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Paris and the Spark of SLF

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Rarely has live music been so important. Rarely has it taken one of the most visited cities on earth, pulled it from the dark shadow that had been cast over it, and ignited a spark. The city was Paris, and the spark was Stiff Little Fingers.

The events of Friday the 13th of November will not be soon forgotten. Eight extremists carried out attacks of such barbarity that it nearly brought an entire capital city to its knees. Being in Paris that night was surreal. Due to the randomness of the locations of the attacks, everywhere felt like a possible target. As the bar TV’s started to switch from showing a friendly match between France and Germany, to rolling news coverage of the incidents, that numbing sense of disbelief and anxiety started to sweep through the clientele. We had gone from cheering on a nation in a football match, to fearing for its population.

Then, news of another attack. And then another. People start leaving the bar to make panicked phone-calls to loved ones, realisations of knowing someone who might have been at anyone of the multiple places that were hit. Now social media takes over our evening, hearing of details that had not yet made its way to mainstream media. “Hold on, Eagles of Death Metal, I know someone at that gig…”, I murmured under my breath. I bolted outside and rang my close friend, Cham, who I had thought might have been in attendance. “I’m in an ambulance, shot in the leg, I’m okay”, and the line goes dead. The panic that came from that four second phone call was horrific, but would have been nothing in comparison to those who were not getting the line answered at the other end.

I myself had intended to go to that concert. If it hadn’t been for buying tickets for another concert in the same venue for three days later, I would have more than likely been in attendance. This thought made me sick to my stomach, as I started to hear witness testimonies of events in the Bataclan venue.

Paris was a tough city to be in that weekend. A common charachteristic of the music industry from city to city, is that the members of this network tend to be a tight-knit bunch. This therefore meant that nearly all of us knew someone who had been affected, either directly or in-directly, from Fridays atrocities. Promoters began to try and figure out how their trade would go on, with a string of international artists cancelling gigs. Very much so the right move in the immediate days that followed, but an undeniable feeling of ‘when is it okay to start again?’ was tangible.

And then, the spark. “When we were growing up in Belfast, I was always saddened by the fact that groups would never come and play there because of the political situation. I was deprived of another “normal” part of life. With this in mind, and with the wonderful co-operation of our Parisian promoter, the S.L.F. show at Backstage at the Mill, WILL GO AHEAD AS ADVERTISED”

The feeling of reading this will be one I will never forget. A punk band from Belfast, having learnt the hard way to persist with playing shows despite what’s going on around them, are going to be one of the first to take stand. A proud moment for someone from Belfast, but also a proud moment for any music enthusiast the world over.

Stiff Little Fingers played a show that was, sadly, not packed out. But each person who went to that show will forever hold it in the highest regards as a concert that showed that we won’t let lunacy win. We slugged pints, we danced, we sang. We done what everyone in the Bataclan had been in the middle of doing on Friday night, only this time we ended their night for them.

“I won’t be a soldier
I won’t take no orders from no-one
Stuff their fucking armies
Killing isn’t my idea of fun.”

Words and photo by Tom McGeehan