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Licensed To Chill

It s the last song of the night. It s the final gig of the year one that has witnessed bizarre accidents, frustrations, some classic moments and the growing consensus that Snow Patrol is an increasingly fierce act.

Stuart Bailie, 03 Feb 1999

It s the last song of the night. It s the final gig of the year one that has witnessed bizarre accidents, frustrations, some classic moments and the growing consensus that Snow Patrol is an increasingly fierce act. What s more, the guys are back in Belfast again, back to the old sod for a few days, away from the thrills and privations of their exiled life in Glasgow.

Gary Lightbody should be happy. The crowd, massed upstairs at Morrison s Bar, are totally into the smart, edgy music. They adore songs like Starfighter Pilot and One Hundred Things You Should Have Done In Bed . Previous shows in this town have been difficult and half-realised, but tonight, it sounds roaringly cool. Yet Gary is clamping the neck of his blonde Fender, looking scarey. All of the tensions of the year are released in a series of swift, brutal actions. Within seconds, there s a mighty squeal and he s left holding the splintered remains of a once-lovely Telecaster. Rawk and roll!

A while later, you ask a calmer, slightly bashful Gary if he often goes in for such pricey exploits.

Not particularly, he moans. Not when you ve only got two guitars. But it was just one of those nights when it had to go. It was just pissing me off for a while. It wasn t something I thought about. Mark was trying to stop me ? he was holding his leg out, going, what are you doing? And I was going, awck, I don t care . . .

Bassist Mark McClelland has a sensible point to make.

We tried to tell him that even Nirvana used to smash up their spare guitars.

Drummer Jonny Quinn, a dead ringer for the young Jim Morrison, looks for a crumb of positivity in the event.

A girl in the bar took about half of the guitar home as a souvenir. She was pretty happy.

As she might be. Snow Patrol have been making some lively connections during their short career. Their debut album, Songs For Polar Bears appeared last year on Jeepster Records, the home of the mighty Belle And Sebastian, whose members routinely crop up on SP tracks. The label s roster also features Salako, no average act either.

We re very proud of being on the label, Mark supposes. There s a good feeling surrounding it.

It s hardly a rich lifestyle, but the kudos is useful, and the indie framework is amenable to their left-field ideas (think Pavement, Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Neil Young,) and raggedly fun.

Also, for the past three years, Gary and Mark have been finishing degree courses off at Dundee University, so the breathing space has been valuable. Once they were called Shrug, and more recently, Polar Bear, which was changed when another, similarly-titled act started getting a bit frosty. Hence the title of the album.

The Snow Patrol masterplan for 99 is to do it properly . This may be a reference to the fact that they almost got the worldwide gig for the Phillips TV ad, which would have required them to sing a version of The Beatles It s Getting Better . But some wires got crossed, and Gomez took the job instead. For a reported #750 000. That s a lot of smashed up Fenders.

So Gary, what s the Snow Patrol philosophy in three words?

Cheese and wine, he says, deadpanning like Kevin McAleer, blowing his bandmates minds in the process.

That s too deep for me, Mark wows. It works on so many levels . . .


Over in Portadown, there s work to be done. Rock and roll with a joyful, non-sectarian thrust might help to blast away the awful associations of the place; the marches, the violence, the entrenchment. That s an ideal, of course. But it s something that Phil Woolsey, former singer with Joyrider, has been giving a lot of thought to.

In October 1987, his band was playing one of its final gigs at the Empire in Belfast, suporting Cuckoo. He got talking with the latter act s manager, Tony Docherty, who revealed that he d just been in Portadown, Phil s home town. Tony had been liasing with Angela Dorgan from the Federation Of Music Collectives to see if a collective in Portadown was a viable idea. Phil assured them that it was absolutely viable. He hooked up with Eddie Creaney, a local businessman with a strong interest in music, and they began the process of drawing up plans, knocking on doors and meeting prospective funders. In time, they d connected with the Monaghan And Portadown Partnership, the International Fund For Ireland, T&EA and FAS.

The short-term fix was a 20 week music course, involving a score of students drawn equally from Portadown and the Re:Sound Collective across the border in Carrickmacross.

In time, they want to form The Craigavon Music Collective, with a proper, permanent home in Portadown, a place where enlightened music venues are rare.

We do really believe that a collective is a necessity in the area, Phil stresses. There s very little out there in cross-community terms, even in sport. We know this will work. We believe in it.

If Portadown can make some noise at night with music piling onto the streets instead of Orange demonstrations and stuff like that, it would be a much better place. Even the conservative people would admit that.

So do you think there might be some resistance to the idea of a cross-border project?

It s always a fear. I don t think they know too much about it at the minute. It has been known for cross-community social workers to be threatened in the past in Portadown. It s not something I would dismiss, but you keep your head low and try to get on with the work.

A moment later, and Phil captures the essence of the project.

We d like to be in a situation some day where the sectarian people are considered the freaks, and that everyone else is dismissing them.

The music course, which this writer has been involved with, has been tremendously useful. The students have been trained in IT skills, music industry practices, recording and production, press and promotion. By the end of the course (which is now half completed), they ll also have produced a CD and a magazine. The project makes sense on every level, and the feeling of developing excitement at their base in Waterside House, Craigavon, is overwhelming. All of this makes it the best initiative from the north in the last 12 months. Utter respect. n

Snow Patrol website:

To contact The Craigavon Music Collective Tel. 01762 346 950 or 01762 335113. E-mail: music

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