The Music & People of Belfast – By Maeve O’Dowd


I did not expect to be as quickly won over by Belfast as I was the second my travel buddy, Ashley, and I arrived at our hotel in the City Centre. Within the first 24 hours we had a delicious meal from The MAC Belfast under our belts, laughs shared with locals and the unique streets photographed.

During our first Sunday in Belfast we ended up coming across Aether and Echo, a charming and victorian-style pub. We walked in and immediately were greeted by a friendly group of individuals who inquired about our accents and what brought us to Belfast. They ended up being in the band that was performed while we enjoyed our appetizers and lunch. Gorgeous covers of gospel kept the place in high spirits, with locals singing along, people chatting and smiles being shared. Turns out, this beautiful gathering was by no coincidence, but rather is a reoccurring event every Sunday.

At the end of the set I talked to the drummer from The Unholy Gospel Band, Michael, as well as two local men to see where else we could go to find such amazing music and people. They recommended this place called The Belfast Empire Music Hall which is a multi-level bar and music venue that has a charming stage at the front for all types of acts to come and perform. I looked up more about the venue and it just so happened that Angel Olsen, one of my favorite artists, was playing that same evening. After sitting in awe for about ten minutes, Ashley and I put on our best Belfast attire and headed to The Empire.

In all my experience with attending concerts, I have never so easily walked into a venue, bought two tickets 15 minutes before the show and ended up standing so close to the stage. But that was our experience. I could only come to the conclusion that either this day was extremely lucky or Belfast is as cool as I believe it to be.

Tim Darcy opened up for Angel Olsen and was a beautiful echo to Angel Olsen’s  unique and almost hauntingly angelic sound. I even noticed that Angel Olsen was casually enjoying the performance from the side of the stage. We managed to be right in front of the stage in between Angel Olsen and the energetic people of Belfast.

Needing to document this unbelievable moment, we asked a group of locals behind us to take our photo and from that point on they became our best friends for the evening. They shared with us their favorite spots, events and food that we could try during our time in Belfast. I have never had such a consistently positive and spontaneous adventure than my days and nights in Belfast. While the attractions and streets of Belfast are enough to make any tourist happy, I’ve quickly learned that the key to finding great music and experiences in Belfast revolves around the people that make it the great city that it is.



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