3rd May 2019 in Arts
Pete Brady has been spinning records since he was a teenager, but his obsession with great funk and soul music has never waned over the years – if anything, it’s stronger than ever.
The DJ and event producer is well known for hosting and DJing live music nights, most recently under the guise of Superfly Funk and Soul, and this weekend his unique musical stamp is on no fewer than three of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival’s most exciting events, including a guest slot on Craig Charles’ highly-anticipated Sunday night DJ set in the Festival Marquee.
As we publish, Pete has finished earlier a one-hour stint on CQ Radio, which is back by popular demand for the CQ Radio Experiment as part of the CQAF. An incredible 18 original radio shows will be broadcast live over the bank holiday weekend from a pop-up radio station in Exchange Place. Visit cqradio.co.uk to check out the schedule and listen live from the homepage.
The Cathedral Quarter is, says Pete, something of a spiritual home for him but he has taken a winding road here, pursuing his love of music to London and back first.
“I’ve been DJ-ing on and off since I was 16 – so thirty years believe it or not! I have always collected records, even while there was no scene in Belfast for a very long time, I would have used that time to go to London to go to clubs. so I went to places like Blow Up, The Blue Note – these were great places to go to and the scene was very much still alive over there. They all came out of the whole acid jazz scene in London which was a fantastic time to be involved in the music scene, I loved it.
“Belfast didn’t really offer a lot for a long time. I came back and started a little soul night about seven years ago now and it was reasonably successful but the turning point for me was the realisation that what I was doing was very similar to two or three other nights on in the city, so I thought – I can either stop doing it or look at doing something a bit different and the radio station for me has been a springboard to my more recent success.”
In September 2015, Pete was invited to audition for a slot on Belfast Underground Radio. Nearly four years later, his show on the independent online station pulls in around 3,000 viewers per broadcast, from all around the world. Although he loves the old classics, Pete says there is so much good new music being made in the genre, that this forms the bulk of his show playlists.
The show has provided a platform that’s helped him cement his presence on the funk and soul scene and allowed him to forge strong connections with like-minded producers and bands across the world.
This led him to put on his first ‘Superfly Funk and Soul Boat’ event on The Belfast Barge in August 2017, bringing acts like Bristol-based funk duo The Allergies over to play in this unique and characterful floating venue.
Although Pete loved the Barge as a venue, it wasn’t long before he realised he was “going to need a bigger boat” as the film line goes, and The Oh Yeah Centre felt like the perfect fit.
“[The Oh Yeah Centre] just has that really lovely old-school concert hall feel to it; Charlotte and Dee from the Oh Yeah have been fantastic; really welcoming, supportive, couldn’t do enough for me and the staff are super friendly. It just all creates a lovely vibe. When I think about the Cathedral Quarter as a whole, it’s such a vibrant, busy hub of the city, there’s no doubt about it, and we feel very much at home there.”
The first Superfly Funk and Soul night at the Oh Yeah took place in January as part of the Out To Lunch festival, with The Allergies making a welcome return to the Superfly brand, having played at one of the Barge gigs.
This is Pete’s second year of partnering up with the CQ’s eponymous arts festival, and it’s yet another strong bond to what he feels is the beating heart of Belfast.
“What I have is a product I feel is very unique and it’s what has helped me form really strong bonds with the guys at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. Sean [Kelly, CQAF Director] looked at what I had in terms of the radio show, the events, the website and now selling my own t-shirts and said: ‘Carry on pushing the boundaries and thinking of different ways to do things, and – more importantly for me – keep bringing the quality of bands that you are bringing over and you will always form part of my plans for any of these festivals.’ So, this is my second year of involvement with the arts festival guys and it’s been wonderful, absolutely brilliant.”
As well as Pete’s exciting Sunday night guest slot and his appearance on CQ Radio, Superfly Funk and Soul have brought over Men of North Country for what is set to be a fantastic show in The Oh Yeah Centre on Saturday night. The hugely popular acid jazz band have, as Pete says, “emerged from the soul scene in Tel Aviv”. Through the phenomenally far-reaching musical connections he has forged, Pete has paved the way to bring this highly regarded band to Belfast for the very first time.
His travels and his online platform have not only allowed him to forge relationships and find new music, but have also inspired him as to what is possible here.
“What brought it home to me is just how big the scene is in the rest of the UK. The Allergies showed me a picture on one of their phones… it was an absolutely rammed-to-the-hilt dancefloor – I said it looked like a rave and they told me it was a funk and soul event on in South London and this is a pic taken by us at 4:45 in the morning!’
“And it’s a dance floor of about 2,000 kids in their early 20s all dancing to funk and soul. Unbelievable! So that’s how big the scene is in the UK and that’s where I have used my radio show to tap into that. It allowed me to form some great relationships with some great bands and allowed me in turn to start to promote a bit and bring them over to these shores. These guys have been very receptive to the idea of coming to play Belfast where no-one else seems to be giving them an opportunity.
“My quest is to ensure longevity in what I am doing and to carry on pushing the boundaries and bringing some great bands over to Belfast.”
As well as sourcing fantastic acts from across the globe, Pete is keen to provide a platform for homegrown acts, and to support the key venues in his beloved Cathedral Quarter.
The Oh Yeah is the venue for a further two Superfly Funk and Soul nights this year; London-based Soul Grenades will play here in August, supported by Armagh four-piece The Freedom 35s, with a Bangor band The Organauts opening for Link Quartet when they fly in from Milan this December to play the Oh Yeah.
“The Oh Yeah Centre itself has a fantastic reputation of being a real hub for music, it’s synonymous with that, there’s no doubt about it. It has wonderful history behind it and is a much-loved venue for music lovers in the city so for me as a music lover myself, and as someone who sees myself being based in easily my favourite part of the city – many people’s favourite part of the city – it’s absolutely perfect for us.
“The Black Box is another venue that I have used in the past for other events. For me, The Black Box and the Oh Yeah Centre are two fantastic venues with a lot to offer. Financially it’s always a struggle to keep a venue open because the overheads are huge – I couldn’t encourage people enough to support them and get behind the events that they put on. Those two venues in particular will always be pushing the boundaries and looking to do something a little bit different.”
At time of writing, there are still tickets left for Men of North Country and Craig Charles at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. You can also follow Superfly Funk and Soul Belfast on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If you head to either of Pete’s shows at the weekend, do please tag us into any social posts, along with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, and use the #CQAF19 and #CQBelfast hashtags.