Ninetynine + Estel + Tracer AMC – Auntie Annies, 11th November 2002

Session in NI, Helen Toland

Life is too short for nights like this. There’s wasting your life away of your own volition and then there’s other people squandering your valuable time. I am not disappointed by this gig – I am outraged.

Tracer AMC – to give them credit – are in good form. Alex has a new bass, prompting much appreciative muso jealousy from the audience. Some smart ass keeps it in check by asking “Does it go faster?” The tunes are great. Hypnotic, melodic and entrancing – pick a cliche and run with it. I’ve seen Tracer on nights where they didn’t quite gel and it’s not a happy experience. Equally when they do ignite it’s one of Belfast’s little musical pleasures. Tonight it’s somewhere in between. Average enough by their standards, amazing compared to what follows.

Estel are the worst band I’ve seen in years. Yeah, they look the part – they’ve got super-duper girls with good hair and a skinny-assed boy playing bass. But from the first second they begin, it’s clear this is going to be a painful experience. The keyboard is never challenged with more than one finger at a time, the guitar playing is a horrible one-string-only dull- fest.

It’s like a bunch of primary kids let loose in the music room but with no charm and no sweetness. One minute we’re hearing ramshackle 80’s synth riffs, the next it’s lo-rent Godspeed. I look around and am glad that at least some people in the room have the sense to be embarrassed at this woeful spectacle. This is pretentious, unnecessary rubbish. Emperors new clothes anyone?

I stay for 15 minutes of Ninetynine’s set. I want them to be great – to salvage what’s left of the night. But my tolerance is weakened by the previous barrel-scrapping and all generosity of spirit is annihilated by the OTT drummer. There’s performing and then there’s performing for the sake of it. This guy knew nothing of subtlety – all flailing limbs and look-at-me theatrics. It all gets too much and the prospect of spending another minute fills me with dread. So for maybe the 3rd time ever I leave a gig early. Life is too short to waste on anything less than great.

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