Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Music can change the world because it can change people

Title quote attributed to Bono off of U2

So what do we all think about the MTV European Music Awards coming to Belfast on 6 November then?

I must admit, my attitude thus far has been mainly along the lines of "meh…" After all, it's not like I'm actually going to get to be there on the night or even see any of the celebs in person (if anyone exciting actually shows up in the end and they don't all just send a lame acceptance videos from halfway around the world instead). I figured the only way it might affect me is that the city centre would be a bit busier in the run-up to the event and that going anywhere near the Odyssey Arena on the night was a non-starter.

However as it gets closer, more and more details are being released about other events around the city and I must admit it's starting to sound like a pretty decent shebang now.

At first there was just a vague announcement about "Music Week", promising other music-themed events around the city in the week before the EMAs. Then came the programme giving details of all the gigs that would be happening. I've never really been into the local music scene so I didn't really recognise many of the acts listed, but there are certainly a lot of things occurring - kudos to the organisers.

Then, last week, came the news that Snow Patrol and Jason Derulo would be performing live at a free gig at the City Hall on the night of the EMAs. Tickets were available from the Belfast Welcome Centre from 8am on Sunday and when I walked past at 11pm the night before, people were already queued right back past the Disney Store, complete with folding chairs, sleeping bags and tents. Spirits seemed high and there was the occasional bout of groupie-style screaming. It seems that all 15,000 tickets were given out within an hour and some are now on sale (illegally) for over £150, so it looks to be a popular event!

There have been a few other rumours floating around too. The latest issue of GO magazine hinted that there would be two big external events related to the EMAs. Whether the second of these is the newly announced Red Hot Chili Peppers gig at the Ulster Hall isn't clear, but at £42.40 a ticket I'm guessing demand won't be quite as high for that one. It's quite a small venue for such a huge act though, so it'll probably sell out quite quickly.

Money and spare time are both in short supply at the moment for me though, so I'm not sure how many of the events I'll even end up going to. From the programme, my personal picks for Music Week would be Dead Disco: Classic songs from beyond the grave at Katy Daly’s on 30 October (Free), The Pigeon Detectives at Mandela Hall on Friday 4 November (£15) and Vintage: classic tracks at Lavery’s Back Bar on 4 November (Free). However I'm already otherwise occupied on those dates so I may have to see what else is available. There really does seem to be something for everyone though, whether you're into lambeg drums, rock or dubstep.

I wonder how the organisers are feeling about the whole thing. This is a massive publicity opportunity for Belfast, which could be great for things like tourism, but there is also the intrinsic risk that if something goes awry we end up looking like the backwards little city that wasn't quite up to the job. As a city we're getting used to holding big multi-venue festivals now (e.g. Arthur's Day, Culture Night and the Belfast Film Festival, amongst others) but generally speaking the target audience are locals and the occasional visitor. It's a rare occasion when our city is the centre of attention for millions of people around the world. The pressure to put on a good show is bound to be at an all-time high… is Belfast up to the challenge?

I certainly hope so because I for one am proud of my wee city and want to disprove to the rest of the world any outdated misconceptions they may have about it. So I hope that Lady Gaga and her ilk have a wonderful time here and that the whole thing goes without a hitch. And if not… well, the show must go on!

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