A Ballyclare guitarist has created one of Northern Ireland’s best kept live music secrets in his own town. Phil Horner, 30, was sick of paying hefty taxi fares travelling to Belfast to see his favourite bands.
The electrical engineer by day also realised many friends who lived nearby were also missing out due to the recession and a severe lack of public transport late at night.
After helping a friend organise an event, Phil decided he was going to give it a go himself.
He said: “My friend Michael Agnew needed help organising a last minute gig, he was having trouble getting good bands, so I came on board and got two of the best bands around at the time to play.
“I completed his line-up by getting local rock bands Double Wide and September Cross to agree to join the bill.”
Phil, who’s been playing in Northern Ireland based bands since he was 18, created the Comrades Rock Club, named after Ballyclare Comrades football club where he holds the events.
“Once I had a good venue in the town and a name I began to start organising events” said Phil, adding: “I run the events once a month and in my first few months I secured big local names such as Rebels By Nature, Trucker Diablo, A Little Bitter, Warcrux, Worldsend and my own band Conjuring Fate.”“I do all the sound and set up at the events. I wanted to do it not only because I deeply have a passion for music and the local scene but also I wanted to do the sound from a musician’s point of view.”
“It used to really bug me that some events I would go to you would see a guitarist doing a solo and I’d look over to the sound desk and instead of the sound engineer working with the band to make them sound the best they can he was twiddling his thumbs.”
“It wasn’t totally alien to me to jump behind a desk being a musician already, and having studied music and live sound in college many years ago, it was easy to get back into it.”
Comrades Rock Club has now been running in Ballyclare since August 2011 and Phil intends to bring even bigger and better acts to the club as he draw closer to his one year anniversary.However, Phil also realises that with every good business idea comes problems. He knew very quickly that in order to sustain his project he would need to make big changes to the stage, equipment and image.
He explained: “There are so many great bands on the scene at the minute that I wanted Comrades Rock Club to be a fantastic local platform for them.”
“I’ve had to make many changes along the way to make sure it stays fresh and also so that people see we’re dedicated to not only providing good entertainment but providing it at the same high level you would find in any venue in Belfast.”
“The stage compared to day one has come on leaps and bounds. From the rather large stage surrounding area being painted black, better lighting being installed and recently a new PA. It looks great now. Looking back at old pictures it’s hard to believe the difference.”
“Of course I don’t do all this alone and the club wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Comrades Rock crew of Michael Agnew, my girlfriend Kym McCauley and Carroll Cowan.”“The bands we’ve had throughout the last nine months have travelled from all over Northern Ireland including Belfast, Ballymena, Derry, Coleraine, Lisburn and Glengormley among others.”
“We normally get a great crowd too and even now have regular punters choosing to come to our gig in Ballyclare instead of staying in Belfast.”
“We’ve come a great distance and we hope to continue to get bigger and better.”
The next Comrades Rock club night will see local bands Skypilot and A Little Bitter plus support take to the stage on Friday June 8, £4 adm. For more information search Comrades Rock Club on Facebook.
By Tina Calder