in case of fire

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Friday the 4th of March I was interviewed by Christopher Owens about fly-postering, my growing work as a music photographer and importantly on the current state of local music’s current upswing on Queens Radio 1134MW, ‘The Death & Resurrection Show’.


And So I Watch You From Afar feat. Geoff Topley – La Plata Es El Asesino
Ash – Oh Yeah
Badly Drawn Boy – All Possibilities
I Am Kloot – No Fear Of Falling
In Case Of Fire – This Time We Stand
Joni Mitchell – Hejira
Pocket Promise – Facing Down
Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas – Barefoot In Verona
Skruff – Fabulous Weapon
Supergrass – Alright
The Rupture Dogs – Joe

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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.

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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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