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Seasick Steve: Why Belfast remains such a special place for blues legend

Hillbilly superstar Seasick Steve has said that he owes his musical success to Belfast.

The American blues singer made his first-ever headlining appearance as a solo artist at the John Hewitt pub back in 2005 as part of the Coors Light Open House Festival.

Since that gig his career has taken off, and he has performed at various festivals around the world as well as receiving the 2007 MOJO award for Best Breakthrough Act.

But the musician, who worked behind the scenes in production before getting his break out front, hasn’t forgotten his roots and will be back headlining the Open House Festival again this month.

To commemorate that historical gig in Belfast five years ago, Seasick Steve will be presented with a silver plaque that will be unveiled at the John Hewitt pub during the festival.

Speaking ahead of his Belfast show Seasick Steve, whose real name is Steven Wold, said the 2005 gig was a turning point.

“It’s probably the reason I’m playing music,” he said.

“If I hadn’t done that gig at the Open House Festival in Belfast, I don’t think I’d be playing music now.”

His debut gig as a solo artist was on October 2 and the date clashed with a photographic exhibition called Hobo, which was also taking place at the John Hewitt pub.

The festival organisers had problems trying to hang the pictures up and, as a result, the concertgoers were forced to wait an extra hour outside the pub.

A spokeswoman for Open House said: “Instead of just leaving them out there, Seasick Steve went outside into the street and busked for them and the crowd got bigger. When the doors opened, everyone was let in for free and the place was packed.”

Kieran Gilmore, the director of Open House, said: “We feel the Open House Festival is Steve’s spiritual home in Ireland and we know he can’t wait to get back to Belfast to do this year’s gig.”

Following his debut Belfast show, Seasick Steve made his first UK television experience on Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny on New Year’s Eve 2006. After that his popularity exploded in England.

Seasick Steve will bring the Open House Festival to a close on Sunday, September 12

Belfast Telegraph