Top Ten Radar Gigs

Queen's events officer Damian McAdams on the defining nights of the midweek music institution's ten-year run, ahead of its farewell show on October 22

Since 2005 Radar has given a pronounced platform for local artists in the form of regular, free-to-attend shows in the heart of Belfast, at Queen's University's Students Union.

Whether on the Speakeasy stage or the Mandela Hall, the long-running night has consistently connected bands from Northern Ireland with large audiences, and with all the productio marks of a ticketed event. 

As Radar gets set to bow out on Thursday, October 22 with a final sendoff featuring Mojo Fury, Oh Volcano, Hot Cops and Jealous of the Birds, longtime promoter Damian McAdams takes a stroll down memory lane and recounts his standout shows from the decade past.

Damien: Picking 10 memorable gigs spanning hundreds of shows across 10 years is pretty daunting. I probably could have picked 50 and still forgotten a few classics. It’s been a lot of fun thinking about though and it's threatened to bring a tear to my eye on occasion if truth be told.

Since the final show was announced lots of people have asked why it's ending and I think the best way to sum it up is that now just feels like the right time.

It’s been an amazing 10 years and it's something I never dreamed would last this long. I was only ever thinking show to show.

The reason for its success was the people; the musicians who played on the stage, the people who worked at it and most importantly the people who kept showing up.

The First One: V//Formation, Mojo Fury, Panda Kopanda, Fast Emporors - September 29, 2005

I can remember the first one vividly. We didn’t know what to expect and no one had done a proper gig in the Speakeasy in a few years but we made it work. Then show time the place was packed with hundreds of people. A really great gig, it laid down a marker for not just the rest of the shows but also the whole scene in Belfast.

John Peel Night: Tracer AMC, The Zoo, Oppenheimer, Civilian - October 13, 2005

This was a mammoth line-up on such a special night as Radio One broadcasted from different gigs all over the country. It was a real eclectic mix of acts that all just worked.

We had a full house and everyone got an amazing reception. Rocky from Oppenheimer fell down a hole in the stage. He still reminds me of it.

General Fiasco, Two Door Cinema Club, The Good Fight - January 31, 2008

How could a line-up like this be anything but memorable? It certainly wasn’t the busiest show on this list but it encapsulates exactly what Radar was about, showcasing fantastic Northern Irish acts in the hope that they go on to be something. And these two showed that local bands could go as far as they dared dream.

Ed Zealous, The Black Tokens, The Benjamins – March 13, 2008

It's fair to say Ed Zealous were Radar favourites over the years and I could have picked any number of shows that they played. Every time they did if felt like a real party.

This one sticks out as I’m pretty sure we had to close the doors. They really were on top form and came out to an encore of 'For The Fishes'.

Team Fresh, NI Soul Troop, Axis Of - October 15, 2009

Every time Team Fresh played the Speakeasy it almost felt like a riot was going to break out. A really awesome, Buckfast fuelled, sweaty riot.

The place was packed and there was so many musicians on stage most of the band were diving from the PA, and most of the audience too. Axis Of opened and suddenly people started to take notice of them.

More Than Conquerors, Good Fight, NI Soul Troop, Captain Cameron - May 13, 2010

This was the night the scene witnessed the birth of something special with the young bucks More Than Conqeuerors. They had supported A Plastic Rose a few months before and I knew they had to headline.

This was an EP launch and I’d never seen a band put so much work into a show themselves. Lights, sound, and performance. This wasn’t a gig. This was a statement.

Panama Kings, Ed Zealous, Alice Kona Band – November 4, 2010

The last ever gig by Panama Kings. They had played two amazing headline shows previously which were just as memorable but here was a band going out at the top.

For whatever reason it didn’t quite work for Panama Kings but every time they played Radar it was magical. They had their haters but their influence and impact was something special.

Pocket Billiards, Tied To Machines, Chocolate Love Factory - September 20, 2012

The very first gig in the revamped Speakeasy. I guess everyone was a little nervous before hand. Basically a new room and a new stage. It was strange for all the crew working and I guess for the bands and punters too.

We needn’t have worried. Pocket Billiards did the thing they always do and raised the roof. Turns out you could crowd surf just as easy too!

The Dead Presidents, Pretty Child Backfire, Howl - March 7, 2013

I hate the word the ‘scene’. I never saw Radar as part of any scene, and I think we gave everyone a chance. But people will always throw it about as a derogatory term.

The Dead Presidents could certainly never be labelled a ‘scene’ band. Four hundred odd people packed in to witness something truly special. Funky, soulful, smooth and utterly refreshing.

Robocobra Quartet, Val Normal, Escobar - November 6, 2014

The only one in the list not to take place in the Speakeasy as it was in Sub, and the most recent but it has to make it. Two amazing support bands and then the most unique act Belfast has seen in a long time. People came intrigued, and left as converts. Exciting, innovative bands, local bands. The reason we started in the first place I guess.

Radar bows out with Mojo Fury, Oh Volcano, Hot Cops and Jealous of the Birds at Mandela Hall, Belfast on Thursday, October 22. Admission is free.