“At the forefront of Belfast’s culture, arts and entertainment scene for over 150 years”, reads the iconic Ulster Hall’s bio. The definition of culture and art has long been defined by the more traditional art form; however, electronic music is slowly, but surely, establishing itself as the most culturally defining sound of our generation. This is reflected with Bicep’s performance. Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson have made it clear that their debut record is a bid to be taken more seriously as artists, not just DJ’s. That view walks hand in hand with the growing mainstream acceptance of electronic music culture. We’re not quite there yet here the UK, but performances like this are a massive step in the right direction.
The Dublin based Quinton Campbell got things underway, producing another spellbinding display of electronic composition. The Ulster Hall had already begun to pack out during the time of his set; a testament to how seriously the artist is now being taken.
Next up was Ross From Friends. The collective symbolise something truly unique within the world of electronic music; channelling inspiration from hip hop, dance and experimental music that together crafts a unique and engrossing sound. ‘Talk To Me, You’ll Understand’ is an emotionally engaging piece of work when it’s simply radiating from the speakers of your computer. Hearing it come together as a live performance was something special.
When asked “Which artists on the AVA Festival bill do you feel are going to blow up this year?”, festival founder Sarah McBriar mentioned Hammer’s name alongside Or:la and Brien. After his set it is easy to see why. He rounded off his performance with an unreleased track of his own. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the words ‘unreleased Hammer’ frequently popping up in the Identification of Music Group very soon.
A homecoming performance is always special for Bicep. The city of Belfast feels for their homegrown artists on a personal level; that being the reason why the crowds are always so ecstatic.
Those that are not passionate about electronic music often can’t grasp the difference between a live set and a DJ set. Improvisation is the fine line that exists between the two. Throughout their performance, Bicep added and subtracted elements of tracks old and new, surging fresh life into music that has been rinsed at many an after party and inciting excitement with new adaptations of their debut release.
Belfast is traditionally a house and techno city when it come electronic music but Bicep’s evolving sound dips in and out of the sounds of electro, garage, ambient and straight up electronic. This, in a way, symbolises a shift in the openness to new sounds for the city. As any music enthusiast will tell you, we constantly yearn for something creatively new. The shift in musical personality is reminiscent of a certain Aphex Twin, who maintains the ability to masterfully try his hand at any genre of his choosing. Bicep are heading in the same direction, and in doing so are opening the minds of Belfast’s occupants to exciting new developments in sound.
‘Vale’ received its first live performance play from the duo, but it was ‘Glue’ that truly blew the minds of the Ulster Hall’s occupants. There’s just something about those breaks. The feeling of uplifting euphoria that washes over one’s body when listening to it creates such a surge of energy that you could be forgiven for grabbing your nearest friend and hoisting yourself up onto their shoulders. Many obliged.
It must be noted that the AVA production team did an incredible job in taking the show further. A science fiction battle made up of lasers and flashing lights lit up the high ceilings, adding yet another element of euphoria and amazement.
As the performance drew to a close, attention turned to Belfast’s newest venue, The Art Department. Something different from a big room rave, The Art Department holds a capacity of two hundred people, making for an intimate atmosphere.
Quinton Campbell performed once more, alongside AVA Festival Emerging DJ competition winner Colm Mckenna and Roger Montgomery. Hammer and Bicep both locked in unscheduled performances in the early hours of the morning much to the attendee’s surprise.
A special end to a special evening.