As promised, here’s the full blown Do You Remember the First Time feature that ran in 24/7 on March 6.
Do You Remember the First Time?
This Monday night BBC Radio Ulster’s ATL help celebrate the re-opening of the Ulster Hall with a gig featuring a gaggle of great acts from the NI music scene. Each band plays two songs (one of their own and a cover of an act they saw in the near mythic venue) and it looks set to be one of the most talked about shows of the decade. To commemorate this once in a lifetime bash, 24/7 catches up with some of the bands involved to hear them pay tribute to a venue that is steeped in history.
How important do you think the Ulster Hall is in NI?
Michael McKeegan (bassist): “It’s a one-off, timeless venue with a lot of history under its belt. There’s not that many of those around in the world anymore, let alone Northern Ireland.”
What was your first gig there (either as a punter or performer or both)?
“The first gig I ever saw there was another N.I. three-piece, the mighty Mama’s Boys, I got crushed down the front and nearly passed out but still managed to get my programme signed by the band afterwards. The first Therapy? performance was totally surreal for all of us, especially having stood on the other side of the crash barrier so many times before. It had always been a dream of ours to play there.”
Any special memories of the place?
“My first ever Metallica gig with my hero Cliff Burton ripping it up is one to cherish (he tragically passed away 11 days later). Another great moment was in 1994 watching our support band CopShootCop from the wings as they proceeded to confuse, terrify and bulldoze the audience.”
How do you feel about playing Do You Remember the First Time?
“It’s our first live appearance in almost a year and we’re all delighted to be part of what is a pretty cool concept. It’s a short set but we intend to maximise the rock!”
Nearly every gig go-er has a defining Ulster Hall moment, what’s yours?
Andrew Ferris (vocals/guitar): “I’ve never played there before-but I remember seeing Rage Against the Machine perform there about ten years ago; it was completely intense and that night really changed my life.”
Do you have any special Ulster Hall memories you’d like to share with us?
“My teenage bus journeys from Derry to the Ulster Hall were very memorable, but perhaps for unprintable reasons. I do remember always feeling very ‘grown up’ when I went to shows there; there is something evocative about the building’s grandness, you’re reminded of all the greats that have graced the stage.”
How do you feel about this gig?
“It’s going to be special-we’ve got a few surprises planned for our set and also for the Smalltown America After Show Party in the bar afterwards, featuring Clone Quartet, Not Squares and Halves.”
Ash are no strangers to the Ulster Hall’s stage, but what was your first gig there as a paying punter?
Tim Wheeler (vocals/guitar): “I saw a load of late 80’s rock bands with a lot of hairspray, so my memory is a bit misty, but I have a feeling it was a band called Little Angels. I’ve a lot of good memories in that place. It was brilliant seeing Therapy? there on the Nurse tour. Mark and I went and gave a load of our demo tapes out to anyone who’d take them outside the venue. When they played there again on the next album we were supporting them. That was the first time we got to play there and it was a great gig.”
Do you feel proud to be playing Do You Remember the First Time?
“Yeah, I’m excited. It’s about time we got the Ulster Hall back and I’m expecting a very chaotic fun-filled night. We’re only doing two songs, so it’ll be short and sweet. We haven’t decided what to play yet. We’ve seen some hideous bands there so there are a lot of terrible songs we could do ironic cover versions of, but I think we’d better go for a crowd pleaser instead.”
How important do you think the Ulster Hall is for Ulster music fans?
Stuart Bell (guitar): “It’s a beautiful old building with a great atmosphere and is easily the best of the larger venues in Belfast. It’s also steeped in history, for example everyone knows Stairway to Heaven was first played there, and there’ll undoubtedly be plenty more things to add in the years to come.”
It must be pretty mind blowing to be on the bill.
“Well the first gig I ever went to, when I was 16, was Coldplay in the Ulster Hall. I only really went on a whim but it’s no exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Not so much Coldplay (although it was a great gig) but more the fact that it was my first time experiencing the buzz and excitement of live music. I decided that night that I wanted to be a musician so it goes without saying that playing at DYRTFT is pretty significant, especially sharing the stage with so many other great NI acts.”
Where did the idea for the show come from?
Rigsy (ATL presenter): “The gig started life as a ludicrously ambitious concept suggested to us by Adam Turkington at the Waterfront Hall, who we’d worked with before on the Trans Festival. As we have such a good relationship with bands here (having done our best to promote local music for 22 years) Adam knew it would be a great collaboration. We never expected it to end up quite so good, though.”
You’ve pretty much got every NI heavy hitter from the last two decades on the bill? How hard was it to put together?
“Logistically it was a lot of hard work, but getting the bands to play was a simple case of asking. Some of the bigger acts said yes early on and I guess it became obvious it was set to be a very special night, so it kind of snowballed because everyone wanted to be involved all of a sudden. We were completely blown away with how it all came together. It felt like we’d been given a magic wand that would make our favourite bands do anything we wanted and we just kept waving it. Anyone into music in this country has an interesting story or wonderful memory based around a gig at the Ulster Hall and it’s great to see it back in action.”
The Lowly Knights
Do you think the Ulster Hall deserves its status as one of the best venues in the world?
Neil Mullan (vocals): “Yes, I think the Ulster Hall is an iconic venue for NI. So much has happened there over the years. So many seminal performances, so many people’s most cherished memories of gigs are from shows in the Ulster Hall. It’s a big part of our history, so to have it open again is a mouth watering prospect. I remember cueing for seven hours to see Coldplay. Taking the day off school, we decided to make sure we were at the front so were waiting outside the doors on the steps from midday until the place opened. As it turned out, midday was a bit premature as the next people to arrive to queue turned up at 5.45pm. In retrospect, it was cold but worth it. We also did the same thing for the Counting Crows. It seems every teenager worldwide had a Counting Crows spell.”
How do you feel about playing Do You Remember the First Time?
“We are delighted to be included on the bill. With so many big name artists in the line up it’s a pleasure to be playing along with them. It’s going to be a brilliant night. We’re doing our best to hit people with two energetic, harmonious, life affirming tracks to get the punters going.”
Do You Remember the First Time takes place on March 9 at the Ulster Hall and features Therapy? Ash, the Divine Comedy, Duke Special, Fighting with Wire, Jetplane Landing, Panama Kings, Kowalski, Iain Archer, Foy Vance, LaFaro, Cashier No. 9 and the Lowly Knights. This gig is sold out.