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Bell X1 all fired up as they return for Galway gig



Date Published: {J}

Bell X1 return to Galway this Saturday, December 3, following their success at this year’s Galway Arts Festival when they sold out the Big Top.

And they have been busy since then as front man Paul Noonan explains from Atlanta – Bell X1 are currently on a US tour.

“We were here in June, so we’re hitting a few places we hadn’t been back then,” he says. “We’ve just been to Austin and we’re here now in Atlanta; we’re going to Nashville next.”

The trip across the Atlantic is due to the success of Bell X1’s past two albums, Flock and Blue Lights on the Runway. They have appeared on prime time chat shows hosted by Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. For Noonan, touring the US is the stuff of rock and roll fantasy.

“Since we started making music, it’s what we wanted to do, get out here and get on a bus. Travel coast to coast; there’s a sort of romance to it, that being in a band you sort of dream of doing. So when it finally happened we really went for it.”

Earlier this year, Bell X1 released Bloodless Coup. That album saw the band veer into more electronic territory, while still maintaining their knack for writing hooks.

“It’s a funny one,” says Paul. “It’s probably our most electro-sounding record but it was the most organically recorded. In the sense that we went and rehearsed and rehearsed, as a five-piece band, until we felt that we were ready, and then went and recorded it in a proper studio – quickly.

“Initially, when I wrote the songs I would’ve been on a laptop, using a lot of that stuff with view to maybe replacing some of it later on,” he adds. “But it just never happened! And it seemed to fit.”

Although Noonan’s voice makes it easy to pick out a new Bell X1 tune on the radio, every album sees the band tinker with their sound. Given their popularity, this is a risky manoeuvre – but they don’t seem like a band who subscribe to the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ philosophy.

“There’s always a desire for a little of the unexpected,” says Paul. “I suppose what we find that what does it for us in the studio is to take songs that are fairly traditionally written and then dress them in ways that we’d never really used before.”

For a band who like to throw something new into the mix, Bell X1 must get very tempted when they hit the road. Many musicians return from jaunts in the States with new toys.

“We had to stop that!” laughs Paul. “We’ve done a lot of that in the past and you end up dragging all sorts of s**t home. You get stung for it at the airport!

“We were in Vicksburg, Mississippi, yesterday. These places that you’d never get to unless you were passing through and often they’ll have little music shops with weird and wonderful stuff, like an old banjo that has lived.”

For the making of Bloodless Coup Bell X1 spent some time in London’s Abbey Road studios. Though they had just trod the same hallowed ground as The Beatles, they found themselves brought back to earth by inclement weather.

“It was that mad period just before Christmas last year,” recalls Paul. “We ended with thousands of others a lot worse off, like families. Sleeping on the floor at Gatwick – it’s a great leveller!”

In the past, studio trickery has made it challenging for Bell X1 to bring certain elements of their songs to a concert setting. But the way Bloodless Coup was recorded made it an easier record to bring to the stage.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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