Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Do You Remember The First Time? Review

As a precursor to Andrew's feature on Public Service Blogcast Episode 34 which will be online over the Easter weekend, here's Alternative Ulster's morning after the night before on last month's celebration of Northern Irish music.

So, last night was Do You Remember The First Time?, the huge gig at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, organised by trans and BBC Across The Line. And it was something special. The old hall looks magnificent following its refurbishment, all buffed-up, modernised and showing off every inch of its Victorian splendour, and it says something for music fans here that the place was utterly packed out from 7.30 until the whole thing drew to a close four hours later. 14 acts played, all from Northern Ireland and including five unsigned acts - Lowly Knights, Kowalski, Cashier No.9, Panama Kings and LaFaro - next to Ash, the Divine Comedy, headliners Therapy? and a guest appearance by Gary Lightbody and Nathan Connelly from Snow Patrol.

Each band got a chance to play one of their own songs and a cover of a band they saw play the Hall, which threw up some treats. As much as it was great to hear the newer bands play their stuff to over a thousand people in a packed hall (Cashier No.9 gave a storming version of ‘When Jackie Shone’, looking like they were born to play to big crowds, while a brand new Foy Vance song stunned the hall into awed silence), the fun was in the cover versions. Some played it pretty straight - Duke Special, whose band includes a member of The Waterboys, played a great version of their ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, LaFaro tore through The Strokes‘ ‘Juicebox’ and Fighting With Wire did the same for ‘You Really Got Me’ by the Kinks (apparently bassist Jamie saw a reformed version in 1994) - while a notable few put their own spin on things. Panama Kings turned Ash’s ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ into a fantastic cosmic disco track, Neil Hannon rattled through ‘Gigantic’ by the Pixies, just him and his piano, and The Lowly Knights paid tribute to the Divine Comedy with a gloriously huge arrangement of ‘Something For The Weekend’.

And there were surprises. Ash’s decision to play acoustic and without drums was disappointing, while we could probably have done without ‘Chasing Cars’, but it seems churlish to complain when the whole thing was done in such good spirits. Fighting With Wire were joined by Jetplane Landing’s Andrew Ferris for storming versions of Jetplane’s ‘Calculate The Risk’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ by Rage Against The Machine, which seemed to bemuse as many people as it thrilled.

Finally, Therapy? came on and gave the people what they wanted. Andy Cairns looked like he was having the time of his life on stage as they rattled through a 100mph version of ‘Screamager’ (bless them for wheeling out their biggest hit), followed by (yes!) Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Alternative Ulster’, then being joined by every band on the bill (and some that weren’t) for a mass ‘Teenage Kicks’. No bullshit, just dozens of artists and hundreds of people together in a glorious venue, paying tribute to the music and memories that have shaped their lives. A total celebration of Northern Irish music that must rank alongside the recent A Little Solidarity event.

After the party, the afterparty, as we adjourned upstairs to see Andy Henry from Clone Quartet play a solo laptop set before Not Squares embarked on a delirious assault on our ears with their schizoid punk-funk. And all this on a school night. Incredible.

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