Archives for September 2010

Bad Time Charlie

Stuart Bailie | 22:21 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

I've just made a return trip to Charlie's Coffee Shop in Belfast. Four years ago, they were kind enough to feature my first and only photo exhibition, 'Tuneage Clicks'. And since then the photos have been on the walls - occasionally making room for someone else's work. But mostly around the place.

A few times there was a request that I might update the images, and I've thought about it often. Sadly though, Charlie's closed today. Apparently they've found the economics just too hard to contend with. And so I took my old work home, Wayne Coyne and all.

Out of curiosity, I found an old video of the launch party and put it on. The shop was freshly painted and full of promise. I looked rather pleased with myself as we had fun with ballot tickets and some Flaming Lips CDs. Two of my old friends stuck up a relationship that night and the footage shows them flirting with intent. There's also a few relationships in the picture that have turned sour. But the most surprising thing about the film clip is the mood of the night. Belfast was booming, ideas were budding, and we assumed that it was going to last for an age.

Playlist 27.09.10

Stuart Bailie | 20:25 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

I met Edwyn Collins about ten years ago at an Aberdeen music festival. I had been in charge of a media workshop and he had played a gig. We were hanging out in a bar while a band called Bendy Toy were performing and for some reason we sniggered like kids. I met him again two years later in Belfast and the first thing he said to me was "Bendy Toy" and so we sniggered again. That night he played a fine show at The Limelight, where he revived some of the big Orange Juice tunes, climbed on top of a chair for a solo and then played his guitar behind his head. I loved it.

We all felt for the guy after his double brain haemorrhage in 2005, but the recovery has been heartening. And the new tunes on his comeback album, 'Losing Sleep' are remarkable.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 27.09.10

Neil Young - Old Country Waltz (Reprise)
Captain Kennedy - Roll Ramona (white)
Elvis Costello - I Lost You (Universal)
Colenso Parade - Find Your Mother (white)
Colenso Parade - Fall At Your Feet (white)
The Duke And The King - Hudson River (Loose)
Darren Heyman - Calling Out Your Name Again (Fortuna Pop)
Manic Street Preachers - Some Kind of Nothingness (Sony)
Owen Pallett - A Man With No Ankles (Domino)

Jonathan Richman - Harpo Played His Harp (Rounder)
Two Door Cinema Club - I Can Talk (Kitsune)
Kurt Wagner, Courtney Tidwell - Picking Wild Mountain Berries (City Slang)
Captain Kennedy - Sweetest Friend (white)
Warpaint - Undertow (Rough Trade)
Robert Plant - Harm's Sweet Way (Decca)
Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell - You Won't Let Me Down Again (V2)
Edwyn Collins - Searching For The Truth (Heavenly)
Donnie Fritts - Breakfast In Bed (Oh Boy)
Heliopause - With My Eyes Closed (white)
Midlake - Fortune (Bella Union)
Agnes Obel - Just So (PIAS)
Aaron Shanley - Julie Was An Old Friend (Love Gun)
Franz Nicolay - The Last Words Of Gene Autry (Décor)
The Charlatans - My Foolish Pride (Frinck)

Hooleygan On Tour

Stuart Bailie | 20:09 UK time, Sunday, 26 September 2010

Terri Hooley, founder of the Good Vibes record label, rebel, raconteur and supreme chancer, is at large on Culture Night, Belfast. The first of his walking tours was late but apparently successful. But the guy is 20 minutes behind schedule for his second walk and maybe 50 of his audience are getting restless.

But he arrives with a bold swagger and a headful of stories. His son Michael is waving a Jolly Roger flag at the end of a ten foot pole and we're ready to commence. However, the walk will not take place for another 40 minutes as Terri is firstly going to indulge in a scattershot speech on the street that will take in the realms of post-war Belfast, courtship in a Teddy Boy suit, the wonder of Them, the John Lennon yarn and a thousand slivers of micro-monologues. The punchlines of these are known only to the author. Sometimes, you just have to guess the narrative or ride the riff until the next one starts.

He presses me into reading a page from his upcoming book, Hooleygan. It's a feature about Terri that I wrote in 2008 and I'm honoured to be there. And moments later, the procession turns off into Hill Street, the flag still waving with gusto.

I catch up with Terri an hour later on Commercial Court. The entourage now amounts to five people, but still the quotes are spilling out, even more randomly. He tells me that he's proud of me, and that's really nice to hear. I also admire that old buffoon immensely.

Culture Night's The Night

Stuart Bailie | 09:41 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

Last year Belfast gave itself over the Culture Night - a chance to prowl the streets of the Cathedral Quarter, searching for music, words, theatre and unusual japes. It was a memorable occasion, causing hundreds of visitors to squeeze into the cobbled thoroughfares.

Tonight, the scheme returns, with feeder events into west and east Belfast, a deal more noise and hopefully a similar throng. This time around, there's the chance to review the freshly renovated and expanded Merchant Hotel - emblematic of booming ambitions and fresh money. Doubtless the Duke of York will also be stacked out, a venue that's changed dramatically in the past three years, while the concrete fingers of the MAC development also suggest an ambitious lift.

However, some projects have crashed in the past months, and others are sensing a perilous wind. The visitors are less free with their cash and the night-time economy has experienced a few wobbles. So this year's event will require a deal of verve, defiance and good faith. More than ever, there's the need to swing the culture, to make the case for city sectors with rich notions. I'll see you there.

Playlist 20.09.10

Stuart Bailie | 10:18 UK time, Wednesday, 22 September 2010

It's the final moments of the film Good Will Hunting. Matt Damon is in the dumps. Minnie Driver has gone off with the wrong guy and a tender refrain is raised from the rubble. Introducing 'Miss Misery', written by Elliott Smith, a wisp of a guy, full of dysfunction and heartache. The song will earn Elliott an Oscar nomination in 1998 and it will cause him too much attention, too soon. However, he will manage to write some more heroically doomed tunes before taking his own life in 2003.

It's only a matter of time before some caterwauling dunce in a talent show gets to bleating an Elliott tune and trashing the legacy. Until then, he is still outside of the mainstream, forlorn and ours.

A month from now, Domino Records are releasing 'An Introduction To Elliott Smith', a compilation of his short career, including an early version of 'Miss Misery'. Give it to your friends and make them cry.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 20.09.10

Lloyd Price - Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Jasmine)
Badly Drawn Boy - Too Many Miracles (One Last Fruit)
Manic Street Preachers - All We Make Is Entertainment (Sony)
Holy Innocents - Epistle To Home (white)
Holy Innocents - Lonely Woman (white)
Robert Plant - You Can't Buy My Love (Decca)
Blind Willie Johnston - It's Nobody's Fault But Mine (Snapper)
The 1930s - I'm A Vapour (white)
Manic Street Preachers - Hazleton Avenue (Sony)
Frazey Ford - Bird Of Paradise (Nettwerk)
Wings - Helen Wheels (Parlophone)
Paul Shevlin - Lift Up Your Head (white)
Badly Drawn Boy - This Electric (One Last Fruit)
Robert Plant - Central Two O Nine (Decca)
Jimmy Webb - PF Sloan (WEA)
Manic Street Preachers - The Descent (Sony)
Anna Calvi - Jezebel (Domino)
Robert Plant - Falling In Love Again (Decca)
Delta Spirit - Devil Knows You're Dead (Rounder)
Robyn G Shiels - When We Were Brothers (No Dancing)
Badly Drawn Boy - A Pure Accident (One Last Fruit)
Elliott Smith - Miss Misery (early version) (Domino)
Kelly Joe Phelps, Corrine West - Road To No Compromise (Tin Angel)
Afghan Whigs - Moon River (Mute)

Panamanian Divorce

Stuart Bailie | 18:22 UK time, Sunday, 19 September 2010

Yesterday, I saw one of the last gigs by the Panama Kings. I've watched them maybe a dozen times since my introduction to the gang in November 2007 and on many occasions they have been exciting and funny and bold. They've put out a series of great tunes and I was moved to write a cover story about them for AU magazine.

They got to follow up on some of that potential, with a 26 date tour supporting Ash and some useful experiences in England. But they also arrived at a time when the music industry is panicked and cautious, and some of the expected breaks weren't forthcoming.

So my heart was a bit sore when they played the Volume Control birthday party. Bass player Luke was absent (but will return for the final show at Radar, QUB, November 4). They resumed many of the big songs, and the more techno-minded aspect of their evolution was fiercely met. I'm personally sad that there's no album to document the legacy, and no chance to see 'On My Side' realise its destiny as one of the billowing NI anthems. Sigh.

Playlist 13.09.10

Stuart Bailie | 21:46 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM

Mondays, ten - midnight

David Bowie - Sound And Vision (EMI)
The National - Conversation 16 (4ad)
Dave Rawlings - Monkey And The Engineer (Acony)
Wilco - Jesus Etc (Nonesuch)
Anthony Toner - East Of Louise (live session)
Anthony Toner - Marion (live session)
Best Coast - Crazy For You (Wichita)
Kurt Wagner, Courtney Tidwell - Picking Wild Mountain Berries (City Slang)
Matrimony - Flee Or Fight (white)
Skibunny - Stand Up (STA)
The Yardbirds - Heart Full Of Soul (Charly)
Po' Girl - Kiss Me In The Dark (Po' Girl)
JP, Chrissie Hynde - Perfect Lover (Edel)
Bo Diddley - Nursery Rhyme (Chess)
Villagers interview with tracks:
Villagers - Meaning Of The Ritual (Domino)
Villagers - Ship Of Promises (Domino)
Leonard Cohen - Stranger Song (Columbia)
Villagers - Home (Domino)
Gillian Welch - Look At Miss Ohio (Acony)
Kurt Wagner, Courtney Tidwell - A Special Day (City Slang)
Jah Wobble And The Nippon Dub Ensemble - Cheery Blossom (30 Hertz)
Shugo Tokumaru - Tracking Elevator (Souterrain)

The Source of The Nile

Stuart Bailie | 21:21 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

Belfast Music Week was in the ascent this afternoon when Nile Rodgers arrived off an early flight from Bestival. He was a little groggy, but he carried it like a legend, with stories about Madonna and Timothy Leary, Michael Jackson and Debbie Harry. It was a pleasure to hear about the formation of Chic and the mad genesis of 'Freak Out'. The French thought he was singing abut money but on another continent they supposed that the lyric was, "L'Afrique, c'est chic..."

He kept talking to ATL's Paul McClean about the good fortune in his life but his application to the music was evident and his skill was clear. What a great raconteur also, giving us the lowdown on Jeff Beck's difficult album and then copping a hilarious David Bowie accent to explain how they made 'Let's Dance'. Apparently Dave was between record labels and Nile was a loose cannon after disco died, so they pulled it together on the singer's own finances in 17 intense days. It was Bowie's best-selling record.

Occasionally Nile would chop out some of those perfect rhythms on his Fender Strat. As an errant child, he was a whiz on the clarinet and could read music scores. A spell at the Apollo in Harlem talk him about the backbeat and the ferocious power of a good song. He has delivered plenty.

The Life Of O'Brien

Stuart Bailie | 18:12 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

Here's a photo of myself and Conor J O'Brien from Villagers. We met up last Thursday, ahead of his sublime show at The Black Box, when a bunged-out venue received the music from his debut album with the gusto that it deserved. His music is already graven deep into the souls of his fans, although a couple of them spoilt the effect a little by singing every word back to the artist as he performed them. Steady, there.

The interview goes out on tonight's radio show, and we even slipped out a Leonard Cohen song in the middle of proceedings, just because it suited the occasion. I also commended him on not winning the Mercury Prize - he isn't quite the household figure, which may have crushed his budding art - and Conor answered with the style of a real diplomat.

Thank You For The Dave

Stuart Bailie | 18:47 UK time, Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Open House Festival programme didn't say that Gillian Welch would be in town, but there was always a good chance of it. After all her musical cohort is Dave Rawlings, and he was definitely on the bill. In the past, Dave has been the low-profile character, working with Gillian, hanging with Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes and fabulous creatures of that stripe.

But then Dave put out an album last year called 'A Friend Of A Friend' and we were all elated. His songs were deep and graceful and sometimes they rocked. And when he played Belfast there was the opportunity to witness all that with a supreme band that could fit every emotional occasion. He was dropping in bits of Woody Guthrie and leading us back to that paradise on earth, the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

There were also primo versions of songs from the album, opening with 'Monkey And The Engineer' and later namechecking 'Ruby', 'Sweet Tooth' and more. The musicians were goofing off with dance routines, the floor was stomping with audience approval and Gillian delivered 'Look At Miss Ohio' when we weren't expecting so much. And thus another precious Open House moment was revealed.

Willkommen Wilco

Stuart Bailie | 19:33 UK time, Saturday, 11 September 2010

Hey, we saw Wilco in Belfast and it was beautiful. In a big marquee with fairy lights and happy faces, willing to let Jeff Tweedy and his combo follow their contrary drift. So the free jazz was tolerated, the Krautrock superdrone was indulged, the Memphis soul was a wow and when a well-formed song came out of the ether, it was even more of a joy.

Blimey, Jeff looked like he was enjoying the sense of occasion, remarking about a view of Belfast from the Cave Hill and rebuking an ask for the old fave 'Passenger Side' - he had already played it, dude.

Then like a magician fetching an armadillo from the top hat, Tweedy starts up 'Jesus Etc'. He sustains the tune for a bit, but then when he senses that his audience is utterly into it, he lets them carry the verse, a bit of chorus, some spontaneous cheer. Every stadium lag in the world will do this to schedule, but with Wilco, it really was a surprise and a bonus.

Later in the night, the tender theme is reprised on 'You Never Know', a call for love and understanding, a note from one befuddled generation to another. And while the Americana mob might have preferred more songs from the 'Being There' period, he bats off a fun version of 'I Got You (At The End Of The Century)', still sassy beyond its years. Quality.

Playlist 06.09.10

Stuart Bailie | 20:57 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Quite by chance we had decided to focus our monthly profile on Nile Rodgers, mainstay of Chic, architect of Sister Sledge, major influence on hip hop, Bowie, Madonna and more. Myself and Reggie Chamberlain King spent over 15 minutes gassing about those resplendent tunes. And the kicker was the news that Nile would be delivering the keynote speech at Belfast's Music Week, Monday September 13 at thw Waterfront. See you there at 1pm. The guy and guitar in conversation with our Radio Ulster colleague Paul McClean. Get your free admission info here...

Yowsa, yowsa and indeed, yowsa.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 06.09.10

Big Star - September Gurls (Ryko)
The Charlatans - Trust In Desire (Frinck)
Southern Tenant Folk Union - Don't Take No Notice (Johnny Rock)
The Duke And The King - Right Now (Loose)

Nile Rogers profile ... featuring
Chic - Everybody Dance (Atlantic)
Chic - Le Freak (Atlantic)
Shiela & B Devotion - He's A Spacer (Carrere)
Grandmaster Flash - Adventures on the Wheels of Steel (Sugarhill)
Elizabeth Fraser - At Last I Am Free (Rough Trade)
Aaron Shanley - Today I (Love Gum)
Arcade Fire - Rococo (Mercury)
Villagers - I Saw The Dead (live at Electric Picnic)
Memphis Minnie - When The Levee Breaks (Complete Blues)
Antony And The Johnsons - Thank You For The Love (Rough Trade)
Sam Cooke - But not For Me (RCA)
Eels - Swimming Lesson (E Works)
The Charlatans - When I Wonder (Frinck)
Justin Townes Earle - Ain't Waiting (Bloodshot)
The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues (live at Electric Picnic)
The Dinah Brand - What's Required Of A Person (Transduction)
John Prine - Unwed Fathers (Oh Boy)
Aaron Shanley - Let The Sun In (Love Gum)
Po' Girl - Follow Your Bliss (Po' Girl)
The Clash - If Music Could Talk (CBS)
Timber Timbre - Until The Night Is Over (Full Time Hobby)
Skibunny - Remember Me (STA)
Seeland - Black Do White Spider (Loaf)

The Way Of The Jackal

Stuart Bailie | 20:21 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I was on the phone yesterday to Darrin Robson, who manages Villagers. He was at rehearsals in London for the Mercury Awards, and despite his caution, you could tell that he was excited. At the time of nomination, the Villagers album had sold around 5,000. It has now risen to 40000, and with the new single taking up residency on loads of important playlists, the prospects are better again.

Darrin used to run a record shop on Newtownards, before he decamped to London in 1996. I think I first met the guy at the stage door of the Kings Hall in 1992, when he was getting Kurt and Courtney to sign some of his vinyl. Since then I've watched his ebullient form as he's released songs by dozens of acts, including Ash, Oppenheimer and The Immediate. The latter was a dry run for Conor J O'Brien, before all of the Mercury acclaim. Looking after musical careers is a perilous job these days, but when I watched the manager and his artist at SXSW this year, you could feel a sense of steady purpose, of great music that deserved its dues. Vindication, then.

Pluck And Roll

Stuart Bailie | 08:44 UK time, Monday, 6 September 2010

"My son Jonathan wanted a bicycle for Christmas," the father remembers, "but he got a surprise. It was a one-wheeled bike. He got a banjo instead."

A crowd of sympathisers laugh. They all understand. It's a passion, a vocation and the very thing that has brought them to the Bluegrass Music Festival in the Ulster American Folk Park. On this special weekend west of the Bann, there are fiddles, double basses, washboards and guitars. But everywhere there are banjos.

And nearby we see Jonathan Toman, who missed out on the bike of his dreams, many years ago. He's plainly not too traumatised, as he cradles his given instrument like an old pal, and will soon be onstage again with his dad and uncle in a combo called Northern Exposure. The same guy also moonlights with Cat Malojian, who recently supported Snow Patrol at Ward Park, so the music is serving him decently.

Elsewhere, there are blow-ins from North Carolina, and local combos discussing clawhammer technique and modal tunings. We hear old songs from Bill Monroe and Dock Boggs, The Carter Family and Hank Williams. I would guess that The Broken String Band have a collective age that rivals The Rolling Stones, while the Water Tower Bucket Boys hail from Portland Oregon and play their tunes with the rowdy panache of The Beastie Boys.

A deal of the music hails the good times, but bluegrass is a genre that is also haunted by the darker material. So it's fitting that we hear strains of 'I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground', from the fearsome repertoire of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a desperate old tale. There's also the chance to hear David Holt's version of 'The Cuckoo, a tune that reaches us via the Smithsonian recording of Clarence Ashley, but which has its roots on this side of the Atlantic.

Ultimately it's a lovely experience and another chance to see Edinburgh's Southern Tenant Folk Union, at large with a hot new record 'The New Farming Scene' and stringing us along in the best possible manner.

Southern Tenant Folk Union play The Black Box, Belfast, September 6

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