It’s just over a decade now since lyricist Pete Simonelli and guitarist Kevin Thomson came together to realise the recording project that in time would solidify into Enablers. With the addition of two new members the project led to 2004’s ‘End Note’, and the beginning of a ten year recording career that produced four albums of spoken word intensity over equally scathing post-rock guitars. Although it’s not their first visit to these parts, it is their first live show, and they more than make up for the absence. The Loft in The Grand Social is the location for tonight’s show, a room whose floor is vibrated in advance of the San Francisco band by Dublin’s Hands Up Who Wants To Die.
If Shellac and Slint are the bands most associated with the headliners, then all three must take some credit for HUWWTD. A lone mic-stand occupies the dancefloor in front of the stage where three men begin. Singer Barry Lennon stalks around the mic-stand with intent as a ring of spectators give a wide berth; the band kicks in and he’s off, stomping around in circles glaring into eyes and screaming into faces in the crowd. It’s a space he occupies for the majority of the set, weaving in and around the audience from one end of the room to the other as the band storm their way through an eardrum-eviscerating selection.
“It’s not a school disco and I’m the only girl here” Lennon says, enticing the reticent crowd a bit closer. Those brave souls who do are rewarded with an up close and personal vocal blast. From whispers to howls, from face down on the ground to knees in the air, Lennon never stops as the band shreds a heavy swath onstage. Fortunado’s many crashing crescendos put an end to his floor antics. Bass and guitar are switched for the finale, with Lennon finally eschewing the mic to come to the monitors and roar, just audibly, above the band – no mean feat. This is hard-hitting and in-your-face in the most literal sense.
After the short film by Daragh McCarthy that precedes them, Enablers appear, and grumblings seem to emanate from the stage as they soundcheck. Minor sound and equipment issues raise their heads during the set, but minor they are and the show goes on. “Don’t be standoffish, this is not Berlin” says Thomson to the gathered crowd before Simonelli throws his entire body into New Moon. The singer’s theatrical intensity is a magnetic sight – somewhere between Nick Cave and Dave Berman – as he careers around the stage, feet up on monitors or flailing around stagefront with hands in raised mock-vampire pose.
New number Solo and its companions don’t mess with the formula – certain words and lines roll on the crescendos of Doug Scharin’s drum fills and punch the silences as time signatures shift, and Thomson and Joe Goldring layer on the delicate-abrasive guitars. At certain points Simonelli’s poetry is indiscernible as he steps away from the mic, still speaking. He walks by it so a word is heard, backing away and then forward, and back and forward for another snatched phrase as he throws his body into the mic like a coiled rattler.
Thomson is equally as animated and particularly happy after being bought a whiskey, a kinetic foil to the more stoic – but no less visceral with his guitar – Goldring on the other side. The former occupies centre-stage as Simonelli’s vocal intones from a startling feedback halt on Up. Simonelli stands aside as the band lock into those intricate circular workouts, eyeing both colleagues and crowd in stoney-faced concentration. A set that’s steadily been winding up and building in restrained tension is then criminally cut short. By his own admission Thomson would play twelve more tunes, and Simonelli informs us that “apparently discos are usurping our show” as the Beady Eye after-party looms. It’s a downbeat coda to go out on, built on the whistle of a slide guitar; the toms roll, the guitars circle one another one last time and Simonelli watches them work. The gig may have been cut short before the point it had been primed for, but even for the duration it ranks as a year’s best.