Review of 2011 by NI Rocks

I wasn’t quite sure how to write my review of 2011. I make no claim to be a reviewer of gigs or albums so what follows is really just some personal observations from someone who attends gigs and listens to rock music! And as I’m writing as NI Rocks I’ll be focusing on the local rock scene.

On a personal level, I attended 40 gigs this year, all in N Ireland. That’s a lot less than some, slightly less than I’d attended in 2009 or 2010 but still fairly respectable. Of those 40, no less than 30 were headlined by local bands and 7 more had local bands as support acts. For those who like statistics the Diamond Rock Club was the most frequented venue with 17 visits (no surprise there for those you know me) and the most frequently seen band was Million Dollar Reload with 11 gigs (again no surprise!!).

The thing is; I could have seen a lot more local bands playing during 2011. However, with work (5.30am comes very early if you’ve been out to a gig!!), family commitments and needing to keep an eye on the finances, we now pick and choose what we go to. Whilst, that ability to pick and choose can be seen as a good indicator of how strong the local rock scene is, it also has a worrying side. Whilst a lot of the gigs I went to were well attended, others most definitely were not. There are a lot of venues out there and a lot of bands covering a wide range of rock genres, and too often I hear about bands playing to a handful of people.

There is no doubt that there has been a resurgence in the local rock scene in recent years, but I do wonder if bands playing to empty rooms can continue for long before things change. Generally venues are operating to make a profit (or at least break even) and if there are a number of gigs to choose between, invariably attendance levels will vary and eventually there will be a commercial decision to run fewer rock gigs. Bit of a Catch 22 situation really – we want there to be a load of great local bands and a load of gigs but we need them to be well attended. However at the end of the day there are only so many people who will attend gigs by local rock bands. There is a much bigger group of rock “fans” who will go and see Iron Maiden, Def Leppard etc in the Odyssey, but you’ll never get them anywhere near a gig by a local band in the Pavilion, Diamond, Limelight or other venue across N Ireland! The idea of NI Rocks was to try and promote local bands and local gigs, but I doubt that it has really changed the gig attending habits of many people. The worsening economy and lack of money to spend on gigs and drinking out is if course a big factor impacting attendances too.

On a more positive note!!

There can be no doubt that 2011 was a pretty successful year for some of our local bands. Again, I’ll apologise in advance because I’ll invariably focus on bands from my own preferred rock genre (what I would loosely categorise as classic rock influenced) and I know that there are other local bands who have had great years too. On the NI Rocks page and the Rock Radio NI Shows I’ll always try to promote all genres of rock, but undoubtedly my own preferences will prevail! Some highlights:

Ø Million Dollar Reload played Download and Hard Rock Hell, toured the mainland on the Powerage tour and supported the Quireboys and The Darkness. On top of all that the new album is recorded and its release is highly anticipated for 2012.

Ø Trucker Diablo have gone from strength to strength in 2011. Signing to a record label in the USA and releasing “The Devil Rhythm” out there, playing at the Download festival, getting added to the bill for Hammerfest 2012 and supporting Black Stone Cherry in Belfast and Dublin are just some of the highlights.

Ø New albums from Stormzone, Last Known Addiction, Swanee River, The Answer, Glyder, Triggerman and Sweet Savage spring to mind as highlights of 2011. If I were compiling a Top 10 of Albums I’d bought for 2011, at least three of those would be included. If I were forced to pick a favourite local album release it would probably be Swanee River’s “Smoking Jacket” which is simply fantastic. Stormzone’s “Zero To Rage” would be right on its heels though.

Unfortunately, 2011 has also seen the demise of a few great local bands, or at least a temporary absence from the scene. Two of my favourite bands, Bandwagon and Black Freeway are no longer with us and Last Known Addiction are currently without a lead singer and are on a hiatus of sorts.

A quick wish list for 2012 :

Ø A new album from Million Dollar Reload early in the year (promised for April or May according to the most recent update).

Ø More gigs and recordings from all my favourite local bands

Ø The return of Last Known Addiction

Ø A new band featuring Matt Fitzsimons (previously Black Freeway and latterly Last Known Addiction singer) as he is one of the best local front men (and a good friend and great bloke!)

Ø A successful year for all the promoters and venues so that we can keep seeing the touring bands and local acts. In particular, continuing success for the Diamond Rock Club as the local rock scene would be a much duller place without it!

Ø Rock Radio NI continuing to grow so that we can get our local bands heard by a worldwide audience.

Well, if you read all the way through that, I hope you didn’t get too bored! Hope you had a great 2011 and all the best for 2012.


Last Updated (Sunday, 01 January 2012 19:21)