We can't wait for the first time
More so than usual, there's an infectious buzz about the Across the Line office, most of it starting life at the work station of producer Paul McClean.
Since being approached by the city council (specifically our good pal Adam Turkington from the Waterfront Hall/Trans), Paul has worked insanely hard on 'Do You Remember The First Time', a collaborative gig on March 9th to help re-open The Ulster Hall, but the gig has taken on a life of its own.
Something else has got involved.
It started out as your standard, ludicrous concept - a gig in that most wonderful of venues - with Northern Irish bands playing songs of their own and bands they'd seen at the Ulster Hall at some point in the past. A great, if overly ambitious idea for sure. McClean is only one man, after all, and it didn't help that every time the poor sap headed down to the Mace to grab his tobacco product of choice, he'd have to walk past the Ulster Hall and be reminded of just how massive, grand and vaguely intimidating it is inside.
We'd both recall The Strokes playing and the din from two thousand grateful punters drowning out the guitars of the best indie band of the last ten years. We're thinking about The Chemical Brothers and those beautiful visuals which almost overshadowed that enormous pipe organ.
I'm personally recalling the night I actually got to stand on the stage and perform myself, as the band I played keyboard and sang with supported The Thrills a few years back, what it felt like to look out across that sea of heads, feeling like there was an actual proper chance part of me might burst with joy.
Story time with Stuart Bailie has often brought up memories of legendary Ulster Hall shows by the likes of The Clash, while older friends have often boasted about seeing Rage Against the Machine. Imagine that, like.
So we're nervous about even attempting to do a 'work thing' inside somewhere like this. It feels like organizing a kick about with your mates, but doing it in front of a full house at Camp Nou.
Having said that, things began to look up pretty quick.
"Neil Hannon is onboard", says Paul, the same way your housemate might inform you that he has some leftover chips in the pan, should you want them for supper. Keeping in mind that I genuinely believe Neil Hannon to be the greatest songwriter since John Lennon (and I don't care if that sounds ridiculous, I've actually thought about this long and hard, as one tends to do, and I can't think of anyone else who has a bigger collection of songs I absolutely adore), this was not the type of news you expect to hear casually thrown across the office.
"Peter's onboard and he's covering *****" (spoiler removed)
I'm thinking how massive Duke Special is, how he actually sold this venue out on his own. I'm sitting across the office, displaying the type of wide-eyed bemusement a child would if a cartoon character wondered out of the TV, onto your lap and handed you a sweet. Things are starting to snowball.
The newer acts picked themselves. Panama Kings, Lowly Knights, Fighting with Wire, Cashier No. 9... they've been hammered on our playlists the last year and earned their place on this bill by being great.
Which isn't to say there's loads of omissions. Certain bands being left off the bill is nothing shy of scandalous, in my eyes, but there was only so much room.
"Therapy? now onboard, going to close the gig" - even Paul couldn't help but smile at this one. They'll be savage.
Now we're both beginning ot think that every single band from this country who've sold a few records and made a decent racket in the last twenty years are going to end up on the biil for our wee gig. With a couple of exceptions.
"Ash... aren't going to be doing it."
It's good to get a little bit of perspective at this point, to be reminded that we're not actually dealing with a magic wand here, we're dealing with agents, with budgets, with management, with tour schedules, with riders, hotel rooms and airlines.
24 hours later though - "Ash are doing it."
So it is a magic wand after all. Great! That's helpful! Currently, we are waving that wand in that last little corner. Amazingly, it still seems to be working.
If anyone reading this can imagine how it would feel to get a load of your favourite bands to play a gig at the same incredible venue on the same wonderful night - well it's the same for Paul and myself.
We're not promoters, we don't put on gigs for a living - so we're as blown away by the prospect of this show as any of you lot would be if you happened to be in charge. We can't believe our luck that it's all come together, although there is the slight niggle that the whole thing will go belly up on the night to make up for the fact everything went so incredibly well in the build up. A monumental banjax in front of our bosses, our peers, our parents, our favourite bands - it's literally the kind of thing that would happen in some daft technicolor nightmare. But lets not even go there.
We hope this gig works. Not just for the people who were lucky enough to get tickets (that doesn't include most of our mates, by the way) but for anyone who tunes in to listen on the night or watches the TV coverage, which is set to be broadcast on St. Patricks Day.
We are extremely grateful for ATL's legacy - mostly the work of Mike Edgar (who is, as it happens, heavily involved with this gig in his role as head of production), helped out recently by the current team (who's four ugly mugs appear at the top of this blog), Donna Legge, Joe Lindsay et all. It's given the words 'Across the Line' a certain, notable weight among Northern Irish bands, to the extent they are willing to drop everything and come have a bit of a laugh with us to celebrate the greatest venue in the country. It's something we are endlessly proud of and will never take for granted.
We're doing everything we can to honour that legacy and make for what we honestly think could be the greatest gig this city has seen it years.
Bring it on.