In terms of great rock and roll cities, Belfast is up there with the best of them. But if you really want to get under the city’s musical skin then hitch a ride with the Belfast Music Tour – a salute to some of the biggest names to come out of the capital of Northern Ireland.
Weaving through urban landscapes
Mixing back stories and back catalogues with weird and wonderful facts (bet you didn’t know the first live performance of Stairway to Heaven was here in Belfast’s Ulster Hall in 1971), the bus tour weaves through the urban landscapes that have inspired a whole host of internationally famous musicians, including James Galway and Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy. As music journalist and guide to the tour Stuart Bailie points out, while Northern Ireland might be small, its artists are responsible for selling over 100 million records combined.
The modern scene
But if you think Belfast’s music scene is all about retro-hype, think again. Fresh and energized, right now the city is where it’s at, with bands and musicians including Two Door Cinema Club, Cashier No9, Duke Special, and the chart-topping Snow Patrol. These guys are the offspring of an impeccable lineage, which the music tour, by bus and soundtrack, illustrates through the city’s venues, hotels, city streets and quiet neighbourhoods.
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From the Beatles to the McPeake Family
From the a visit to the site of the Ritz where the Beatles played in 1963 (Gary Moore was in the audience) to the very place where Van Morrison and his band Them performed their first gig (a plaque now marks the spot), the tour abounds with stories and name-drops: Brian Kennedy, fiddler Sean Maguire, the McPeake Family.
By the time the bus rolls back to its last stop at Oh Yeah Music Centre – one of the city’s hip new music venues – it’s hard not to start planning a Big Night Out.
As UK musician and presenter Jools Holland said, “if you can’t have a good time in Belfast, you can’t have a good time”.