Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Nobody good ever plays Belfast

THE end of the summer concerts are finishing up all over the country, kinda makes you a little sad.

I just watched an excerpt on the BBC Northern Ireland news about the big concert in Botanic Gardens in Belfast featuring Franz Ferdinand and Scissor Sisters. And having grown up in Belfast, I did think ‘WOW look at that’.

I know loads of people and big names have played Belfast over the last number of years but it did strike me that a two-day outdoor music festival is still a pretty new phenomenon.

Growing up in Belfast as a teenager in the 1980s was a completely different story, you had to travel to see the bigger names.

But in fairness to The Smiths, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Big Country, Nik Kershaw, they all played there, many regularly (you know you did Nik), as did bloody Chris De Boke and the less said about that ugly wee bollox the better.

There were no big sets, no costume changes, none of these stage antics and dramatics expected nowadays, just bands like the above playing in the Whitla Hall, Mandela Hall (both at Queen’s University), the Kings Hall or the Ulster Hall. There were very few venues suitable for concerts.

You would never have gotten an all-day event and certainly not a two-day event and on a school night as well.

I made it sound like ‘ugggh you had to travel’ but it was really like ‘way hay, we’re off to Dublin for (insert whoever) for the day, way hay’.

The first big concert that we went to in Dublin was Self Aid and we were all 15 and got up at the crack of dawn to call on each other, dolled up to the nines and make our way into town to catch the specially laid on buses to Dublin.



And I still have my ticket too…

The only regular way to travel to Dublin at the time was the train but it was too expensive in comparison to the bus tickets and secondly the times did not suit concert days.

When I started coming to Dublin for the weekend, the only official Dublin bus from Ulsterbus left Belfast at 6 on a Friday and returned at 6 on a Sunday, bloody madness considering they are the two largest towns in the country and located only a hundred miles apart.

Even then, there were many people who came up and down from the North to work, there was a large gang I used to meet all the time on the train when I came back and forth more than I do now.

Anyway the topic tonight is concerts, so back to that and sorry if I lost you along the way; Irish public transport is and will be a post on its own when I get the energy.

So off we went to Self Aid with loads of other people and had a complete ball loving every minute of it. We didn’t get home until nearly dawn the next morning.

Another time, a friend and I went to Dublin to see Simple Minds, backed up by The Waterboys, Lloyd Cole and In Tua Nua, or was that Light a Big Fire????

That’s my hand…. Jim, Jim, over HERE!

Check out the shorts on the guy with the 22 tshirt! Nice.
(The photographer who took these is documenting pics of all the concerts he’s been to, including the one we were at). Check out more of his pics here

Again we set off at the crack of dawn and met up with people along the way. Its amazing how when you are away like that, you have no qualms going up to someone and saying ‘don’t you go to (whatever school, disco, etc)?’ and spend the day with people who would probably ignore you otherwise. (Belfast was such a posey place as a teenager in the 1980s with little reason either!!!!! Or maybe it just felt like that.)

At one point during The Waterboys set, we met a fella we knew from home and he played our big brother, getting us water and making sure no one crushed us, only poor Brian messed up on his newly acquired self-imposed duties and down we both went under the crowd at nearly the same time.

I just remember thinking about the girl who died at a concert having been crushed as I watched people’s legs, shoes and arses, and then nothing.

I came too-ish being held over people’s heads and passed to the front of the crowd where I was very gently (considering) passed to the first aid people right at the front of the stage.

Finding myself placed on a seat being given water, I turned around and there was my pal on a chair also in the first aid tent.

Having recovered, we went back out with not a bother on us.

That was also the first and last time I ever sat on a fella’s shoulders, it was another lad from Belfast and he bent down and scooped me up before I realised what on earth he was up to.

But I hated it really, I liked the vantage point but I was scared he was going to topple over, I was taller than he was.


The Simple Minds concert was one of the best concerts I was ever at and I was never mad about Simple Minds, they were fantastic. Their last song was Sun City and Bono came out on stage and sang to and there was thunder and lighting, all very melodramatic and wonderful.

That night going back home on the bus, we were caught up in an awful traffic jam as these buck eejit teenage boys sat behind us meaowing to get our attention.

Between the cat sounds and the occasional outburst of ‘GINGER’ pronounced as in Ming the Merciless and ‘UGLY GINGER’, my wee head was about to burst.

[Just to explain Belfast in the 1980s was an awful place for redheads. Redheads were considered to be the lowest common denominator of attractiveness. To summarise those hard teenage years, I had one boyfriend say to me ‘I always said I wouldn’t go out with a redhead and here we are’ to which I replied ‘Sure I always said I wouldn’t go out with an arsehole….. At least I realised that it was the men in Belfast with the problem.]

We took this abuse for about half an hour until the main instigator launched into this very sorry diatribe about how ‘no good bands ever play in Belfast cos of the troubles and its so terrible, oh poor wee me, whine, whine, whinge, whinge!’.

On and on he went, and on and on.

I threw my coat over my head in an attempt to try and sleep only to get ‘That’s right Ugly, cover yer head’. And they all launched into a jeering session.

However, they did look shocked when I went back to them and launched into my own blistering attack on their witterings before ending it saying ‘and you (to the main buck eejit) have to be the MOST boring eejit I have ever heard!’

As I went back to my seat, a sorry and pitiful voice sounded ‘that’s the second time someone’s called me boring today’.

Don’t you just love it when you hit the nail on the head?

And back to my original point, watching snippets of tonight’s concert with the Scissor Sisters giving it loads in Belfast on the news, isn’t it great how things turn about too?


cc said...

You've got such a great memory redmum. I'd forgotten half that stuff but had a laugh remembering it all again thanks to your vivid discription. I clearly remember the thunder and lightening though, and being passed over the crowd to the first aid tent behind the stage where we naively thought we might meet one of the stars...(still waiting!!)Thank God you're back from Turkey!!

Fi said...

aaarrrggghhhh I'm drooling with envy! I was too young to go to Simple Minds when they were really big but was a massive fan for as long as I can remember! I'm going to play my tapes!

jordie said...

What I also remember is of those concerts in which we had to travel to the free-state, was the wonderful journeys there and more incredibily the journeys back in the wee hours of the morning. Very much that clubbing feeling but very much avant-guarde for a froup of 14/15 year olds.The young wan's up next!

SillyBahrainiGirl said...

amazing memory.. and u still have the tickets..

I only have a few pix here and there and autographs ;)

Jordie's drunken wedding crasher...oh god... said...

well unfortunatly im too young to have gone to those concerts but i did go to Tennents Vital, which was unbelievable! Apart from the fact i was constantly shoved about, stood on and burnt with people's cigarettes but they are all good memories! Just like you seem to remember too redmum! loving the website!