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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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Originally posted over at ‘I Love Photo Blogs’.

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Making Music Photography An Art Form, A Profile – Matthew Alexander Patton

“Over the years, music photography has settled into an established art form, with conventions and rules of its own, so when a photographer can come along with a whole new lexicon, it’s time to sit up and take notice. Matt’s pictures somehow take you under the skin of the subject, revealing more than perhaps they thought they were giving away in the first place. And perhaps more importantly, he makes it look DAMN COOL to be in one of the bands he captures.”

Steven Edward Rainey, ‘BBC Introducing’

“I am Matthew Alexander Patton – cheers for the opportunity to promote my work. I try not to take life too seriously, but can often be seen doing so. I wear a crew shirt from the film Alien (the ‘Nostromo’) and a set of pink headphones to the death. For me life is all about the journey – not the destination and so my website is a record of my journey so far.”

“…The ‘Nostromo‘ is simply a concept that embodies all of this in my eyes and is a personal statement on several different levels. It embodies the lonely traveler, the distant land, the epic journey and the vehicle of choice. Each of which respectively represents how I feel about myself, how I see the world, my attitude towards life and finally my work. It is a concise unifying symbol. End of.”

“I am a massive fan of And So I Watch You From Afar, Angels & Airwaves, Bloc Party, Frank Turner, and Sigur Rós.”

“So far my film work has been recognised by BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) via a nomination for a short film award in 2007 and has been screened at the 2008 Cannes (France) and Hayden (USA) film festivals respectively.”

“My photographic work has been published domestically in the United Kingdom in a variety of film, music and photographic publications; and also internationally in Australia & the United States. Publicly I have exhibited work so far in Belfast, (Northern Ireland), Dublin, (Ireland) and Manchester, (England).”

“Companions on this journey are important to me, and so I am currently documenting A Northern Light, Colenso Parade, Kasper Rosa and The Rupture Dogs on their own journeys. Previously I was the photographer for A Plastic Rose.”

“Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege of being involved with music in Northern Ireland via my film and photography work. In particular I have formed a strong attachment with the documentation of bands with as little of an agenda as possible – other than to show them up as I see them through the viewfinder.”

“When I look back through my work and where I’ve been aiming it; it is striking to me how little that we see of the real people behind the music these days – what with the control and limitations placed down by publicists and managers who rarely seem to grasp that the icons of old were part created via the humanizing force of seeing their true faces in many cases. Showing their characters not as a contrived thought but as actual people. As an audience looking in, we connected more with them as people compared to the majority of today’s over polished ideas of image. This situation is something I try to pay as much attention to as possible within what I am doing.”

“Often I find that an Occam like approach to my work is the most effective way to accomplish this, using simplicity and a lack of pretense to create (I hope) a more relaxed atmosphere for the bands I work with. I try to stay away from using lighting setups (being well aware of how waiting around on setups affects actors on set I learned very quickly that most musicians are not naturally settled in front of camera), instead finding positions, natural embellishments, corridors of light or existing fittings to shape the image in a much more leisurely manner.”

“Despite saying that. I love technology, and it was my route into film-making and from that then photography. All of my equipment from camera to laptop I’ve tried to learn inside out (and in many cases self-repaired) to try and get a better grasp of each component’s limitations and uses. Though I can see how the progression of technology can get in the way of a good image, whether it is a young band being physically unnerved by a camera that you could launch a missile from or the technical perfection of the frame coming before actual content – something I have been and can be guilty of myself. Often I’ve personally found that the clear, crisp pictures that make up the bulk of music photographs out there can lack the emotion and life that was present on stage in the first place.”

“Basically and in the shortest possible manner. I love what I do and the people with whom I work and the experiences I’ve had so far, and would say to anyone interested in photography to find exactly what impassions you visually and follow it.”

“Don’t try to be other people, but learn from them. Make what you do, your own.”

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Some time back I had the privilege of being out shooting rock outfit Sinner Falls, and whilst I talked then for a bit about the band and my first brush with them; I thought it was prudent to hand the reigns over to someone with a bit more knowledge about the ensemble’s birth and their inner workings…

…and so I give you lead singer, Lorcan Falls.

“Sinner Falls has had a gradual and somewhat unexpected genesis. It began when I (erstwhile song-writer and guitarist for hire), was asked to join Classic Rock band Silver Fox (whose guitarist had quit less than a week before the first of a series of gigs) by drummer/organisational brain David Donnelly. With its gig commitments fulfilled, the band unfortunately came to a halt due to waning enthusiasm and different musical directions.

So, we took all of the music which we had been writing for the old band, and continued to write new material. After a few months of writing and refining, harvesting as many diverse musical influences as possible (Blues, Classic Rock, Alt Rock, Metal, Country, Classical, etc…), with a focus fully on quality musicianship, and a touch of fine polished song-craft, we thought we had some material screaming to be played for live audiences! So we began screening bass players, and eventually a good friend of ours, Fionnbhar Gaston, joined us.

Since, we have been playing all around Northern Ireland (and occasionally in the South); with plans to gig heavily in the coming months. Especially so in the Summer with gigs in England and Scotland on the horizon, taking our music to as many fresh ears as possible (willingness to hear, not required!).

We aspire to make Sinner Falls one of Belfast’s big musical talking points in the near future – make sure you aren’t out of the loop when we are!”

Kudos abound for the band’s attitude, and hopefully they’ll continue to add to the rising sound that’s gradually bellowing out from these shores in 2010.

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Over at BBC Northern Ireland’s Across The Line the staff have finally compiled their top twenty list of ‘bands what kicked ass’ during 2009, reflecting the votes of around fifteen different musicians, reviewers and writers.

It got me thinking – I don’t normally participate in lists, not because I dislike them, more because I can become fixated on the finer details of which position to put each band/film/song etc…

So, I thought I would gather some courage and stick out my own top five (easy now, give me twenty to work with and we’ll be here till next Christmas) Northern Irish bands of 2009.

1. And So I Watch You From Afar

I hear coughs in the background!…

No, speaking as honestly as one can I feel that after all the build up, after all the touring, after each massive home show…that this particular choice needs little explanation. There is a reason other bands look up to these four chaps, and there is a reason why all of us who are fans are so feverish about their unique brand of ‘fuck you’…

They rock.

…of course, I would say that.

2. A Plastic Rose

Again, a choice which for me explanation is secondary – A Plastic Rose are pure crowd ticklers, and come to the stage each time with energy to burn and ample passion to entertain. Constantly out performing the main acts in their early year support slots, they landed on their feet at the St. Patrick’s Day Hooley, joined ASIWYFA at CQAF, packed out the Spurs Of Rock stage at Glasgowbury; were rewarded for their efforts with top slots at the Reading & Leeds Festivals before returning home to several packed out shows.

…not to mention recording the ‘baste’ song of the year in ‘Kids Don’t Behave Like This‘.

3. LaFaro

Aside from being just generally, the musical equivalent of an aggravated wolf pack, LaFaro have really pushed forwards this year conquering the Ulster Hall not once but twice, as well as continuing to destroy crowds and take names.

Particularly, their reception at the Glasgowbury Music Festival, and headline gig at the Stiff Kitten stick out in my memory as real highlights of the year’s music calendar.

One of the most popular bands in the country, I think that this year has been all about LaFaro‘s growing fan base, a band it wouldn’t be a stretch to crown ‘The People’s Choice’ – if someone hasn’t already done so.

With an album in the works, as well as their still growing popularity it’s not inconceivable that 2010 will be the year LaFaro clear house.

4. Team Fresh

A band constantly overlooked in terms of both their popularity with thoroughbred hallions and upstanding citizens alike, Team Fresh’s destruction of RADAR towards the end of the year caps off a mighty set of gigs for them in 2009 which will live on in infamy.

They’ve finally moved from choice of the curious, to an outright headlining act…standing proudly as the champions of rap fuelled riots here in Northern Ireland. With a solidified line-up hopefully they’ll continue to build on the success they’ve had so far.

5. Panama Kings

I can hear more mumbled disagreements at the back – and to that I say, ‘one man’s poison’.

Panama Kings have come out of 2009 with a bit of a scattered reputation, and a few blotches that hopefully won’t stain them in 2010 – though, that said, impressive festival performances during the Summer months over in England as well as a full UK tour with Ash towards the end of the year cement in place a band that have taken 2009 by the collar.

An admirable home performance headlining the Mandela Hall in October is the real jewel in the Panama’s crown for 2009, where their Four Nations branding kicked off to a solid start.

…and I must give an honourable mention to The Answer – I just didn’t know where to fit them in without tearing out my hair and rearranging the entire list. They went on tour with AC/DC, crashed the walls in at the Ulster Hall and their second album Everyday Demons rock into the charts amongst other epic bowel movements.

There are of course, so many other bands who I could have mentioned and are certainly worth mentioning – but I tried to keep my thoughts at the surface, on the instantly noticeable achievements that have happened throughout the year.

Of course I could disclaimer this whole thing, mentioning something about ‘opinions’ and ‘go fuck yourself if you disagree’ etc…

…but where’s the fun in that?

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Only in a world were the most arrogant species on the planet had the audacity to claim land for its own over its own kind, and that of others – thus creating countries – could the idea of being proud of one’s national heritage become such a political power tool of injustice.

I’m all for being proud of national events, such as in sport, or of a unified perseverance against adversity – however despite my perhaps flippant use of the phrase “I’m happy and proud to be from Northern Ireland” – which, I genuinely am in my own rather simple way – it matters little against the bullshit and atrocities that have been committed in her name.

I like being from here because of the people I know, the mild weather and our humour – not to mention the accent.

Our history has nothing to do with it, because it is not my history – and I can tell you now that it is not your history either. It belongs to your parents and their parents, and so on.

Much like the British National Party’s (name if you want to make a start somewhere) pride in their country – any nationalism could well lay claim to being the most utterly stupid use of broad stroke ‘community’ that ever has or will exist.

“Our country is a great nation because of what it has accomplished in the past!” – yes, I am sure it is.

Although (to generalise) every other country – for eternity – will disagree with you because the concept is fundamentally broken, much like religion, politics and public relations. We invented them long before we really knew what we were getting into.

…I feel like most people don’t realise that we, and not Earth itself, or some deity, drew all the little lines and borders all over this planet, and that they have moved drastically over the last two thousand years alone.

So who am I to truly champion if I were so inclined?

…certainly not Britain, nor even the Romans.

Perhaps I should just accept that the mess of drawn lines and stolen ownership we created in our innate greed so many years ago is just another example of our appetite for creation before understanding.

Being honest, I admire anyone who has the man-stones to stand up and speak their opinions on such a public forum as Question Time – for all his faults Nick Griffin certainly has passion; because he must have known what he was walking into. His passion however is not what people question him on, and with the volatile and corruptible filter that is ‘politics’ in the frame, I would have to question what Griffin’s true opinion started out as, and how far it has been guided and warped by that of the political forum.

…perhaps it was indeed driven by a want to improve the populace of England (let’s not be subtle here, the British National Party at its core is not thinking of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), bore from watching its economic and political decline on a global scale. I can understand that, despite disagreeing.

Or, it may just be that in a modern world there is still room for people who just dislike their fellow man. I can understand that too, despite thinking it disgusting.

Whatever the case, I do hope that people will make the correct choice – and vote for what they believe in.

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