spectrum festival 2014 ~ ten memorable moments

In the aftermath of yet another memorable night for local music, there remains the overwhelming sense of Belfast pride that will inevitably end in many proclaiming this was a night of legend. A night when the stars aligned and anything became possible. The night when A Plastic Rose, triumphant heroes, returned to pick up where they left off as one this countries best live outfits. Indeed, this is true. It was a memorable night, with an abundance of highlights. So rather than detail the individual performances of each and every act on the bill, instead we shall seek to fill in the bleary eyed blanks and flickering memories of Spectrum 2014.

In no particular order, this is Encore NI's Top 10 Memorable moments...

1. Gerry Norman dismissing claims that A Plastic Rose left to 'escape the Belfast music scene'.

It was a subtle moment of seemingly pure inspiration, here we see APR's charismatic front man hit back at a pretty obvious misquote from The Belfast Telegraph. In which, it was claimed Belfast's favorite sons left in order to escape the Belfast music scene, suggesting they had to leave in order to gain success. In reality? Norman is perhaps the NI music scene's greatest advocate, who alongside Gary Lightbody has, as one punter eloquently put it to me "pushed music in this country to ridiculous levels, the man single-handedly kept Volume Control alive for God's sake! The Telegraph were way out of line with that one". Whether or not the humble Sligo native would admit to that himself it's hard to say, but the subtle on stage reference raised more than a few pints in the air as a result.

2. Hurdles unleashing new song 'France'.

It was tough conditions indeed for the indie quartet, with guitarist Fearghal Breslin missing from action and an early slot on the bill, but a strong set was capped off with the performance of what must surly be a future single. 'France' see's the pop-hooks of singles gone by mixed with a Daft Punk-disco element of rhythmic guitar riffs, that saw the audience start to move for the first (though not the last) time all night. One to watch out for...

3. Team NI ~ The abundance of local support.

One of the most refreshing and beautiful aspects of the local music scene is the severe lack of vicious competition and overwhelming feelings of support. This was all too prevalent at Spectrum as some of our most talented musicians all came out to enjoy a night of quality music. Amongst them, The Wonder Villains, Mark McAllister of Pretty Child Backfire and Nathan Connolly of a little band called Snow Patrol. Would that level of support happen in any other major UK city? Somehow, I doubt it.

4. The Late Two's turning heads with unrecorded song 'Enemies'.

Until local lads The Late Twos took to the stage the crowd seemed somewhat distant to the bands giving their all before them. As soon as The Late Two's took over however, heads immediately began to turn, and it's their new punchy opener which must take much of the plaudits for this. Their set also saw a small crowd gather towards the stage for the first time all evening, overcoming a potentially awkward situation for the festivals organizers.

5. Crowd Surfers.

No festival is complete without those lovable lunatics, the humble crowd surfers. They show up, usually a little worse for wear, determined to have the best night of their lives. Or at least a better night than the one before. This see's them scream their heads off, remove various garments, throw their beer over everyone, 'spread the love' and eventually, when the tension in the air becomes too much, when the bass can defy gravity no longer and therefor must drop and they catch sight of that '#YOLO' tattoo they got in Magaluf that their Mum had warned them about, they take to the skies and ride the wave. Hero's of our time.

6. The God-like love for New Ancestors.

As 'The 1930's' Jonny Solari and Andrew Cameron's own brand of acoustic folk-rock won the hearts of the city and regularly sold out shows. Now living in Scotland and under the name New Ancestors, it's no secret that rather than wane, the popularity of this two piece has simply rose to adoration on a different level. Positioned further down the bill than they may have liked didn't stop them drawing in a massive crowd, singing the lyrics back to all of their songs, clapping when needed and pleading for 'one more tune!' after they left the stage. It was a brilliant show of affection.

7. Mass river dancing to 'Kids Don't Behave Like This'.

The final song of the co-headliners set saw a very rare moment indeed. As Gerry Norman prepared for the last screamed chorus of this debut album epic he demanded, 'Everybody River Dance! C'mon people!'. Whether he actually expected the mosh pits before him to link arms and dance in unity as though it was Eurovision in 1994 only he can answer, but they certainly did and what a pleasure it was to be a part of it. 

8. The feel-good atmosphere.

There is no point in denying that the end of Glasgowberry last year marked a worrying time for Northern Irish music. The happy atmosphere and love at that festival felt completely unique to us. "Can we ever get that back?  Will we ever have anything like it again? We'll need to find another mountain...Someone find a mountain!" What Spectrum 2014 proved was that the magic of that festival wasn't in the surroundings, it was in the people. Though only in it's second year, the growth of this festival is a testament to Northern Irish people's resolve to keep the memory of Glasgowberry alive. 

9. The great coverage for the event.

Encore NI wasn't the only music website there that night. In fact, many of the countries top music magazines, journalists and newspapers were present to record this great occasion. A fine example of just how far this festival has come in one year.

10. Ian McHugh's swallow dive to the bar.

It was an act of sheer passion. Expressionism in it's purist art-form. Having rocked their triumphant return and finished in a rapture of broken mics, screams and future hits from the upcoming new album 'Flickering Light Of An Inner War', lead guitarist and vocalist Ian McHugh dropped his guitar ran to the front of the stage and dived into the outstretched arms of the APRmy below. The best part? They carried him straight to the bar. A lesson in rock and roll that is surly Spectrum's defining moment to date.

Roll on Spectrum 2015. More of the same please.

Taylor Johnson

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