Belfast Telegraph

The big story drowned out by sounds of a city having fun

By Mike Gilson

Are you coming out to see the band then, my younger son asks on Saturday? Although I'm always up for a gig, it's been a long week and I'm at work again on the Sunday, as the big story hums all around. I'll need my wits about me.

The real motivation for the invite is my supposedly bottomless pockets. The funding of tickets and beers will be guaranteed for him and his fellow Queen's students, my new-found "mates", if I can be lured out.

In the end, because I'm at heart a perpetual student myself, I go. We're off to the Cathedral Quarter and it's bunged. We'll have a meal first and then meet his fellow freeloaders in the pub.

It's been a while since I've been out on a Saturday night and I imagine we can walk into Coppi on St Anne's Square and just plonk ourselves down without booking.

The place is a cacophonous jam of party people and we are crowbarred on to the end of the bar on uncomfortable stools, thanks to the goodwill of staff who give us credit for our chutzpah.

The food is good. You can hardly hear yourself think over that peculiarly Belfast-accented hubbub, the female, high-pitched shriek that passes for wine-infused debate in these parts.

It's like Concorde taking off. I complain about it loudly, adding a baritone to the mix. I don't hear anyone talking about the big story.

In the pub, similarly long-haired indie mates of my son join us. How times change. In my day we all looked like this, but now this lot have the jocks shouting "hippies" at them from car windows, such rare, exotic creatures are they.

So what about the big story, I ask? Blank stares. One ventures that it could be the start of World War Three and even I don't think that it's that bad until I realise he's talking about Ukraine.

We get on to other matters. Can guitar bands make a comeback? Later that night we have proof that indeed they might.

We are at the Black Box for another date with the excellent Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. Belfast band Girls Names are playing and they're terrific. The city really should be proud of them.

There's an Eighties Bunnymen undercurrent at work, but a fair bit of Krautrock in the mix, too. Lead singer and guitarist Cathal Cully is a talent, singing, playing lead guitar and manipulating more pedals than the entire Giro d'Italia field.

Cully has expressed affection, but also exasperation with his home city in the past, its darkness and the depressing vibe it can sometimes give off.

It's out there this weekend as politicians crank up the tension, but inside there's none of that as 300 people watch a star rising.

Afterwards in the bar (it's my round again) we talk of what we have just seen. I maintain that, as good as they are, Girls Names need an angle, a back story or clear-cut image if they are to make the leap their music deserves.

I'm dismissed as a dinosaur and, even worse, some sort of Simon Cowell-type for insisting on a "journey" narrative even though I'm using The Libertines (average band, legendary off-stage activities) as my clincher.

It's only later as I head home and they go on to a house party to which I'm obviously not invited that I think of tomorrow and the big story.

Right now, for me and the thousands still happily thronging the streets, bars and clubs, it can wait.

Mike Gilson is Editor of the Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph


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