Thursday 16 May 2013, 13:59
Great to hear the return of the Crystal Fighters, champions of Latin beats, Balearic uplift and utopian notions. With an extra deal of London, cosmopolitan sass. I still love their anthem ‘Plage’ and the first album ‘Star Of Love’ also endears. Happily, the new track ‘You & I’ has retained the joy and it tugs you along like a labrador on sunny beach. Therefore the imminent ‘Cave Rave’ record will surely delight and the idea of a cave party in the Basque region this August might be awesome.
Curtis Mayfield – Only You Babe (Snapper)
She & Him – I’ve Got Your Number Son (Double Six)
Vampire Weekend – Unbelievers (XL)
Two Door Cinema Club – Handshake (Kitsune)
10,000 Maniacs – Like The Weather (Elektra)
The D.O.T. – Blood Sweat And Tears (cv)
Nick Drake – Fly (Island)
Teleman – Please Kill It (Encona)
Crystal Fighters – You & I (Zirculo)
Vampire Weekend – Step (XL)
Prince – Alphabet Street (Warner)
Vampire Weekend – Everlasting Arms (XL)
She & Him – Together (Double Six)
Dexys Midnight Runners – Liars A To E (Mercury)
Deadstring Brothers – It’s Morning Irene (Bloodshot)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Sanson Si Mala (Nascente)
Luke Winslow King...
Tuesday 14 May 2013, 11:40
I would argue that this has been the best Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival ever. Fourteen years in Belfast and still the programme delivers. I’ve already blogged about some of the early attractions, notably, Dexys , John Grant , The Fall and British Sea Power and the Jam Jar Sessions . Here then, is a resume of some other tremendous moments.
1. Bronagh Gallagher selling out the Black Box on a Sunday afternoon, transforming this utilitarian place into a sanctified assembly, encouraging her crowd to holler and respond while she approached lift-up with ‘Love Will Find You’. Amen.
2. Bronagh introducing her support act, 15-year-old Jose Savage Newell, playing his first ever public gig. She primed the audience for maximum empathy and then let the boy do the rest. Winsome folk ballads and cool arpeggios a speciality.
3. Joe Boyd at the same venue on the Saturday. The man who accompanied Nick Drake through his short career, came here to put the art and the person in context, and notably blamed the British class system for Nick’s inability to relate to one of his other gifted acts, Sandy Denny. He also countered the notion that Joe had somehow coerced Drake...
Thursday 9 May 2013, 16:35
This year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is blessed with contrary acts. I was thinking about this as I watched The Fall in the festival marquee. A 56 year old guy in an off-white shirt, barking with attitude. When Mark E Smith wasn’t resting on a chair behind the guitar amp, he was facing down his audience, his back twisted, the face a defiant rictus. The entire set became one long, irrefutable riff, a cockroach rumble, a spew of outsider disgust.
Many people were there out of curiosity, so see how the Salford boy was able to sustain this cussed routine. There was no glamour and seemingly no sense of victory, just the feeling of brutal endurance, a mission to be true to his internal circuitry. Like Bo Diddley or Link Wray or Captain Beefheart, he has been compelled to roar and twang, regardless of public interest or the pressure to diversify.
British Sea Power have yet to earn that mantle, but they have dressed the Black Box stage like a twinkling glade. They are in the middle of this shrubbery when they play the reckless charge of ‘K Hole’ and the refrain of “staring down the canon”. There will surely be casualties, but their collective derring do has not wilted over...
Thursday 9 May 2013, 16:30
The Jam Jar Sessions took place in a mobile cinema in Writer’s Square Belfast. Part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, the aim was to harvest the stories of old cinemas, related via live music (‘Secret Love’, ‘Singing In The Rain’, ‘Bare Necessities’) and related memory drift. Some of the accounts were reasonable enough, but then a senior guy in the audience volunteered an astonishing tale. A long time ago, he had a relative who worked at the Hippodrome, and thus he found himself there on a Sunday, during wartime.
The locals weren’t allowed access to the pictures due the Sunday...
Tuesday 7 May 2013, 10:26
They say that Jorge Ben is the Brazilian Stevie Wonder. Massively productive in the Sixties and Seventies, with a strong facility for rhythm, innovation and groove. He introduced the world to ‘Mas Que Nada’ and without him, Rod Stewart may never have delivered ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’. But let’s not blame him for that one, eh? Unfortunately the artist (later rebranded as Jorge Ben Jor) is not well served by the reissue industry, and you’ll have to pay plenty for the vintage pressings. I bought my CD copy of ‘Força Bruta’ in a record shop in Sao Paulo. Later I realized it was a...
Sunday 5 May 2013, 13:32
What a return. Cheers and jublilation in the festival marquee. Kevin Rowland and Dexys playing at their best. A sold out event and every believer in here knows it’s a privilege to at it. It may have been 28 years since the previous Dexys album, but ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’ is a fierce statement from an artist who won't be denied. Now it’s developed into a live revue that brings out the drama, the heartache and contrary vigour of those songs.
So we give him love and wait for the dialogue, the set pieces, the moments of startling emotion. It’s not a regular gig. The singer is channeling...
Sunday 5 May 2013, 13:30
I love how the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival changes the city energy. On the first night we gathered in the Marquee at Belfast’s Custom House Square to hear John Grant. He sang beautifully, he had poise and his songs were awesomely twisted. The more attractive reaches of ‘Queen Of Denmark’ were well received, but John was also given much leeway to express the savage parts of his new record, ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.
This created rich tension, with the singer flipping from ballad to electro-charge, from the sublime to the flaming put-down. From the latter camp we had ‘It Doesn't Matter...
Wednesday 1 May 2013, 16:14
So what were the milestone recordings of Ulster rock in the early Sixties? One of these would certainly be ‘Foolin’ Time’ by Phil Coulter's The Gleemen, released during Rag Week, 1963. This was produced by another Queen’s student, Peter Lloyd and released on his UED (Ulster Electronic Developments) label. A year later and Lloyd had a recording studio at 23 Cromac St, where he ushered in Van Morrison and Them for a session that delivered a version of Bobby Bland’s ‘Turn On Your Love Light’. This led to a management deal and soon after, sessions for Decca Records #2 Studio in...
Tuesday 30 April 2013, 10:46
I’ve been partial to the Hard Chargers for a while. A local combo with the washboard, the resonator guitar, the bass fiddle and a joyous, rumblethump beat. Their residency at the Black Box café in Belfast last December was a rolling pleasure and they can readily put up on a street corner and deliver the boogie. The previous recording was a little basic and didn’t fully translate the charm. Now they have emerged with two tracks, ‘Just Somebody’s Friend’ plus ‘Fine And Dirty’. It’s raw and syncopated and doused in the cranky old methods of Clarksdale and Chicago. With Rory Gallagher...
Friday 26 April 2013, 16:51
It was the final night that the venue would feature live music. The Last Indie Waltz. Featuring Wonder Villains, VerseChorusVerse, Colly Strings and a score of bittersweet contenders. Time then, to remember some of my most memorable nights there.
1. Cat Power. She insisted that the audience helped her to drink a bottle of whiskey. She told stories that had no beginning or end. Or indeed, a narrative middle. The music...