Tim Wheeler reflects on 'A Life Less Ordinary' during COVID-19 with Stendhal a 'Shining Light' at the end of the tunnel for Ash

By the time their headline set at Stendhal Festival on August 13 comes around, it will have been 538 days since Tim Wheeler, Rick McMurray and Mark Hamilton, better known to music lovers worldwide as Ash, have set foot on a live stage and played their inimitable brand of rock to a live audience.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 9:48 am
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 9:50 am
Rick McMurray, Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton.

It will mark the end of the longest period of time in the past 25 years that the Downpatrick three-piece have gone without performing live and will hopefully get the band a step closer to a full-time touring comeback.

Just before the pandemic, Ash had released a bumper 3-disc collection of all their greatest hits and personal favourite compositions entitled ‘Teenage Wildlife’, an incredible collaboration comprised of over 50 songs.

Unfortunately, they were unable to complete the live tour for the release as the world got to grips with COVID-19 and all that it wrought upon us.

“It was pretty frustrating,” said front man Tim Wheeler, “the tour had been selling really well, we had some great gigs in Europe and we were heading into the home stretch with some of the bigger UK and Ireland shows when it all just stopped.

“It was really hard to stop at that point and at the time we were thinking, well it might just be for a couple of months but that turned into well maybe just a couple more months and eventually into 18 months before we had a live date on our schedule again.”

The national lockdowns and everything that has gone on in the past year has had an effect on everyone around the world and Tim and the band were no different, as he explained how they all tried to cope with the circumstances.

“I think we’ve been overly optimistic throughout,” he said, “I suppose it is hard to come to terms with everything that actually happened in terms of the live music industry just shutting down for so long but we’ve used the time to finish off a new album which we plan on bringing out next year, so while we couldn’t tour, we did other things.

“I suppose a saving grace was the idea that while it was difficult, everyone in the industry was in the same boat. We did an online gig and it was great but we really can't wait to get back in front of a live crowd.”

Happily, the band are now in a position to put all that frustration behind them as they prepare for their return to the live stage with their Headline Slot at Limavady’s Stendhal Festival this August 13 a date that Tim says he and the band have been really looking forward to since it was booked.

“We can’t wait,” he said, “we are so excited to get back to playing live and having the gig in Northern Ireland as a festival headline set couldn’t be better for us. I’m just absolutely delighted that gigs and festivals are back, for a long time nobody seemed to know if they would be back this summer at all and when we signed on for Stendhal, there was still a little bit of me that didn’t know if I could believe it.”

Ash also headlined the 2017 edition of the Festival, a gig that Tim says the band have great memories of.

“Yeah we had a great day last time,” he said. “Headlining any festival is a great gig and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Being at home we had loads of friends and family up to see us and we got to catch up with some of the brilliant home-grown bands that Stendhal does a great job of showcasing. We are really looking forward to coming back.”

So what can those gathered to celebrate at Stendhal expect from Ash as they make a triumphant return to their natural habitat?

“You can expect the release of 18 months of pent-up energy,” laughed Tim. “We are super excited for this one.”

Following Stendhal Ash are getting back on the road to finish up the postponed ‘Teenage Wildlife’ tour and will be back in Belfast at the Limelight on December 16.

Over 60 acts including Ash, Ryan McMullan, And So I Watch You From Afar, Paddy Casey, Mary Coughlan, Duke Special and Kila play Stendhal festival from August 12 to 14th at Ballymully Cottage Farm, Limavady.

For tickets and more information on all the acts and Ash’s return to the stage visit www.stendhalfestival.com

This event was enabled by funding from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.