Output Belfast 2017 Music Conference and Showcase Roundup (Part 2)

By on Tuesday, 28th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

To read the first half of my roundup on Output Belfast 2017, click here.

Between the daytime seminars and the evening gigs was the perfect time to grab a bite, and head over to the Oh Yeah Centre for a drink and a chat. Networking is key at these events, so why not spark up some conversations and elaborate further on some of the points made throughout the day The speakers were done for the day, the bands were getting ready for the evening shows and everyone else had time to kill. If you found yourself at a loose end, you could have popped to a little room to the left of the front door to the Oh Yeah to catch a stripped back set from Beauty Sleep ahead of their gig at The Dirty Onion.

At 8 PM, the evening’s events kicked off, and with some truly amazing acts. Ryan Vail was one of the first to showcase his fantastic new bespoke live, audiovisual show, which he created in partner with Plume Studios, AVA Festival and Generator NI. Enclosed in what looked like a cage of coloured vertical lights, Vail stood alone on a backlit stage, casting a dark and ambient silhouette across the venue like a physical representation of Vail’s heavy and intricate music. A huge overhead screen projecting real-time outdoor scenes of forests and skies Plume Studios shot themselves, altogether creating an incredible performance made possible by a great network of contacts only found at Output.

The great thing about Output is the wide variety of eclectic artists they book each year. If Ryan Vail lighting up the MAC isn’t your thing, you could also catch theatre pop artist Sullivan & Gold at the Black Box Café, “decent folk” singer/songwriter Robyn G Shiels upstairs at the Duke of York, or indie rockers Junk Drawer at Voodoo. At any given time, there was always an incredible selection of artists to choose from, including some of this year’s SXSW artists New Portals, Silences and Jealous of the Birds. Belfast’s own Robocobra Quartet, another SXSW 2017 showcasing band, landed a play of their song ‘Correct’ on Daniel P. Carter’s rock show the following Sunday night, off the back of their show in at Output.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-SfI3WC0iA[/youtube]

In the midst of running from venue to venue, trying to catch as many bands as possible, I managed to score some personal highlights, dark, electronic pop outfit Hiva Oa being one. They took the stage following Junk Drawer’s grungy, fuzz-infested rock and gave all that they had. Hiva Oa produced a huge sound consisting of tight drum grooves, experimental synths and melodic vocal melodies, which presented a interesting blend of electronica, hip-hop and alt indie that kept the crowd moving from start to finish. The band left their first single ‘A Great Height’ until the end of their set, which was close to shaking Voodoo to bits. Chris McCorry’s heavily distorted synth entered like an approaching stampede, before Christine Tubridy’s pounding drum groove acted like a pacemaker that could set everyone’s hearts to the same beat. Unfortunately, it was harder to make out Stephen Houlihan’s topline; however, as he swayed and stumbled around the stage, it all made for an equally engaging aesthetic performance.

Joshua Burnside was another highlight of the evening. I had caught him 2 weeks previously in Derry. when he played with a full band. His stripped-back set in Black Box Café was equally as astonishing, if not more as when I first seen him. Burnside beautifully serenaded a room filled with people with just his guitar and the exceptional Rachel Boyd on violin. Aside from the cheers between songs, the place was silent, which only added to the fragile atmosphere Burnside created with his songs. One song in particular that I felt hit home to a lot of people that night was the recent, unscheduled release of the politically-orientated ‘Red and White Blues’. Although it is a political song, it speaks from a deeper place relating to Burnside’s own upbringing and family history, with the idea that politics – particularly Irish right- and left-wing politics – is adversely affecting the way some people think and their freedom of speech and abstract thinking. When he performed this track at Output, he had complete attention of his audience, as if the whole conference’s attendees stopped to hear his words and melody. As he strummed the last chord, the room once again erupted in awe and approval. No matter what your views are, it is a beautiful song.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r14gjSvy8ZI[/youtube]

As it was my first year attending Output, I admit it was a little overwhelming. From the minute, you enter the MAC for registration, there is an awareness of being surrounded by top industry professionals. However, once I understood that everyone was there for the same reasons, mainly to network and grow their relationships within the industry, I felt a true sense of community. It helped that the importance of relationships and support in the community was often touched upon in many of the seminars, and in Bob Lefsetz’ case forced onto many of the attendees this year. For musicians/bands, PR and management companies, producers and even a few academics, Output Belfast is without a doubt the perfect place to be for anyone involved in the Northern Irish music industry.

Editor Mary Chang contributed to this report.

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