Noise Annoys: Ash, the Lemonheads, Problem Patterns, New Pagans
Words on Ash's upcoming 30th anniversary homecoming, the Lemonheads' imminent Irish dates celebrating 30 years of It's A Shame About Ray and two top Belfast shows competing for your attendance this very evening...
:: 30 Years of Ash: One Night in Belfast
FRESH from the success of their first hometown show for almost 20 years at Down Arts Centre last weekend, Downpatrick indie rockers Ash have announced plans to round off 2022 in style with their biggest Belfast gig for over a decade – an auspicious occasion marking a major milestone for the group we must surely now refer to as 'veterans'.
On December 16, the trio will celebrate 30 years of Ash with a show at The Ulster Hall. It's a venue the band last headlined back in 2001 on the run for their chart-topping album Free All Angels.
Having the clout to fill Belfast's 'grand dame of Bedford Street' (as no-one calls it, really) has long been a decent barometer of a local band's success, especially back in the early 1990s when the Odyssey was still but a glimmer in eye of the peace process and The King's Hall was strictly for 'mega' touring acts like Bowie, Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden (plus it always had crap sound anyway).
For the nascent alternative set, Therapy?'s annual Christmas shows rubber stamped The Ulster Hall as the benchmark achievement for any self-respecting Local Men Made Good.
Fittingly, then, it's where I first saw Ash, when they were the main support to the Co Antrim chartbreakers at their December 1995 show. With 'just' a handful of great singles and a promising mini-album to their name at that point, Ash provoked and sustained a crazed mosh pit of sweaty teens for the entirety of their short and gleefully noisy performance, bearing all the hallmarks of a band who might be set to eclipse the mighty headliners as our Next Big Thing – especially since Therapy?'s unexpectedly gothy/grandiose Infernal Love album and new-found penchant for showband outfits and comedy moustaches had left many slightly cold/confused at the time.
The fact it took Ash six more years to headline The Ulster Hall themselves is pretty much an anomaly. Making good on that early promise, their debut album 1977 hit number one just five months after the aforementioned Therapy? support slot.
For reasons now lost in the mists of time, the hometown show for the 1977 tour took the form of a chaotic mid-summer's night stand at the lesser vaunted (but possibly larger capacity?) Maysfield Leisure Centre, while the following summer's supporting turn with U2 at Botanic Gardens – prefaced by a surprise warm-up show at ye olde Limelight with new guitarist Charlotte Hatherley making her live debut – ticked the 'big Belfast gig' box.
The rather more selective appeal of second album Nu Clear Sounds found Ash slipping back down the greasy pole of pop appeal towards obscurity/bankruptcy/yet more Limelight shows between 1998 and 2000, until they heroically snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with their triumphant 'comeback' LP, Free All Angels, which finally put them back on The Ulster Hall stage on December 17 2001.
"Thank god for this song," quipped Ash frontman Tim Wheeler on the night by way of introduction to their career-reviving hit, Shining Light.
It's likely pure coincidence, but Ash's upcoming Ulster Hall show on December 16 is scheduled to take place almost exactly 21 years to the day after that celebratory show, a period throughout which the Co Down trio have never stopped making music.
Once again, it will offer the band and their home fixture fans a joyous opportunity to re-connect, reflect upon past glories and – most importantly – sing themselves hoarse to a shedload of hits at one of Belfast best and best-loved venues.
Maybe we should start doing it every year, eh?
:: Tickets via ulsterhall.co.uk
:: Lemonheads celebrate 30 years of It's A Shame About Ray with Irish shows
HERE'S another anniversary to make you feel really old: The Lemonhead's sublime breakthrough album It's A Shame About Ray turned 30 this year and to celebrate, Evan Dando is grabbing a back-up band – not the original Ray-era line-up, sadly – and hitting the road to play the record in full (plus lots of other songs too, though, as ever, not their ace cover of Mrs Robinson) once again.
The tour kicks off in Ireland next month with a run of shows starting in Dublin (Sept 22, Opium) before rocking on through Cork (Sept 23, Cyprus Avenue), Galway (Sept 24, Roisin Dubh) and on to Belfast (Sept 24, Limelight 2).
Noise Annoys is hoping for a long-overdue catch-up with Mr Dando before the tour kicks off, so stay tuned for that and get those tickets bought in advance from Ticketmaster.ie
:: Gig 4 Choice
TONIGHT finds the mighty Problem Patterns playing their last Belfast show for a while (boo) as the headliners at a special gig in aid of reproductive rights charity Alliance for Choice (yay).
Joining them on the Gig 4 Choice bill at Oh Yeah in Belfast will be another three fine musical turns in the form of Gender Chores, Hex Hue and Fruity, and you can also enjoy "poetry and prose" from the Soup Ink Co-op.
Tickets cost £12 in advance via tinyurl.com/gig4choice and all proceeds are being donated to Derry for Choice and to help the charity's work fighting for reproductive justice throughout Ireland, so get involved to enjoy a quality evening of live music and the satisfaction of helping a good cause while you're at it.
:: New Pagans at CS Lewis Square
FINALLY, a potential clash for anyone planning on attending the aforementioned Gig 4 Choice: New Pagans, Lemonade Shoelace and Winnie Ama will also be playing a Belfast show tonight just over the bridge and up the road at CS Lewis Square off the Newtownards Road.
It's being staged by the folks at Dig With It! magazine as part of the EastSide Arts Festival and apparently it's going to be the only Belfast date this summer for New Pagans, who had an exciting/frustrating time (touring is damn expensive these days when everyone involved feels entitled to stick their hand in your pockets) being the openers on Skunk Anansie's European tour earlier this year.
If you decide that supporting reproductive rights is more important or just flat out can't make it, don't fret – New Pagans have also announced a Derry date at The Nerve Centre for August 27, just prior to them heading out to Germany for a trio of shows with Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls in September.
Get your tickets sorted for Belfast tonight via eastsidearts.net (£15 in advance), for Derry (£8 in advance) via nervecentre.ticketsolve.com and remind yourself of the band's considerable talents at newpagans.bandcamp.com, where you can blast their brilliant debut album The Seed The Vessel The Roots and All as well as their most recent stand-alone single, the hugely atmospheric banger Find Fault With Me.