And So I Watch You From Afar

Those lucky enough to get a ticket climb aboard the Dutch barge on the Lagan for a secret gig

With snowfall plunging the UK into a state of paralysis, it's fitting somehow that post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar have managed to make it back from Amsterdam, in time to board a mode of transport that's not going anywhere - a Dutch barge, in fact - to play a free gig for their loyal, hometown fans.

Built in 1960 and moored at Lanyon Quay, MV Confiance makes a remarkably fine venue for a concert. As 80 lucky fans kick the ice from their boots and head down into the vessel’s bowels, you get the feeling that this underwater gig is going to be something very special indeed.

The confined space means that the band don’t have to ask anyone to move forward. The sound is contained and with the stage being no further off the ground than the snow outside, it accommodates a personal performance that most traditional venues can’t provide.

A selection of tracks from The Letters EP kicks off the evening, starting with ‘S is for Salamander’. The education continues with the punk assault of ‘D is for Django The Bastard’, quickly followed by the band’s latest single, the entirely pleasant and highly accessible ‘Straight Through The Sun’ lighting up the hull.

The crowd interaction is top notch and captain of the good ship ASIWYFA, Tony Wright (pictured above) doesn’t let the lack of space hold him back. At one point sidestepping through the audience, Wright strings his guitar around a fan for a spontaneous ‘solo’ - a nice touch from the instrumental act that have gone beyond the call of duty for their hometown followers, playing three Belfast shows in one day (the barge is the second of the gigs).

Having played a show earlier at the Catalyst Art Centre, the tired eyes are starting to show, but the four lads give it their all, backed by a surprisingly good sound system. The pace picks up with hand clapping over ‘Start A Band’, perhaps the best example of how ASIWYFA mix moments of quiet contemplation with full-on spiky metal. Between songs the hull is silent - there's no chatter, aside from the occasional joke. ‘Play “Freebird”!’ comes a shout from the back. ‘Never gets old,’ retorts Wright.

‘Who thought we wouldn’t be back for Christmas?’ asks the flame-haired guitarist, dedicating the anthem ‘A Little Solidarity Goes A Long Way’ (watch the video below) to all fans on deck. Then there’s two early Christmas presents in the form of a new track following an oldie, ‘Holylands, 4AM’, which the band haven’t played live in years.

‘Eat The City, Eat It Whole’ brings a majestic close to the breakneck 60 minute set. The dreamy finale ripples outward, filling the vessel in a way that feels like, at any moment, the barge might break away from the shore. The tank might be running on empty, but this boat still rocks.

And So I Watch You From Afar next gig is at The Hideout, Warrenpoint on December 23. Tickets priced £10 from WeGotTickets. Photo above of Tony Wright taken on board the Barge, appears courtesy of Colm Laverty Music Photography.