Published on March 4th, 2015 | by Loreana0
Roving Eye: The Minutes in Brussels
In the first of a new regular feature called Roving Eye, our photographer Tara Thomas sets off around Europe with some of the best and brightest bands our fair Isle has to offer. Documenting the trials and tribulations of touring life, Tara heads to Brussels with The Minutes. In her own words, she breaks down the entire proceedings from load-in to bed-down.
Brussels is a surprising city. My expectations of a drab grey place were unfounded, for it’s emblem is the Manneken Pis, a urinating little boy. He symbolises the rebellious nature of the city and its capacity for self-mockery. I hadn’t travelled to Belgium to sample the copious varieties of beers, the chocolates delicacies or the waffles, although I admit to sampling plenty, I’d flown in to catch up with Meteor Choice nominees The Minutes on the penultimate night of their European sojourn.
The Minutes should come with a health warning. Along with Booka Brass Band they tore up the Salty Dog at Electric Picnic and were, for me, one of the highlights of the weekend. Two sold out dates in Whelans during the year confirmed their place on the Irish music scene, but would their brand of raucous rock translate to an established back-alley Belgian venue?
I met up with the band in Ancienne Belgique, locally known as AB, an iconic dynamic music venue with superb acoustics. AB has played host to a wide variety of acts including Iggy Pop, The Cure and Elvis Costello and on Thursday night it played host to The Minutes. Walking into their sound check I could feel the walls vibrating, the pumping sound filling my head. The lads are in high spirits despite the fact Mark is suffering a suspected chest infection. They are hot off the heels of a sold out headline tour of Germany, their energy is infectious. The road to Belgium has been filled with bizarre occurrences including a taxi ride with a virtual Elvis projected on the ceiling, being guests of the German police after an incident on the Autobahn, and a hotel with a nefarious reputation. I’m informed that Berlin was the highlight so far, “mental” was the word used to describe the reception received.
Soundcheck runs smoothly and after some direction to the light engineer the guys grab downtime before the show. Shane and Mark are eager to hit a toy store they saw en route to the venue, laughing at the extreme shift in circumstances since their last European tour, exchanging debauchery for kid’s gift shopping . It’s incredibly sweet. On return to AB it’s a quick visit to catering and showers before an impromptu photo shoot with ‘Liveurope’. As the Liveurope crew depart the tension visibly heightens, it’s only moments away from show time. Mark warms his voice with nonsensical sounds, Shane stretches his limbs while Tom remains mellow, the only hint of nerves showing in his clamped fists. Out into the hallway and towards the elevator, I’m giddy as the band emerges from the green room, game face on.
Front of stage I jostle for position with five other photographers, an irritating teenager with a Go-Pro stick and a girl intent on getting intimate photos of Shane on her mobile phone. I learn afterwards Shane’s not a fan of mobiles at gigs, he admits being tempted to make that device disappear – I didn’t ask where. The band are tight, playing out of their skin. Mark is an engaging entertainer and at one point leaps into the audience for some of that face on face time he is renowned for. ‘Cherry Bomb’ rings out flawlessly a testament to why it’s shortlisted for Meteor Choice Irish song of the year. As I head up into the light engineers domain ‘Hold Your Hand’ resonates and it is clear from the rhythmic nodding of his head he is appreciating The Minutes musicality.
Tonight The Minutes are supporting John Coffey – a inspired by The Green Mile – post modern punk band from the Netherlands. Unfortunately it’s a gross music mismatch. The audience are disconnected, dispassionate and aloof. Seemingly having no interest in the powerful performance of the talented musicians before them. The apathy is unsettling. The only respite comes during the final song, an intense rendition of ‘Supernatural’, and a well timed pause which seemed to have the crowd on a hook. The silence succeeded by a deafening finale might just have woken them up.
Too little too late. The band depart the stage and when I follow them to the merchandise stand the dejection is evident. Standing to one side, allowing them space to dissect the set, the honesty between members is brutal. Tom later confided that having spent so much time together, growing and developing as band they had learnt to lay it on the line without any fear of altercation, then just move on. There is no disillusion that The Minutes can appeal to everyone. Stoicism replaces despondency. This tour is as much about developing an European network as growing an audience, and up until this point the latter had been immense. I subsequently learn that this is a typical Belgian reaction, so for acts looking to tour in Belgium in the future, be warned.
We returned to the green room, an anticlimax, the energy sapped. It doesn’t take much time for them to rebound and start looking to the next gig. They’ve one more show in the Netherlands and then it’s homeward bound for a much deserved rest. The band is working on their third album, having already laid down a few tracks in a studio in Cologne on their day off. They are also being shadowed for a year by videographer Brian Moore so a documentary may be in the offing in the not too distant future. You can’t keep a good thing down! Live Well, Change Often. Tara Thomas