I started writing here by saying ‘this is Belfast‘ – amongst all of the possible openings I could have went for, I think that this is certainly the most direct route to have taken; and I have a clear point to make in doing so.
Over the last few years and being pulled up through the cultural annals of decades long gone, a collective thought exists here (one which is still fresh, emerging) and Northern Ireland has underwent several forms of revolution through it. Music is important to us. Music is not just a small part of our lives but inhabits it in a very present manner. Our lack of infrastructure has made people fight the individual battle, has hardened the processes of creation and those following these paths. Distilled it even until what is left has a thicker skin for the world ahead. Not necessarily a better skin (environments are fickle like that) but one which has thrived, bred similar minds and is now pushing to survive in the sometimes harsh creative climate that is a music ‘business’.
Over the last few months I have spoken to a cross section of people who I am going to reference in these monthly round-ups at leisure – mixing recent event with future speculation and past comment. I feel it will be interesting as the year progresses and expectations or thoughts measure up and move in real time.
Kicking things off is a short comment on the year just past by Varin Marshall of Botanic Media.
VM: “I think it has been a triumphant year for all the people concerned within the industry (which is not really ‘complete’ yet). We have a lot to learn and so much more to gain. We should be wise to those who are not and come together as an example to the rest of the mainland and the world at large. Our country, however divided it stood has now the determination and motion to unify minds. To set high standards within world class music.”
…and twinned up with this sentiment is one reflecting on the current strength of communication that bands here can play into, from BBC Introducing’s Rory McConnell, speaking last year.
RMcC: “It used to be impossible to get people to turn their heads our direction when it came to finding new music, and I really admire the stand In Case Of Fire took when they basically said ‘…if you want us, come and get us’ and secured their management deal in Belfast. The world is a much smaller place these days and geographical location is fast becoming irrelevant, especially with the ease of social networking and file sharing. A great example of this would be how Joe Echo from Magherafelt can co-write a song with Madonna, which surely has to be encouraging and inspirational for any band hoping to break into the industry.”
Certainly bands here have been taking a more confident stance of late, clearly bolstered by the recent successes, and the long standing thought of “you have to up sticks to get somewhere” is quickly becoming redundant. Of course this should not be viewed quite so literally as a ‘don’t tour’ sentiment – because the reverse of that statement should be written as a commandment, brought down by the great prophet that is common sense.
The usual early lull of the new year music calendar was quickly brushed to the side with some fantastic shows in the form of A Northern Light storming Auntie Annies to a strong crowd filled with Strabane faithful, the You Are Music Festival, and the début of the Belfast Electronic Music Festival; a six hundred punter strong all day rave which firmly cemented the notion that we actually do like to party until five in the morning round these parts. One of the particular highlights for me was The Assailants‘ popular performance just at the start of this month (not technically a January gig, forgive me), with the opening of the new season of RADAR. One which, as the most established music night in Belfast, will I’m sure continue to deliver more of the same.