Renowned for being a defining booming venue for alternative generations of bands and gig-goers for 40 years, the abhorrent announcement that the Atlantic bar is set for involuntary closure has left the North Coast music scene in frustration and utter disbelief.
The North Coast contains an immense alternative scene, in which the Atlantic became a second home for many. From skaters to punks and metalheads, gigs at the Atlantic created a sense of community, as rejection to conformity was a small yet spirited similarity. The news that the Atlantic would be replaced with a typical seaside hotel sparked immediate outrage, as such a crucial Northern Ireland venue has been callously gentrified. Although petitions were made and voices exclaimed, there was no stopping this decision.
This indignation is understandable, as the Atlantic was the beginning for numerous acclaimed Northern Irish acts, in particular the esteemed And So I Watch You From Afar who hold a deep, emotive history with the Atlantic. Bassist Ewen Friars provided an insight on this relationship, “The venue provided young bands with an infrastructure and most importantly a sense of community. Something that ASIWYFA and many others benefited from right from the band’s inception”.
Similarly, within the last decade, North Coast bands such as Brand New Friend and Wohn have become reoccurring Atlantic icons, redefining the indie rock scene with vivacious, illustrious performances. Wohn stated, “Some of the best musical nights we have had as a group, have taken place within those walls”. Evidently, the small venue charm comes with a sense of unity, something harmful to take away from the musical North Coast youth.
No matter the event, the electric energy was there. The most prominent Atlantic tradition was ‘The Brawl’, an annual charitable celebration to kick off the new year and commemorate local talent, bands mainly yet to be heard and discovered outside of the North Coast. Ewen Friars tells me about the event’s backstory and eminent continual success; “A group of us started the “The Brawl” as both, a charitable event, supporting various causes over the years, as well as a yearly chance to celebrate the scene itself. The gathering together of incredible bands and masses of enthusiastic punters in such a charmingly eccentric place like The Atlantic replaced December 25th as the biggest day of the festive season”.
The Atlantic’s events varied significantly however, with DJ sets, cover bands of iconic rock n roll legends and regular ‘Atlantic lounge’ acoustic sets, a venue for any music devotee to feel entertained and involved in the local scene.
North Coast based rising band Brand New Friend have been frequent performers at the Atlantic from their emergence. I asked them a few questions on the Atlantic’s significance for them. “Without the Atlantic Bar many bands wouldn’t exist including Brand New Friend. It was a breeding ground for upcoming talent and likeminded artists. It was the single most important bar in the North coast and the loss will be massive. Brand New Friends first ever gig was in the Atlantic alongside some of the North coast’s biggest legends including little Arcadia. Personally, I don’t feel or know of any bar will be able to fill its shoes.”
In reference to the loss of the Atlantic, they stated “The biggest loss that comes along with the closure of the Atlantic is the generation after me that won’t be able to experience it. It was for everyone. The only space where anyone could go and love it. What I will miss the most is going down with one or two people knowing you’re going to know everyone in that bar, and you’re guaranteed to have a good night. Whether it was a cover band on or a DJ, the Atlantic was special, and it will be missed.”
Undoubtedly, The Atlantic was an accomplished and vastly influential asset to Northern Irish arts and culture, a symbol of defiance and unification within the music scene, and the closure comes with great loss.
To commend the unforgettable legacy of the Atlantic, the prominent North coast heroes And So I Watch You From Afar held a complimentary finale gig on March 4th with support from Problem Patterns, Brand New Friend, Dugout and Ferals. Selling out in minutes, a full house commenced. Ewen Friars described this as “one last party, an all-out North Coast chaotic punk show, the classic madness that defined the area’s music scene and inspired us for so many years. One last cheer for the scene, the staff and The Atlantic Bar.”
This love followed through, as an exceptional night of moshing, shouting and all around gratitude took place, as a final goodbye to the one and only Atlantic bar.
The Atlantic Bar will remain open until the middle of May with a series of excellent live events to give the venue the send off it deserves. Even better all remaining shows are free entry so you’ve no excuse not to go down and show the Atlantic Bar some love before it shuts its doors for good.