When Walking Papers were first announced for Voodoo Belfast it seemed like the listing had been an error, given the personnel in the band and the relatively small size of the venue. This coupled with the fact that a week or two later it was announced that thrash giants Slayer were also playing a small club gig just across town on the same night, this almost felt like a gig that was just not meant to happen.
But it did happen, and what an excellent night of song and musicianship it turned out to be.
As the Welsh support act Buffalo Summer made their way onto the small stage it looked as if the audience was going to be far from capacity, but as the sound of the blues fuelled rock guitar opener ‘She’s All Natural’ filtered to the bar downstairs the audience numbers began to swell slowly but surely.
On their Belfast debut the four-piece delivered a quick succession of tracks from their self-titled album, including ‘Truth From Fable’, ‘Rolls on Through’ and the excellent ‘A Horse Called Freedom’. This is a band playing a most infectious upbeat kind of blues driven rock music and who clearly enjoy every minute of their time on stage. Andrew Hunt’s vocals are crisp, clear and soulful enough to be perfectly matched to this particular style of blues. At the back of the stage his brother Gareth provides a steady drumbeat to which bassist Darren King overlays a booming set of bass lines. The bearded bass player often seemed to get lost in the music, but at the same time remained fully aware of all that’s going on around him and at times matched Jonny Williams’ guitar lines lick for lick. The guitar work to my ear was exemplary and a great testament to just what can be done with nothing more than a Les Paul, decent amp, lots of overdrive and smidgen of wah thrown in for good measure. This is superbly showcased on intro to ‘Down To The River’ which has the catchiest of all their catchy choruses and is sung acapella style at the end of the song with the crowd all enjoying themselves and joining in. Buffalo Summer finish their set with another album track, ‘Typhoid Mary’ which stomps along and closes their set on a real high note. This is a band that is definitely on the up and up and who know exactly how to keep an audience entertained. I hope they don’t
leave it too long before returning to Belfast.
Buffalo Summer Set list:
She’s All Natural
A Horse Called Freedom
Truth From Fable
Rolls On Through
Ain’t No Other
Make Ewe Mine
Down To The River
Buffalo Summer have a Summer Tour lined up please see their website for full details
After the briefest of setup breaks the lights go down and the intro music begins, the crowd has filled out, pushed forward and all that separates them from the small stage is the row of monitors rested on empty beer crates. Those that are lucky enough to be in the front row are looking around to see where the band might come from, only to realise that they’ve made their way quietly from the back of the crowd and are standing down on the main floor patiently waiting for the intro music to finish.
As the intro fades they take positions, Barrett Martin’s thumping kick drum gives the steady rhythm to which the moody opener ‘Already Dead’ continues, and eventually is complimented by Jeff Angell’s gentle guitar and vocal work. Benjamin Anderson’s slightly understated keys and Duff McKagan’s driving bass line just underpin opening proceedings nicely.
As moody and beautiful as the opener was, the band soon makes up for it as they waste no time and rip into the ballsy ‘The Whole Worlds Watching’. Angell’s vocal now showing a fair amount of grit and passion. The band settles in to playing and seems to become more comfortable with the audience standing eye to eye with them. Angell spending some time singing in the audience only underlines this. Continuing the set with ‘Your Secret’s Safe With Me’ and ‘Red Envelopes’, the singer tells the crowd that “all these songs are stories from our hometown Seattle”.
‘Leave Me in the Dark’ has a slightly more upbeat feel to it and leads into one of the most blues laden tunes of the night, the excellent ‘Capital T’. After the guitar intro solo, the guitar bass and drums all drop onto a groove over which Angell’s vocals soar like he’s angry with the whole world. This is Walking Papers in full swing and it is brilliant to behold as the crowd responds and is moving in time with the thick groove. Highlight of the set for me though was ‘The Butcher’, as a fan of guitar based music it is strange to attend a gig and come away feeling that my favourite song was the one with no guitar. Anderson’s keys are slightly haunting and give the overall sound a totally different depth and dimension that just works with this particular style of song writing.
Playing a number of non-album tracks to finish the set the band leave the stage as unassumingly as they entered. Walking Papers are a band of musicians indulging their creativity, making music that they clearly enjoy and while it has roots in Americana Blues/rock it is ultimately hard to define. The musical style always compliments the lyrical content, it has a darkness and depth that is stark and yet beautiful, and the passion and intensity that it generates is effortlessly delivered by all four of the band members in this live setting.
As the crowd gradually dissipated and the band signed autographs I came away thinking I had witnessed a bit of musical mastery and get the feeling they won’t be playing small venues for very long.
Walking Paper set-list:
The Whole World’s Watching
Your Secret’s Safe With Me
Leave Me In The Darkness
I’ll Stick Around
A Place Like This
Red & White
Walking Papers Tour continues with a number of dates across Europe
June 18th O13 – Tilberg, NL
June 19th Acienne Belgique – Brussels, BE
June 20th Nachtleben – Frankfurt, DE
June 22nd Backstage – Muich, DE
June 23rd Take Off – Ingolstadt, DE
June 27th Rock the Beach – Helsinki, FI
June 28th Bravalla Festival – Norrkoping,SE
June 29th Azkena Rock Festival – Vitoria Gasteiz, ES
Photos by Paul Verner