GUYS wearing balaclavas, a bloke playing a flute and copious alcohol consumed in Belfast - no it's not some throwback to the Troubles. It's Alestorm back in town for another Piratefest at the Mandella Hall.
As always it's a show packed with much silliness, excellent playing and more innuendos and banter than should be allowed on any given Thursday; all combined with copious amounts of folk/pirate metal musicianship.
Kicking off the madness were Rumahoy - all wearing balaclavas and as cocksure as any band when they opened with the duo of 'Ahoy!' and 'Quest for Heritage'.
At times the between songs banter from the North Carolina four-piece was a little forced, but they definitely won in best song title stakes with 'Netflix and Yar'. The title track of their album 'The Triumph of Piracy' was the highlight of their brief set.
All the way from California to drink Buckfast came the Dread Crew of Oddwood...oh and they played some music too. One audience member gave a pretty good summation of them as "The Pogues do Pirate Metal".
They seemed to be genuinely having fun in a smooth set - and we don't think it was just the Bucky. And, with a song like 'Raise Your Pints' it was an appropriate choice.
At one point the audience was challenged if we'd ever moshed to a mandolin and accordion prior to that night - well the answer may be yes, but we let that slide as the wonderful 'Expedition on a Heavy Submarine' roared across the packed masses.
That being said the tracks that really caught the mood were 'Sulfur' and 'Heavy Mahogany'.
When the Alestorm stage set was unveiled of course there was a massive rubber duck dominating it...well it is Alestorm.
As the strains of 'Blazing Saddles' faded the band launched into a high tempo version of 'Keelhauled' and the first of the massed singalongs of the evening.
There was not a tune that had its chorus belted out by the audience. 'Magnetic North' and 'Mexico' already had throats hoarse...maybe that was why so many were swallowing copious amounts of beer.
Bowes as always was the ringmaster supreme - explanations and expletives, directing a wall of death, and grinning with piratical pride at the response from the audience. And quaffing drink throughout
To pick a stand out song would be unfair as the familiarity of 'Hangover', 'Drink', 'Captain Morgan's Revenge' and 'Nancy The Tavern Wench' are etched in fans DNA by now.
However, '1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)' and 'Bar und Imbiss' saw perfect renditions.
Were we 'Fucked With An Anchor' Damn straight we were!
Alestorm don't need pirate costumes to showcase their pirate metal credentials. Nor do they attempt to prove anything.
They get on stage, do their schtick with style and leave everyone grinning at the end of the night. Can't ask any more than that.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Wayne Donaldson