ENOLA GAY // Secret Location // 25/02/2022 // Live Review

Picture the scene: a dark, third floor attic-style room packed to the absolute rafters with bodies, all amassed in a writhing crowd, all eyes staring, through a haze of sweat and the occasional plume of cigarette smoke lit by the distant hues of neon tube lighting lining the walls, at the mayhemic, calamitous force of nature unfurling before them.

That force of nature is none other than Enola Gay, and their unique brand of noise fills the room, wall to wall, ready to shake the building right down to its foundations. From the expressions of sheer ecstasy on almost everyone in the room – undoubtedly some of them a result of certain eponymous sources that aren’t quite solely the music itself – it’s clear to see that, if the three stories of the undisclosed building in Belfast did end up falling in on themselves, there wouldn’t be too many people bothered, as long as the band kept playing amid the rubble. Such is the frenzied hypnosis that the band ensnare their audience with.

A phenomenal blend of thunderous, bouncing rhythms, overclocked guitar, furiously catchy vocals, pedalboard SFX, and general kinetic hysteria, this is a band unlike any other.

Formed by Fionn Reilly and Joe McVeigh at the worst possible time in history, just when the band were writing material and gearing up to take the live scene by storm, a different kind of storm was waiting in the wings. Just when they were getting started, the pandemic forced the band to put gigs on hold. But it didn’t knock the wind out of their sails or shatter their momentum. Writing tracks during and even about events that occurred during that time, Enola Gay also played a few live stream gigs for the likes of Irish Music Week, Eurosonic, and SXSW during the long stretch of time when live music was hibernating. Building traction, tracks of theirs, some of which were effectively bedroom demos, were played far and wide, launching them under several radars, including those of NME, the BBC, Fred Perry, and Iggy Pop. Several tracks were placed in a variety of official Spotify playlists, which served to highlight how the band’s sound, like Houdini escaping from a strait-jacket, defies categorisation and doesn’t sit neatly arranged within any given genre. Listed on a post-punk playlist alongside Fontaines D.C. and Idles while hanging out with the likes of Evile, Rivers of Nihil, and Cradle of Filth in a modern metal playlist, all the while chilling out with some Melomania bands and electronica outfits, this is a band whose sound you cannot pin down. Not that you get a chance to when they play live.

The venue of choice for their end-February gig was a room without a stage, much like their other home turf show in McHugh’s Basement last November. This is without a doubt the kind of scenario where the band are at their best, where they are absolutely in their element. After all, there’s no better place for in your face music than right in your fucking face, and the band held nothing back.

  Resembling a slightly subdued Ian Curtis, there were times when frontman Fionn, with his erratic, jerky movements and quivering undulations, resembled a marionette of varying string lengths. With his legs kicking to the beat, knees pointing one way, elbows the opposite, torso contorted, and, in what could be said to be the man’s signature stance, one shoulder hunched down with the microphone and a snatch of its wires clutched in a fist, he delivered his angry hip-hop influenced vocals mere centimetres away from the nearest ears.

Almost like reality imitating art, the band has been through that many drummers in its short life-span that you’d almost be forgiven for thinking they were a Spinal Tap tribute. But not a single person in the room, without prior knowledge, would have been able to guess that this was Luke Beirne’s first show behind the kit with the band. A vital component of the Enola Gay sound, holding down the fort to let the other musical elements run wild, the drums in their songs are bouncy and, as one would imagine, rhythmic, but a vital element of them is their looseness of feel. Luke delivered this in spades, all the while delivering a heaviness that naturally exists in a live environment, with the energy of the crowd feeding into his playing, an energy made clear by the grin pasted on his face as he smashed the crash et al and rode the rising dynamics of each song. Few could hope for a better first show in a new band, and if this gig was anything to go by, he is a perfect fit.

While the drums hold down their songs, the rumblings of bassist Adam Cooper held down the room. Many of their songs open with catchy, grooving basslines, acting as a point of entry for the madness to come, and there are often moments of pause, allowing for some much-needed breathing room and also to provide interplay against the exponentially mounting tension. More often than not, these moments of silence are first interrupted by one of his four strings. Because of this, and the fact that, unlike a lot of bands, the bass is never buried in the mix, it acts as a sort of anchor throughout proceedings. Considering how he among the four moves around the least, choosing instead to stand stoically like a lighthouse amid a storm, with the occasional stinkface expression that would be impossible to avoid playing lines like he does smeared across his face, this anchor effect is cemented further. To add to matters, the culmination of his tone and volume brings to mind words written by Yeats more than a century ago; “a terrible beauty is born”.

Across and interwoven throughout all of this is the source of most of the tension, most of the electric atmosphere, most of the sheer chaos of the show: Joe McVeigh. Almost performing a dual role, Joe is usually seen, beloved Fender in hand, playing staves of dissonant notes that ring out one after another, interloping with what the others are doing, creating an impression of echoes of noise colliding together. But every so often, Joe either sets his guitar down or flings it across his back like a gunslinger’s rifle, and honkers down to do some floorboard DJing with his effects pedal. When this happens, it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. Siren wails and thriller-movie style sound effects perforate and abound, and all hell breaks loose. Don’t be surprised if this fella ends up scoring movies at some point down the line, much the same way one of his musical icons, Johnny Greenwood, has been doing lately.

With subject matter relating to social prejudice, racial inequality, rape, mental suffering, drug use and trying to achieve a semblence of joy amidst encroaching hopelessness, and the stark, hollow realities of living under twelve years of Tory austerity, it’s hard to put a finger on a band who encapsulates what it’s like to be a young person living in the so-called developed nations of the twenty-first century more than Enola Gay do.

And all this without even having released a single album.

Between the inventiveness and innovation of their music, where they take elements from a wide range of genres and artists and pour them into a melting pot that bubbles and oozes out their unique brand of noise, and the unflinching and unrelenting subject matter of their songs, it is far from hyperbolic to say that Enola Gay are the most important band to come out of Belfast in a while, if not the entirety of the Emerald Isle itself.

If you have yet to sing along to the refrain, “Less hate, less peelers, less madness, more blacks, more dogs, more Irish” at a face-to-face Enola Gay show, you absolutely must. Good luck with that, though, if you’re one of the home crowd, considering they have just kicked-off on their long anticipated, in some instances already sold out, UK tour with a spattering of shows across Europe to follow, before they come back to play on home turf at the AVA Festival in the summertime.







Review by Mark Russell:


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