John Peel graffiti tribute, Belfast

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I was so surprised and delighted by this piece of graffiti in Belfast that I had to photograph it. Should you want to see it for yourself, it can be found at Bridge End, east of the city centre, at the foot of the M3 off-slip bridge. Have a look before some numpty from the council decides it is an eyesore and has it removed.

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The Wire Tapper 12, free with the current issue
Finally got my hands on a copy of the 250th issue of the Wire, with free double CD attached. I've only got to grips with CD1 today, but I was initially impressed by old faves like the Fall and Bark Psychosis, and a seemingly new band called Githead. They sound a bit like Wire, and further investigation shows that Colin Newman is involved. Impressive tracks by bands which are new to me include the hip hop of Aesop Rock, electronica from Pita (Peter Rehberg I believe), jazz from the Necks (shame I missed them in belfast last week) and great ambient stuff from Chas Smith. I haven't even got round to CD2 yet.
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Churchill House- picture uploaded
Here is a pic of the 17 storey building Churchill House, taken two days before it was demolished. It is lurking behind the newly renovated Kitchen Bar.

Review: JEFF MARTIN + CRAYON SMITH Belfast Pavilion 25th November

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It was a bizarrely subdued event last night, with a lot of the potential audience at the second big free night of BelFEST and the rest at the Mark Lanegan gig. I had only heard a couple of songs by Jeff Martin prior to the show and I had no idea who Crayon Smith so I was kind of intrigued by what I heard. Crayon had all his backing tapes on minidisc and unfortunately I didn't think it worked that well. He would be better appreciated with a band to play off, although later in the set things gel a bit better and the glockenspeil song was a nice touch.
Jeff Martin, in case you don't know, is a Dublin based musician whose recent second album 'Spoons' had a lot of input from John McEntire (Tortoise etc). Jeff's own music is gentle, slightly jazzy and he is accompanied by a cellist, a trumpet player and (I think) the drummer from the Redneck Manifesto.
His songs have a hint of another McEntire related act - the Sea and Cake - and although I was expecting something a bit more spiky and difficult, he is actually very easy to listen to. Lots of promise here I think.

Review: BelFEST showcase 24th November 2004

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Review: BelFEST showcase 24th November 2004
(Disclaimer: I have tried to compile this review without comparing anyone directly to another band!)
The previous night (Desert Hearts, Contraband) is reviewed here.

After last night's subdued show in the Pavilion, this free four-venue event had a lot more atmosphere and a huge variety of music. Obviously I couldn't see all of it, in fact I couldn't even stick to my provisional timetable!
What I did see was a lot of enthusiastic people turning out to watch (mostly) unsigned local acts, and overall I got a better feeling about this than BelFEST 2002 which is the only other one I had attended.
Although the opening slot at any of these showcases is often the booby prize, the venues are already pretty full, so there was no loss in going on first.
The Embers were the first band that I saw, in their self-confessed bogey venue Katy Dalys, and it turned into one of the best shows I've seen them do. This was shorter than their normal set, although they still managed to show off a range of their best material - a good mix of their pop songs and the more intricate pieces. Best of all, they hung on their crowd and it actually grew by the end of the set.
Unfortunately Driving By Night are on next door in the Spring and AirBrake at a similar time and although I only caught the last three songs they were a pleasant surprise. It's great when a band that you have never heard before impresses you. I was told that I had seen the slower part of the set so it would be interesting to hear more of them. The vocals in particular stood out, but as I didn't see the whole set I'll not compare the band to anyone in particular, I'll just recommend that you go and see them.
I catch a few songs by Duke Special in the Limelight. This was a solo show, a bit refreshing amongst all these guitar based bands, and a good show it was too. The velvet drapes and the old gramophone gave him a bit of an eccentric edge and he went down very well with the crowd. He also plays with a band under the same name, and as a result of this performance they could also be worth a look.
Torgas Valley Reds follow soon after in the Spring and Airbrake and once again they deliver the goods. Starting off slowly with the keyboard based 'Appalachia', they soon step things up a notch and the crowd starts to build up as well. You can only review a band so many times before becoming repetitive, so all I can say is that TVR were the best on offer tonight - great songs and a great performance.
There is a bit of a lull next and I get distracted as there is no-one to really grab
my attention in the three connected venues. I should mention that because I watched TVR I missed Le Scenes who impressed a lot of the people I was with and could be worth a further look. Sadly we miss Foamboy in Auntie Annies, but we arrive in time for Tom McShane. His set is a great end to the night - gentle, slightly melancholic songs which are well worth checking out. His band are subtle and understated as well, and they do the songs justice.
Although I had seen some of tonight's bands before, I still left feeling very positive about the local music scene. Lots of good performances over the last two days, and although the record companies may not have been here in force, generally the acts that I saw got very good feedback from the crowd. Now if only the accompanying CD had been released in time I would be very happy indeed!

Review: DESERT HEARTS + CONTRABAND BelFEST showcase 23rd November 2004

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BelFEST showcase 23rd November

I went to the first of the 'showcase' gigs last night in the Pavilion to see Contraband and Desert Hearts - LaFaro had to withdraw due to illness.
Once again I feel that the impact of these showcases is blunted because the supporting compilation CD isn't ready - it was supposed to be available last night at the gig but it wasn't. I'll have another look tonight - you never know your luck. Although it was a free show there wasn't a huge crowd and very little atmosphere, which is a shame because both bands played good sets.
In fact, this was the best show that I have seen Contraband play. Tons of energy and some decent material to match. They've already written some cracking songs and the newer songs they added tonight show a lot of promise too. If you're looking for reference points think early SubPop, grunge, metal and I can't help thinking that every time I see them I'm reminded of Babes in Toyland. Contraband were probably about five years old when Babes in Toyland were playing venues this size, so I don't know if they've ever even heard them!
I hadn't seen Desert Hearts in such a long time so it was good to see them last night. The crowd didn't seem interested though and the level of chat during the first (quiet) song was a bit disappointing. That's one of the drawbacks of a free gig I guess. Anyway, the newer unfamiliar material sounded good, but it was the material from 'Let's Get Worse' which really impressed me. Maybe it's partly familiarity, but mostly I think it’s because that album was the best to come out of this music scene in years. It's a shame they were peddling their material to people who weren't that bothered last night. Still, that's what we're up against.

Tonight sees many acts spread across four venues for free. I am attempting to see:-
Handsome Gaz, Auntie Annies, 8.45pm
The Embers, Katy Dalys, 9.15pm
Duke Special, Limelight, 9.50pm
Torgas Valley Reds, Spring and Airbrake, 10.20pm
The Foamboy Deluxe Arkestra, AAs, 10.45pm
Tom McShane, AAs, 11.35pm.
Obviously this all depends on peer group pressure and drink taken, but I'll do my best!
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Shellac Dublin tickets
After much searching I finally found an online retailer with tickets for Saturday's show. to the rescue! I'm very happy right now.
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Nearly list time again
In a move nearly as daft as putting your Christmas decorations up in November, Uncut have published their albums of the year in their current issue. Assuming normal publishing deadlines were adhered to this means that they would have been compiled sometime in September! I'm still listening to new releases on a daily basis to try and catch up. I'm currently listeniing to 'Sonic Nurse' which, despite being a bit of a Sonic Youth completist I've only heard this week. Also, I''ve revisited the Arcade Fire's 'Funeral' due to the power of positive reviews all over the net, and I have to admit it kind of creeps up on you. It is a very emotional record. I'm still lagging behind with the Magnetic Fields and Elliott Smith, not to mention the second Devendra Banhart album this year. I always prefer to compile lists after everyone else's has come out so I don't overlook anything, but that's cheating isn't it? Who cares anyway? People who measure their lives in 12 month intervals, that's who.
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The changing skyline
Today I saw a 17 storey building implode. Churchill House, one of the tallest buildings in Belfast was demolished in seconds this morning. We watched it crumble from our vantage point on the riverside walkway at Short Strand. I wanted to see it with my own eyes so I didn't take any pics, although I spent some time on thursday afternoon walking around the demolition talking photos, which I must upload later. There are some visuals on the BBC NI news page, including a short video clip.
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I know it's their first gig in seven years but...
you would have expected the Virgin Megastore/ Ticketmaster desk in Belfast to have at least listed the Wedding Present correctly. So what does it say? Feb 16, Spring and Airbrake, Belfast - The Wedding Singer! It is really them though, details here
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Looking for the Wire
It was a shame that i missed the Uterus Women and their full supporting cast last night, I bet it was fun. Plenty to go to next week with the launch of BelFEST and the free music showcases in various venues through the week.

I couldn't find the current issue of the Wire in Belfast city centre this lunchtime which was a shame as I wanted to hear the double Wire Tapper Cd which comes with it, some very promising collaborations.
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Eating my words
Well, there is something stopping me from seeing the Uterus Women and it is called "work". Grrr, looks like I won't make it to the show.
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Now J Church cancel... Bloc Party, Horace Andy play tonight
Apparently J Church have been unable to get work permits for Ireland in time for this week's gigs, so the Belfast show on the 18th is off. There is now nothing stopping you all going to see the Uterus Women instead!

Tonight there's a choice of the very promising Bloc Party at QUB (£6.50 and Olympic Lifts and Desert Hearts supporting) or reggae legend Horace Andy in the cosy surroundings of the Pavilion. Last time I saw him was in the Point Depot as part of Massive Attack's line-up. £12 on the door tonight.
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Radio 4 cancelled; John Balance ODB
Yes, Radio 4 (the band, not the BBC station or the PiL song) have cancelled their entire tour due to illness, so tonight's Belfast date is definitely not happening. To be rescheduled in 2005. Story here.

Meanwhile, I thought this piece from Freaky Trigger on the deaths of Ol' Dirty Bastard and John Balance was worth a look. Different music, similar people.
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More sad news... John Balance of Coil has died
Official announcement on
We are sad to report the untimely passing of Geff Rushton (a.k.a. John Balance), founder of Coil, occasional member of Zos Kia, Psychic TV, Nurse With Wound, Current 93, Death In June, and friend to many. He will be sadly missed in this world.
A Book of Condolence is being established in honor at
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BelFEST info
All of the showcases are going to be free, full details here. The 24th/ 25th November are the busiest two nights and I mentioned in an earlier post that they really need a timeline to help us see what's on. Well, they've actually made one and it's available as a PDF from their official site. Nice one.
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Le Fly Pan Am
I checked out the Montreal band Fly Pan Am last night in the Front Page in Belfast. It's a shame that there wasn't more people there because they put on a great show. They are yet another Canadian band on Constellation records who shared members with Godspeed You Black Emperor, although Fly Pan Am edge towards the funkier, dubbier end of things. They recall GYBE in terms of the guitar effects and the industrial tape loops running in the background, but the whole rhythmic energy of the band hints at a big dub reggae/ krautrock/ PiL influence. Strangely, as I've seen GYBE/ Mt Zion a lot, this was the first time I had seen Fly Pan Am and I really enjoyed them. Seems that I have some back catalogue to seek out and wade into.
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More streaming
There should be some music on the end of this link at various points over the weekend. Friday from 1430 GMT for a start! Most of Sunday as well. Check it out.
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BelFEST time again
It is relatively quiet out there this week in the lull between the Queen's Festival and BelFEST. The latter is happening between the 20th and 28th of November and I haven't got all the details yet, they should be on their official site very soon. I have no idea at the moment if the showcases are free, but it looks like the Wednesday and Thursday will be busy nights indeed. Torgas Valley Reds, Desert Hearts, the Embers, La Faro, Contraband and many others are playing at various venues on those nights. Proper info soon!
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The Sound of the Suburbs
It was great to see an instalment of this on Channel 4 last night as a tribute to John Peel. I had never seen any of these as they were shown in 1998-99 when I lived in Finsbury Park Road in north London and didn't have a TV (!) Last night was the Oxford edition and some of the acts featured actually sent me some demos and singles back in the fanzine days.
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REVIEW: Delays
Belfast Limelight 5th November

Highly appropriate band name for this site, and also highly appropriate that I haven't bothered to write about until Tuesday night when I saw them last Friday in Belfast. That's not to say that they were bad, in fact it's the opposite, I really enjoyed their set. I outgrew melodic indie-pop many years ago, but Delays have so many strong songs and so much energy on stage that I can't help but like them. I first investigated their album 'Faded Seaside Glamour' in early summer and it just fitted perfectly with that time of year. For every bit of it that sounds like Crowded House there's another bit that is hugely in debt to the Cocteau Twins, and that guy's voice is impressive too. The new songs which they preview tonight are as good as anything on their debut album, so reckon they're going to be a force to be reckoned with next year.
A spooky coincidence is happening as I type - iTunes plays 'The Loom' by Bark Psychosis, and I remember Graham Sutton from that band produced Delays album. In fact I think that's the reason I checked them out in the first place.
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Still testing
Random playlist running here from 2300 GMT until 0900 GMT tomorrow. No success with Windows users yet, use the discussion board to tell me what you can hear - if anything! Last 10 songs played...
Chris Michaels- The Fiery Furnaces
Hunted By A Freak- Mogwai
Crazy Girl -Basement Jaxx
Ghost Trains (w Morgan Geist) -Erlend Oye
Loser- Beck
Linda Blair Was Born Innocent -The Mountain Goats
Drop -Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions Bavarian Fruit Bread
Supervixens- A.R. Kane
To Cure A Weakling Child -Aphex Twin
Motorhead -Hawkwind
Jordan Minnesota -Big Black
Big Shot -Bark Psychosis
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About the streams...
The music stream has been running for 26 hours now and a couple of issues have come up. It seems to be ticking over nicely, although I have only been to test it on Macs running iTunes. It should work with any mp3 player and any OS although I haven't been able to test it as my Windows machine in work doesn't have an mp3 player, so any feedback is welcome. It is currently playing my entire iTunes library at random, the last 20 tunes played were...
Summer Stories - Sunburned Hand Of The Man
Around My Smile - Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions
Detroit Set 7-20-2000 - Fennesz
Sister Morphine - The Rolling Stones
love is a sign - The Go-Betweens
the heavy - Relaxed Muscle
Sexy Boy -Air
Too Shy To Say - Stevie Wonder
Second Skin - The Chameleons
It's Gonna Be (Alright) -Ween
Live Or Die - Mark Eitzel
Paintball's Coming Home - Half Man Half Biscuit
The Day Before You Came -Abba
Totally Natural - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Tracey Had A Hard Day Sunday - The Clientele
007, A Fantasy Bond Theme - Barry Adamson
The Prophet - Make Up
The Shy Retirer - Arab Strap
Stamp Your Name On It - Stipplicon
Screaming At A Wall - Minor Threat

I'll keep it running until Monday morning, so try and tune in and feedback to me!
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It's very much a beta-version
Seems the stream has changed addresses tonight - it is now here/ I think this is a quirk of my ISP, grrrr.
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The upside down show
Last night I went to see Iron and Wine at the Empire as part of the Belfast Festival at Queens, except I was running a bit late and when I arrived they were over. Everyone I spoke to there was raving about them, but all I had to content myself was a performance by Scottish folk singer Alaistair Roberts. He was technically great, really different guitar tunings and a lot of 'found' songs from the annals of British folk music, but I couldn't help thinking that he should have been somewhere like the Duke of York (yes, I know it's off the festival map!) or at very least he should have been on first! The crowd drifted away gradually and it was all over very early indeed. A bad case of getting your artists in the wrong order and disappointing quite a few punters as a result.

A better festival experience happened today when I finally got see 'Shot by Both Sides', the collection of Ulster Rock Photography at the Old Museum Arts Centre. Some really excellent photos in there, it finishes on Saturday and is well worth a visit.

Current listening: Annie 'Anniemal', The Fall 'BBC Sessions', Mountain Goats 'We Shall All Be Healed'.
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Music in unusual places, part 1
In TK Maxx in Lisburn: Wheat - 'Don't I Hold You'
In Centra beside Belfast City Hall: Belle and Sebastian 'A Summer Wasting'
Behind the goals montage on Football Focus, Saturday, BBC1: The Fall - "L.A.'
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I have just returned from the hallowe'en festival in Derry. I thought I knew what to expect as I had heard so much about it over the years, but the sight of thousands of people in fancy dress really is extraordinary. Highlights: seeing Gandalf and Spiderman ordering drinks at the bar.

Some final comment on John Peel from the Guardian last week. I never got a newspaper that day cos I was away from home, so I'm just catching up now.