Photo by Ruairi Drayne.
The Audio Visual Arts Festival conference in Belfast aims to showcase some of the city’s immense electronic talent. Practice your off-tempo dance moves and gurns everyone, the Boiler Room is coming to town. Tiarnán Ó Muilleoir takes us through the weekend ahead.
While Irish nightlife north and south remains constrained under the jack-heeled boot of asinine licensing laws, the island has of late experienced a clubbing boom.
It seems like every other weekend a new quality club night launches, while a rotating cast of top international DJs, along with a rake of local talent, caters to the hunger for house and techno sounds among de yute.
The opening of dance-oriented venues like District 8 in Dublin as well as a resurgence in local record labels and shops is further evidence of the scene’s rude health.
rabble previously profiled Belfast’s flourishing dance scene a year ago, and the end of this month will see the northern capital host a new event – the ‘Audio Visual Arts’ (or AVA) festival – capitalising on that momentum.
AVA encompasses gigs, visual art, talks, and an industry conference all over one day on Saturday May 30 at Belfast mega-skate park T13. It will also feature a Boiler Room broadcast, with the famous Internet live-streaming dance show coming to Ireland for the first time.
Organiser Sarah McBriar told rabble that the goal of the festival was to “celebrate and amplify the current wave of electronic music and visual arts talent that is emerging from Northern Ireland.”
“The project has been in the works for over a year now and it’s great to see it finally coming to fruition” she said.
“Our goal was to put together a lineup that pays respect to the history of the electronic scene in Belfast at the same time as developing the city’s future talent.”
That lineup features a host of big Belfast names that have experienced international success including intergalactic funk merchant Space Dimension Controller, house duo Bicep, and techno godfather Phil Kieran.
They will be joined by a number of the scene’s hidden gems including duo Schmutz, fresh from a triumphant set at Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Cromby & Swoose, and young breakout producer Chris Hanna.
Optimo are set to perform at the event and one half of the Glasgow duo, Jonnie Wilkes who is originally from Belfast, is looking forward to a homecoming shindig.
“I left Belfast a long time ago, before I was even a DJ, but it remains a fantastic place to play. We were happy to get behind the project as soon as we heard about it through the Bicep boys.”
“Belfast and Glasgow are similar in a lot of ways, strict licensing laws means there’s an amped up energy as sets peak earlier,” said Jonnie.
“The gig is a special one for me and I’m looking forward to it,” he added.
In anticipation of the event Bicep wrote an article* for the Boiler Room website summarising the special power of dance music in Belfast bringing divided youth together. One man who can confirm that first hand is veteran of the acid house days, DJ and local Extended Play label boss Timmy Stewart.
“Dance music in Belfast is a unifying force and it’s great to see that being celebrated. In terms of the current scene it’s in the fittest state for as long as I’ve been involved.”
“The fact we can run a label with a predominantly Northern Irish roster is really testament to just how healthy things are.”
“I’m really looking forward to playing my part in Boiler Room Belfast and helping showcase to the world just how we do things here.”
Before the music begins in the evening, a conference during the day will feature lectures by DJ Nu-Mark of Jurassic Five, music director Adam Smith, and visual artist Romain Tardy.
An Ableton workshop offers advice for budding producers while a label showcase will allow for plenty of industry hob-nobbing. A record fair for the vinyl junkies and a street food market are further enticements.
While rabble couldn’t confirm, plans for a rake of unofficial after-parties are no doubt in the works as you read this.