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The news has come to my ears that this year’s Glasgowbury Music Festival lukewarm from the weekend last, will be the final cry out over the mountain for Ireland’s largest and by far best independent music festival – some dare say the best festival period.

It is truly, sad news – however the legacy of what was achieved amongst the crowds of people involved; be it audience members, magnificent bands, reams of folk who volunteered and helped keep the sheep from joining in on the action, or the main men and women themselves the organisers will not be forgotten soon.

I am sure we’ll see a little bit more massive yet from that direction of the world.

…I could wax lyrical all day on what a privilege it was to walk through the gates at Eagle’s Rock, and even lend a very small paw on occasion, and the impact it has had on my life; but for now I’ll just say goodbye in the best way I can, with a few pictures.

…tiny drops create massive oceans, given time – and I have no doubt that the motions caused out in Mid-Ulster will not be long to cause larger waves.

Thank you Paddy and all of the enigmatic (Eagle-matic?) cohorts.

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It has been a while since I’ve properly written something coherently personal on here. Truth be told I haven’t really felt like I had anything much to say over the last two months other than to make work updates. This year has been full of interesting entanglements, it’s been pretty hectic, and in among these memories are a few that have unfortunately upset the plans that I had set down for 2011. Honestly I’ve felt hollowed out, lacking purpose – emotionally blank.

Smiles from April on have been few and far between for the most part, outside of the soaring highs of seeing And So I Watch You From Afar triumphantly see their second album through to roaring fruition, seeing A Northern Light pressing forwards with their new recordings, Pat Dam Smyth releasing his amazingly touching album – as well as Mojofury finally delivering the album we all know they were capable of and of course the beautiful Pigstock Music Festival at the end of May.

Today though my mood has changed and I can see more than just that sonic light that shines on my horizon when times appear dim, I can’t help but think myself incredibly lucky as I sit with a gaggle of my closest friends and a few new souls who have just crossed my door. These are good people. I’ve always been in awe of how what we want is so similar, and that we want to achieve it together. Our backgrounds are many but the aims we hold close to our hearts are the ones that have always contented my soul…

To love, to fight for each other continuously until unified we need fear nothing. These words may appear superficial, meaningless jumbles of thought that have no physical merit, but I assure you my smile would not be here if I did not believe these feelings and ideas to be right and true. I trust that. I trust how I feel.

For all of the mistrust of other people’s intentions, negativity and sadness that I have harbored in the past three months, left looking at shapes I once saw as familiar which appear to me as now, nothing but empty shadows – I am reassured that there is still so much worth fighting for. It’s still glittering there, maybe a little tarnished but still solid at its core.

Friends, music, recording the paths of these shining beings as they skirt across us, lighting up our minds and our souls. I truly believe that we can help change the world here in Northern Ireland through our actions. It’s happening in other places too of course, we need only reach out and see that we are not alone in our little lives. Perhaps setbacks of the perceived master-plan are healthy, from this new blood can rise, new ideas. We can gather ourselves together and carry each other up in new, stronger manners. Who knows what may be born fresh from the severest darkness that we experience.

This is our machine.

How often I have said that. It never sounds like it doesn’t belong. My dreams of a world drenched in love are cradled in it, and I will do anything in my power to see that what that statement means continues to reach out to people. To show them that love rather than fear will create a world we can all be proud of. Even if it only fosters here, for now, at least by never giving up we can hopefully inspire others to do more in our stead.

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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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Michael Anthony Wright

…I have all of the love in the fucking world for Tony, now, even more so because despite the fact that he was in tender form on Friday evening, he still managed to rock like an absolute (beautifuluniversemaster) champion.

May 31, 2011 | No comments

A short update on the Pigstock Music Festival over the weekend there, I’m still in sausage-bap recovery mode. The entire set will no doubt be up inside the next day or so.

Bomb City 7 invoked the ancient rite (riot) of the stage invasion early on Friday.

Axis Of tore the place a new one despite the gathering clouds.

Friday evening’s headliner And So I Watch You From Afar, attacked the crowd through pouring rain to much jubilation, repeating the performance quality that so clearly has run from their recent album launch right through their tour.

The Rupture Dogs (and their counterparts, The Rupture Pups) were one of the highlights of Saturday mid-afternoon.

Deliriously wonderful singer-songwriter Dolbro Dan took stage to a soaking wet late afternoon, but those who were brave enough of heart were given plenty of enjoyment from his lyrical goodness.

…and of course, nothing could say “begorah we’re tired but yet ready to get back to Belfast to laugh at wired Ewoks” than a good oul’ group photo.

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In the wake of several other album launches already echoing through the early part of this year, and the many yet still scheduled to come – 2011 is proving to be a year of salivating ears for many local audience members here in the North of Ireland. Yet the one thing that perhaps strikes the strongest chord is that the wealth of talent over here which we savour so much is actually branching its growth out from the roots of the homelands towards much farther flung sets of rapt lugs. You only have to cast a glance across the strong reviews aimed at Mojofury’s début release, garnering accolades that have landed them cover spots with Artrocker and choice picks of their single with iTunes and NME to see that it’s not just us holding up the flags anymore.

After a well received tour of the United Kingdom with stalwart audio warriors And So I Watch You From Afar, Mojofury’s album launch date (little more than a fortnight after ASIWYFA’s own launch, and sandwiched in between the two) is sitting in an interesting well on the gig calendar. One might imagine that with the force to which the crowds took to the Mandela Hall at the end of April that we would be more than a little spent of emotion come their own stroke at the Spring & Airbrake; but none the less, both show and fans were yet another mark for the intensity which has been bred over the last few years and is gathering pace – almost alarmingly.

With much recent aplomb Eatenbybears, competition winner for the slot to open the evening for Maybeshewill and Mojofury, were more than a little shocked (delightfully so) to find themselves on the bill for what could be held up as ‘quite a serious line-up’. Coming into the fray with just a few months of solid gigging behind them, and touted by both local and regional media as the pick of the bunch of the new bands flying high from the beginning of the year – they more than held up to the rather lofty position bestowed upon them last Saturday night.

A mixture of quirky (and in using that I bequest the term in no mere an indie-band context) mathematical-rock substance and a genuine talent for showcasing a knowledge of technical music, having formed on a sonic arts course – they held the attention of the somewhat slight early audience and proved exactly why they may have been chosen ahead of other more established acts. In fact, I’d go as far as to point out the similarities in quite open experimental performance as to what the lads in Mojo themselves foster in my own head when listening to their music. Watching people who know their craft, but can express it eloquently is always fun. When it comes to overt stylistic attempts at pushing the finer edges of music, it can grate with audience members out to follow a melody and little else. Delivery and patience of course play a factor, but with honest announcements of timing signatures backing up their more well known songs such as ‘Vanderhoof‘ their disjointed yet clearly flowing sound is the perfect introduction to a night that will only promise more of the same.

Another band out on the touring circuit constantly, and with a very strong fan base not just in their native England but also too in Germany and IrelandMaybeshewill have created an ethic of instrumental music that homes in on trying to embrace their instrumental peers and yet at the same time pushing for their own sound. It’s a hard sell speaking honestly, as has been quite openly poked into by many others aiming slurs at the instrumental/post-rock genre. I’m in love with it, but then admittedly it can get old if the mood is odd. Sometimes it falls into a well seen structure that is tried, tested and a joy to listen to, but when it does positively pop through to that little bit of a higher plane – such as with their newer, less overladen album material (‘Critical Distance‘ pointing the way) and of course their golden oldies off of début album ‘Not For Want Of Trying‘ – it really flies. Connection with the audience, presentation and admission of emotion is in my opinion key. And as said, with a strong fan base and a will to connect they make a fantastic bridge between the lighter notes of Eatenbybears and what we all know is just minutes over the horizon.

Anticipation is rife, and the crowd has swelled to capacity, oiled up by the previous offerings – at the end of the day many have waited five or more years for this moment. Myself personally, and perhaps just slightly with a bit of a bashful admission only the two – but I wager no less excitement as like most others around me the songs are known off by heart. So when Ciaran McGreevy, Gerry Morgan, James Lyttle and the deliriously eccentric Michael Mormecha finally take to the stage to swing us on our way towards giving them a little piece of their musical sunshine, I imagine they found themselves in a position from which it would be hard to disappoint – though not one of complacency. Fresh from their meanderings the band that we thought we knew is now a tightened animal (further still from previous events). Professional to a tee, and backed up by quite the explicitly tuned light show they fire into single ‘The Mann‘ with considerable force. We’ve seen them good and we know they are assured, confident musicians (craftsmen really) but it’s safe to say that with ASIWYFA performing their new album sequentially in its entirety not long in the past, I like others was honestly expecting much of the same. With a welcome departure of both song order and an effortless addition of non-album tracks to the set-list they didn’t dip once.

As mentioned about audience, it’s interesting to note just the fervour with which not the single, or the populist tracks received but the entire performance. Unprompted mass sing-a-longs throughout ‘Lemon Marine‘ and ‘We Should Just Run Away‘ made the meat of the set a wind of smiles on stage. We know these songs and we know them well – and yet for many it was like an official release of outpouring for an album which has been on the cards now for some time. After a blinding finish there was a special return of the three original members (minus the laudable Gerry Morgan, for whom this was my first time seeing behind the sticks), with Mike resuming the captain’s position not at the front of the stage but back on drums for ‘Deep Fish Tank (Factory Settings)‘. The ego in me would love to think this was something special just for the home crowd – but why hide such a finale from those on the circuit? Hopefully it plays out over their festival run this Summer.

I never would have guessed it to be ‘thee’ song to end on, but in hindsight I can completely see why. With Lyttle and McGreevy careening around the stage, strobe lights jetting off like photons on the starboard bow of the Enterprise, and the meek circle-pit of earlier turning into a massive free for all riot I’m left with perhaps one of the defining memories of the year.

Oh, and there was a pig’s head in the crowd.

If there’s a highlight, it’s a moshing pig’s head.

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The entire set of photos will be up in the gallery later on this evening, but for now here’s a little teaser of the rest of their set.

Much love.

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…last night was all the affirmation needed about just how much And So I Watch You From Afar’s particular brand of noise effects the faithful.

Community, love, solidarity.

I hope the world takes heed.

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Almost a Billion

Inspired by And So I Watch You from Afar.

Close my eyes and shut the door,
So I can feel the pain no more,
It hurts to look,
My eyes are sore,
Mind wandered far from safe paths,
Back tired out from burdens bore,
It takes time to heal these wounds,
Though I’ve a feeling that time is soon,
And there’s a choir by my side,
Holding my stride, lifting my soul,
In case I stumble,
Crumble inside,
A joyous parade swelled in the night,
Hear me friends, let us walk proud,
Drop our masks and scream aloud,
Against the fake heroes,
The petty few,
Let them face our sonic gun,
Fuck the man, we’ll save the world,
Ring the bells and get the girl,
No I won’t fall, no I won’t break,
The heavens can rain upon my face,
I stand with you, hearts beat with mine,
Sorrows and stones, I’ll hold them all,
Marching swiftly,
Marching tall.
And if I stumble,
Or lose my voice,
Another has already made the choice,
To stand my place,
And sing out true,
That chosen one was never me,
It was you.

So gather quickly and join the pack,
We’re ready now,
To start our attack,
Another wave,
Climb the storm and brave the walls,
Leave our mark upon this mount,
Capture all,
With not disgrace, but as angels,
Delicate bodies,
Smiling eyes,
Love hidden in music,
Our true disguise.

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And So I Watch You From Afar

…during A Little Solidarity, back in 2008.

Check out their new album, ‘Gangs’, out now.

It be the most interesting thing since that time there was sliced bread, cut with acid.

April 28, 2011 | No comments

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