So this weekend sees Belfast’s first large-scale electronic visual and sonic arts festival. In the past we have seen events labelled as such but without the actual production level or scale of a proper festival. Festivals in Belfast tend to be a low key selection of events littered across a number of venues rather than a large scale event in a large venue with the buzz and excitement that comes along with that.
Then came AVA, a festival run properly from the bottom to the top, with the idea and focus on local talent including, DJ’s, producers, visual artists and more. An insight into the dance music industry, not just an event but a showcase demonstrating how these artists do what they do, how they got to where they are and how other people can get involved and follow suit.
I’ve seen a lot of things written in advance of the AVA festival but this is my attempt at getting across why I feel this is one of the single greatest things to happen to dance music in Belfast in some time. It will hopefully be a catalyst for a push for more of this style of event in the future and help change the views of many of our politicians and council representatives that dance music is not considered culture and is frowned upon, an issue that is extremely prevalent right now.
So, here are my reasons to be excited about AVA:
BICEP, Ejeca, Hammer, Phil Kieran, Timmy Stewart, Swoose, Cromby, Chris Hanna, Schmutz
This gig is laced with some of Northern Ireland’s finest musical exports, many of which are now based in London and beyond but they still call Belfast home and AVA is a homecoming for many of them. Just looking at that list of artists gives you a feel for the quality of musical output coming from NI and AVA is a showcase and a celebration of all that is good coming out of Belfast and NI!
Although they may be more famed in Scotland, one half of Optimo, Jonnie Wilkes, is originally from Belfast. I lost a few Sunday nights in the Sub Club to Optimo’s infamous Glasgow club night as well as seeing them in The Menagerie, the old Spring & Airbrake and countless times in Edinburgh over the years. Wilkes alongside JD Twitch were the founders and main residents at Optimo nights and since the demise of the Optimo residency in 2010 they have toured and continued to spread their eclectic sound across the globe. Whether it is their more club based, darker sounds or their indie and eclectic Optimo Espacio project these guys know their music and have a knack for piecing together some of the most bizarre yet dancefloor focused sets you are likely to hear.
Nu-Mark began DJing at the age of 13 in LA. Over the last two decades, he has amassed an immense collection of rare records from around the world. Nu-Mark’s production and live showmanship have seen him regarded as one of the most innovative DJ’s in modern music.
As a original member of Jurassic 5, DJ Nu-Mark graced the group with precision production and cutting edge stage routines. Recently Nu-Mark has been recognised for filling his entire stage with children’s music toys and playing them as instruments. This Kids Toy Set went viral when Nu-Mark compiled his performances from around the world in his DVD Nu-Conduit.
To date, Nu-Mark has been featured in the critically acclaimed documentaries Scratch, KeepinTime and more.
Space Dimension Controller Live Laser Show
Jack Hamill is responsible for some of the most forward thinking and original music produced globally and he is based in Belfast. In a time when dance music albums have become a selection of tracks to be picked from, SDC’s ‘Welcome to Mikrosector-50’ was a brave concept album that made sense as a long-player in a Bowie-esque style, it had a story that seamlessly tied the album together, if you haven’t checked it out, make that right asap. His space and sci-fi obsessed sound and themes will also be accompanied by a very special live laser show, not to be missed.
20 Years of Timmy Stewart
Later this year Timmy will present a 20 year compilation of his material on his Extended Play label, this has led Timmy to be very reflective and dig deep through his vinyl collection and previous tracks that have had a huge impact on his DJing and production journey. DJing with Timmy is a joy, he is the king of picking up tracks from long-forgotten labels and has a knack for picking up tracks from obscure and leftfield genres that others dare not tread on, slotting them seamlessly into his sets. I hate the term ‘a DJ’s DJ’ but what I do know is that when I DJ with Timmy I always leave with a list of tracks he’s played that have had me asking ‘what the f**k is this track?’. 20 years and still on top of his game, don’t miss Timmy’s Boiler Room appearance.
The Boiler Room
For the first time The Boiler Room will be coming to Belfast and this has been a huge coup for AVA and something they deserve a massive amount of credit for. The Boiler Room has become a massive part of dance music culture. Like it or loathe it you can’t argue it’s place in modern club culture, usually basing itself in Berlin, LA, London or major global festivals it’s hard to believe that this weekend The Boiler Room will be broadcast from Belfast with an exclusively local bill. Alongside BICEP and Space Dimension Controller will be former Twitch guest John Daly playing live and Timmy Stewart and Schmutz.
Starting with Schmutz, Conor and Kristian have gone on a crazy fast trajectory over the last 6 months with some huge releases on Dirt Crew Recordings and after a successful Panorama Bar set are now opening things up for the Belfast edition of the Boiler Room, expect their usual mix of classic house and more up to date analogue house and techno sounds. Next up, Timmy Stewart, I DJ regularly with Timmy and he is very precious about Belfast and is treating this as an opportunity to showcase the sounds of Belfast both classic and modern and also represent where dance music is in Belfast now, Timmy feels a responsibility to portray Belfast’s sound and nobody is better suited to do that.
Former Twitch guest John Daly is a purveyor of some of the most beautiful deep sounds as well as more dancefloor focused material, John’s live set will encompass many of his productions, including releases on huge labels such as Drumpoet, Mule Musiq, Secret Sundaze, Love Fever and Running Back. John is one of Ireland’s most consistent and respected musical producers and this live set is a unique opportunity to catch him performing some of his stunning productions in an incredible setting.
Space Dimension Controller needs no introduction, as a DJ, expect everything from 80’s music to classic electro, house music to Star Wars re-edits, check out the set below at the Dekmantel festival last summer.
Last up we have local favourites BICEP, these guys always deliver and have a huge global following as well as a cult local following, they have played a huge part in the AVA festival as a whole and are passionate about good music and have a huge respect for their roots in NI. Expect plenty of ‘taps aff’ and an excellent selection of music hopefully including plenty of their own tracks that always seem to do the business on Belfast dancefloors!
It’s very easy for residents of the greater Belfast area to take the stunning urban wasteland that makes up a large part of the Queens Island district of Belfast for granted. We’ve seen our fair share of bad local DJ promotional shots taken with the Harland and Wolff cranes in the background that make us cringe when we see them. But take a step back and you realise that this area is a Detroit-esque ode to abandonment, an image of a large scale manufacturing industry that has long since disappeared but the ghosts of this industry remain in the beautifully visual Samson and Goliath cranes. We take it for granted at times but can you imagine a better backdrop to an electronic event, machines are the basis for dance music and machines are the basis of Belfast’s history, embrace the cranes!
Adam Smith appearance
Adam Smith is best known in dance music circles for his work with The Chemical Brothers and The Streets on a number of music promo videos, check out the Galvanise video above, but this is also a director has been involved with Doctor Who, Skins and many other television and music productions. AVA is much more than a music festival, it’s an insight into the the many aspects that are associated with modern music, visual promotion and visual accompaniment in live performance has become a vital part of modern music. AVA gives you the rare chance to hear from a producer that has produced music videos that perfectly reflect the emotion and mood that the artists have attempted to translate through their music.
Whether it’s artist development, music production, feedback sessions or any of the other keynotes and panels taking place, AVA not only will act as a hub for access to an incredible amount of information and advice but it also brings many of the musical institutions of Belfast together. A lot of the time there can be a friendly face put on between rival producers and promoters in Belfast but we are operating in what is realistically a very small catchment area and everyone knows dance music can veer into musical snobbery. This festival is a great opportunity for bringing promoters, artists and all those involved in the local music industry together and help build better relationships.
In Belfast, even though Twitch used to hold a residency in Shine and Stiff Kitten, at times there are crowds that tend to stick to one event or the other, events like AVA show that Shine, Twitch, DSNT and other promoters are all trying to progress dance music in Belfast and if AVA brings people together and helps to open peoples minds to explore other nights and discover new music and artists this can only be a good thing. Twitch have now been running for almost 9 years, Shine are in their 20th year of throwing parties, The AVA festival represents the healthy dance music scene that has allowed these parties to run for this long and bring some of the best international DJ’s and producers to Belfast over this time.
Other promoters such as Thompsons are involved with an AVA afterparty and the many other nights in Belfast from Belfast Music Club who first put BICEP on in Belfast to Ackright and beyond, this festival is a representation of how far Belfast has come thanks to everyone involved in promoting and putting on events here.
Food, Skate Park Expose & Record Fair
Not only have the musical and visual aspects of this festival been extremely well thought out, the catering has been as well with a great street food market on site!
The festival itself takes place in the T13 skate park which will be specially setup for the festival but there will be a special skate park demonstration to show what normally takes place in this incredible and unique venue.
Belfast was lucky enough to have a new record store open recently, Underground Records, and I had the pleasure of doing some digging alongside Antal and Motor City Drum Ensemble after their gig at Twitch a couple of weeks back.
Apart from Underground Records, Sick Records and Dragon Records there is a real lack of places to purchase vinyl in Belfast, the last time Antal was over he couldn’t believe how poor our options for vinyl digging were. AVA will have a large scale record fair with a number of local collectors selling some 12’s and LP’s, make sure to get down for a dig!
AVA is an audio visual festival and local company Guerrilla Shout are absolutely killing it on a global scale! They will be showcasing what they are all about at this festival with their now famous visual installations, check this video promo they have made for AVA below for an idea of their work, next level!
Last but not least, we are very grateful to have been asked to be a part of this festival! We strive to bring the best artists and acts to Belfast and have had an amazing 9 years of parties, being able to support and be a part of this event is amazing and we play an hour and a half slot in the early evening time, make sure to call round and have a dance, taps aff optional but preferred.
Ticket, stage times and all other info @ http://avafestival.com
See you all this weekend for fun, food, music, records, chats and more!