Saturday 4th of June witnessed AVA Festival return for its second year to the T13 warehouse in Belfast for a showcase of the islands best artistic talent. Year 1 was a massive success, and matching it was certainly not going to be easy, but Sarah McBriar and her committed, passionate and enthusiastic team can rest easy knowing that Year 2 kicked off in a very big way.
Belfast is known for its rowdy, energetic crowds and friendly society. What AVA does is not only promote artistic talent, it showcases the Belfast community in a positive light. After being blighted by troubles in the past, the city comes together to look forward and celebrate a day of sound and unity.
We attended Year 2 and were not left disappointed. From Phil Kieran’s debut Boiler Room to Sunil Sharpe’s performance on the Becks stage, from Bicep’s live show to Rodhad’s first Belfast performance, there was a plentiful supply of first timers that have surely left with a little piece of Belfast still in their hearts. What a day. What an event. What a city.
06 / 06
AVA PRO & alluring converstation
As I approach the T13 warehouse the iconic Harland and Wolff cranes can be seen towering above the backdrop of the city. The industrial venue can be mirrored alongside that of Detroit’s post industrial demise, a tragedy that the two cities certainly have in common, and how fitting that one of Detroit’s finest would be joining us later for a chat on electronic music’s most listened to genre.
I am greeted at the warehouse by members of Sarah Mcbriar’s receptive and commited team who hand me my press pass and whisk me off to Cast and Crew, a coffee shop around a minutes walk from the venue, where a networking event titled AVA PRO is taking place.
Here those within the music and tecnological industries met over salmon bagels and coffee to discuss important topics and respected opinions, resulting in a bright, positive and extremely beneficial experience.
We return to T13 as preparations are underway for the first talk of the conference series. Dave Haslam and Mark Lawrence take the stage to discuss ‘Life After Dark’, a concept that looks closely at the “creative and economic value of club culture.” Throughout the chat the pair commented on their first club experiences and the Mcdonalisation of iconic venues resulting in the stripping away of their cultural value.
As the first talk comes to an end, attendants take a step outside for a cigarette in the sunshine, just before Bicep take the stage with FACT Magazine to discuss their transition from DJ’ing to live show.
Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson took time to discuss the inspiration behind the idea, informing the crowd that John Hopkins and Matthew Johnson were major influences on the concept and stating that it was a natural progression as an artist to take on a live performance. The pair also took the audience through a step by step guide to all the tech they would be using throughout the show, this included 808’s, 606’s and a compact version of a Boomstar 4075.
The third talk of five was based on a topic that has plagued the music industry since its birth. ‘Women in Electronic Music’ was hosted by SoShe.Said (Halina Wielagorska) and she was joined by Shanti Celeste, Dresden Leitner, Grace McCracken and Marcus Barnes. The talk brought forward some interesting opinions and ideas, most notably the idea that gender stereotypes are implemented in our minds from such a young age. When school children are asked to draw someone in a certain profession they tend to draw males. This may seem normal, but it identifies that gender stereotypes do exist at school level, and the solution to eradication must begin there.
The penultimate chat was based on Artist Development, and those involved had the troublesome task of keeping people interested before the conferences main event, but Ashley Howard, James Jackson, Lizzy Bowman, Joe Dougan and Mark Gordon provided intriguing and beneficial information of routes an artist can take in order to develop their creative minds and career.
The next conversation brought in the biggest conference crowd of the day. A packed out room held their breath as the originator of techno, Juan Atkins, took centre stage dressed all in black with perfectly square designer sunglasses. The man just oozes cool.
The questions asked by Marcus Barnes were well thought out and prepared as Atkins discussed the Spirit of Detroit awards, his first machine bought for him by his grandmother and an unbelievable story about Frankie Knuckles.
Atkins informed the audience he and Derrick May would take their 909 and play at parties, however May needed to pay his rent and didn’t have the cash, which resulted in the sale if his 909. Atkins told May that he couldn’t sell it to anyone in Detroit, especially not Jeff Mills, as they would use it against them, so instead he sold it to a wannabe producer from Chicago, known as none other than Frankie Knuckles.
Not only did Atkins create techno, but he was an influence on the sale of equipment that would lead to the creation of house. Mind blown.