstead on guitar and the inspired addition of live drummer Conor Conroy.
Colleran performs solo for several songs off his self titled EP, and it’s impressive that even though the live band takes a back seat, tracks like ‘Thnx’ and the shimmering ‘Heart’ are still engaging numbers and not in the slightest bit lightweight. It makes for a varied and exciting live show – but above all it makes you question whether we’ll get the chance to see MMOTHS play in this size of venue again.