News From The North Weeks 59 and 60

6 09 2010

Yup, it’s been a while since I posted up the Hit the North column I do for Hot Press, so here’s the last four for y’all (two today and two tomorrow) and as usual-if you’re in a band from Northern Ireland and have news for me, get in touch.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

With Glasgowbury just around the corner (July 24 in case you didn’t already know) we thought we’d dedicate this issue’s column to some of the bands who will be appearing at the bash in Draperstown, County Derry. First up, we’ve got some good news as headliners Fighting with Wire seem to be stirring from their self-imposed slumber and it appears that their plans for album number two are coming together nicely. In a bid to prove to us all that they’ve been spending their time off wisely, they’ve posted up a studio diary from Nashville on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/fightingwithwire) and they’re promising there’s more to come, which makes this writer a very happy bunny indeed.

FWW’s label mates LaFaro have also been indulging in web-based wonders ahead of their Glasgowbury slot and have unveiled their very own smart-phone app. If you’re into that kind of wizardry, you can now download the application for free and get news, tour dates, photos, music and more onto your mobile and it’ll keep all you nerds up to date on their activities.

 Mojo Fury frontman Michael Mormecha’s vaudeville-flavoured side project Clown Parlour have taken the unprecedented step of making their debut album The Sum Of Sounds available for free this fortnight via their Bandcamp page (http://clownparlour.bandcamp.com) and very good it is too. After wowing us all with their technicolour performance at last year’s Glasgowbury, we’re keen to see how they fare this year (considering everyone can now listen to the album at their leisure) and we’re expecting them to steal the show, so make sure you check them out.

General Fiasco are another act who are sure to get tongues wagging, especially now that their debut Buildings is out on record shop shelves. As well as doing a turn in Draperstown, the three-piece will be playing at (deep breath) Sonisphere in Knebworth, the Underage festival in London, Summer Sonic 2010 in Japan, the Frequency festival in Austria, Highfield festival in Denmark and Reading and Leeds at the end of the summer, so if you’re on your holidays and happen to be in any of those places, make sure you go and support them.

Finally, we’ll leave you with some gossip to chew on. Just recently we’ve heard that while last year’s Glasgowbury headliners And So I Watch You From Afar aren’t officially slated to appear on the bill this year, expect some sort of appearance from band members during the course of the day. Details on where and when are scarce at the time of going to press (he said mysteriously…).

News

Words: Edwin McFee

By the time you read this, your humble correspondent (and countless others) will no doubt be scrubbing off the mud and muck from Glasgowbury and generally feeling a bit bummed out that the festival season is near over. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as the West Belfast Feile (www.feilebelfast.com) is just about to kick off and on the local front they’ve got a cracking gig in the grounds of City Hall to keep us out of trouble on August 7. Featuring the likes of Mojo Fury, Axis Of and the Vals on the bill, the gig starts at 2pm.

 Now, on to news of a slightly more salacious nature. The absolute beast of a band that is Dutch Schultz have been busy beavering away behind the scenes recently and they’ve just filmed a video for their new single ‘LA Cuntfucker’ (they’re silver-tongued devils, aren’t they?). According to a band insider, the clip, which features go-go dancers and local burlesque troupe the Whistlebait Babies, was also slated to feature an appearance from local musician/actress Cara Cowan, but she pulled out fearing it would damage her image (we can’t think why….). Anyway, the track itself is a fantastically blood thirsty three minutes or so that should do well for the boys when it gets an official release date.

Lisburn based lovers of epic alternative rock Deadlights have very kindly made their ace new EP ‘Pieces. Ripcord. Words’ available to download for free this month. All you have to do to get your virtual mitts on the three track release is click on http://deadlights.bandcamp.com and it’s as simple as that. The four-piece are also streaming some new songs on their MySpace site (www.myspace.com/deadlights08) and as ever the band have a string of live dates coming up which include playing in Moira on August 5, Lisburn on August 13 and the Sunflowerfest in Hillsborough on August 20.

Speaking of festivals, the rock ‘n’ roll killing machine that is Trucker Diablo continue their quest to kick as many asses as possible by playing a show at the Rock & Blues Custom Show festival in Derbyshire on July 30. Also on the bill are legends such as Wishbone Ash and for more information check out www.rockandblues.uk.com.

Finally, it’s with a certain amount of sadness that we announce that the Black Bear Saloon have closed their metaphorical doors for good. The four-piece have decided to go their separate ways after three years together and we’d like to wish all the band members luck in their future endeavors. Now, somebody hand us a hanky. Sniff.





Church Of Noise 3

19 05 2010

Here’s more Church of Noise action, reprinted from the Big List.

Church of Noise

Local music news

If you’re the kind of reader who is sitting there and currently thinking to themselves, “Banbridge, what a place,” well then be prepared to get even more tingly feelings about the town as this month they’ve revealed they’re hosting their own music festival called (wait for it) Take It To The Bridge. Boasting a line-up consisting of And So I Watch You From Afar, Panama Kings, A Plastic Rose and the Complete Stone Roses (yeah, me neither….) the bash takes place at Corbet Lake on July 3. Tickets for the festival are a tasty £25 and with more acts to be announced they’re a bargain. Keep your peepers peeled on www.takeittothebridge.info for more details. We don’t know about you, but we’re already pumped about potentially getting a chicken burger out of Friar Tuck’s after the show.

 As you probably know by now, this April 23 we’ve got the ear-gasm inducing Beat Poets headlining the Big Gig at the Spring and Airbrake. Why are we telling you this again we hear you cry. Well, the four-piece are also releasing their new single ‘One By One’ on April 19 via all major download sites. The Poets are currently swanning around Texas at South by South West as this writer types this month’s missive (not that I’m jealous or anything…) and have plenty of plans coming up in the pipeline which should secure their future as one of NI’s brightest bands. Last month we got a sneaky listen to ‘One by One’ and it has a chorus to die for, so make sure you (virtually) pick up a copy.

 Duke Special and General Fiasco are teaming up on March 29 for a very special gig called Unwind Your Mind and it takes place down at the Oh Yeah centre. Currated by Across the Line (yes, those dudes on the back page of the Big List who also host a mighty fine programme on Radio Ulster) the show is aiming to raise awareness about mental well being and Wonder Villains, Panama Kings, Kowalski, Ed Zealous More than Conquerors, Axis Of and Aaron Shanley also play on the night. It’s good news for all you cheap skates too as tickets are completely free. All you have to do is visit www.bbc.co.uk/tickets and apply for them. Good luck.

Finally, if you’ve found yourself still reeling from the shock announcement of Jedward getting dropped by their record label (y’know, we really didn’t see it coming) then you can find some consolation in the news that LaFaro release their long awaited debut slab of wax on May 10 via Smalltown America and play a gig in the Menagerie in Belfast on April 26 too. Now unfortunately tickets have sold out within about three nano-seconds of going on sale, but knowing the LaFaro boys it won’t take them too long to announce more shows around the rest of the country. Of course, we’d love to be able to tell you that their self titled debut is the veritable fairy on top of the Christmas tree, but as no-one has sent us our copy yet, we haven’t a clue what to expect (apart from sledgehammer riffs and killer hooks that is) and that, my friends, is what they refer to in the business as a subtle hint…

 See y’all next month folks. Up the Irons.

 Edwin





News From the North Double Dose

6 04 2010

To make up for missing a fortnight-here’s a double dose of NI band news that ran in previous issues of Hot Press. Don’t say I’m not good to you.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

Vol 34 Issue 04

This fortnight we’ve mostly been freezing our unmentionables off and been grumbling about the fact that February sucks ass, so in a bid to look on the brighter side of life we’ve decided to turn our attentions this issue to June 5, 2010. Why June 5 you ask? Well that’s the date when NI’s biggest band (no, not D-Ream, Snow Patrol you fools) play a very special homecoming show in Ward Park, Bangor. This is only one of a handful of outdoor shows the band will play all year and to make it extra special they’ve roped in General Fiasco for support duties. By that stage, GF will be dominating the world from their secret underground bunker if their debut record Buildings is anything to go by (out March 22 via Infectious Records) and keep your peepers peeled to this column for more news on the show as and when we get it.

For the past few years, NI’s finest alt rockers Yakuza have sadly been indulging in a bit of Odin-Sleep, but much like that one eyed all-father of Norse mythology (see-we can do high brow references when we want to) the four-piece have returned with a vengeance in 2010 and have been playing a gaggle of great gigs as a warm up for the release of their second album (which we’ve yet to hear hint hint…). In addition to their live activity, they’ve also made a new video for their song ‘What Were They, Psychos?’ which was directed by Darren McNanney (who also provided the album artwork for their first slab of wax One Nation Under Awed) and suitably insane it is too. If you want to watch the clip for yourself then check out this link  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tcma1ry63Dc.

 Staying roughly on topic for once, everyone’s new favourite band Two Door Cinema Club have made a great video for their superb single ‘Undercover Martyn.’ Adored by the likes of Kanye West (who we’ve heard loves the Bangor trio as much as he likes making an arsehole out of himself on live TV shows) and Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 (y’know, the one who isn’t covered in tattoos or in Angles and Airwaves) Two Door can do no wrong right now and their video is pretty special. Check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLK4oaXUuLg.

Finally if you haven’t heard enough about music videos-then we’ve got good news for you. Producers of a new local TV show are on the hunt for new and exciting clips from unsigned bands. All you have to do to get involved is email john.anthony@bbc.co.uk with a link to your video along with full contact details and that’s that. Simples.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

Vol 34 Issue 06

On April 5, seven-piece whiskey soaked troubadours Captain Kennedy release their new double A-Side single ‘Scratch That Penny’/’Sweetest Friend’ via all major download sites as a pre-cursor to their hugely anticipated debut record which comes out in the summer. Last month Hot Press became the first ones to hear the single besides the band (yes, get us) and both tracks really are songs to fall in love to and ‘Sweetest Friend’ in particular has greatness stamped all over it, so make sure you (virtually) pick it up. For more information on the Lurgan lads and lass, check out www.myspace.com/captainkennedy.

What are you doing on July 3rd? Well, if the answer is “Sitting around and secretly wishing there was a music festival taking place somewhere in Mid-Ulster” then your dreams have come true as Banbridge are hosting their very own open air bash. Taking place beside Corbet Lake, the event is dubbed Take It To The Bridge and features And So I Watch You From Afar, A Plastic Rose, Panama Kings and others on the line-up. Tickets for the event are £25 and for details on where you can snag some check out www.takeittothebridge.info.

LaFaro release their long awaited debut album on May 10 via Smalltown America and play a gig in the Menagerie in Belfast on April 26. Sadly tickets sold out within about three minutes of going on sale, but knowing the LaFaro boys it won’t take them too long to announce more shows around the rest of Ireland. Of course, we’d love to be able to tell you that their self titled slab of wax is the veritable cat’s pyjamas, but as no-one has sent us a copy yet we haven’t a baldy notion what to expect (we haven’t worked out if this hint is subtle or not…). Altogether now-BOOOOOOO!

Newry/Warrenpoint metallers Ozzmium have unveiled their amazing clip for ‘Worse Than Ever’ this fortnight and it’s an absolute belter of a video. In the process of making the promo they destroyed a cottage, broke some fingers, blew out their ear drums, smashed bottles, got involved in a domestic dispute and generally sweated like a fat bloke at a game of paintball to create the clip and you can watch it by clicking on the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efCjRx6lNWM&feature=player_embedded. Fans of Killswitch Engage and loud noises going BOOM will love this lot, so check out www.myspace.com/ozzmium for more.





News From The North Week 47

8 02 2010

Would you believe this week marks the 2nd birthday of my NI band news column in Hot Press? Mad, isn’t it? Two years on and I’m pleased to report that bands from my neck of the woods are starting to get the recognition/breaks they deserve and I’m still as fired up about writing about them as I ever was. This fortnight’s issue of Hot Press is out on Thursday, so here’s last issue’s piece.

Support your scene. Cynicism is for dicks and rich kids.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

This fortnight has been mostly spent recalling the heady days of summer 2009 and more importantly the local band love-in that was Glasgowbury. Why is that we hear you cry? Well this week we’ve received word from the organisers that they’re now accepting submissions to take part in this year’s festival. If you’re in a band and want to feature on the bill, then post out a press pack (including an up to date biog and CD) to Glasgowbury Music Group, Unit B1, the Business Centre, Tobermore Road, Draperstown, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland BT45 7AG. We don’t know about you, but we’re looking forward to revisiting the noodle bar that ran out of noodles and the always entertaining campsite already.

Congrats to And So I Watch You From Afar and the Duckworth Lewis Method who have made the shortlist for the Choice Music Prize. While this writer feels that there should be a few more NI names on that list apart from the customary token few, it’s always nice to see hard working bands get some recognition. The live show takes place on March 3 in Vicar Street and we’d like to wish everyone good luck.

Fancy yourself as the next Steve Harris, Phil Lynott or even, er, yer man from the Jonas Brothers who sometimes plays an instrument onstage? Well, you might just be in luck this month as Delirium Tremens are on the hunt for a new bass player. Eager the fill the hole left by DT’s mainstay Brian, the band are urging anyone with an appetite for destruction (and by destruction we mean good old fashioned alternative rock) to email glennlyall@hotmail.com if they want the gig.  

Comply or Die have made a video for their thunderous track ‘Love Under Will.’ The clip, which was directed by Ron from the Black Bear Saloon (more on him in a minute) features enough fake blood to give Rob Zombie himself the willies and you can view it here-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3Kuo9LD9Q8. Comply or Die also have a shed-load of dates coming up so check out their website www.diecomply.com to see if they’re playing in your town, village or mud hut.

Finally, as most of you already know-a huge earthquake decimated Haiti recently. Keen to do their bit, the NI music scene have banned together for a gig on January 31. Organized by Ron from the Black Bear Saloon, Anto from Tin Pot Operation and John from Bruised Fruit, it features 50bands including the Answer and General Fiasco. For more information take a look at the HP news section and for up to the minute info click on www.twitter.com/belfast4haiti.





Bye Bye 09, It’s Been Great

31 12 2009

Yes friends, today is the last day of the year and indeed the whole decade. The “noughties” have been a decade of huge highs and lows. I started out in ’02 with people lining up to tell me it was impossible for a working class bloke from Newry with no contacts to make a living as a freelance journalist. It was a really tough few years with literally no money. I was living in glorified squats while dealing with the fact that at that time there were NO outlets for entertainment journalism in Northern Ireland and needless to say it was pretty stressful. Still, there was a light at the end of the tunnel and helping launch the Belfast Telegraph’s weekend supplement 24/7 and giving a hand in founding Alternative Ulster magazine were definitely highlights from those shitty years.

I’ve been at this for 7 years now and in many ways I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. In early 2005 I was about to pack it all in as I (somehow) ended up interviewing every one of my heroes (bar Morrissey and Courtney Love…). While it was a huge acheivement for me, I was in a bit of a slump and left in a “what do I do now?” funk. Thankfully I gave myself a metaphorical boot up the hole and got on with things and the last half of the decade has been fantastic.

So what have been my highlights of 2009? Christ, I don’t even know where to start, but I thought it might be good to reprint my favourite piece I’ve written this year. So below is the final draft of my NI scene report for the NME. Enjoy and see you all next year…

United by Noise

A Northern Ireland Scene Report

Three decades ago, Stiff Little Fingers’ Jake Burns first preached from his punk rock pulpit about an ‘Alternative Ulster.’ Since then, music in Northern Ireland has grown and mutated into a visceral and at times venomous beast with bands preferring to give the mainstream a sonic two fingered salute rather than court the industry coke-heads of London Town. You see, for years the Ulster scene has been brushed under the carpet in favour of more geographically friendly areas in both the UK and Ireland. Due to its well documented political Trouble, the media appears to prefer focusing on yet another report from Liverpool, Manchester or wherever rather than sending a scribbler to the formerly war-torn area because it just seems like a safer option. While it pains this writer to admit it, NI will always be haunted by the spectre of semtex and suicide even though it’s been relatively bomb-free for years, but this has ultimately made it’s music utterly life affirming. Every note counts and every song matters. Thanks to sites such as local music bible http://www.fastfude.org, bands like the Beat Poets and Ash-endorsed Oppenheimer can make music and tour under their own steam without relying on hand-outs from ‘the’, ahem, ‘Man’. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself afterall.

Right now there are a gaggle of great acts in NI. Leading the charge are And So I Watch You From Afar. The four-piece craft instrumental music that could easily soundtrack buildings tumbling, world’s colliding and large, green aliens landing from space and eating people’s brains. Plus, any band who can get run over by a car and play a gig later that night has our vote for life

NI’s finest purveyors of indie pop Two Door Cinema Club are also doing great things and peddle tunes that are as catchy as Chlamydia at the Playboy Mansion. Think Deathcab for Cutie embroiled in a knife-fight with Modest Mouse and you’re close.

Not Squares are currently getting local music critics’ collective undercrackers in a bunch and from a quick listen to thrash dance anthem ‘Vita Sackville West’ it’s easy to see why this Julie Ruin worshipping mob are making all the right moves. Their sound is a synth-laden cacophony of boy/girl vocals and shouts and their live show has more kick-ass moments than a night out with Joey Barton.

But it’s not just about hand-claps and keyboards in NI, probably the most historically prevelant scene has featured music from the ‘eavier end of the spectrum. Carrying on the torch from the likes of the Undertones and Therapy?, the Black Bear Saloon are the latest group to give us some new teenage kicks and they sound as venomous as an episode of America’s Next Top Model. The future of rock is in safe hands with this fearsome four-some.

Finally, if there was ever a band that summed up the true rebel-rousing spirit of Belfast then it’s the Tin Pot Operation. They adore putting noses out of joint, have wound up more people than Jeremy Beadle and best of all they’re not afraid to talk about politics and poetry. Their self-released slab of wax ‘Human Resources’ is a beautifully battered sonic manifesto and it sums up their home-town better than any empty-headed politician ever could.

It’s true that NI has had more than its share of ups and downs over the decades but 2009 looks set to be a break-out year for Northern Irish musicians who have been united by noise. Remember where you read about them first.

Edwin McFee





Albums of ’09

8 12 2009

As things start to wind down, all the magazines are printing their lists of the year as not much else is happening. Last month you may remember I submitted my albums of the year for NME and Hot Press and as they’re now published I can post up what  I submitted (exciting, eh?). I haven’t seen Hot Press’ list yet, but I have seen NME’s and I think it’s quite similar so I’m on the same page as at least a few folk. Pick up this week’s copy as I’ve written some of the accompanying blurbs.

Anway-enough labbering-here’s my albums of the year (insert drum roll here)

Albums Of The Year (Edwin McFee)

1.      Gallows ‘Grey Britain’ (Warner Bros)

2.      Kasabian ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ (RCA/Columbia)

3.      Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘It’s Blitz!’ (Interscope)

4.      Therapy? ‘Crooked Timber’ (Demolition Records)

5.      The XX ‘XX’ (Young Turks)

6.      The Cribs ‘Ignore The Ignorant’ (Wichita)

7.      Morrissey ‘Years Of Refusal’ (Decca)

8.      Julian Plenti ‘Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper’ (Matador)

9.      Iron Maiden ‘Flight 666 Soundtrack’ (EMI)

10.    Lily Allen ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ (Regal)

11.    Amanda Blank ‘I Love You’ (Downtown Records)

12.    Karen O and the Kids ‘Where The Wild Things Are OST’ (DCG)

13.    Rancid ‘Let The Dominoes Fall’ (Hellcat)

14.    Spinnerette ‘Spinnerette’ (Anthem)

15.    Dananananaykroyd ‘Hey Everyone!’ (Best Before)

16.    Kill It Kid ‘Kill It Kid’ (One Little Indian)

17.    Paramore ‘Brand New Eyes’ (Fuelled By Ramen)

18.    Empire of the Sun ‘Walking On A Dream’ (EMI)

19.    Biffy Clyro ‘Only Revolutions’ (14th Floor)

20.   And So I Watch You From Afar ‘And So I Watch You From Afar’ (Smalltown America)





Hot Summer, What A Bummer Part 3

16 11 2009

The final festival I was at this summer was the much talked about Glasgowbury in County Derry. According to the ramblings of some internet user names, this bash is the best thing to happen since Fonzie stuck his boot up the jukebox in Arnolds’ hole and while I appreciate the spirit of the event, I wasn’t quite as spell bound as others.

Still, a fun day was had and here’s the reprint of my review that ran in Hot Press.

Glasgowbury

Eagles Rock, Co. Derry

Nestled in between some mountains, Glasgowbury might be a bit scarce on bogs and burger vans, but it more than makes up for the lack of facilities with the amount of talent on offer. Featuring a veritable truck-load of NI acts plus one Free State interloper the Mighty Stef (more on them later) the festival is more of a statement than anything else-telling the major labels and mainstream bands to get screwed, in the nicest possible way of course. With literally dozens of performers filling up four tents, it’s impossible to see everyone, so here’s a brief taster of the cream of the crop.

New kids on the block We Are Resistance put in an encouraging performance during the afternoon as did Furlo, who packed their tent out, but things really kicked off once the Black Bear Saloon arrive onstage a little bit later on. Despite a shaky start (and by “shaky” we don’t mean they played a cover of ‘Green Door’) the four-piece find their groove three songs in with the phenomenal ‘Face The Future.’ Frontman Aaron is clearly relishing the chance to perform outside of Belfast for a change, promising free blowjobs for all and bigging up guitarist Peter’s, er, unique skills. By the end of their hook-laden, groove-fuelled set the tent fills up just in time for the singer to successfully encourage everyone to push themselves against the barrier so he can “have a Joe Dolan moment and touch everyone’s hands” during ‘First Against the Wall.’ Classic stuff.  Hopefully this show will mark the rise in the ranks of the Black Bear Saloon, as frankly they’re getting far too good to be ignored for much longer.

Dutch Schultz put on a tight as hell performance too with Willy clearly in his element, shaking a bottle of Buckfast at the crowd, bemoaning the fact that they don’t make good porn anymore and generally blowing the heads off the front row with ‘LA Cumfucker.’ Sadly the usually impressive Mojo Fury don’t quite click today though. We’re not sure whether it’s the newer material or their lack of life onstage that’s hampering the set, but by the time we see frontman Mike in his other incarnation as singer of the weird and wonderful Clown Parlour, he seems much more at home playing odd, vaudeville-inspired songs than with his day job so maybe he just needs a break.

The Beat Poets on the other hand just seem to get better with every show. New song ‘One By One’ gives us an excellent teaser for the long awaited new album, ‘Ghosts’ has a nasty bassline and a filthy chorus and final song ‘Bloodline’ is now a bona fide fist in the air anthem. The great acts just keep coming too, with The Mighty Stef’s brand of booze-inspired shanties making a believer out of this writer, Here Comes the Landed Gentry charming everyone with their mash-up of blues and rockabilly and sounding like Satan’s house band (they even play an encore) and LaFaro bludgeon the crowd with their utter sonic violence.

 Local indie pin-ups General Fiasco also put on a hell of a show with the normally soft-spoken Owen maturing into the consummate frontman. There are definitely a few songs you could describe as filler in their set (‘First Impressions’) but the sheer pop suss of ‘Rebel Get By’ and ‘Ever So Shy’ mark the boys out to be next year’s potential headliners. Finally it’s left up to And So I Watch You From Afar to close things in style. Their take on instrumental punk rock has made them one of the most exciting Irish bands on the scene right now and ‘Clench Fists, Grit Teeth, Go!’ and ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ are fast becoming as essential as oxygen. In a perfect world ‘A Little Solidarity Goes A Long Way’ would be the NI national anthem, but for now, we’ll settle for it being the unofficial soundtrack to Glasgowbury ’09. See you all next year.

Edwin McFee