New Year’s Eve, featuring Nes Advantage, Aaron McMullan, Tsug, and others – Live Review
“This is the way, step inside,” so hollered Ian Curtis back in the yesteryears. Yes I will step inside, thank you Ian. And I did step inside, right into the venue for tonight’s musicology, a large middle-class house, reeking of the bourgeois, deep within the abstract walls of Portrush. High ceilings and pianos abound as we sit in anticipation of what is to come, a collection of some local musical talent, played out to a small, but select, crowd of individuals. Truth be told, most of the assemblage here is partaking in some sort of sonorous activity, I think there’s about three or four superfluous persons contributing little or nothing to the proceedings, but being an ostentatious kind of guy, I have gifted myself the label of ‘the press’ for the night, so there is my role, one being realised right now as I type this.
First is the eagerly awaited “half hour of ambient noise”, which got us all tingling in tight geometrical trapezoids within our spinal fluids as soon as we were informed of it. This is performed by the duo of Ryan H. Fleming (no relation) and Andrew Gardiner (also our host for the evening), under the assumed collective title of Nes Advantage. Improvised ambience can easily dissolve into a nauseating mass of repellence, but not this. It was quite impressive watching the synergy between the two here, as Gardiner’s electronic meanderings were followed suitably by R.H. Fleming’s melodic guitar playing. Although the thing becomes more of a spectacle than they wished for, I guess environmental background is harder to attain when you have an audience of less than ten.
I find myself staring intently at a drawing of
Back downstairs, relieved beyond all reckoning, it’s time for more music. Next up is Luke something, a man, all suited up, and dripping with the oomph of Wall Street. His eyes elicit no emotion for the proletariat masses he just cast into the River Styx, oh there’s his yes-man Ted Nugent, presiding over an extra-harsh whipping of a few members of the GMB Union. But that was then, this is now, and later will be. Business pushed aside into the peripherals of leisure, Luke is ready to go on. Big things are expected here, after all he’s “been playing guitar for five years”.
However it doesn’t go quite as well as predicted. A few mess ups early on, and some screams of the following sort: “Ahhh, Jandek has forsaken my musical lobes! Why oh why did I not write down those infernal lyrics!” He then dropped to his knees and offered sacrifice to the gods of Fahey. A few slaps round the jowls by a passing motorist and he’s back on the stool actually playing a song or two. And it’s not bad, I’ve heard worse indeed. Unfortunately he only lasts that two or so songs before he must rush off to
Now it’s time for Aaron McMullan, the local singer-songwriter from Ballymoney. Flashback to earlier, sitting in KFC, chomping on a strip of processed chicken guts, I peruse tonight’s forthcoming set list. Ooh I say, ooh and aah, happy to see many favourites and what I consider the elite of the man’s song-writing prowess so far. It’s all good. Flash forward to the dark hours, and I can see he’s on edge, sitting on the wall above the fireplace, he is preparing his mind for the oncoming. Well that oncoming is here. Notes, and sheets, and lyrics, and graphs, and pie charts in hand, he roams to the front of the living room and takes a seat adjacent to the Xmas tree.
Flashback to a few days ago, seated in the cockles of Starbucks PLC, I interrogate McMullan as to what’s gonna be played Saturday Night, I press him: “What’s gonna be played Saturday night?” He replies: “Some songs of my concoction, brimming with decadence and overflowing with pristine wit.” Me again: “How about I Do Believe You Are The Devil?” A sneering side glance and comeback: “No good, I can’t backing-vocal whilst fronting-vocal.” I’ll admit I was sadden by this revelation, this particular song being a favourite of mine, but what can you do. Flash forward again, reeling from motion sickness what with all this flash movement, a change of mindset means that not only is the aforementioned song now existent on the song list, but it is the opening number.
And it is a rousing rendition, backing chorus vocals or not. Even gets chuckles from the audience, especially the lyric: ‘I said “You motherfucker Satan, take your tail from out my ass.”’ This is followed by Go Fuck Yourself, in my opinion the best song that has sprung itself out from the frontal blobs of his head. Good stuff, except that the outro is cut short by a few bars. I can tell that the masses surrounding my cognizance are appreciating the lyrical wordplay here, nods and smiles at Misfits references, and an embracing yelp at a mention of The Fall. The set ends with Sinead In Savage Purple, one of the strongest songs on 75mg.
An enjoyable performance, but flawed. Vocals and playing, and the symbiosis of the two, were great, but obviously at four or five songs, this was way too short, and not only that but some songs were themselves cut down slightly. The original set list had almost double the actual song amount. So some confidence issues here yet to overcome, it’s a hill that needs to be conquered. Of course it’s not easy getting up in front of hoards to unveil your own material, I couldn’t, but I’d love to see this obstacle traversed as soon as possible. All that’s needed is some more experience, which means more live playing, a building-up in a way. Hopefully this performance will advance and propel things in that direction.
Next up it’s Andrew Gardiner and Andy something (ignore these little journalistic incompetences as far as surnamery, if ya want I’ll tell all about how one of the females in the crowd is from Dublin and is doing a masters degree in publishing, it’s all about priorities ya see). They play a few pleasant songs, including a Dylan cover.
On we are all served some presumably expensive champagne or chardonnay or something, I’m not much of a wine connoisseur. Although it did taste nice, for I normally have a resistance to wine, perhaps it’s cos my tastes had by that time been dulled by four or eight cans of Magners. Who knows, but thanks anyway.
Finally for the night we have Tsug. Well, we have Ryan H. Fleming, because his partner in crime, Wullie Asken, has failed to show his beardy face. So what we have, to illuminate the scenario, is Ryan H. Fleming, his Rickenbacker wannabe, and an audience of the slightly drunkened, devouringly keen for musical bewilderment. And despite no songs he pulls it off. Lashed with the natural wit stick from an early age, RH goes on to improv an hour’s worth of musical comedy that has us all laughing it up in a Jean-Claude Van-Damme style. Lyrics observantly torn from the ether around the glockenspiel sitting to his right, and melodies lovingly produced by the combo of string flaying and chordal moments of succinctness, it works, it shouldn’t, fuck knows it shouldn’t, but somehow it does. And fun it was too.
The night ends wandering about in the observatory patio, gawking distastefully at some Harland and Wolff artwork, quoting from the bible of Joy Division, and pondering where the taxi is.
Overall a decent night indeed. The musical highlight, as allocuted in the taxi on the way home by RH, would have to be Aaron McMullan’s set, if for no other reason than it was the most coherent and song orientated. The fact that it actually had songs helps, but beyond that it was truly great. Stepping stones, oh the metaphorical stones, ready to be utilised for greater things, as McMullan says himself: “Those are nice stones!”