Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Steven Rainey encounters a bubble of Belfast chic

'They do it over there, but they don’t do it here. Oooooh. Fashion.'

So sang Mr David Bowie, but it would appear that perhaps he is wrong, as evidenced by the annual Rusty Zip fashion show. Being a Belfast fashion institution for indie hipsters and retro stylists, the Empire Music Hall seems an appropriate venue for such a venture, and a makeshift catwalk protrudes from the stage, setting the tone for the evening: DIY.

This isn’t exactly Milan, and as such, anyone expecting some kind of high fashion extravaganza is going to be sorely disappointed. After all, the Rusty Zip is a second hand clothes store, and the wares on display  cater for a - to put it politely - more discerning taste.

Gaudy colours, synthetic fabrics and obsolete accessories are the order of the day, as our brave and beautiful models parade up and down the catwalk, escorted by a cowboy, for absolutely no reason. The clothes (and the models) draw whistles, cheers, and derisive laughter from the audience, and the whole affair quickly takes on a quaint, parochial atmosphere.

One would find it hard to imagine an evening such as this taking place in London, for example, and this is simultaneously its major appeal and its downfall. Whilst the show is undoubtedly a lot of fun for everyone involved, one imagines it would be more fun if you were in on the joke. And whilst it is easy to admire the effort and work dispensed in putting this show on, it's difficult to actually see what the point is.

An odd mix of styles, but not as odd as the clash of musical genres on offer. Openers Pocket Promise gamely try to get the party started, but their Muse meets Keane meets Snow Patrol indie rock music fails to find an audience in the crowd, the majority of which were down to see ‘the fashion’ and nothing else.

Indeed, after the fashion show, a vast portion of the crowd depart, leaving Julip to try and fill the spaces. After a few technical hiccups, the high ceiling of the Empire music hall is scorched by guitars that aim for the stratosphere, and end up somewhere in the rings of Saturn.

The sound of Julip is immense - vaster than the ocean, and twice as deep. What they are doing playing at a fashion show is hard to fathom, and their music is met by lukewarm applause and blank stares. This is not music to talk over or drink to, this is music that inhabits your very soul and doesn’t let go. Hopefully it will find the audience it deserves.

On the other hand, it is hard to imagine any audience actually disliking The Greeters, such is the charm and appeal of their funky soul sound - 'Like an indie Commitments', as one wag would have it.

The band exude charm, enough so that one is inclined to ignore the fact that they regularly commit crimes against music in the shape of bass solos and a dazzling technicality that borders on ‘muso’. But they’re just so damn fun that you forgive them.

Finishing off the evening, Ed Zealous strut their stuff, shake their immaculately styled hair cuts, squeeze themselves into skinny jeans, and make all the girls swoon. However, one thing they don't really do is play any actual songs, being a complete triumph of style over substance.

And yet somehow, you have to admire them for it, as you find yourself bopping away, and it’s only by the end that you notice that this is just a cynical rag-tag of 'what's cool these days' and nothing more. One can imagine seeing their pouting faces blankly staring at you from the pages of a magazine some day, but it won’t be a music magazine.

Unfashionable fashion, bands without songs, music without an audience.  'It’s loud and it’s tasteless, and I’ve heard it before. Oooh. Fashion.' It appears, upon reflection, that Mr Bowie is right after all.