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Ten must-see shows at Cathedral Quarters Arts Festival 2014


Now in its fifteenth year, hands down Belfast’s most exciting, diverse and inspiring festival of music, culture and arts, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival returns from May 1-11. Boasting a programme featuring everyone from De La Soul and Tinariwen to Simon Amstell, Shonen Knife and Yuck, it is quite possibly the annual festival’s strongest roster to date.

At the risk of scaling a mount of hyperbole, we reckon there is quite literally something for everybody at this year’s festival. Whether you look to the words and ideas of the likes of Bernard McLaverty or Mark Ellen, the comedy of Katherine Ryan or Howard Read et al, genre-defining artists such as The Handsome Family, The Selecter and Fuck Buttons or first-rate theatre productions of ‘The Luckiest Arab in Belfast’ or ‘An Instinct for Kindness’, CQAF has yet again delivered on a ten-day programme of eclectic and engaging arts events.

Skimming over what’s on offer over the next week and a bit, here’s our ten must-see shows of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2014.

Fuck Buttons – Festival Marquee, Thursday, May 1

Where better to start than the beginning? Kickstarting the festival in the marquee on Thursday, May 1 is Bristolian electronic duo Fuck Buttons, an act world-renown for their utterly transformative, hugely intent-drenched live performances. Supported by none other than our very own David Holmes, this is the perfect choice to get things underway.

Yuck, Bouts – Black Box, Friday, May 2

Making their return to Belfast after three years, English indie-rock/lo-fi revivalists Yuck will bring their starry-eyed, shoegaze-tinged guitar fuzz to the Black Box on Friday, May 2. Support on the night comes from the perfectly-accompanying Bouts, a Dublin indie-rock duo who have recently proved themselves to be one of the country’s finest guitar acts with their full-length debut album, Nothing Good Gets Away.

The Last Waltz Live – Festival Marquee, Friday, May 2

Taking place on the same night as the above in the festival marquee, Dublin rock n’ roll troupe The Group will put their very own live spin on Martin Scorcese’s timeless documentary The Last Waltz, capturing The Band’s legendary farewell concert. Whether or not you’ve seen the original, this is an opportunity to re-live one of the most iconic performances in the history of rock music.

Tinariwen – Festival Marquee, Sunday, May 4

Almost three years since their utterly unforgettable performance at Belfast’s Mandela Hall, Saharan blues band Tinariwen will play the festival marquee on Sunday, May 4. Propelled by repetition and Tuareg innovation, these musicians are true master of the jam and a jubilant and evidently universal musical spirit. If you missed them last time around, do not pass up an opportunity to catch them live on Sunday, May 4.

Hüsker Dü night: screening + The Groundlings, Abandcalledboy & No Matter – Voodoo, Monday, May 5

On Monday, May 5 at Voodoo we’ll be hosting a very special, one-off celebration of the music of boundlessly influential U.S. three-piece Hüsker Dü. As well as exclusive screening of Every Everything – a documentary looking at the life, times and music of the band’s drummer, co-songwriter and majorly influential visionary Grant Hart – The Groundlings, Abandcalledboy and No Matter will also be performing. Sure, we’re slightly biased, but pop along for a great night.

Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion – Festival Marquee, Wednesday, May 7

For all intents and purpose, Ginger Baker is one crazy dude. How come, you ask? Well, the drummer legendarily-talented and pioneering Cream drummer was once voted “the musician least likely to survive the 60s”. He’s still alive and, as 2012’s Beware of Mr Baker – and this excruciating Q+A – accurately conveys, he’s still very much as well… Ginger Baker-esque as he’s always been. That said, his new quartet, Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, brings the focus right back to the music. A nigh on unmissable performance is in store.

Wild Beasts & Go Wolf – Festival Marquee, Thursday, May 8

Supported by Belfast-based indie-pop band Go Wolf, one of Britain’s most innovative indie bands of a generation, Wild Beasts, make their return to the Festival Marquee on Thursday, May 8. Off the back of the release of their superb new album, Present Tense, this show well and truly coincides with the quartet being at their music-making powers. An outright highlight in the making from the festival and no mistake.

Shonen Knife – Black Box, Friday, May 9

Formed in Osaka in 1981, all-female Japanese pop-punk trio Shonen Knife were elevated to cult following status in the early Nineties following much-publicised appreciation from the likes of Sonic Youth and Nirvana. Notorious for their extremely infectious, stripped-back and supremely simple Ramones-esque punk, the three-piece bring their irresestible, decades-spanning craft to the Black on Friday, May 9

Jimi Goodwin (Doves) – Black Box,  Sunday, May 11

Having released four great albums fronting Doves, Manchester singer-songwriter Jimi Goodwin will play the Black Box on the festival closing night on Sunday, May 11. Having released his debut solo album, the enchanting Odludek, Goodwin is likely to play songs spanning its tracklisting, as a well a couple of Doves back catalogue. Quite possible the best, “smaller” gig on Sunday, May 11 in Belfast.

De La Soul: 25 Years of Celebration – Festival Marquee, Sunday, May 11

Wrapping up the programme in the absolute finest of styles, Long Island hip hop trio De La Soul will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary world-conquering debut album, 3 Feet High And Rising at (where else but?) the Festival Marquee on Sunday, May 11. If there’s one show that is conclusively “must-see” at this year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, this is, without a shadow of a doubt, it. In other words: bring on the party.

Go to the official Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival website for tickets.

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.