Sitting down to pen this article one has to reflect on events in Paris and the tragic consequences of fundamentalist fanatics.
At that time several of us where at Hard Rock Hell, in Wales. That festival opened with two Northern Irish bands playing to a packed main arena: Screaming Eagles and Trucker Diablo played as if headliners and it was clear that they have more than a few fans amongst the English, Welsh and Scottish in attendance.
With the beer flowing and the rock and metal keeping everyone in almost giddy spirits the second day ended with Helloween and UFO playing blinding sets. But as we emerged into the rain-drenched site the news of the Bataclan massacre was appearing on smartphones.
Most spent several hours in caravans, chalets and apartments watching the news coverage. The next morning I was in the media arena interviewing bands. In each interview I asked about their reaction to the brutality we’d all watched.
English, Northern Irish, Scottish, Australian and American band members… each reacted differently. Some were uncomfortable with the question. Some were angry. Some were bemused. All were clear that no-one would keep them off stage so long as fans wanted to see them.
One interview with Eamon of No Hot Ashes struck home hard because of the band’s relationship with Eagles of Death Metal. That they took to the stage at all was a remarkable tribute to the resilience of rock.
By the time the festival ended, as Saxon’s anthem Denim and Leather was sang with unity and lung-busting volume by both the band and the audience the grief we all felt had been turned into unanimous mutual togetherness.
Given the history of rock and metal during our own Troubles it was somewhat fitting that Stiff Little Fingers became the first band to play Paris and as the band’s rigid digit became a metaphorical middle finger to the terrorists.
In subsequent weeks local acts took to stages throughout Northern Ireland not regardless of what had transpired in Paris, but not caring about what evil would try to stop the music.
And, the likes of US act Clutch continued their European tour, including Belfast.
With the reverberations of Paris still echoing the rock and metal continues undeterred. The year ends with the likes of Def Leppard and Fear Factory playing Belfast.
Local acts such as Therapy?, Trucker Diablo, The Answer and many more closing the year with amps cranked, drums beating and a shout of freedom; the freedom to play the music we love. Hard rock cannot be beaten down. Heavy metal cannot be tarnished. No excuses for the language – all terrorists can fuck off and die.