BBC RADIO ULSTER
Monday, 8pm / Friday, Midnight
A Little Solidarity, part 1
A collection of gigs so epic that we had to get four people to cover them over two reviews, A Little Solidarity represented a triumph for local music. Here are the first ten reasons why it was great...
1. A RIDICULOUS IDEA
Andsoiwatchyoufromafar are an ambitious, hard working instrumental four-piece from Belfast/the North West. In spite of what their aggressive and uncompromising music may suggest, they are extremely likeable chaps. So we loved them for trying, but surely it was too ambitious? Four gigs - one in a brand new venue (Thursday - the Oh Yeah Centre), one in a venue which could be full of indifferent, drunken students (Friday night - the Speakeasy), an all ages show (Saturday afternoon) and a gig in one of the biggest venues in town (Saturday night - Mandela Hall). Surely they've bitten off way too much? "A little solidarity goes a long way", they promised. It was their mantra. We weren't convinced.
2. THE PRICE
A weekend jam packed with the best music coming out of Northern Ireland, three days, four shows, for just over a tenner! An absolute steal and a good start.
3. BY BANDS, FOR BANDS
It was a 'festival' organised by bands, not only to show off how our music scene is right now, but also to prove you don't have to wait around for a promoter to put a gig on for you. From the bands who played, to friends, journalists, other musicians and everyone in between, it was all hands on deck to put this together. With bands out flyering, running around town with buckets of paste and posters in hand, it seemed everyone wanted to offer their help in any way. It was nice to be involved. We're reminded of 'Keep Ulster Brattish', a similar type of show co-organized by Colin Murray and headlined by Watercress almost ten years ago. That was great. But this will be better. So much better.
4. THE LOWLY KNIGHTS
Slightly dodgy sound (no ones fault, there's a dozen musicians onstage at the Oh Yeah Centre) means we have to work a little to dig out those tunes. But it's worth it - The Lowly Knights have an astonishing array of glittering hooks and sweet choruses. You may know the form by now - they're somewhere between the Polyphonic Spree and Arcade Fire - with the good bits from each band shining through. 'Devotion' is angelic, while 'Baby Don't Leave' is overshadowed only by Radio Ulster's Stuart Bailie's bizarre dance moves, which we'll all be doing soon.
Another stand-out performance. The songs sound incredible and they seem to get better every time they perform. There is a reason why 'Tupenny Nudger' was voted the number one Northern Irish song of the last five years.
6. THE ALL AGES SHOW
One of the four shows was an all ages gig on the Saturday afternoon. The younger local music fans don't often get the chance to see their favourite bands, so in the spirit of sticking together, Solidarity made sure to include a gig for the underage. It was slightly under attended, but Team Fresh (featuring Niall Panama Kings and Rory from ASIWYFA) are here to get the party started, which they do. It's barely even 4pm at this point. It's going to be a very long day.
7. TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB
Haven't they grown? 'Life without Rory' showed great potential on Rockschool 2006, potential they have since embraced, transforming into one of the most talked about bands in the country. They're an impressively cool trio, but not to the point they're scared to embrace a decent tune. Momentarily they sound like the Cribs, often they're like fellow Bangor-ians Kowalski, while new track 'Something Good Can Work' brings the funk, just a little bit. It's all very adventurous. Oh, and 'Do You Want it All' is one of the finest songs we hear on Saturday, which really is saying something.
There's a real industry vibe to this event, with a 'speed networking' session part of it on Saturday afternoon. Usually any show with an industry tie in means drunken record company representatives, A&R men and journalists loudly talking nonsense and blagging free drink while the bands perform. A Little Solidarity is different. It's as if the industry reps - including local broadcasters, journalists, promoters and management - are trying to out-enthuse each other, attempting to prove that they love a certain band or song more than anyone else. ATL overhears (and starts) debates about the awesome-ness of specific tracks, bands, bass players, drummers and everything else. It's as if everyone forgets what their job or 'role' is order to indulge themselves, as a lover of great music and nothing else. Heartening.
9. THE YURT
Anyone who happened to be walking by the Students Union on Saturday afternoon may have noticed a teepee-like tent out front. As well as all of the gigs, some of the acts left the electric guitars behind and went all acoustic in the yurt, playing sets throughout the day. It was cosy, intimate and having to remove our shoes made it the perfect place to chill out on a hectic day. Kudos to the ever reliable and astonishingly hard working Bruised Fruit team for coming up with the idea and working alongside yurt aficionados and scene enthusiasts Neck of the Woods to make it happen.
Drafted in at the last moment to replace We Are Knives, scene leaders of sorts (in that Rocky Oppenheimer has produced or engineered about half of the best Northern Irish tracks this year) Oppenheimer were always going to be in their absolute element. It's a messy show (in the best possible way), with Shaun wearing a wig and Rocky being particularly cheeky to his band mate through a vocoder and generally getting on a little bit silly. The noisy moments are best, with 'Never Never' and 'Take the Whole Midrange and Boost it' standing out. We've seen them dozens of times, but different songs stand out from each show. Testament to a band with an awesome tuneage arsenal.
WORDS: Emma Rose McGrady & Rigsy
PHOTOS: Ruari Drayne, Emma Smith and Rigsy