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RETURN TO BLACKSTAFF; Fabled Blackstaff Sessions back on the airwaves with BBC's ATL; The Beautiful North.

Byline: with DJ & broadcaster RIGSY

In 1996, my dreams came true. Legendary broadcaster Mike Edgar, then presenting Across the Line on Radio Ulster, played a track by my band Moss (the name will grow on you, we hilariously reasoned). I still haven't stopped talking about it. What made it all the more remarkable was the fact the song's title ('Darkman') and lyrical content was.... dubious. Needless to say, with all the best intentions, our naivety meant this 'anti racism' anthem came across a little clumsy. But that's a whole other story.

I recall this episode periodically, reminding myself of the importance of our playlist meetings, here at Across the Line, which I now present. There's always a fair amount of debate when we put the show together on a Thursday afternoon, as the team attempts to agree on tracks worthy of airplay the following Monday. Transporting myself to that night back in 1996 helps hammer home the responsibility. Given the sheer volume of stuff that arrives with us every week - it's crucial we listen to every note we're sent and make the right calls.

So imagine the pressure when we had to go one step further - and pick new bands who'd play an entire showcase gig at Blackstaff House. Having quickly agreed on Mojo Fury (two albums in makes them an established headliner in our eyes) and the band of the moment Emerald Armada (again an obvious choice) - we got down to the tricky business of agreeing on two brand new bands. Bands we could rely on to keep their nerve in front of an enthusiastic, sold out studio as they (literally) performed for the nation. Not just that - our bosses were all going to be there - so we needed to prove to them not only that we'd made a good call - but that the music scene here remains vibrant enough to justify this type of gig in the first place.

I don't know why I got so nervous - Loris and Freak's - the two new acts we eventually settled on - knocked it out of the park. Loris - who are only now releasing a remarkable debut EP - mixed bucketloads of cool with their syhth heavy, female fronted, sultry pop music. They were fantastic.

Freak's on the other hand aren't really that cool. Compared to Loris, they're.... a little dorky. But loads of great bands are - Weezer, Pavement - even Talking Heads. Three bands Freak's can relate to, making as they do slightly quirky, lyrically curious indie music. While 'Red or Green' debates which flavour of 5p Tayto crisps were best, 'A Minute More' is a strangely poppy lament on the loss of someone dear. They're an odd bunch, but they're incredibly likable and probably my favourite new band of the year.

Mojo Fury, of course, acted like stalwarts - straddling the stage with confidence and chunky riffola. Emerald Armada were a revelation - tearing the house down and somehow living up to the colossal hype.

It was honestly one of the best night's live music I've heard all year. And as co-curator, I was immensely proud, watching four of our finest help keep the likes of myself in a job for a little bit longer.

Across the Line - the Blackstaff Sessions will be broadcast this Monday on BBC Radio Ulster, 8-10pm.


BACK IN BUSINESS: Rigsy poses with Blackstaff Sessions line-up

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 28, 2014
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