Bird and Bramble Launch Review

18766431_10158764825140634_2807232396643582893_oNB* – We know it’s been ages….we know it’s well overdue…but hey! It’s here!

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When we first discussed launching our new initiative, Bird&Bramble, Women’s Work Festival was the first port of call for us. Having worked with them in 2016, we knew the values and ethos of the festival meshed so brilliantly with who we are: celebration, diversity, community, and at the heart a love of art and creativity in all its forms.

 

We’ve been working under the name 3for3 for a few years, organizing and hosting gig nights for countless local acts – all sorts of genre, all sorts of lineup, all sorts of levels of experience. We have never underestimated the level of trust that an act puts in us – it’s their music…their creative output…their sound and reputation in our hands. Whether they be a really experienced punk band or a new solo act on their first night out….the trust is the same.

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Us looking pure biz with ourselves and our new T-shirts…

So, when we were planning our launch, we wanted to showcase everyone we have worked with – everyone who has said “Yes! I’ll work with you!”. So emails were sent, conversations were had…and in a flurry of absolute pride and humility, we had 7 acts ready for a lineup to help launch our new Bird&Bramble. The Oh Yeah Centre came on board to support us with a new take on their popular venue – a ‘café session’: drapes creating an intimate and atmospheric space within the larger Oh Yeah venue room. The Musicians Union had sent over information and application packs, which we were able to give out to acts and visitors, and Conor Kerr and Bernie McAllister (photo credits) had been tasked with photography, alongside a videographer documenting the Women’s Work Festival.

We had our acts. We had our venue. We had our sound engineer. We had four hours on a Bank Holiday Sunday evening to show who we are, and multiple spreadsheets (blame Stef) to make sure it would all work.

Our first act was Lauren Bird – a winner of Chordblossom’s Kickstart and fresh from her sold-out launch of EP ‘The In-between’. We had worked with Lauren in 2016. She did a gorgeous show then, and did not disappoint at our launch. With humility and a sense of comfort and ease, Lauren manages to create instant atmosphere – a talented player and mesmerizing singer, her lyrics are what really stand out for me. “Goodbye, Good Luck” has been stuck in my head for about a year now, and is a good example of how Lauren balances a bittersweet reminiscence with light-heartedness and a delicate touch.

Sister Ghost we now count as friends (they have no choice…they’re our mates now).  We worked with them last Autumn to put together their EP launch in The Pavilion – a kickass full band show full of punk attitude and dirty guitar riffs with underlying ability and skills in the lineup. So having Shannon and Stevie sit with acoustic guitars, soft lighting and candles seemed incongruous. With Sister Ghost, there is a hypnotic quality that comes when great songwriters and great talent combine: ‘Spiders’ (a new track played exclusively at our launch) was a stand out for me, and “Her Mind” is always firmly on my playlists at home. Without a doubt this is a band to watch.

Coming from the North West just for our launch was Susie-Blue. Susie Blue was part of our Women’s Work Showcase night last year, and had come onto our radar through an open application for artists. Her video for “Trust Me” had me hooked – soulful and captivating, Susie is on the path to national success, playing at Glastonbury this year. Last year was a full band show, so to see a stripped back, acoustic Susie was an absolute pleasure and honour. What a talent. Each song feels like you are hearing a part of her heart and soul – it’s raw and, at times, painful, but always honest.


Emer Maguire blew my tiny mind last Autumn when she played 3for3. Showing her multi-instrument skills (I’m not jealous…what?!?), on drum pads and guitar, her songwriting talent shines through. Open, honest, and beyond charming, Emer’s new track “Belfast” feels like a homage to not just the physical city, but to that feeling of community and being part of something bigger. With a sense of fun and humour, Emer’s performance is so engaging you feel like you’ve just made a new best friend.

Amy Montgomery and I met randomly at a TV recording – we were both there to play a couple of songs and have an interview. I was in the room when she started singing and I nearly burst out of my skin. What a voice! It’s like Joe Cocker, Robert Plant and Janis Joplin got together and created those vocals. We had worked with Amy at our Help Musicians UK Takeover day, but when she arrived with electric guitar, and Mike Mormecha on a drum kit we knew we’d be in for a proper treat. We most definitely were. On a tiny stage, this charismatic girl, made almost entirely of smiles and positive light, became larger than the room. Giving everything of herself into the performance, new track “Dangerous” shone through as an example of why Amy should never ever ever NOT be a performer.
18700668_1500639539999439_788853840243400295_oAnother North West performer, Gemma Bradley also worked with us last year on Women’s Work showcase, with a full band. Gemma has a jazzy, bluesy sound, wrapped up in a unique voice and impressive performance. “Firewalk” is still a favourite for me – testified by our house now having three copies of the EP which has that track. Bouncy, full of blues overtones, but inherently fresh and vibrant, Gemma’s voice and skills are undeniable.

 

It’s hard to write about the last band of the evening, as I am in it….. Always a tricky one. I’ll leave the critique for someone else. All I can say is what our experience as ARLO was: the energy and support from the other artists and audience who were there was breathtaking. I am a stage junkie at the best of times, but I could have stayed in that room all night, just being around this celebration and appreciation of music, talent and the joy that comes from performing, and watching others perform.

 

 

The big takeaway for Amy and I that evening was the support of the artists. To have acts travel from all over NI to come to us is testament to their dedication. When we started Bird&Bramble our goal was to create community. We wanted artists to feel valued and loved, and looked after: so they can focus on their performance. We are beyond lucky to have worked with the artists we have, and to have an act say “We will work with you anytime! If you call us, we are there” is such a humbling and beautiful feeling to have.

 

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Meet the Launch artists

Booking artists for live gigs can be a tricky business. There are the submissions to wade through, the balance of genre and experience, bands or solo artists, everyones schedules, a thousand little details that can shape your event into a success or a total nightmare. Sometimes it is the easiest thing in the world and sometimes it’s akin to organising the musical olympics, in a tent, with no phone, on fire. However, it’s the nature of the job, and when it all comes together, it’s beyond worth it. Now, I only mention this because when it came to book the artists for our launch we had the usual sit down to discuss what we wanted to present and realised that this wasn’t a showcase for a new artist, or a new EP, this was to showcase, well, us. OH. GOD.

It’s easy to champion and promote someone else, it’s another thing to toot your own horn and announce “Look at us!”. So we decided to look to artists we have worked with before, people we have a working relationship with, who took a chance working with us as much as we took on promoting them as artists. And that’s when the smile started to spread across both our faces. It’s said so often that I don’t think we even really hear it anymore, but christ we have so much talent for one wee place. We read through a list of people we had gigged with, promoted, invited to showcases and it was just a list of immense music. New artists, young artists, established musicians, exciting bands, they are all there.

So we sent out the emails and as the yes replies started to come back we would say to each other ‘God aren’t we so lucky’, and yes we really are lucky to know these people and know their work but also, no it’s not luck because these musicians and hundreds more like them are there, eager to gig, approachable and ready to work. The gigging culture in Northern Ireland may be slightly on it’s arse, the venues are changing, the whole nature of music as a business is changing, but the creativity, the need to create new music is there stronger than ever.

That’s what we want to achieve, that’s what we want to encourage. Crowds and spaces for live music. So yeah, ‘Look a us!’ because we want a chance and a space to say ‘look at them!’ because that’s the whole point of anything we do at Bird & Bramble.

We officiallly launch on Sunday 28th May, at the Oh Yeah Centre as part of Womens Work Festival 2017 and what follows is a quick bio on each of the artists that will be performing, we are incredibly grateful to be able to work with all these great acts again. Some of them you may know, it’s Northern Ireland so some of them you may be related to, going out with, live next door to, some you may not have heard before. So here goes…

SUSIE BLUE

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Susie-Blue are, well, they are a 4 piece band that literally fill the room. An indie rock sound filled with powerful lyrics. They were recently featured in HOTPRESS with their newest single ‘Be a Lady’ which looks at gender roles and stereotyping. They definitely fit the bill of ‘ones to watch’ in 2017. Take a look at their website for more links and information.

 

Emer Maguire

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Emer is a singer/songwriter from Belfast, and possibly some sort of wizard because I have seen her gig and don’t understand how it all happens. She creates music from loops and samples and guitars and vocals, but even all that is under selling it. She makes you wonder where she has hidden the rest of the band! It’s soulful and engaging and talented performing. Check out her facebook page for more details.

 

Amy Montgomery

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So Amy feels like she sort of fell out of the sky. I mean that in the best way. She sort of appeared through whispers of ‘oh you should check out this girl’, then all of a sudden there she was, with this voice. She is timeless without losing her edge, raw and vulnerable with incredible songwriting and lyrics. She has just released a video for her new track, listen and you will listen to her forever, I promise.

 

Lauren Bird

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Lauren came to our attention in 2015 when she won Chordblossom’s Kickstart. A singer songwriter and purveyor of all things Ukulele, she has a sweet, folksy sound. Hailing from Tyrone, Lauren has immersed herself in the local scene, and being a relative newcomer, she is a shining example of what you can achieve with talent and hard work. She has crowdfunded a new EP, found herself at the top of the Bandcamp newcomers and gigged extensively.

 

Mandy Bingham

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Mandy has been writing her own material for a few years now and her development as an artist is clear to see. Joined by her husband Graham her live performances are full of melodic soul and beautiful harmonies. Lyrically thoughtful she writes incredibly personal and insightful songs with a slight western, Appalachian feel to her sound.

 

Gemma Bradley

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Gemma was a 343 applicant what feels like many moons ago. She is an energetic songwriter and an exciting live experience. She has gigged extensively in local festivals and through songwriting competitions which she has deservedly done very well in. We are so excited for her to be joining us again.

 

Sister Ghost

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Sister Ghost are a force of nature, a blistering sound that grabs your attention and dosen’t let up. We had the absolute pleasure of hosting their EP launch at the end of last year and are looking forward to a rare acoustic experience from them at the launch.

 

Arlo

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Arlo is a new venture for us, teaming up with the immensely talented Teddy Charles Jr. 3 part harmonies take the lead with folk inspired guitars.

 

So that’s your lot. All these amazing artists will be joining us at the Oh Yeah centre on the 28th May from 7pm for the official launch of Bird & Bramble. As always all proceeds at the door are split equally between the acts.

 

Parenting in the creative industries survey

We are hosting a panel along with @OhMummy as part of Womens’ Work festival at the end of May, and we’d love to hear from you about the challenges faced by parents in the creative industries.

If you are a musician, a sound engineer, writer, poet, artist, painter, actor….anything creative – be it full time, part time, or dabbling when you get a second, your opinion and views are really important to us to help shape our discussions.

We’d appreciate it if you could find time to complete this short survey – it only takes a few minutes.

Thank you!

It begins….

So you know how sometime you can be talking with a friend, making all those plans and telling each other all the things you would achieve if only you would stop making excuses and get your finger out? And then you know how sometimes you have that conversation and actually do something about it? Yeah, that.

Welcome to Bird&Bramble

The collective musical efforts of Amy Joyce and Stef Campbell.

This is not a band, or a new live gig, this is a way to be connected, to open dialogue and create an inclusive environment in a particularly hard industry.

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