Northern Ireland Music Awards
Ulster Hall, Belfast
Ulster Hall, the venue for tonight’s inaugural Northern Ireland Music Awards, is a real Belfast icon. On arrival, we’re regaled with stories of The Clash’s late cancellation here in 1977 – an event struck off due to Strummer & co. missing a flight – that led to a near riot. If being a punk in London in the late 70s was difficult, being a punk in Belfast, with the added issues surrounding the city at that time, was a full on ballsy nightmare. It was a problem that today’s big winners Stiff Little Fingers overcame, toppling prejudice to become a real national treasure.
By the time the surprisingly well-aged punk four-piece step on stage to claim their pre-ordained ‘Legends’ award from local music heartland the Oh Yeah Centre, though, we’ve been treated to the best of what the modern-day scene has to offer. American pop-punk inspired youngsters General Fiasco open proceedings, reeling out a brave foray of fresh tracks that show off new member and former Panama Kings guitarist Stuart Bell’s contributions to the band. Cashier No.9 – a band centred on melodious storytelling and minor key indie anthems – are riddled with sound problems yet still impress in their quick-fire set, before Japanese Popstars register tonight’s sole non-guitar-based contribution, throwing out some bass-heavy beats and cleverly morphing tunes from behind their laptops.
The night’s main draws are kept for the second half, though, with And So I Watch You From Afar – a monstrously frenetic instrumental rock band -showing off their guitar swirls and impassioned, jagged guitar layering in local hero Tony Wright’s final show with the group. Tony will be focusing on acoustic-pop project VerseChorusVerse from now on, and spends a chaotic rendition of closing track ‘The Voiceless’ crowd surfing his way through Ulster Hall. Finally, Stiff Little Fingers regale us with a surprisingly energetic set, rolling back the years with a blasting finale of ‘Alternative Ulster’, a track billed in Belfast as nothing less than the national anthem. As for the awards themselves, newcomers The Wonder Villains steal the show with a bubbly acceptance speech, while And So I Watch You From Afar get heavy in thanking the predecessors who helped establish such a compelling local scene.
Belfast’s spent the last few years steadily unveiling a string of compelling acts, from scene stars like radio-play heroes Two Door Cinema Club to live monsters like And So I Watch You From Afar. There’s depth, too, with up-and-coming acts like General Fiasco, Cashier No. 9, and alternative heroes who missed out at tonight’s NIMAs – the likes of LaFaro, Not Squares and Axis Of setting the markers. What tonight leaves in absolutely no doubt is that – for an area with a population of well under two million – Northern Ireland’s music scene is in rude health.
Best Band: Two Door Cinema Club
Best Song: General Fiasco – The Age That You Start Losing Friends
Best Album: Cashier No.9 – To The Death Of Fun
Best Video: Cashier No.9 – Lost At Sea
Best Live Act: And So I Watch You From Afar
Best Electronic Artist: Space Dimension Controller
Best Solo Artist: Robyn G Shiels
Best Festival: Glasgowbury
Oh Yeah Contenders: The Wonder Villains
Oh Yeah Legends: Stiff Little Fingers
As published by The Fly Magazine, November 2011. Click here to view original.