Late last year, I decided to take my band (well, I call it a ‘band’ or an ‘act’, when really it is better described as an ‘Art Installation’) out of its home of Newcastle upon Tyne and into other UK towns and cities to give the songs an airing in front of some fresh ears. The idea was relatively simple, I was to use no promoters & we’d simply book the gigs and promo them on the internet ourselves as we do here in Newcastle. I have a few contacts in various cities, so Sheffield could be done with ease, Glasgow & Edinburgh were no problem. Manchester and Doncaster were also on the cards. All we’d do is organise a gig in one city with its relative hometown band & then swap to provide bands for the next gig. What do you mean you don’t understand? Look it’s simple, here:
Band A are from Edinburgh so organise the venue for a gig in Edinburgh.
Band B are from Manchester and they organise a gig in Manchester.
Band C are in London and so organise a gig in London.
Then we all play each other’s gigs and…
Bands A, B & C now all have gigs in Edinburgh, Manchester and London. Sorted!
Do this a couple of times and you have yourself a quite respectable UK tour without involving any middlemen. We were a city short and I had no contacts left, so I decided to take it upon myself to organise another show in another city. There was one far corner of the UK that we hadn’t reached, so hence I enquired about venues in Belfast. Oh yeah, Belfast… this would be difficult as I had never set foot in the city. We’d have to cross some water too and without knowing another band based there who could bring equipment for everyone then muggins here would need to think of a way of either transporting equipment or finding a local band to play and then persuading them to let everyone else use their precious and expensive stuff for no money at all. Needless to say, me being me, I more or less got the bulk of this sorted within a week and the date was set for 3rd March at The Black Box.
Also needless to say because I am me and other people in general are incredibly unreliable (this, if anyone asks is the reason I do not have a band), the only gigs that, to this point, were ready to promote were Belfast, that I organised, and Newcastle, which I organised.
It was @Dotes69 on Twitter, whom incidentally you should all follow as he is very friendly and enjoys the attention, who recommended The Black Box and I am so glad he did. I exchanged emails regularly with a lovely lady at the venue called Andi who was very helpful & did her upmost to make suggestions and promote the show where she could. It’s rare to get such good communication and clarity from a venue when trying to set these things up. The only other place that springs to mind that I have dealt with would be World Headquarters in Newcastle.
So anyway, I got around the obstacle of needing equipment by booking a couple of local acoustic acts I found on Bandcamp and went ahead and booked our travel and accommodation. Now, I wouldn’t normally write a lengthy blog exclusively about a particular gig in any town but I feel it’s important to dispel a few myths. I don’t think I managed to tell anyone I was playing a gig in Belfast without the reaction I’d expect if I’d just said I’d like to smear poop on their windows, or without the now compulsory sharp intake of breath and a slight shake of the head.
Why? Why the buggery are people reacting like this because I am off to play my lovely gig that I organised all by myself in a lovely city?
I’ll tell you why:
Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular, gets a bit of a bad write-up when it comes to news events. Shortly after the gig was booked, the media would have all us peeps on the mainland believe that ‘it had all kicked off again’ over there and that ‘they are ALL, them lot over there, at it again, this time because of a stupid fecking fleg’. They’d have you believe that Belfast was basically on fire and that you probably wouldn’t want to visit. When in reality it’s only, as any rational person would expect, a few numpties who were causing a bit of a fuss about a flag being hoisted and lowered every few days, and that most folk in Northern Ireland not only don’t give a flying fuck about what flag is flying on top of a building but also were a bit disappointed that they’d been let down by a minority of citizens who for one reason or another believe that they will only be listened to if they start setting fire to stuff.
To give you a little break from reading and perhaps a little vindication of what I am trying to say, here I have another opinion from a man who knows better than me…
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the opinion of Northern Irish Comedian, Michael Legge:
I’m pretty much spent with comments on Twitter, Facebook and in person. I had been organising this gig for 5 months. Whenever I told anybody about it, in response, I received either a sharp intake of breath or a shake of the head followed by a ‘no, no, no’.
The city of Belfast is amazing, wonderful & interesting. Not to mention very friendly and enjoyable to be in. I am still being chastised on Twitter for loving the city and the country. Mainly by people who have never visited, people who have never stood by the ‘peace walls’ on Falls Road, people who have not taken the time and thought upon themselves to look up ‘Northern Ireland’ on Wikipedia and then think about the people who live there. I tell you what… I wish I lived there.
Eventfully we book some acts and did the (awesome) gig.
The Black Box, The Crown, McHugh’s and my hotel are my favourite places in Northern Ireland now... I love you Northern Ireland… we are definitely coming back.