This is the biggest week for music in Belfast since the MTV Europe Awards put the city on the world stage last November — but questions have been raised over whether festival organisers are trying to squeeze too many top acts into too short a timeframe.
Despite the harsh economic climate, more than 60,000 music fans are expected to converge on Belfast’s Boucher Road playing fields tonight for the opening of the two-day Tennent’s Vital music extravaganza.
US rockers the Foo Fighters will play their Northern Irish debut, supported by the hugely popular Black Keys.
And a similarly-sized crowd is due to go wild tomorrow, as Manchester indie legends The Stone Roses roll their reunion tour into town, backed up by Florence and the Machine and Maverick Sabre.
The ‘Vital’ gigs are taking place in the middle of the 10-day Belsonic festival, which has taken a two-day break from its rock, pop, indie and dance concerts in Belfast’s Custom House Square.
And music lovers were also able to enjoy the Sunflower Festival’s showcase of local talent last weekend in Hillsborough.
But only one of the Belsonic concerts — David Guetta on Sunday night — has sold out completely, and there are still a few tickets available for Vital.
It has prompted questions over whether it was a good idea to cram so many concerts into such a short period during tough times.
A spokesman for Belsonic said after organisers heard that Tennent's Vital was running this Tuesday and Wednesday, they decided to avoid a clash and pause their event for two days to allow fans to attend as many gigs in the city as possible.
“It was all for the good of the music fans and for live music in Belfast,” he said.
The spokesman added that although not all gigs were sold out, tickets were selling well for the Tom Jones, James Morrison and Two Door Cinema Club gigs.
“What it proves is that both events can run in tandem,” he said.
Justin Green from Tennent’s Vital promoters MCD was equally optimistic.
“I think an awful lot of people will look forward to seeing the Foo Fighters, who have never played Northern Ireland before,” he said.
“Obviously the Stone Roses have a huge fanbase after 20 years — already their shows in Dublin and Manchester have been absolutely amazing.
“Following on from last year we thought it would be very hard to beat, but I think the line-up this year is even as good if not better,” Justin added.
“I think the fans have reacted greatly.”
A limited number of tickets for Tennent’s Vital are available from £49.50 from Ticketmaster. For further information log on to www.tennentsvital.com
‘I wish that I could afford to go to all the shows’
Some of the biggest names in Northern Ireland’s music scene have defended the decision to stage two major music events in Belfast so close together.
Foo Fighters kick off the two-day Tennent’s Vital festival tonight — slap bang in the midst of the Belsonic festival.
While organisers avoided an overlap, not all gigs have sold out, raising questions over the wisdom of cramming so many top acts into such a tight timeframe during tough financial times.
Belfast’s ‘godfather of punk’ Terri Hooley, who runs the Good Vibrations record shop, said it was a case of “different strokes for different folks”.
“The people who are going to the Foo Fighters at Tennent's Vital would not be the same as those going to see Tom Jones at Belsonic. The likes of Madness would get a completely different crowd from Emeli Sande,” he said.
“It is absolutely brilliant that we have so much choice and I wish that I could afford to go to it all.
“But people are getting a lot choosier in what they are going to because of money, so that does have a knock-on effect for smaller bands.”
Radio Ulster DJ Ralph McLean said he thought the invasion of bands was “great for Belfast”.
“Sometimes we do end up with a clash but that’s what it is like in cities like Glasgow and Manchester. We just maybe not used to it,” he said.
“We want to be considered on the same level as big music cities where you can go to more than one thing.
“It is brilliant to have the Stone Roses and Black Keys in Belfast at the same time.
“We are a smaller place and that is maybe why some of these gigs are not selling out — but it is brilliant to have so many options.”
Radio Ulster DJ Alan Simpson, a former nightclub promoter, said: “The festivals are on in England and that effect trickles over here.”