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.

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Church Of Noise 2

17 05 2010

Remember I blogged about a new column I’m writing in the Big List called Church of Noise? Well I’ll be running some reprints from the last few issues over the next lock of days.

Church of Noise

Local music news.

In the real world, dressing up as feg-smoking, beer drinking, gambling bear/men and kidnapping a hot blonde chick for your own ends will more than likely get your collar felt by the old bill, but in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll-people film it and make a music video out of it instead. Thank Elvis the Black Bear Saloon are the latter eh? Yes readers, if you haven’t seen the clip for their single ‘Face The Future’ by now-here’s the deal. The video features our heroes in bear suits while generally behaving badly and driving old cars around and very good it is too. The band have finally got their furry arses in gear and released it as a proper single too and for 99 of your pennies you not only get ‘Face The Future’ but you also have a newly remixed ‘Al Bronco’ and the aforementioned video for your virtual collection. All you have to do is click on http://music.theblackbearsaloon.com/ and bob is your da’s brother. We don’t know about you, but that’s our Mother’s Day present sorted then…

It looks like March is going to be a hell of a month for local music as both Two Door Cinema Club and General Fiasco release their debut albums into the wild and we’re pleased to report that both slabs of wax are hotter than a pajama party round Megan Fox’s house. TDCC’s ‘Tourist History’ (out on March 2 via Kitsune and the launch gig takes place in the Stiff Kitten, Belfast on March 5) is possibly one of the best records this writer has heard all year and with the likes of cataracts-glasses wearing, award show wrecking Kanye West and Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus (y’know-the dude isn’t the one with the whiney voice or the bloke who looks like a human etch-a-sketch) falling over themselves to proclaim the three-piece from Bangor as the next big thing, we reckon it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on too.

General Fiasco’s ‘Buildings’ (out March 22 via Infectious and the launch gig is on March 28 in the Mandela Hall, Belfast) is another thunderous 40minutes worth of teenage kicks and should see the boys scale the heights they’ve always deserved too. With a great new video for their stellar single ‘Ever So Shy’ slated for a March 8 release (if you haven’t seen it yet, check out my blog for a looky www.edwinmcfee.com) we’re predicting big things for the boys.

Another band on the cusp of something special are everyone’s favourite hard to pin down rebel rousers the Tin Pot Operation. The group (now augmented by the addition of mandolin player Daithi) are due to start work on their third record this month and are returning to their old stomping grounds of the Blueroom to start work on the much anticipated opus. Good luck chaps and chap-ess.

 Finally, fresh from the massive Belfast 4 Haiti mega-gig (yes, I’ve copyrighted the word mega-gig so don’t go robbing it) three photographers have decided to have a good old fashioned team up in order to aid the charity and are selling prints from the gigs on this link www.photoboxgallery.com/belfast4haiti. So if you’ve ever wanted a nice, frame-able photo of Yakuza, the Answer or some eijit in the crowd who’s drunk so much he looks like he’s chewed his own elbows off (while also helping a worthwhile cause) then you know what to do.

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

 Edwin





News From The North Week 48

2 03 2010

Want some NI band news? You got it punker.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

We’d like to kick this fortnight’s news column off with a huge metaphorical pat on the back to Aaron (Black Bear Saloon) Abernethy, Anto (Tin Pot Operation) O’Kane and John (Bruised Fruit) Lawson for their massively successful Belfast 4 Haiti events, which saw NI’s music scene invoke the spirit of their inner Bob Geldof and raise a lot of money for charity. So far the group have made (at the time of going to press) £21500 from the 50 band mega-gig, £9500 from the dance event in the Stiff Kitten and £7500 from a fun run (if anyone can tell this writer what exactly is fun about running then send your answers in c/o Hot Press) and there’s more to come in. Filmmaker Sean Duncan (AKA Redcap Productions) has also made an ace short video of the gig in the Limelight/Spring and Airbrake/Katy Daly’s and it can be viewed by clicking on the link www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4UgonWfTdY and should help all those who were slightly sozzled to retrace their steps…

The Belfast 4 Haiti train doesn’t just stop there though and as well as plenty of other splinter events in the works, some photographers have clubbed together to exhibit/flog their wares online for charity. Featuring an extensive selection of shots taken at the 50band gig, you can view them here www.photoboxgallery.com/belfast4haiti and buy prints to hang on your wall/cave with all proceeds going to the relief effort. I think we’re all agreed that everyone involved in the Belfast 4 Haiti project deserves at least ten fist bumps each for their efforts, so well done.

 In a few weeks time (March 4 to be precise) John Shelly and the Creatures unveil their debut album Dinosaur to the world and play a gig in Auntie Annie’s in Belfast to celebrate. Fresh from bothering Coronation Street viewers’ ear-holes with their ace single ‘Long May You Reign’( by way of the Discover Northern Ireland advert) the band have been making all the right moves at the moment and even tread those hallowed boards of the Late Late Show recently (you can watch their performance via the RTE Player if you missed it) so expect more news from the band over the issues to come.

 Finally congrats to the Vals, who have bagged the support slot for Ocean Colour Scene’s gig in the Mandela Hall, Belfast on March 7. They also play a European club tour in April-taking in Switzerland, Germany and Austria and it will be in support of their new single ‘Things Will Always Be The Same.’ Stay tuned for more Vals news as we get it.





Black Bear Saloon Video

28 01 2010

Just before Christmas the Black Bear Saloon filmed a video for their ace track ‘Face the Future’ and this week it’s hit the web, so take a look.

Fun Fact #1: Yours truly was initially supposed to be roped in to play one of the bears, but it was on a Saturday morning so I stayed in my bed instead. Hey, you gotta get those extra sleeps while you can!





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





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





Sunnyside Comics

17 09 2009

This morning I put the finishing touches to my comics pages for AU and took the opportunity to plug the very nice people who produce the Sunnyside Comics podcast. Here’s what I wrote for the October issue and you can find out more by clicking here www.sunnysidecomics.com

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Finally this month, we’d like to take this opportunity to plug the Belfast-based podcast Sunnyside Comics. Initially cooked up by Ron Abernethy (of Black Bear Saloon fame) Scott Ferguson and PJ Holden, the three amigos upload all of their output (basically them righting the wrongs of comic-dom from their comfy sofas) via www.sunnysidecomics.com. So if (heaven’s forbid) you don’t get enough comics info from your ol’ pals AU, then check it out.

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