With live music already making a resounding comeback at one of Irelands institutional festivals (hats off to Stendhal, which you can read about here), we turn our attention to another one of N.I.’s cultural landmarks. AVA returns after a years COVID-19 hiatus and it is packed full of all that native talent we keep telling you about.
For festival goer’s returning to the fray for the first time this year, the lineup can look a little daunting – spread over two days, the 2021 iteration of AVA is laden with quality artists, all of whom have been itching to get back into things. it’s sure to be a hell of a show – so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to let you in on who the top, unmissable acts this year will be. See below for your taste curation.
Promoter, writers, culture guiders and party throwers themselves, Plain Sailing have established a reputation for bringing eclectic acts and nights to Belfast. A duo of dance music enthusiasts, they have masterminded the Belfast debuts of acts such as Mor Elian (Fever AM), Barker (Ostgut Ton), Willow (Workshop) and Pepe (Lobster Theremin/Naïve). What started as an evening has now ballooned into a full creative hub. As well as their performance, they’ll be doing a back2back with Bloom on Friday too with Leo Miyagee and Emby performing with them.
“There’s nothing like the feeling of playing to a crowd and feeding off that energy. It’s something that’s been missing and as much fun as we’ve had pushing our passion through other means; being able to perform again gives you that extra push. When AVA comes around it always feels like one big family and we cannot wait to link up with everyone again after so long.“
When he’s not heading up his own label, Jordan Nocturne has an international career as one of N.I.’s most exciting electronic talents . With shows in New York, Berlin and Japan under his belt, Jordan first came to our attention with his expertly curated ‘From Belfast With Love‘ mixes. With a background rooted in Trance and an education from the school of Roman Flugel, Matthew Dear and Soulwax, Jordan’s set is likely to be one of the highlights of AVA.
“The return to live music means a lot – and for many friends who are also playing at AVA it will be our first time seeing each other in almost two years. For many people, it will be their first time playing to a Belfast crowd in almost two years, and for many dancers, it’ll be their first taste of live music since pre-covid times. It’s always a great weekend for those of us who work in music in Belfast to get together and have a drink, and it always gets rowdy!”
A long-time favourite of the CB editorial team, Carlton Doom’s journey has been one of the best in the country. From working with the legendary Lyndon Stephens and Gemma Dunleavy as Unknown early in his career, his boiler room set in 2019 and up until his current state. A forward-thinking, genre-melding artist who surprises and delights his crowds with equal abandon, his twisted take on techno and crunching bass needs to be on your list.
“I’ve been extremely excited for AVA, not just to see many friends I haven’t since the world first closed down, but to finally play again. Performing is addictive, it’s a rush and exciting, and it’s a back and forth between you and the crowd. What’s working, what they want more of, what way you can decide to take it, and you never want to just play it safe with tried and tested, guaranteed dance floor tracks. After all this time, I’d say a lot of us have lots of stuff saved up we’ve been waiting to play for a long time now! It’s finally the time to unleash them!”
Peter Brien emerged as one of our favourite artists over the last year following the release of his stellar tape DIY VOL 1. A wizard of lo-fi beats, woozy production and sunbleached vibes, Brién has been through the wars as a DJ for some of the islands biggest talents – namely Kojaque (who is also showcasing at the festival). The perfect foil to the doldrums of the last 18 months, the sunny-side-up of Brién’s set is the only way to ring in the end of the summer.
While her Boiler Room set in Belfast has become something of legend, Holly Lester has continued to evolve passed this. Now the owner of her own label and one of the long time supporters of the festival itself, Lester combines the full-bodied sweat of a rave with the unflinching tenacity of a moshpit. A sparkling, vibe laden mix is awaiting any of those who make it a point of seeing the Belfast DJ (hint: you really should).
“AVA is such a crucial part of the electronic scene here in NI – it has really put Belfast on the map and given our artists a global platform. The atmosphere is unrivalled to any festival I have been to and it is also feels like an extended family affair. It holds a special place in my heart“
The CB editorial team pick for last years ‘Best Song’ at the RTÉ CHOICE AWARDS, Gemma Dunleavy is no stranger to some of the biggest stages in the country – and beyond. Brandishing a melodic mix of garage and trance with subtly and grace, Dunleavy’s 2020 debut EP ‘Up De Flats‘ was one of the best of the year and we’re beyond excited to get down for her performance.
Born in the North and now living in The Netherlands, Kessler is one of the better producers out there. Already a savant at melding bass-heavy tracks with eclectic samples and groove-centric melodies, the young songwriter has a knack for making horizon-spanning tracks that have a claustrophobic, anxious intensity. His new EP Foul Play is sure to get plenty of air time, so get down his set – it won’t be long until ticket prices for his shows will be through the roof.
“I cant express enough just how much performing to an audience inspires me, especially at somewhere like AVA where I feel my journey as an artist really began to take shape. Without all those sweaty ravers & punters instilling you with adrenaline, I almost feel without a purpose.”
A rapper by trade and accomplished DJ in his own right, EMBY has plenty of fans in the industry and public already despite his smaller discography. Championed by District Magazine, his debut single ‘She‘ combines soul, hip hop, garage and grime into a neat, addictive package – a symbolic release of what to expect at any of his performances. Get ready to bounce.
“I’m gassed to get on stage at AVA and shell up the rave. I think this set is going to be one of the most unique sets of the weekend. Myself, Leo, Plain sailing and Bloom have done a similar event in Belfast before and anyone who was there will agree the energy created at a grime show is unmatched. Hopefully, everyone will fuck with the sound. There is unfortunately not enough UK Bass music being played in Ireland so we’re going to bring that sound to Belfast. Expect lots of Grime, Garage, Dubstep, Jungle, energy and wheel ups. Come bounce with us.“
An industry darling, Coulibaly has already got performances at the likes of The Great Escape and Ireland Music Week under her belt – with more to come, says I. A diverse artist unafraid of collaboration or pushing boundaries (take her recent release with Monjola for example), Aby presents as one of the most exciting new talents on the lineup, and this promises not to be her last time on the lineup. Much further up it of course.
AVA 2021 will take place on 24th and 25th September at Boucher Road Playing Fields. Tickets are currently sold out but you can apply to join the waiting list on the official AVA Festival website.