Queen’s University graduate and singer-songwriter Gus White returns to Irish shores to debut his brand new EP, True Really Do Come Dreams, to a Belfast audience. We went down to McHugh’s Basement to check it out!
McHugh’s is a small and intimate venue, decorated with fairy lights and full of excited and friendly chatter as the gig kicks off. Up first is Donegal-born, ambient folk artist Joel Harkin. Accompanied only by a mic and a guitar he built himself, his set is beautiful and suit the intimacy of the venue perfectly. His understated instrumentals and nostalgic lyrics about friends, family, love and loss are incredibly moving – the room is so quiet during each song, you could hear a pin drop. Between songs, the room is entertained by his dry sense of humour and amusing descriptions about his songs, including one about a WhatsApp group for undertakers (yeah, it got a little weird).
Up next were Colonel Chocolate And The Justice Triangle (which is definitely the best band name I’ve heard in my life). If Joel Harkin was calm and intimate, these guys were crazy and loud. Self-described ‘sketch rock’, the two-man band played an eccentric and entertaining set, with covers of Ice Cube and Weezer thrown in for good measure!
Finally, Gus White took to the stage and, as expected, completely stole the evening. The set is opened with a gorgeous falsetto so haunting you’d be forgiven for thinking Jeff Buckley was in the room. Gus and his band warm up with a few new tracks not from the EP, including Defeated. This song is easily one of the set’s high points and illustrates Gus’ talents as a songwriter – the lyrics are incredibly clever, with every line being an idiom.
It is obvious early on that this set has been rehearsed to perfection and it really pays off; the band are so tight musically it’s a pleasure for the ears, and they even break into a little jam mid-set.
As the set moves onto the integral part of the night – the EP, True Really Do Come Dreams – Gus’ vocal talent takes centre stage again on tracks like Falling and Ballroom. However, the best part of the set (and the night) is saved to the very end, on the closing track The Finger and The Moon. It is eerie, mysterious and beautiful. The monitors go off and the room, barely lit by the warm fairy lights draped over the drum kit, vibrates with sound. Gus uses a lot of dream imagery in his music and at this point in the set, it really does feel like we are all in a dream, or maybe in space, or basically anywhere we want in the world except our seats in McHugh’s. It was a beautiful end to the set because, after all, isn’t that how live music is meant to make us feel? Few artists can achieve that effect but tonight Gus White certainly did.
Gus White is a fantastic upcoming artist and if you ever get the chance to see him and his band live, I highly recommend it! In the mean time, you can visit his website or Like him on Facebook to check out his new EP!