:: 30 years of ashes: one night in Belfast
FRESH from the success of their first local show in nearly 20 years at the Down Arts Center last weekend, indie rockers Downpatrick Ash have announced plans to end 2022 in style with their biggest Belfast gig in more than a year. decade – an auspicious occasion marking a major milestone for the group we must now call the “veterans”.
On December 16, the trio will celebrate Ash’s 30th birthday with a performance at Ulster Hall. It’s a venue the band last played in 2011 during the 10th anniversary run of their chart-topping album Free All Angels – the original tour for which they provided their only previous headliner to Ulster Hall.
Having the clout to fill Belfast’s “Grande Dame of Bedford Street” (as no one calls her, really) has long been a decent barometer of a local band’s success, particularly in the early 1990s when the ‘Odyssey was still just a glimmer in the eye of the peace process and The King’s Hall was strictly for ‘mega’ tours like Bowie, Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden (plus it still had a shitty sound of anyway).
For the fledgling alternative ensemble, the annual Christmas performances of Therapy? have marked The Ulster Hall as the benchmark achievement for any self-respecting Local Men Made Good.
Fittingly, then, is where I first saw Ash, when they were the main support for the Co Antrim chartbreakers on their December 1995 show. With “just” a handful of great singles and a promising mini-album to their name at the time, Ash provoked and supported a crazed mosh pit of sweaty teenagers for the entirety of their short, cheerfully loud performance, bearing all the hallmarks of a band that could to be about to eclipse the mighty headliners as our Next Big Thing – especially since Therapy’s surprisingly gothic/grand album Infernal Love? .
The fact that it took Ash six more years to headline The Ulster Hall themselves is pretty much an anomaly. Keeping that early promise, their 1977 debut album reached number one just five months after the aforementioned Therapy? support slot.
For reasons now lost in the mists of time, the hometown spectacle of the 1977 tour took the form of a chaotic midsummer soiree at the less-hyped (but perhaps more big?), while the following summer, the supporting tour with U2 at the Botanic Gardens – preceded by a surprise warm-up at Ye Olde Limelight with new guitarist Charlotte Hatherley making her live debut – ticked the “big gig” box. in Belfast”.
The rather more selective call of second album Nu Clear Sounds found Ash falling back on the greasy pole of pop call to obscurity/bankruptcy/even more Limelight shows between 1998 and 2000, until they heroically snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with their triumphant ‘comeback’ LP, Free All Angels, which finally put them back on stage at Ulster Hall on December 16, 2001.
“Thank goodness for this song,” Ash frontman Tim Wheeler joked on the night as an introduction to their career-reviving hit, Shining Light.
It’s probably pure coincidence, but Ash’s next show at Ulster Hall on December 16 is set to take place exactly 21 years after that celebratory show, a period during which the Co Down trio have never stopped doing music.
Once again, it will provide the band and their local fans with a joyful opportunity to reconnect, reflect on past glories and, most importantly, sing along to a host of hits at one of the most beloved venues in Belfast.
Maybe we should start doing it every year, huh?
:: Tickets via ulsterhall.co.uk
:: The Lemonheads celebrate 30 years of It’s A Shame About Ray with Irish performances
HERE’S another anniversary to make you feel really old: The Lemonhead’s sublime breakthrough album, It’s A Shame About Ray, turned 30 this year and to celebrate, Evan Dando is taking on a backup band – not the original line-up from the Ray era, unfortunately – and hit the road again to play the record in its entirety (along with many other songs as well, but, as always, not their excellent Mrs Robinson cover) once again.
The tour kicks off in Ireland next month with a series of shows beginning in Dublin (September 22, Opium) before moving through Cork (September 23, Cyprus Avenue), Galway (September 24, Roisin Dubh) and Belfast (September 24, Lights of the ramp 2).
Noise Annoys are hoping for a long-awaited catch-up with Mr Dando before the tour starts, so stay tuned and buy those tickets in advance at Ticketmaster.ie
:: Concert 4 choices
TONIGHT finds the mighty Problem Patterns playing their last show in Belfast for a while (boo) as headliners at a special gig in aid of reproductive rights charity Alliance for Choice (yay).
Joining them on the Gig 4 Choice Bill at Oh Yeah in Belfast will be three more beautiful musical twists in the form of Gender Chores, Hex Hue and Fruity, and you can also enjoy/endure the “poetry and prose” of the Soup Ink Co-op.
Tickets are £12 in advance and all proceeds go to Derry for Choice and to help the charity’s work fighting for reproductive justice across Ireland, so get involved to enjoy a quality evening with live music and the satisfaction of helping a good cause while you’re at it.
:: New Pagans at CS Lewis Square
FINALLY, a potential matchup for anyone planning to attend the aforementioned Gig 4 Choice: New Pagans, Lemonade Shoelace and Winnie Ama will also play a show in Belfast tonight just across the bridge and up the road at CS Lewis Square off Newtownards Road.
It’s directed by the folks at Dig With It! magazine as part of the EastSide Arts Festival and apparently this will be the only venue in Belfast this summer for New Pagans, who had an exciting/frustrating time (touring is pretty darn expensive these days, when all those involved feel entitled to put their hand in your pockets) opening for Skunk Anansie’s European tour earlier this year.
If you decide support for reproductive rights is more important or you just can’t make it happen, don’t worry – New Pagans have also announced a date in Derry at the Nerve Center for August 27, just before they go. in Germany for a trio of shows with Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls in September.
Get your tickets sorted for Belfast tonight via eastsidearts.net (£15 in advance), for Derry (£8 in advance) via nerfcentre.ticketsolve.com and remember the band’s considerable talents at newpagans.bandcamp .com where you can blast their brilliant debut album The Seed The Vessel The Roots and All as well as their most recent standalone single, the extremely atmospheric banger Find Fault With Me.