Joshua Burnside at The Duncairn, Belfast

 On Friday evening (30th November), Joshua Burnside brought his UK tour in support of latest EP ‘All Round the Light Said’ to the impressive surroundings of the Duncairn Arts Centre in North Belfast. The former church has been renovated to keep the beautiful interiors much the same, with large, arched windows and stained glass prominent. Playing an acoustic set in such surroundings, Burnside provided a set that felt almost spiritual. 


Tearing through a setlist of songs spanning his debut full length album, 2017’s NI Music Prize Album of the Year ‘EPHRATA’, his newest EP and songs pre-dating both, the audience was captivated throughout the hour-long set. Of course, breaks in the immersed silence while Burnside was playing occurred from time-to-time. In particular, during songs such as ‘Blood Drive’, ‘Holllllogram’ and ‘Tunnels, Pt.2’. This trio of tracks from ‘EPHRATA’ not only had the crowd’s toes tapping, but had the majority singing along. A warm atmosphere endured throughout the night, with the crowd bursting with nothing but pride and adoration for a local musician proving his salt.


The political undertones of playing in the North were noted by Burnside just before performing ‘Red and White Blues’, a song condemning the UVF that he said is always popular when he plays in the ‘glorious East’, but wasn’t sure of how it would go down in North Belfast. “I was too young to care what flag was flown above me…Don’t paint my pavement red, white and blue, I’ll paint it grey it’s my street too” he croons to a silent audience, all focused upon the lyrics that resonate with a large proportion of those of us from Northern Ireland. Burnside describes perfectly the frustration of growing up on one side of the divide, but not supporting the extremes of that side.


Although noting that his “witty banter” isn’t great – especially when tuning his guitar on stage – I’d say Burnside isn’t as bad as he thinks. “So I have one song left alone, one with the band, then we’ll walk off and sit down and you guys will say ‘one more tune, one more tune!’ and we’ll all feel great and play another tune’, he joked to the crowd before doing so. Sitting amongst the crowd at the back of the room, to a room full of unending applause, Burnside laughed and took the stage for one final tune. The chosen ‘last tune’ was ‘Northern Winds‘, a stand-out track from the newest EP. It’s a song that builds as it grows, and elicits goosebumps and silence from the crowd until the refrain kicks in and everyone sings along: “oh where is my little swallow / I have no golden armour to share / you may clock out my blue eyes / tear out my tongue, tear out my tongue / well I’ve seen this iron sky before / and I’ve sang this sorry song one too many times”.

As the drums build and the song becomes textured with a canon of vocals, the crowd evidently doesn’t want the gig to end. With Joshua Burnside’s final bow of the evening and as a lengtly applause from the audience endures, it’s clear to see that the shared space of The Duncairn has achieved the focus on shared experiences and culture that it was established to achieve. A wonderful night of local live music, and one the crowd surely won’t forget.

Fox Colony – Fragile: An 11-minute snapshot of modern love and life

A cold, windy night on Tuesday 11th September. A night where you couldn’t be blamed for wanting to sit in with a cuppa, but that’s not how things work in Belfast. The sesh was calling, and Fox Colony were dropping their new EP ‘Fragile’ in Voodoo – how could you ever pass it up?! An impressive crowd thought just the same, and braced the elements to witness an evening of live bliss and musical energy.

A jaw-dropping line-up featuring some of the ‘best-bits’ of the local Northern Irish music scene helped make this launch one to remember. Derry’s finest punk-rockers Cherym and our electronic queen Roe were joined on the support slots by the newcomers from the North Coast, sweater cult. The latter opened the evening with a rapturous set of rocking anthems; an impressive set for a band who only released their first tracks at the end of June. Cherym then came on all-guns blazing, ripping through punking tune after tune as if it’s easy – a flawless set once again, but you really can’t expect anything less from the band who have been nominated for multiple Northern Ireland Music Prize awards. Another nominee for multiple NI music prize awards and another flawless perfromance came from Roe. The former QR Underground perfromer impressed once again, with a set perfecting the art of electronic pop.

The main event, the headline slot from Fox Colony, did not disappoint. The band who describe themselves as ‘fuzzy indie-pop’ came to the stage in a now-packed-out Voodoo, amidst an ecstatic applause from fans and friends alike. Playing old fan favourites such as ‘Baseball Bat’ alongside the tracks from the new EP, Fox Colony proved why so many had came along to witness their euphoric launch. ‘Fragile’ reads like an ode to modern love and life, with the title track finishing the album on a note that shows no matter how we feel, there is fragility to be found in each of us. The leading single and first track from the EP, ‘Supermarkets’, is a sweet pop-rock delight with a powerful guitar riff and  catchy chorus that rings out with a refrain of “I’ve been stuck in my mind / you keep taking my time / how can it be worked out / when you keep taking my time.” It’s a song that screams of modern perills, such as overuse of the internet, climate change, businesses valuing profit over employees, and toxicity in relationships, but still comes across as a fun-filled track that will get you jumping along at a gig. You can check out the new music video for the track below:

 Continuing into the EP, the synth intro on ‘Don’t Keep Me Here’ provides a shake-up, but doesn’t throw off the tempo of the previous tracks. Another song that will get you headbanging along at a show, and follows on well to the slower ‘Fractured’, a song fanning out from the light guitar riff that pushes it along. This is a tune that already seems to be a fan favourite, with a lot of the crowd already singing along.

The newest addition to Fox Colony’s discography is a delight and a happy welcome to the ever-growing category of ‘local bangers.’

Make sure to check the band out over on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and you can listen to ‘Fragile’ over on Spotify.

Post also published on Queen’s Radio: https://www.queensradio.co.uk/single-post/2018/09/12/QR-Music-Review-Fox-Colony—Fragile-An-11-minute-snapshot-of-modern-love-and-life

Streaming: Buying Music Out or Opening Doors?

As we all know, for as long as record labels have been dabbling in music, successful music/musicians = money. Music is so easily commodified; it is a medium most people use, a medium that can make anyone’s mundane day better, and any great day fantastic. Such high public use means a good opportunity for money making, naturally.

But with the continued growth and success of streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal: is music becoming much more than just $$$? Can music streaming provide a real grounding and break-through for Indie musicians who have to graft harder than their established counter-parts?

Compared to smaller streaming services, such as Deezer and Tidal, it’s evident that the paid streaming field is populated mostly by Spotify and Apple Music. It probably didn’t take data and a graph to figure that out (when are you ever told to check something out on Deezer?), but still – the figures illustrate the popular conceptions of music streaming:

Infographic: The Music Streaming Landscape | Statista
Source: Statistica, Dec 14th. 2017. As of 2018, Spotify now has 75 million paid subscribers, while Apple Music has 40 million.

And this graph just illustrates those who PAY for such services. It has been estimated that in 2018, at least 95 million people use Spotify’s free services. And that’s just ONE streaming service. This has got to only be a good thing for up-and-coming musicians, right?

Not exactly. Spotify has always been regarded as failing Indie musicians – major artists and record labels make up the money lost from poor streaming pay as Spotify pays to license the music of popular musicians, something they don’t do for Indie artists. New musicians tend to miss out in monetary gain. In an even worse turn of events, the meagre sum that artists gain is divied up between their ‘right’s holders’ – record labels, publishers, etc. Basically, an artist gets roughly $0.0084 for each track streamed, but in reality this tiny sum is somehow even smaller.

So, should fans of Indie music give up streaming services once and for all? In a word…no. In the midst of all this doom and gloom for the future of Indie music is the advantages gained through use of streaming sites that are so densely populated. Playlists tailored to users, such as Spotify’s weekly-updating ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist, introduce listeners to new music. Music that may be new, or 40 years old – but which is new to the listener nonetheless. Through features such as this, I have discovered some of my current favourite bands and musicians that I doubt I would have heard of without it.

As acknowledged by Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter VÉRITÉ in an article she wrote for Forbes in March, it isn’t the role of music streaming services to make Indie musicians successful. Instead, they offer the possibility of discovery. The role of the musician and record label in such an era of music saturation is to convert the “passive-listener to active fan through any means possible. Locate and solidify your tribe to build a solid foundation. Find your people, and work for them.”

In an era where music is everywhere, and anyone can access a wide range of it through streaming; musicians are able to optimise such platforms to point interested people in the right direction, and to hope that strangers will stumble upon their hard-work. A perfect example of this is Soundcloud. Budding musicians upload their newest track, newest EP, newest remix, and cross their fingers that someone will stumble across it and propel them into the public consciousness. The new accessibility of music is therefore not a negative for Indie musicians, it provides a whole new realm of possibility.

TL;DR: Music streaming services pay musicians poorly, which is bad as Indie artists rarely make much money. BUT in an era of musical saturation, streaming can be used as a discovery tool; an accessible way for new fans to hear songs they love. It becomes a platform for new musicians to bounce off.

 

For Me This Is Heaven

“If I don’t let myself be happy now, then when?

If not now, when?”

– ‘For Me This Is Heaven’ by Jimmy Eat World

 Unfortunately, this will only be half of an appreciation post for my favourite song (boo!). In saying that though, this song will essentially shape the format of this post, at least to an extent.

I personally love this song for a combination of reasons. The music itself, the changing dynamics throughout the song, the soft and emotional vocals, and of course, the intricate, impressionable lyrics.

I’ve interpreted these lyrics in different ways, depending on the changing contexts I’ve found myself in. That’s the amazing thing about this song and music in general; if you listen to certain things while happy it resonates, and likewise if you’re feeling negative. Sometimes one song can have a million different emotions bundled inside.

On first discovering this song, it sounded like a song written from the perspective of someone going through a bad break-up. A time when they look back on the relationship itself and ask the other person if they can still feel the “butterflies” from the beginning of their relationship, and if they can remember “the last goodnight” from the end.

However, I then began to view it differently after a while. It seemed to muddle together in my head to sound like someone recounting the beginning of a relationship: about overcoming hurdles, pushing nerves aside and essentially just committing fully.

Although when I hear this song now, it conjures up images of someone embracing a new lease of life. Someone who has spent so long feeling frustrated, longing for things they can’t have; someone finally breaking free from the shackles holding them back, and committing to explore the things that make them happy.

That’s kinda the premise with which I wanna set this post from. Recently, I’ve been trying to spend more time focusing on myself. Ironically it’s been a difficult enough thing to do, getting to know yourself. I’m trying to figure out what I like, what I don’t like. Things I want to do – both in the long-term and short-term – and things I want to stay away from.

It’s one of those things that I’ve felt was coming for a long time. Now that it’s here, though, I’m beginning to know myself a lot better than I ever have, and for that I’m grateful. I don’t know whether it’s just because it’s Summer and I have a lot of free time now that uni’s on a hiatus, but focusing on things I love like listening to music, reading, and writing has really helped me feel like myself again.

It’s a habit I hope to hold on to once September comes knocking around again.

TL;DR: Essentially me over-analysing the bestestest song my lil’ ears ever did hear.

Dublin: Doughnuts and Vertigo

Dublin is just one of those cities that has its own feel. Its always been a special place for me – just far enough away to feel slightly foreign, but close enough to feel homely. It’s the sort of place I’ll visit whenever I can.

On Saturday, Curt and I travelled 2 hours south to the city to see U2 in Croke Park. (Shameless self-promo incoming: but I reviewed the gig for Queen’s Radio if anyone would like to have a wee nosey). It was the band’s homecoming show on ‘The Joshua Tree’ world tour, where they were playing the album in full. Seeing U2, in Dublin, playing their best album to a 80,000 full Croke Park? One word: amazing.

Anyway, on with the rest of the day. We have a little bit of a tradition going regarding Dublin. We get off the bus or train, and walk across the Liffey right to the Temple Bar district.

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Trying not to pose outside Temple Bar

It’s definitely the place to go to get ripped off (tourist zone), but whatever, Dublin in general is pretty over-priced anyway. And it’s easy to forget about the extortionate prices when you’re in such a beautiful place. For those who haven’t been, Temple Bar is a district of central Dublin characterised by cobbled streets that’s teeming with bars and quirky little shops around every corner.

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There’s something special about cobblestone streets…

We go to a little bar below a hotel where we stayed on our last visit. We order chicken wings, and stuff our faces. Now, they’re not the most amazing wings in the universe, but after a long journey of being packed together like sardines on a bus, they’re pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, in my excitement I forgot to save a pic of the goods. For shame.

I did remember to save this though, our second favourite thing about Dublin: pints of this beast.

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Papa bless this sweet nectar of the gods

A cider we first stumbled upon a few years back and have loved ever since. Also, it’s slowly but surely starting to make its way to bars and off-licenses up North (at last). If you’ve never experienced the drink before, picture this: sweet, sweet apple juice that gets you drunk. It’s kinda like a lighter version of Angry Orchard (an equally amazing cider).

On from Temple Bar, we walked back in the direction of the city centre to go to the Northside for the gig at Croke Park. On our way, however, of course we found a doughnut shop. And how could we resist when the first glimpse we had of it was this?

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Doughnuts anyone?

As you can see from the picture, by the time we arrived we were spoiled for choice. The price was pretty decent as well, as each donut was going for €2.50. I decided upon the classic vanilla glaze donut while Curt went all out and got the maple bacon.

Doughnuts + cider = hyper sugar rush

These doughnuts were CRAZY GOOD. The dough itself was sourdough (I totally know the difference this makes for doughnut taste….) and the glaze itself, although sweet, wasn’t too sickly. It definitely provided the kick we needed to keep us going through the long night ahead.

I’ve gotta state here, this was the first time either of us had been to Croke Park, or had even been in a real stadium. And because of that, I don’t really feel like anything could have prepared us for the sheer SIZE of the place.

Don’t look down

Of course, as we are both afraid of heights, our seats were as far away from the stage and basically as high up as we could get. Naturally. This led to a lot of vertigo throughout the night…(bad U2 pun, am I a dad?).

All in all, a great day and night was had. Dublin’s a fabulous place that I’ll probably never get tired of, and somewhere I’d love to explore even further.

If anyone has any recommendations of places to go or things to see in Dublin, please let me know!