Firstly, I must point out that Roadtrip & The Workshop is one of the coolest venues weâ€™ve had the pleasure of being invited along to. With a plethora of neon lighting and music-inspired decoration, it definitely works as a suitable host for some of the best upcoming bands in the business. Iâ€™d also like to take a moment to draw your attention to the decoration in the toilets. Itâ€™s not very often in a live music review I spend time talking about the facilities, but I seriously recommend you give them a visit and cast your eyes upon the walls. Whether youâ€™re a â€œSidâ€ or â€œNancyâ€, youâ€™ll certainly enjoy the view. Thank me later.
But I digress, onto the music. The Workshop is the barâ€™s downstairs live music venue, and we kick off the evening with a set from cheeky chappy Shaun Oâ€™Reilly. The double denim clad singer/songwriter draws his listeners in with a blend of acoustic and blues, his husky tones bringing some grit and authenticity to the songs he performs. A cover of Nick Drakeâ€™s â€˜Smoking Too Muchâ€™ followed by his own â€˜Crookedâ€™, written about drinking too much, are both raw performances which manage to be full of emotion and powerful in equal measures.
Shaunâ€™s anecdotes between songs allow him to connect to those sipping their beers and tapping their feet in front of him, to the point of shouting â€œOne more song!â€ when he announces heâ€™s finished. Holding the audienceâ€™s attention throughout, despite a few â€œtechnicalâ€ problems, Shaunâ€™s simple set up brings us a strong and memorable performance.
The first noticeable thing about our next band, The Unmentionables, is that their bassist Ed Wilson is tall. Like, really tall. So tall, he canâ€™t stand on the stage without hitting his head on the ceiling. As soon as they start, the energy in their performance is palpable. This is proper rock music. No pretentiousness here, just 4 lads with real riffs and catchy melodies. Sure, their subject matter sometimes drifts to love and heartbreak, but there is no soppiness and angst, just solid songs and a band who truly enjoy themselves onstage.
The infectious â€œSailing Awayâ€ is the highlight of the set, with the audience joining in for the hook, â€œIâ€™m sailing away!â€ and a short moment of silence before the applause, taking in the massively impressive set that has just been witnessed. Watching The Unmentionables in such a small setting, bouncing around the stage with limitless energy, I canâ€™t help but imagine their tunes fitting in perfectly on a much larger scale. Give these guys a few years and expect to see them packing out arenas, a definite highlight of the evening.
The Derelics swagger onto stage next. Literally. There is an air of cockiness and smugness around frontman Reno, who looks like he was born to be a frontman of a rock band. The band is down to 2 out of 3 members tonight, and similarities in lineup are immediately drawn to The White Stripes. Oh, but The White Stripes, these guys are not. Reno holds the audience in his hands as he asks â€œWho has the funk?â€ whilst drummer Rich brings the sizzling beat and a great collection of facial expressions. Take that, Meg White. The songs drift from grunge to metal to classic rock, falsetto vocals dancing over the rhythm.
However, it does seem as though regular attendees of the gigs get more from The Derelics performance than those who are new to seeing them live, as a constant exchange of â€œin-jokesâ€ between band and audience gets a little grating after a while.
The final band of the evening are in the form of 3-piece Lucine Bell. The tone here settles down to become much more sombre, embracing grunge as it was back in the 90s, a sense of mourning and darkness. Moving here from the stadium-filling energy of The Unmentionables brings a massive change in atmosphere, to the point where the suddenly self-conscious band donâ€™t seem to be enjoying the performance themselves. The riffs are there, the chugging guitars are powerful, but unfortunately the stage presence and personality of the band members is somewhat lacking. In truth, this music is maybe better enjoyed at home as the lack of a real presence or personality really lets the band down.
For our merry Thursday night on the town, the performance of Lucine Bell as headliners is a bit of a let-down, but fortunately The Unmentionables and Shaun O’Reilly’s performances earlier in the evening certainly made the trip worthwhile. I’d highly recommend going and seeing them if you get the chance.