It’s a fierce mild evening in Belfast; the first Saturday night that feels like spring. Voodoo, similar to its Dublin namesake plays host to noisy brats and ragged punks. The floor is sticky and the acoustics are questionable, it’s the perfect testing ground for young bands and tonight four of them are playing.

Ahead of Brexit it is up to the musicians themselves to establish the ties that will see them through the hard times ahead. The bill tonight is shared between two Dublin and two Belfast bands, three of whom will play the Mercantile in Dublin this coming Saturday.

Photo by by Ruairi Conlon

Alien She

Alien She are a riot grrrl inspired punk band from Dublin. Named after a Bikini Kill song, Alien She follow a nineties megamix on the jukebox that includes L7 and Veruca Salt. They have a sound reminiscent of The Raincoats Or Tongue Trap, And It’s Their First Gig In Belfast.

They Wrote The Song ‘Death Sentence’ in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar after she was denied an abortion that could have saved her life and the song mourns the fact that, perhaps as shockingly, nothing has happened to prevent a repeat occurrence. It’s a killer protest tune.

It has taken a while for the sound to settle in for Alien She but once the mix is corrected they sound fearsome. They combine hard rock drums, clean guitar chords and a heavy bass lead guitar. They are a work in progress and need to smooth out their harmonies, but the tunes and punk energy drive them over the line.

No Matter

We’re astounded to see a guy in a G.G. Allin t-shirt and even more so when he straps on a guitar to play with No Matter. We’re hoping he’s less scatologically inclined than Allin or we’ll be ordering noseplugs to go with our earplugs.

The four black shirted punks are described as Green Day meets Ramones and the lead singer certainly plays like Billie Joe Armstrong, but without the stupid haircut. The Belfast quartet play hard and fast on their Low slung guitars and the tunes are catchy even if it does sound overly familiar.

A proper round of slamming breaks out three songs in and the bouncers come to intervene, great craic altogether. No Matter know how to work a crowd and their tunes are immediately accessible. The pit expands inexorably and I’m briefly sucked in to it but thankfully I escape the event horizon. The scissor kicks and between-song banter are trademarks of experienced entertainers, and No Matter are very entertaining.

Slouch

Next up are Slouch from North Dublin. I won’t dwell too long on them but you can read about their recent headline show here.

The power trio are in the process of recording their debut album. They kick off with instrumental ‘I Want The Gold’, drawing the crowd towards the stage with sheer volume. The super sleaze of ‘Office Xmas Party’ gives way to the super slinky ‘King Crab Has A Hold Of The Ocean’.

The band play with power and finesse, so much so that the staff have to mop up the sweat from the dancefloor. ‘Plains Clothes Sharks’ is about resigning yourself to a life in the retail industry and has a Led Zeppelin groove. Slouch manage to combine heavy rock riffing with the songwriting of an earnest indie band.

Sister Ghost

Last up are Sister Ghost lead by Derry’s Shannon O’Neill. They warm up with the intro of Black Sabbaths evil eponymous song. They rock hard and O’Neill has the stage presence of an archetypal rock star. She wears a Siouxsie Sioux t-shirt but her act is like Joan Jett, Donita Sparks, and Joe Strummer rolled into one.

The band are tight; following her lead in every direction. They do the quiet/loud thing and rattle the foundations. O’Neill was born to be a band leader. A request from Slouch’s bassist, Kev Shannon, to turn the bass up is accepted and, to be fair, it makes a big difference. The next song rattles the fillings in our teeth.

O’Neill literally bends over backwards to entertain us. One minute she’s in the audience playing a solo and the next she’s on her knees head-banging; a hypnotic, hard-rocking hero. Get yourself down to The Mercantile on Saturday and Sister Ghost will rock your socks off.

Photography by Ruairi Conlon