22 11 2013

As we hurtle towards Crimbo, I plan on whacking up a fair bit of stuff in the coming weeks that sums up 2013, deadlines permitting (yep, key word here is “plan” ).

To kick things off, here’s a piece on Northern Ireland’s very own Grand-Daddy of them all-Glasgowbury, that originally ran in Hot Press during the summer.


The Answer, VerseChorusVerse and organiser Paddy Glasgow offer their thoughts on the final Glasgowbury festival. Edwin McFee is the man raising a glass.


On July 20, 2013 the much-loved, mould-breaking Mecca for Irish music that was Glasgowbury festival finished for the final time. It’s safe to say that the Eagle’s Rock, Co. Derry-based bash has had a massive impact over its 13 year existence, offering many musicians-not just from the north-a platform to perform their wares while also inspiring many other entrepreneurs to try something similar across countless counties on the island. With that in mind, we caught up with Tony Wright AKA VerseChorusVerse (a veteran Glasgowbury performer), Cormac Neeson from the Answer (the final band to play the festival) and of course, the event’s founding father Paddy Glasgow, to talk about the last ever trip to the Sperrins, its legacy and what happens next.


VerseChorusVerse: “Our gig on the Friday went from beginning to end in a glorious musical fashion. The band and I had an absolute blast. Jonny Black (guitar) was even happy at how it went, so that’s gotta count for something! We had people dancing-not moshing-but genuine dancing and people were singing along. Everyone that was in that tent left smiling-including myself and the guys


Looking back over the years, I’ve got so many good Glasgowbury memories to choose from. My first year with my old band was fairly special, as was last year as it was my first solo stint. I’ve got mixed emotions about it all ending. I’m going to miss it terribly, but I’m so thankful of the memories and good times. It was a yearly event in July that promoted togetherness and hope for the future for young and old alike, unlike that other event we have in the north in July, if you get what I mean (at least we still have Pride fest though!).


The festival instilled a real sense of worth into all of us musicians here. They treated us with respect and nurtured us all in a way that few of us had the chance to experience before. It also gave us all a sense of professionalism and self confidence that can be hard for a young band to muster at times. Glasgowbury, thank you. Thank you for everything.”


Cormac Neeson (The Answer): “It was a real honour to draw the whole festival to a close. There was a bit of pressure to do it justice but we got an awful lot of love back from the audience. From the word go there was a big mosh pit going on down the front. We got the Streetwise Samba Band to play with us for our encore on ‘Waste Your Tears’ and it was great to hear them beating out these great rhythms to our song. We closed the festival on a high and there was a lot of mutual love in the air.


I got to see some other acts during the day too. Hurdles were really good summer pop and Wyldling were amazing. [Frontwoman] Jilly St John is fantastic and she really sold her band to me. It’s electro pop and not normally my thing, but her enthusiasm and charisma sucked me in. I’ve a lot of time for a front person who gets onstage and gives it everything they’ve got. They’re definitely ones to watch.


We’ve played Glasgowbury three times in the past. We were there when it was just two tents on a football pitch in 2005-ish, whenever we were very much an upcoming band and Paddy took a chance on us. You could tell even then that it was a festival on the up. He had so much enthusiasm for giving young bands a chance and I’m sure he and his team will have plenty more to say over the years to come.”


Paddy Glasgow: “The final Glasgowbury was absolutely brilliant. It was a time mixed with celebration and a certain amount of sadness in our hearts, but for me we went out on a high and the sun gods shone down on us, which made it even more special. When we first started there weren’t any platforms for music [in NI] outside of the two main cities, but now there’s loads and while I wouldn’t call us trail blazers, someone had to ignite that and someone had to start that ‘can do’ attitude and we did it.


When I went to tourism bodies when we first began, they weren’t interested in anything ‘local’ but now it’s all ‘local.’ There’s local music on their TV adverts and local breaks and gigs are all plugged now too, so maybe the ‘wild mountain man’ was right 13 years ago, eh? [Laughs].


It’s the end of Eagle’s Rock but it’s not the end of the ‘Small But Massive’ ethos. The Glasgowbury group has always been about the musician and what happens in the future…? Well, people might just have to wait a bit to find out. I said it onstage on July 20 and I’ll say it now ‘Look out for a Small But Massive stage near you.’”



2 07 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend that ran in Hot Press.



Boasting a bill that would make the Norse Gods of Valhalla whisper “hold on a second lads, this looks like it could be too much fun for us,” BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend is back in Derry with a bang and it’s crammed full of performers that would make the most pickiest festival punter’s mouth water. Hot Press has arrived bright and early on Sunday for the best line-up of the last three days and we’re just in time to see 30 Seconds To Mars scamper onstage. Led by singer, actor and former squeeze of Angela Chase (google it) Jared Leto, the band have grown into bona fide headliners over the last decade and open the main stage in style, provoking mass singalongs to ‘The Kill’ despite the 1pm start.


Sadly we miss Haim due to a scheduling clash, but we catch popstrels Little Mix and their canny cover of En Vogue’s ‘Don’t Let Go’ impresses. Miles Kane is up next and he strides on to the In New Music We Trust stage clad in a fetching white suit which makes him look like the coolest ice-cream man on earth. ‘Inhaler,’ newies ‘Give Up’ and ‘Taking Over’ sound massive thanks to some amped up riffs that are fuzzier than a two year old tooth-brush and he looks ready to take things to the next level.


Wretch 32 on the other hand struggles to work the crowd and as a result there’s a mass exodus over to the INMWT stage as people want to get up close and personal with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. In fact, such is the excitement for the rapper, they’ve had to close the doors and refuse entry to hundreds (if not thousands) of punters, making for one of the most electric atmospheres this writer has experienced in moons. Looking like he hasn’t a notion what time or even day it is, the jet-lagged hip-hopper is welcomed like a hero and he returns the favour by dropping ‘Thrift Shop’ nice and early and the venue erupts.’One Love’ ably proves that you can be a mainstream rap act and not be a sexist, homophobic wanker, while ‘Can’t Hold Us’ sounds monstrous as the festival go-ers pogo as one causing the tent to quiver and shake like a blancmange on a bouncy castle and it feels like a watershed moment for the performer and one many won’t forget.


Jake Bugg is an odd way to come down from Mackle-Mania, but it oddly works, though Jessie Ware doesn’t quite hit the spot as we’d hoped she would. Paramore though, are a revelation and bursting with pop punk hits, putting on a world beating performance. Hayley Williams, as ever, is a joy to watch and ‘Misery Business,’ ‘Into You’ and more all sound immaculate.


After catching a bit of the robotic Vampire Weekend, Bruno Mars closes the star-studded event in style with a polished, hit-laden performance that proves he deserves his spot as the current prince of pop and as fireworks light up the night sky, we keep our fingers crossed it won’t be another nine years until the festival is back in the north.



1 04 2013

Here’s a reprint of my Primal Scream review that’s in this fortnight’s Hot Press (as well as on the web).



As Derry’s year-long City of Culture celebrations continue to gather pace, it’s perhaps not surprising that organisers opted to ask Primal Scream (AKA one of the greatest party bands on the planet) to help end March with a bang. No stranger to the odd hootenanny or three myself, your humble Hot Press reviewer has made the trip up to the north-west too and as soon as I step inside the newly erected Venue (which is a cool, igloo-like structure that resembles the Iceberg Lounge in Gotham City) there’s a palpable sense of excitement among the thousands in attendance. Of course, who can blame them as this evening we’re getting to see something special as the band are set to air at least a handful of exclusive cuts from their as yet unreleased David Holmes produced tenth album More Light.

Shambling onstage at the stroke of half nine (being punctual can be roll ‘n’ roll too, kids) frontman Bobby Gillespie greets us all in his own imitable fashion (“Let’s fuckin’ have it!”) before starting things off with the brand new ‘2013’ and it’s an absolute belter. Sounding a little like Quadrophenia-era Who, the song features some ace E Street-band-esque sax and it’s a soul-infused, space rock classic in the making. The beat-heavy ‘Swastika Eyes’ and the “are they playing this already?” ‘Movin’ On Up’ keep things cooking nicely and the band are clearly keen to kick off the latest album campaign in style.

As fun as it is hearing songs from the now iconic Screamadelica, personally this writer is more intrigued by what they’re currently doing with producer David Holmes and while the epic newie ‘Relativity’ won’t break the music world in half, their up-coming single ‘It’s OK, It’s Aright’ could very well be one of the biggest tracks in their career. A swaggering, rock ‘n roll number which comes complete with a Ronnie Lane-robbing “oooh la la” refrain, Bobby looks suitably chuffed with himself after they finish it, and quite rightly too. “That’s a stone cold classic that could make a blind man see and a dead man walk,” he declares cockily, before treating us to another tune off More Light called ‘Culturecide.’

Dedicated to Holmes, who warmed the crowd up earlier with a DJ set, the track is a dense, typically bug-eyed effort from Primal Scream that’s heavy with hip hop and Blaxploitation influences and it’s a dark number that confuses the crowd a little. Ever the canny frontman though, the singer lifts things with the gospel-tinged ‘Come Together’ and the cow punk favourite ‘Country Girl,’ while repeating the phrase “ ‘MONNN DURRRRRRRRAY” ad infinitum (which for those of you who aren’t fluent in Bobby Gillespie, roughly translates to “let’s all have a wonderful time, Derry”) and before we know it, it’s all over.

But not before we hear an encore filled with Scream classics like ‘Loaded,’ ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’ to send the faithful home happy and they’re a hat trick of songs which prove that the band did much more than take a boatload of drugs over their 30 year existence. In fact, contrary to most acts, Bobby and the boys (and lady bassist) only seem to get better with age and judging by what we’ve heard tonight, album number ten will be up there with their best.



Hot Press Live Review: Other Voices

11 03 2013

Last month I decamped to Derry to check out the filming of RTE’s music programme Other Voices. As well as some ace gigs to watch, I was put up in the Erin Suite (later renamed “the Edwin Suite”) which featured multiple tellys, my own living room complete with dining table/three piece suite and a class view. Check it out. Nice eh?

Anywho, here’s a reprint of the review that ran in Hot Press. Looking forward to getting back to Derry again at some stage this year.



Unless you’re currently residing in a galaxy far, far away, you’ll no doubt be aware that Derry has been declared the UK City Of Culture for 2013. With a veritable shed-load of events planned to celebrate the title, the Maiden City looks set to become a Mecca for music fans across the island and this weekend RTE’s Other Voices joins in the fun with a visit to the Glassworks. Taking a brief break away from its usual home in Dingle, the programme makers have assembled a stunning array of acts to perform on the intimate stage (which is bedecked with huge, lyric-branded plastic hearts) and Saturday’s night’s line-up is arguably the best of the lot, which is handy since Hot Press has just arrived to get an eyeful.


On first are Dublin quintet Little Green Cars who play a clutch of songs which all sound like future world-beaters. Just over a year since they first performed on Other Voices (an appearance which they described as “the highlight of their lives”) the band have grown in confidence and talent and their brand of emotive, folksy tuneage could put goose-bumps on-top of your goose-bumps. ‘The John Wayne’ in particular is a beautifully ragged tear-stained threnody and judging by the rapturous reaction tonight it looks like they’re set to join Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters And Men in the charts and hearts of the globe.


Next up is local lass made good Bronagh Gallagher who performs a batch of soul-infused songs backed by an ear-gasm inducing brass section and full band. Paying tribute to the likes of Al Green and Percy Sledge while putting her own stamp on things, the loved-up set takes us back in time to a bygone era and sees the be-fringed performer happily playing the role of torch singer and there’s a real warmth to the likes of ‘Not A Star.’


California-born but Manchester-based chanteuse Jesca Hoop is a different prospect altogether. Clutching her white guitar and sporting decidedly mad granny-esque hair, it seems like it’s not just her music that’s a square peg in a round hole, but that’s ok because we like “different” and the change of pace from nu-soul to unassuming Bjork and Kate Bush-inspired oddities is a welcome one. ‘Born To’ is a bona fide outsider pop classic that’s full of hooks that ache and it’s a real highlight in her short but sweet set.


Welsh warbler Marina And The Diamonds closes tonight’s broadcast in style with a stripped back collection of songs culled from both of her albums. Back to black (hair, that is), the singer tells us she’s a little nervous as she’s spent the last month or so doing nothing but “watching Jeremy Kyle” but you’d never know it as she prowls cat-like around the stage belting out ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ and ‘Hollywood’ like she’s the long-lost daughter of Brian Ferry and the low-key setting really highlights just how good her voice is.


After the broadcast, we spill out into the night to check out the Other Voices Music Trail and honourable mentions go to Wyldling, whose set at the Icon re-affirms that they’ve one of the best front-women in the country and Triggerman, whose blues-imbued, riff-laden rock lays waste-almost literally-to the heaving Mason’s bar and as first date’s go, Other Voices’ weekend in Derry is up there with the best of them.