John Deery and the Heads

The Derry quartet bring their anthemic sound to the Open House Festival

The 13th annual Open House Festival kicks off mid-week in Belfast's Black Box. With the police presence in town visible and unsettling – thanks to our hooded friends in the eastside – thankfully inside it's relaxed and ambient. Two up and coming bands set the tone.

While Londoners Treetop Flyers boast the headline slot, support is provided by Derry band, John Deery and the Heads, who most of tonight's audience are here to see. Some may remember band leader Deery performing solo in years past, sounding a little Damien Rice, a little David Gray, but with a pulse.

His brother Matt and bandmate Stephen also played in Deploy, a Red Hot Chilli Peppers tribute band famous with Derry teens in the early noughties. As is often the case, however, a reviewer suggested to Deery that he would do better with a band behind him, and so John Deery and the Heads were formed.

A mixed bag of influences is evident in their sound. Chief songwriter Deery is a master at the laidback anthem (his vocals are reminiscent of Don McClean), and tonight's set is an extremely enjoyable combination of folk with Frusciante-esque guitar tones throughout.

Accompanied by wonderfully deep and melodic bass and snappy drummings, The Heads' live performance is tight and polished. Although there some nerves on show - opening the Open House Festival is, no doubt, a daunting task - songs are interspersed with good-natured banter from Deery, who is a humble and amiable frontman. The audience warms to The Heads pretty quick.

Songs like 'Rope', 'Proof' and 'The Raven' get the set going, and latter tracks like 'All Work No Play' and 'Little Miss Blue' have the crowd swaying and singing along. Its uplifting, anthemic music, perfect for the Open House Festival, which this year starts as it means to go on.

John Deery and the Heads are most definitely a Northern Irish band to look out for. With folk music currently storming the charts thanks to the likes of Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling (who headlines the second night of Open House) Deery and Co have as good a chance as any to make their mark.

If you missed their set, access a sample of songs at www.johndeeryandtheheads.com. I recommend a listen and a download.

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