BICEP’s return to Dublin at the 3Arena this St. Patricks Day is a landmark show for both the Belfast producers & Irish dance music culture. Taking place on the grounds of what once was the Point Depot which previously welcomed Carl Cox, Orbital, Laurent Garnier & many more, the show marks a new chapter in Irish dance music as BICEP become the first Irish electronic music act to headline the venue since 1995.
Ireland’s electronic & dance music communities have been thriving since the late 80s and the music has snowballed into an unmistakable force within modern Irish culture. Despite years of being swept aside by the government and receiving little to no funding, backing or recognition the culture has continued to flourish as the years have gone by. While the loss of venues and spaces all across the country has been well documented in the last decade, the number of high-quality producers has multiplied. This leaves Ireland’s electronic landscape in a strange paradigm where it feels like a powerful garrison built up over several years, but this is not without its chink in its armour as we fail to provide creatives the space to showcase their artistry.
If you were to walk into an Irish record shop ten years ago, sure you’d pick up a few copies of some Irish artists on the shelves, but nothing even close to the magnitude of the amount of Irish music that dominates Irish record stores shelves today. Ireland has become a stronghold for new and exciting producers across a multitude of genres.
Ireland is not only home to some of the world’s leading names in dance music, but Irish DJs and dancers are backing them, and while that seems painfully obvious, historically it hasn’t always been the case. Irish DJs & producers have long become accustomed to a fight or flight mentality when it comes to hunting out success on home turf. Irish electronic acts have traditionally moved like foxes; scavenging through big cities in search in search of the helping of prosperity in a foreign land.
The misconception that Irish acts can’t achieve relative success within their own country and industry now seems futile & in many ways counter intuitive in modern-day Ireland. When you look at modern stalwarts of the Irish scene such as Sunil Sharpe, Ian O’Donovan, DeFeKT & more, that have received enormous recognition on the world scale of electronic music while remaining in Ireland, it seems totally possible.
In 2023 Irish act’s are being championed on our dancefloors more than ever, you have to look no further than Index‘s recent shows which have welcomed KETTAMA, Tommy Holohan, Riot Code, Obskür, DART, Sunil Sharpe, Yasmin Gardezi, BLK., Chantel Kavanagh, Ejeca, Rebūke, Fionn Curran and more for headlines shows, which is a new and compelling phenomenon for Irish club culture. While BICEP’s journey may have started in London, many of their plaudits came from performances on home soil & being championed by Irish clubs, promoters and crowds.
BICEP‘s long-awaited return to Dublin marks the biggest reconstruction of Irish electronic music culture as a homegrown act headlines The Point Depot for the first time in 28 years, following in the footsteps of pioneering Irish artists Mark Kavanagh & Tim Hannigan. The massive St Patricks Day show is a pivotal milestone that solidifies the culture as a living and breathing organism and displays the progression of the music to an above-board style event.
BICEP’s journey to this stage of their career has been an extensive voyage through various forms, sounds & structures, that are littered across Irish dancefloors. Humble beginnings as a blog entitled FeelMyBicep, which would later become their powerhouse record label, the BICEP adventure simply started with Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar‘s devoted love of electronic music, and a need to share music that was close to their heart. The sheer idea of starting a blog was an early expansion of the concept of DJing in a digital realm. The duo didn’t care for a mix series (until later), didn’t fathom the idea of making music, but just simply liked the idea of sharing records on an online forum.. a rather forward-thinking take on DJing from two lads in Belfast in 2008.
From their early days as a blog to leaping DJing live, there is a real feeling of honesty and transparency within the BICEP journey. Many underground electronic act’s that reach the heights of BICEP seem somewhat enigmatic and hidden away from public perception. However, BICEP’s rise through the ranks is well documented and there’s echos of historical BICEP shows across copious amounts of Irish venues, as well as their earliest shows in London.
Seminal BICEP shows across Mandella Hall, The Twisted Pepper, The Stiff Kitten, The Menagerie, The Tivoli Theatre and more paint a picture of a promising duo that were delivering proficient DJ sets from the very beginning of their career. Many dancers across the country have a BICEP story to tell, whether it’s their mammoth all-night-long sets, to their debut at Life Festival in 2013, to sweat-soaked sessions in The Telegraph Building. It always seemed inevitable that they would reach a certain magnitude of success, but I don’t think this level of triumph was ever forecast.
As the Belfast pair embark on their debut arena show at the docklands in Dublin this Friday, it seems rather symbolic to breathe in a touch of nostalgia as we reminisce about the last time BICEP celebrated St. Patricks Day in Ireland in Sligo 5 years ago alongside Hammer and Brame & Hamo. BICEP now arrive back to our shores half a decade later with a new cast of Saoirse & DeFeKT, boasting a formidable showcase of all Irish talent on Dublin’s biggest arena stage.
BICEP now find themselves nestled in between international pop stars Lizzo, Snoop Dogg & Ed Sheeran this March at the 3Arena which is a weighty position to be in as a homegrown ‘left-field’ act. The Belfast duo now join the coveted past electronic-leaning performers to take the stage at the Point Depot which was once a cultural institution for dance music in Dublin. Previous appearances from The Prodigy, Carl Cox, Underworld, Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk and more tell a tale of a radiant time for Irish dance music. Legendary club night Gods Kitchen frequently welcomed some of trance’s most prolific names during the peak of the genre’s heights in the early to mid-2000s, further cementing the venue’s cultural status as a real purveyor of big-scale dance events in Ireland. Winterparty & its successor Springparty showcased a variety of pinnacle techno DJs including Dave Clarke, Billy Nasty, Laurent Garnier, Sasha & Digweed, Daren Emmerson and more, before disbanding during the club’s closure in 2007. The club night made its comeback in 2016 at the 3Arena for a once-off event with Sven Vath, Hot Since 82, Matador, Skream, Jon Hopkins and more. BICEP’s show now marks 7 years since underground electronic music has had its day at The Point Depot, and how sweet it is for Belfast-born Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar (Bicep) to headline the venue alongside Saoirse Ryan (Saoirse) & Matthew Flanagan (DeFeKT).
BICEP take the stage at The Point Depot just under six months after the news of extended trading hours for nightclubs in The Republic of Ireland, and just over a year since Belters Only became the first dance artists to reach number 1 in the Irish Official Single Charts in 22 years. Although all of these historic events live in totally different worlds within the story of Irish dance music, it’s hard to not recognise that times are changing within Ireland. In the face of trials and tribulations Irish dance music has stood up and renounced its position in modern Irish culture time and time again, and it is absolutely imperative that we celebrate these wins for our culture each and every time we get the chance. This St. Patricks Day Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar, Saoirse Ryan, Matthew Flanagan & all the District 8 team make history for Irish dance music.
You can purchase the remaining tickets to BICEP at the 3Arena HERE.