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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 some time since I’ve committed genuine thought onto the (web)pages of this blog, and not for lack thereof – more that there has been such an unbridled sea of raw ideas recently to process that I haven’t been able to coherently staple anything together.

Sounds like a positive force, but actually it’s chaotic and very infuriating.

…but so, as happens at such sweeping occasions as the moving of one year into another, people make lists. I’m no stranger to that myself. So with the utmost bias possible, and no little shortage of hilarious internal doubt and counter-argument, here is my list of top ten bands from Northern Ireland this year.

10. A Northern Light

Quite the breath of fresh air, to see a band who genuinely want to see their audience’s earlobes bouncing with love. Americanised, full of DeLonge and very proud of it. Their launch night was easily one of the best RADAR gigs of the year, and providing that the message within their music continues to be purveyed by positivity as 2011 moves into full view, they shall continue to progress on the well crafted foundations that they’ve made. At the risk of laying down a verbal punchline, ‘Show Me What You’ve Got’.

9. Kasper Rosa

In a fashion that surpassed already high expectations the arrival of EP2 proved itself to be one of the best releases of the year, composed from a probable plethora of internal interests by Dave, James, Ryan & Steven – topped off by a masterful turn from producer Clark Phillips. After rocking out in delightful form at the Pigstock Music Festival, Kasper Rosa again packed out the Spring & Airbrake for their release launch, and deftly pocketing themselves a short tour of the UK during the Summer. As well as all that, they also landed a wonderful slot ahead of 65daysofstatic at the Mandela.

8. More Than Conquerors

Coming up strong throughout the year on a veritable string of good will, the four young lads that make up More Than Conquerors have been knocking down doors like dominoes, and as they say, no wonder. A fantastic first release which set them up from the off as an accomplished act flowed into a few high profile support slots with the likes of Ash, and as the year progressed a UK tour with Fighting With Wire. Much has been said about their fairly swift rise through the ranks and I personally can only see 2011 as being particularly exciting for them.

7. Axis Of

2010 for Axis Of consisted of a large jump in profile via touring, solid début festival performances and a fantastic music video to accompany their release of Port Na Spaniagh. Growing on stage from a punk outfit into an energetic tour de force has firmly cemented them in audiences’ around the country and much like Team Fresh, the opportunity is there for them to spring themselves further along from the platform they’ve set themselves up on.

6. Cashier No.9

Effortlessly groovy, and one of the more mature bands within the community, Cashier No.9 have been busy behind the scenes recording their new album between times regaling festival audiences with their sonic wares. A highlight at Glasgowbury as well as topping off the Belfast Music Week in September the band have been solidly increasing their stage presence throughout the year. If the stellar tune that is ‘Lost At Sea’ is anything to go by, I’ll be looking forwards to what sails out from their instruments come 2011.

5. Team Fresh

It’s no surprise that Team Fresh have bounded through this year as they did last, finally releasing their first material in a form that bottles partially some of that energy they bring with them onto the stage. This year also saw them step up to the Mandela Hall on several occasions to acclaim; not to mention once again devastating RADAR. As the new year comes into play hopefully we’ll see another spate of releases and some additional heavyset performances riding along the edge of what may in another world, be riots.

4. Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas

Haven’t heard of Paddy Nash? Well you might not have – but now that the name has been introduced to you, I suggest you give him a listen. With the Enchiladas in tow, Paddy’s album When We Were Brave is one of the most heartbreakingly honest, uplifting collections of songs I’ve ever had the privilege of owning. From one end of the album to the other, the tales of Derry and beyond filter down into you, leaving only the dilemma of whether to put it all back on for another listen, or to just sit back in silence to absorb the power behind one of the great voices of Northern Ireland.

3. LaFaro

It seems we’ve been spoiled by albums this year, and hopefully next year will be no different – LaFaro’s self-titled balls to the wall affair is nothing short of immaculate. It storms your ears, holds your brain down and then asks you politely to listen, all the while staring you down and daring you to think different. I remember when I first heard it, blaring from a car stereo as the sun blazed down and the fields South of Belfast shot past the windows. Aside from spreading their brand of rock via the airwaves, they’ve also been pushing out into the world with tours of Europe, and the mainland UK with Helmet. What’s yet to really hit home I think, is the potential scale of their audience, who seem preternaturally playing catch up with them. One day hopefully, they will.

2. And So I Watch You From Afar

Striding out into the depths of both America and Europe, the four audio-hallions of the apocalypse have been working hard in 2010 – leaving no less intense a stream of flotsam and jetsam in their wake than they usually do. Then of course there’s the matter of ‘that’ tour with Them Crooked Vultures. We’ve been looking forwards to that moment when ASIWYFA jump into a more public consciousness (and fuck knows what happens when it does, I cannot fathom the unified power-bulb of thousands joining together emotionally at their hands) and it is in sight on the horizon. Perhaps it will come in 2011 alongside more touring, an even more epic gathering of far flung souls and the release of their new album. Excitement, is an undervalued word as the North coast machine rolls ever on.

1. Two Door Cinema Club

Bursting into the Summer months with a fabulous album in Tourist History, which I think has since been worn into oblivion – or at the very least soldered into my brain for ever more – Two Door Cinema Club have surpassed all that you could realistically hope for the lads from Bangor. In amongst their far reaching touring throughout 2010, the band have also clocked up appearances on Later With Jools Holland, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, Le Grande Journal and played the inaugural gig at Twitter HQ.

Nuts.

So there you have it. My little, quite insignificant but none the less hilarious viewpoint on local music over the last year. And, as with everything more fuzzy than it is quantifiable there are many omissions I’d probably prefer to have in there, many which almost didn’t make it, and many which actually didn’t; and of course those which I may have forgotten about because I’ve been known to do that.

Special mentions go out to A Plastic Rose, Colenso Parade, General Fiasco, Fighting With Wire, MojoFury & Pocket Billiards – who have all been up to no good this year in many different capacities, be it blowing festivals away, recording, releasing, touring and generally frolicking around the country plying their individual wares in the maddest way possible.

Also, in light of all the good and the great that has happened this year it is with more than a little touch of sadness that I say goodbye to the CutawaysPanama Kings & Skruff; three of my favourite bands to create rumpus around my lady parts.

Here is to 2011 being yet another step better.

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It’s ‘pre-Glasgowbury Day’, and the sun is riding across the sky in a lazy manner this morning.

I decided to go for a run around seven, freshen up my mind for the mountain. Sometimes with all that goes on in my life I forget how beautiful the place I come from can be, all the colours, smells and sounds. It’s nice to be here at this hour, to see all of it in its finest guise.

I decided to put in my headphones and listen to some music on my wee dander – and was happily tracking through Angels & Airwaves when the (sneakily lifted from my younger brother for the jaunt) iPod kicked out The Voiceless by And So I Watch You From Afar as I was on the stretch home.

As it rose to its climax I stood looking out at this view…

…and happily, joyously cried.

It’s Glasgowbury this weekend.

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by John Gribbin

John Gribbin is a young singer/songwriter and flamboyant man of the hills. He readily breaks hearts and minds with his music going under the name of ‘Building Pictures’, and holds the key to the town of Castledawson.

Building Pictures

The last year or so has definitely been a step up in pace for myself and for Building Pictures! I suppose going back as far as last Summer I was running around putting together my second EP, which was entitled ‘Joey And The Moon‘. It was great to have something for Glasgowbury ’09, and I was so happy with how it turned out.

For me though the Joey EP was primarily recorded for the purpose of my first trip stateside. I was recording those tunes with America in mind, and I really wanted to have something in hand that I could take with me to sell at shows, and to hand out when networking with all the industry heads and potential co-writers out there. Just at the start of August I touched down in New York. With my acoustic guitar under my arm, I kipped on a sofa in New Jersey for a week or so with my good friend Megan from Antrim town, and then I got myself my own room just off Broadway on Queens Island with a few eejits from Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia….so you can imagine our house was a bit of a weird mix. There is nothing that really compares to the sight of a couple of Serbians eating bread folded round some raw bacon for breakfast whilst I attempt to eat my Rice Crispies (which actually tasted exactly the same as the ones you get at home, class…).

I was only in New York a couple of weeks and I had a full band around me; (three fine fellows) Jacob on keys, Rob on bass and Kenny on drums – names which I seemed to find really funny every time I introduced them at shows, I suppose they are not the sorta’ men you are gonna’ meet in Castledawson on an evening. Our first show was in Arlenes Grocery, a legendary venue, and one that has given bands like The Strokes their first gigs. I only had three months in NYC in total, but every time I think about it I remember something great that I got up to, or someone mad that I met on the subway at 3am. What really surprised me about the city was how helpful everyone is…it actually was a weird feeling to meet someone that owes you nothing, yet they shake your hand and ask “Hey man!! what can I do for you?”, this was the typical greeting I got from all the promoters, venues, bands, songwriters, labels, publishers etc…they are just so bloody nice! It really was refreshing.

I think one of the big highlights for me, apart from the gigs (which were the best of my life), was the ASCAP songwriters workshop that I got invited to take part in. I was the only ‘Paddy‘ there, among the nine other songwriters. The deal was that you had to play some of your music to the group, then everyone discussed it. Then you walked away with everyone’s opinions in your head, wrote a new tune, ASCAP payed for the recording of it, then you brought it back to the group and this time around you got it listened to by a shit load of massively successful songwriters. It was a pretty daunting thing like, but it was deadly craic at the same time. I had some man who had written J-Lo’s last album assigned to talk to me about my tune, and he couldn’t get enough of it. Pretty weird actually, but I suppose all these top songwriters are able to appreciate all types of music, which is really cool.

…anyway, I made some great friends from the workshop, wrote some tunes with them after we finished, and totally annihilated all the free food that ASCAP were laying on. So I’ve got Jacob and the lads out in NYC waiting on me to get back out and do a few shows, and I can’t wait to get back out there to be honest. Since getting home I have spent so much time in the studio working on loads of new tunes, particularly a few co-writes that I did out in the states. I’ve done a session with Rory McConnell on BBC Radio 1, and just this week did a wee interview with the legend that is Stephen McCauley on his show, Electric Mainline – and Stephen is going to have me back very soon for a full session with some lovely cello accompaniment all being well.

June will be a busy month for recording as well as some lovely shows in Belfast, Ballynahinch, and Draperstown…and as for Glasgowbury 2010 – is there really anything that comes close to sitting on a hill, looking at the Sperrins with an ice cream in your hand and a burger in the other; getting your head blown off you by MojoFURY and the like?

Lethal.

xo

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Glasgowbury

…what a fine day to have been alive.

March 25, 2010 | No comments

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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It’s Tuesday

The weekend landed, exploded and vanished over the course of the Glasgowbury Music Festival, and by the Sunday morning several thousand people were wondering, “…what just happened?”

Having said that, A Plastic Rose, Tapasia, myself and an assortment of festival casualties relaxed up in the hills at the festival site until nearly five that afternoon in an attempt to hold off our emotional departure. We didn’t want to leave, in case the ride itself seemed less than it was; a mere memory awash with good vibes instead of a tangible experience you can hold onto.

…what went down in the mountains last weekend – despite all the reviews, the photos, recordings and footage that will be on view over the coming weeks – will only really be a part of those who were there.

I’m listening to Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate by festival headliners And So I Watch You From Afar and the context of that song for me has been changed yet again, having already been altered towards the epic, by A Little Solidarity and their very own Mandela Hall album launch.

I feel very privilaged to be allowed to come and support all the local music at the festival, but in particular document and support my good friends A Plastic Rose and Colenso Parade who are two of the most promising bands in this country at present – their enthusiasm really shone through on Saturday and each of them had the audience bouncing with delight (and in A Plastic Rose’s case, jumping, clapping, singing and spinning – in that order…)

…I would be lying if I didn’t say that my bias towards particular bands is not just dependant on their music – I will happily gravitate more towards bands who I think are genuinely nice people, there’s no secret there – anyone enjoys the company of a friendly person.

It’s one of the main reasons why I believe our current situation exists, the intensity of our music community is no co-incidence.

My own favourites from the festival (outside the already mentioned pair) were Skruff, Junior Johnson, And So I Watch You From Afar, LaFaro, Cashier No.9, General Fiasco, Jaded Sun and having never before seen – or heard them – In Case Of Fire tickled me a bit. I’ll be hunting down their album and would recommend giving it a listen.

A massive thank you must be put in the direction of Paddy Glasgow, Stella, Dermot and the rest of the Glasgowbury Music Group who made this weekend up in the mountains possible – last year’s festival was the best weekend of my life, and this weekend has surpassed it ten-fold.

Glasgowbury is a testament to just how strong Northern Irish music is.

Big thanks to the ‘crew’ – Gerry Norman, Dave Reid, Troy Heaton and Ian McHugh, you are going to destroy the Leeds & Reading Festival when you play next month – Darren Doherty, Omar Ben Hassine and Kyle Jaswal; Paul McCarren, JJ Ilsley, Eoin McGinn, Michael McSwiggan and the wonderful Paul Su.

…and of course thanks to Mickey McCullagh, Philip Taggart, Fergal Lindsay and Paul MellonColenso Parade went down a storm, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it if you don’t believe me.

A humble thank you to Graham Smith, for continually putting up with whatever it is exactly that I waffle in his direction, sometimes I just get too excited. Many thanks also to Phil O’KaneRamsey Cardy, Shane Kelly, Ciara McMullan and Kristam Moffett – I hope you all enjoyed the festival as much, if not more than I did.

Of course, I can’t decide to thank people and not mention Rory, Tony, Jonny and Chris – the four horsemen of the musical apocalypse that are baring down on humanity from stages as far flung as Austria, and as close to the skies as Draperstown.

…to quote a wise man – or at the very least a wiser man than myself.

“We’re all freaks, that’s why we’re up here…”

What a great year for local music so far,…what’s next?

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