Last night was the opening of the Belfast/Nashville Songwriters Festival and there were several gigs happening around the city.
We went to the Nebraska Revisited one – 10 local singer songwriters each covering a track in sequence from Springsteen’s classic 1982 album called, funnily enough…Nebraska and each one introduced by Stuart Bailie. A dark and sombre collection of songs about murder, unemployment, terrifying nightmares, the burden of poverty and living just this side of the law.
Highlights included Ben Glover’s intense version of Atlantic City, Matt McGinn’s outrageously good version of Open All Night with the virtuoso guitar playing of Colm McClean, Boathouse played State Trooper a la Arcade Fire and Brian Houston ripped into Reason to Believe.
Gives me confidence that Belfast is bursting with musical talent at the minute.
The other thing was how small the city is. We met at the John Hewitt…6 of us, and I spotted some guys from East Belfast there. We dandered round to the OhyeahCentre and then found out that Rachel Austin, a colleague at EBM was on the bill. She did a beautifully fragile version of Highway Patrolman. There to support her were two other former colleagues from EBM. We waited for Mark Houston to join his brother Brian on stage but his flight was late. There were probably enough EBM people about anyway!
Outside afterwards were two guys who are community workers in East Belfast, but we couldn’t persuade them to return to the Hewitt. And back there we bumped into DP, a denizen of the John Hewitt in the company of a local poet and screen print artist. The poet later did a bizarre turn on the open mike when the Half-Stoned Cowboys took a break.
It was that kind of a night. And it’s why Belfast is a great place.