Cut the Transmission
Fighting With Wire go out with a bang at The Venue in Derry~Londonderry
The Venue at Ebrington, Derry~Londonderry has played host to large-scale, mainstream UK City of Culture 2013 events like Radio One's Big Weekend and Chic, both of which attracted thousands of spectators who filled the cavernous hall nicely.
So credit to Cahir O'Doherty, Craig McKean and Jamie King of Fighting With Wire for curating a one-day music festival, Cut the Transmission, compiled largely of their musical peers from across Northern Ireland. Save for ultra hip indie kid Frank Turner, every act on the bill operates below the mainstream radar.
Cut the Transmission is Fighting With Wire's farewell gig, marking the end of their storied ten-year career as one of the Derry~Londonderry's hardest-working bands. Named after one of their songs, the festival brings together bands that they've shared stages, tours and labels with over the past decade.
Things get under way from 2pm. Despite coming equipped with stadium-worthy riffs, Making Monsters and Droids must contend with the demoralising sight of a relatively empty venue. Despite feeling the nerves, both bands give a good account of themselves, and the experience will make them stronger live performers in the future.
Following them with a more assured and well-received spot are old Derry favourites Little Hooks, today featuring The All Star Choir made of up artists like Matt Deery of Matt Deery and the Heads. Little Hooks' front-duo of Ruairi O'Doherty and Martin McGill give a masterclass in managing expectations – and then exceeding them.
After meeting on a music course at the Nerve Centre in the early 1990s, O'Doherty later played in the Geffen-signed Cuckoo alongside Andrew Ferris of Jetplane Landing. McGill, meanwhile, now serves as music programme manager at the Nerve Centre, a venue that Fighting With Wire have long been involved with, having played countless memorable shows and given songwriting workshops there over the years.
Cheltenham natives Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun are in all likelihood the band with the least history connected with the organisers, sharing the Xtra Mile label that Fighting With Wire were finally able to release their second album through last year. Lockey turns in the sprightliest performance so far, yet his Springsteen-meets-Mumfords triteness unfortunately grates after a while.
Surprisingly, having forged a reputation as a strong live act, rockers More than Conquerors fail to get the adrenaline pumping. Their usually barn-storming 'Bear Knuckle Fight' opens the set with a flat whimper, and they struggle to regain ground from there.
And so it's left to LaFaro to set the scene for Fighting With Wire. With both of their inceptions stretching back to 2003, they've had many years of close companionship at the forefront of alt-rock in Northern Ireland. O'Doherty has often cited LaFaro as his favourite band, while LaFaro's Herb Magee had a short tenure playing with Fighting With Wire in their early days.
Today the 'eight-legged-riff-machine' is reduced to six, as guitar-playing Magee brother Dave is apparently holidaying in Greece. Nevertheless, even a member down, LaFaro immediately tear into the crispest racket so far.
They aren't a band famed for hits, but they dig deep into a varied back catalogue, reving up with the squelching b-side 'All of These Things' before reaching back for early EP cut 'Boom Chasers'. It's the perfect warm up for Fighting With Wire.
Modestly nestled at the mid-point of the day's schedule, Fighting With Wire begin their final show with 'Machine Parts'. By now the hall has filled out substantially – with one fan even travelling all the way from Australia – and the fans give full force to that inescapable 'woah-oh' chorus that would become such a staple of the band's songwriting.
Tunes from Man vs Monster, the life-affirming first album that led them to sign with Atlantic Records, feature heavily, but selections from the band's superior debut, Colonel Blood, dominate. 'Everyone Needs a Nemesis' inevitably appears for the last time – their 'one sniff of a hit', as O'Doherty puts it – dedicated to each of their parents 'for putting up with us for ten years'.
In a characteristically defiant swerve, they follow it with five straight slabs from their second album, including a rare outing for the underrated 'Graduate' and its contagious, prayer-to-Cobain title track. But it's the return to mainstays 'Long Distance' and the festival's anthemic namesake – 'the first song we ever wrote together' – that elevate Fighting With Wire's last ever performance to the 'unforgettable' category.
O'Doherty's death-wish leap into McKean's drum kit functions as a bonus feature, while bassist King isn't neglected, hoisting a fan-made sign commending his unshakable grooves over the years. It's a farewell show that lives up to its billing.
Welsh-Geordie noiseniks Future of the Left face perhaps an even tougher slot than the opening brace of bands, but are outrageously good, and build the buzz for And So I Watch You From Afar's slot. The instrumentalists play some sublime stuff, and make reference to the brotherly bond they've long held with Fighting With Wire.
Only Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls remain, and if the former Million Dead frontman's folk sound has a lot of preceding noise to live up to, he has no shortage of fans to egg him on.
Fighting With Wire's relationship with Turner dates back to the days when Jetplane Landing (who O'Doherty also plays for) and Million Dead occupied that early-2000s UK punk landscape, and he is vocally thankful that he and O'Doherty have remained close all the years. Turner can't pay enough tributes to his buddy's band, and the day ends on a high. Transmission: cut.