Carrick’s Gin Palace in Metro Sessions final

Gin Palace, from left to right: Daniel Donaghy, Josh Lown, Joel McCracken and Darren Mercer.
Gin Palace, from left to right: Daniel Donaghy, Josh Lown, Joel McCracken and Darren Mercer.

A cracking young band with a strong Carrickfergus influence are aiming to be Northern Ireland’s newest music sensation.

Gin Palace will compete against four other artists - Lucy Bell, The John Andrews Band, Modern Rome and The Rising - in Translink’s Metro Sessions contest.

Launched in September in partnership with the Oh Yeah Music Centre as part of the 2019 Sound of Belfast programme, the competition offers aspiring artists and musicians a chance of winning a £1000 cash prize alongside a recording studio package, radio airtime and industry mentoring.

The final at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, November 2 (2pm to 5pm), will see the acts perform at a free open air gig before the winner is decided by a 48-hour online public vote.

Gin Palace - Josh Lown (drum kit), Carrickfergus and Darren Mercer (bass guitar), Greenisland, with Joel McCracken (vocals/ rhythm guitar/ trumpet) and Daniel Donaghy (lead guitar), both Belfast - are hoping the talent that has already brought them success since forming in 2017 will secure them further recognition at the showcase event.

Reflecting on their development so far, Josh said: “What started as a few get together jams quickly became a planned year of writing a full set our own original songs behind closed doors, to lead towards a headline launch night for the band and debut single ‘Marianna’ which we completely sold out in September 28th in McHugh’s Belfast.

“From then we have kept the momentum up on the gigging front headlining and packing out venues such as Voodoo (twice), Limelight 1 and most recently playing two headline shows in The Empire Music Hall in 2019. During this time, releasing a follow up single ‘Tripped the Light Fantastic’ and our self-titled debut EP that featured three tracks including out third single ‘Passing By’ which has been streamed over 5,000 times on Spotify, which is the track that got us to this stage of the competition.”

The band, who have also played gigs further afield in Northern Ireland and Dublin, point to influences ranging from rock and jazz to blues and funk for their “very unique sound”. Their name was inspired by a photo from an Ulster Museum exhibition which featured a booth in bar with the words Gin Palace written above it.

While the young musicians may aspire to a life in the industry, they are focused for now on next weekend’s big challenge.

Josh added: “ With Gin Palace we believe that we have come along way in the year that we have actively been on the music scene, the venues we have played such as Limelight and the Empire being a great indicator on that. So, to keep on with the momentum that we have and push through and have our music reach - and play gigs in - other areas across the UK such as Glasgow, Liverpool, London etc. where the music scene is much bigger, would be an amazing achievement for us and is something that we are working towards.

“Next Saturday playing at Belfast City Hall is the first step and a massive platform in helping us achieve this and is something that all of us are really buzzing about.”

The organisers received over 60 entries from bands and solo artists and it was no easy task for the judges in whittling it down to a shortlist of five acts.

Translink Metro’s Sean McGreevy said: “Belfast has a remarkable history of producing outstanding musical talent and this competition has proved that today’s artists and musicians are no exception. We’re now encouraging everyone to come down to City Hall on Saturday 2nd November and join us to celebrate Belfast through music.”

Candice Cathers, Third Bar Artist Development and competition judge, said: “The judging process was tough. We each had our favourites and it was difficult to agree on the five acts we felt stood out, especially when the quality of all the submissions was so good.

“The prizes on offer from Translink as part of this competition could make a massive difference to an aspiring artist’s career.”

Details of the live final and how to vote for your favourite act can be found at www.soundofbelfast.com/metrosessions