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‘A Month In The North, Pigstock Festival Special’

Yes, there has been an entire month’s worth of material to update you all on – but first, and truly with some delirious sense of need last weekend’s Pigstock Music Festival needs to be highlighted. A special case being only my second year in attendance, and having had the pleasure of witnessing Pigstock solidify not into the foundations of some weekend jaunt in a field but (pardon the food reference, we’ll get to that) a Christmas dinner with all of the (in this case, pork, and lots of it) trimmings.

Having traversed campsite, field, parties, said slow roasted pig and stage alike with a grin on my face, here’s a quick run-down of how the weekend in Killinchy panned out.

Hailing from that ‘North Coast Triangle‘ and drilling home the sheer quality of music coming from there, Bomb City 7 almost took down the entire main stage early on Friday night with a final song invasion (and I don’t mean just five or six tenacious individuals) inspired with every ounce of their punk-rap spirit – there was no stopping their Pigstock debut turning into a riot and they truly made a unique mark and name for themselves as a festival worthy band to watch out for.

Tearing round the stage, beards and all – Axis Of showcased part of what Pigstock is really all about, delivering a much heavier range of bands in comparison to its lighter brothers coming up in the height of Summer. Another North Coast band (as too are And So I Watch You From Afar and Team Fresh – you could almost call the line-up a coastal takeover.

In completely professional fashion Mojofury gave the crowd the perfect build-up towards the end of Friday evening – it was simply a shame that they didn’t have the chance to play their brand of insightful noise that little bit longer, the crowd baying for an encore that just wasn’t technically able to be catered for.

The new post-album songs already have their place amongst the ones we’ve lovingly seared into our minds, and with the album launch just a fortnight beforehand really we were spoiled with second helpings of Michael Mormecha’s emotionally charged sing-a-longs.

The swiftly twisting weather and injuries held over from their recent tour were never going to stop what was perhaps a more relaxed (post-album launch they’ve really nothing left to prove in our eyes, at least for a while the lads can certainly have been said to have earned a rest) and yet powerful performance from And So I Watch You From Afar.

Attempts by crowd members to stage dive, and generally get involved in the action were too numerable to count, but with the cheekiest of successes one of ‘The Rupture Pups‘ (pictured further down) managed to get on stage to work Rory’s (Friers) pedals for him during ‘A Little Bit Of Solidarity‘.

There is so much that could be said about the involvement and want for success that the home audience, and now too their growing international audience, has for these four lads – the absolute sonic-pinnacle of what has come from these shores.

…now, with a pause for critical thought – in a two day festival it’s sometimes hard to balance the two line-ups out. One day either having ‘that band’ (in this case, ASIWYFA) or the other simply not being populated with enough real strength to see the weekend through for tiring audience members.

Heading for the campsite, I was left thinking how Saturday was going to best this – and it did prove to be lighter for the most part, lacking the same power of the ‘heavyweights’, but it was actually very welcome structured as it was, with many of the younger bands being given fantastic opportunities to show off.

Many had pushed the night before right to the limits and were still crashed out in their tents, but a sizable majority still managed to turn out into the frequently wet sunshine to rock out. Despite a few technical hitches with soaked pedal-boards The Rupture Dogs once again showed themselves to be a realistic successor to Fighting With Wire/LaFaro as an angry, growling sonic outfit.

They even have their own successors lined up in the two young lads who have been dubbed ‘The Rupture Pups’, letting them take to the stage for the second year in a row to regale the crowd.

If anyone had fun last weekend, it was definitely them.

abandcalledboy meanwhile have been salivating for the opportunity to ply their sounds at festivals this year, and with a reputation for destroying both equipment, stages and themselves in the process of their shows, they caused some distress for security (the men in florescent jackets had a long weekend looking back over all of this, poor souls) – and despite a thinned audience they held all rapt; bouncing, bloodied as they were throughout their set.

Taking time to relax and enjoy the festival atmosphere, last year’s headlining band A Plastic Rose were down simply for the experience this time out.

Employing equal parts madness, the racing of tents and genuinely causing as much havoc as possible; Dave (Reid), Troy (Heaton) and (an un-pictured) Ian (McHugh) ravaged the campsite and festival grounds for as much entertainment as was humanly possible.

Team Fresh have been off the gig circuit for a while now, pulling together new material and generally solidifying their sound into something even more poignant than beforehand. Pigstock marks an almost serious return to form for them, a statement of intent for the year ahead even – and opening with new song ‘1985‘ (a blinder with more than just their usual political underscoring) is ample evidence of that.

Team Fresh just before going on-stage looked every part the unit; as per, another band with a proponency for the provocative (like their younger cousins Bomb City 7) their fan favourites ‘Barbwire Empire‘ and ‘Rhythm Tradition‘ managed to get the tired heads perking up, ready for the rest of the evening.

And So I Watch You From Afar’s Jonny Adger and the rest of the band continued to enjoy the festival throughout the weekend too, making a point of catching many of their friends down plying their audio-wares.

…and honestly who’s going to realistically turn their nose up at a weekend of beer and burgers (made entirely of pig), in a field, with your mates?

One of the absolute highlights of the festival was the Dylan-esque (and I stress to say that so honestly) Dolbro Dan taking to the main stage before math-rock juggernauts Adebisi Shank – possibly the most welcome shock to a decidedly tired audience from the night before, and just an incredibly touching change of pace.

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked by so many people in the front row “…who is this guy again, where can I get his stuff?” – despite with a little patience on everyone’s part, Dan eventually introduced himself with his final song.

I decided to relax after a stressful yet blessed weekend and enjoy headlining band LaFaro simply as an experience, I even brought a seat (don’t laugh) down near the stage and decided to just camp/rock out just to the right of the crowd with BBC Northern Ireland’s Paul McClean.

They were dirty, heavy, long of beard and just the right amount of angry. It was also with a sad sigh that we also appear to be waving goodbye to Herb Magee, their bassist – announcing his departure from the band halfway through set, and what better send off than capping a festival that has honestly delivered the first, and potentially the best of the season already here in Northern Ireland.

What more needs to be said (in reference to the above set of disheveled characters) – the sun crests over us all on the Sunday and no one was ready to settle down. Tent racing (as mentioned beforehand) was again rife, tentpole-saber battles with members of abandcalledboy ensued, games of football with Gacy’s Threads left no drunk staggering target un-aimed at, and general tomfoolery was abound.

Roll on next year.

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‘A Month In The North, April 2011’

April was (and always appears to be) a hectic transitional month which is packed with single releases, album launches and the inevitable build up to the Summer festivals. Coming at the right time after the January post-Christmas dull period, ‘business as usual’ takes hold. Bands start appearing from dishevelled practice rooms and recording studios out into the Spring sunshine, shirts tucked in and sunglasses on. The dates for many gigs that were put into plan during the colder months finally come around and venues start popping club nights out of nowhere. Ladies of course, begin to roam the streets wearing a little less as the temperature rises.

Yes even here, in Belfast.

All in all it is merely the tip of the iceberg as May and June set the hammer for the hard working bands to fly off on tour across the United Kingdom and now too Europe after the escapades of our flag holders. In return over the coming weeks, we shall see the influx of bands jetting to here on their own tours from as far flung international settings as America or New Zealand, that will compliment the steady flow of British talent dropping noise across Ireland; providing support opportunities for those planning on spending their year a little closer to home.

It’s an exciting time, the first footfalls of an energetic march that will end around September as the days grow shorter again. For now, and to introduce you to life here in the North

Pocket Billiards re-launched their début album on limited edition vinyl this month, with an additional set of bonus tracks added on – causing a scene at the gig in the process with Assailants and Aggressors B.C.

Eatenbybears goofing around backstage after opening for Jifabuki. The lads are hoping to play FIB Benicassim this year in Barcelona. Currently they are gathering votes swiftly in a competition run by the festival organisers.

Promotional shoot with Nocturn, the Derry band are in the first stages of press for their new album, ‘Collision‘ – out this Summer.

Local DJ, and drummer with A Northern Light, Omar Ben Hassine taking five after a long weekend.

Strabane rapper Mr. Mills contemplates his set after a gig in Belfast – having taken to the stage uncharacteristically amongst several indie/rock bands. The crowd was receptive but Steven was hoping for a cleaner performance. His new short play, ‘The New Me‘ is out now.

Busker ‘Cavalero’ is egged on by Omar Ben Hassine of A Northern Light on a night out. Dominic has spent almost every single evening of his time here in Ireland over the last few weeks on the street busking and winning fans.

Tony Wright leads on the ‘7 Billion Choir‘ at And So I Watch You From Afar’s album launch at the Mandela Hall. Gangs is out now, and has reaffirmed the band’s importance to local music here in Northern Ireland. The performance to the sold out Mandela was inspiring to say the very least.

Chris Wee from And So I Watch You From Afar pausing for breath during ‘Samara To Belfast‘.

Donal Scullion from NI Soul Troop offers up a rare acoustic performance during an arts and music event ran by the Catalyst Arts Centre.

Slaine Browne of North Coast rock-hop outfit Team Fresh practising and writing new material for their year ahead. The band have taken a few steps back from the stage over the last few months in preparation for the Summer festival season. Which kicks off at the end of May and sees them playing the main stage at the Pigstock Music Festival, Killinchy.

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