Live Review: Girls Names – Hangar (June 6th)

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In the late 70’s and early 80’s Belfast found it’s sound. At a time of great struggle and difficultly, residents of the besieged Northern Irish capital took solace in a new form of music spilling-over from across the Irish Sea. And whilst the troubles may have dissipated, the resonating edgy  tones of punk remained an indicative cornerstone of the Belfast music scene. One such flag bearer for the favoured genre took to the rough and ready stage of Hangar in Dublin last Saturday night.

Before I review the gig I think it’s only fair that I provide a few words on the venue. Last Saturday was my first time inside the doors of Hangar, a venue which started its life as a shirt factory in the heart of Dublin city. Over the years production ceased and the warehouse in Andrews Lane became a music venue/nightclub. With exposed walls and no discerning features bar a stage and sound desk, Hangar works well as a blank canvas and takes nothing from the artist. But at the same time it exudes a distinct atmosphere and character and this seemed to add layers to Girls Names intense performance.

Opening with “The New Life” the title track from their highly successful 2013 release, it was to be one of the few familiar songs dished out. But that’s not to say that the night was without substance. The plethora of new material (of which I will not pretend to know) seemed to be well received by the intimate audience. More recognisable nuggets came in the form of “Zero Triptych” an 11 minute juggernaut of a song and of course “Hypnotic Regression”. The latter was preceded with an apology for the abundance of new material. But judging from the sheer quality of what was on offer, it was an apology that fell on deaf ears.

What Girls Names delivered last Saturday might may very well turn out to be a seminal chapter in an impressive origin story. The cornerstone of any talented band is forged through the relationship between bass player and drummer. And this is something that Gib Cassidy and Claire Miskimmin have in absolute abundance. Adding an enigmatic front-man and overall desire to progress and develop a signature sound, Girls Names certainly have all necessary ingredients in place.

Forgiving their one (mortal) sin of ending the set with a less than familiar track and not following up with the standard encore, the Hangar gig was still pretty impressive. I’ll happily put it down to character building and eagerly look forward to the October’s release.

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Jameson St Patrick’s Live – Vicar Street

Little Green Cars performs at Vicar Street as part of Jameson St

Whilst the world was busy painting their famous landmarks green, Vicar Street (and more so Jameson) were going one shade deeper with a star-studded, whiskey fuelled Paddy’s Day (well Paddy’s Eve) celebration.

Kicking off the party was a band who are anything but strangers to the atmospheric Dublin 8 venue. With the echoes of We Cut Corners’ Meteor Choice Prize performance still ringing throughout the hall, they effortlessly set down a marker for the night to follow. With a host of tracks ranging from the delicately balanced ‘Maybe in the Future’ to the boisterous ‘Blue’ the Dublin duo showed why their second album ‘Think Nothing” rightfully deserves to be up there with the best of 2014. Older staples such as ‘A Pirate’s Life’ and ‘The Leopard’ did well to showcase a wealth of material and a surprise cover of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Mandinka’ rounded off the set nicely.

Interludes between acts were filled with burger vendors and complimentary Jameson and ginger from the wall to wall whiskey bar within the venue. They also provided ample opportunity to check out the impressive stage and venue decorations as well as two large screens which displayed live twitter feeds. One such tweet from Delorentos included a photo of a ‘blank set-list‘ with an attached call for song suggestions. But thankfully this list far was from empty by the time the house lights were dimmed.

Keeping with Meteor Choice nominees, Delorentos were next to take to the stage. They have had somewhat of a stellar year, adding a host fantastic new songs under the guise of their fourth studio album ‘Night Becomes Light’ to an already impressive repertoire. Keeping with their patented energy and enthusiasm, the something rockers engaged the crowd from the offset. From the opening ‘Forget The Numbers’ to their trademark finisher ‘S.E.C.R.E.T’ Delorentos poured heart and soul into every song. And whilst the crowd may have been a little quieter than used to, the bands enthusiasm never waned.

But unfortunately the same could not be said for the headline act. Little Green Cars enjoyed success back in 2013 with their debut release ‘Absolute Zero’. Becoming associated with such iconic hits as ‘The John Wayne’ they quickly amassed a following, many of whom were present at the sold out gig in Vicar Street last night. What Little Green Cars possess in terms of vocal prowess and subtle musicianship they lacked in stage presence and seemed to be ‘going through the motions’. Their set, mainly utilised as a proving ground for new material, seemed to alienate and shut out the majority of the crowd creating an uneasy stillness that no amount of whiskey could reverse. 

But it would be unfair to condemn a band for playing to their strengths. Rare treats in the form of ‘My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me’ and the aforementioned ‘The John Wayne’ showed that the Little Green Cars we all know and love haven’t strayed too far. The line-up for the night was simply unbalanced.

But all in all, it’s hard to be too cynical about Jameson St Patrick’s Live or in fact any event which endeavours to put home-grown Irish talent in the spotlight. Ireland is once again experiencing a golden age of music and last night in Vicar Street three examples of such took to the stage. Hopefully Jameson will be providing the soundtrack to Paddy’s Day for many years to come. 

8 ‘not-to-be-missed’ acts at Indiependence 2014

The Indiependence Music and Arts festival has gone from strength to strength since its original formation back in 2006. At the time it was a free festival which took place in the square in Mitchelstown. But as the popularity and subsequent crowd numbers grew, Indiependence was moved to the 5000 capacity Deer Farm. As the festival expanded over the years so did the line-up. This year sees one of the strongest to date with the likes of White Lies, Tom Odell and Public Enemy taking over the main stage for the three nights. Below is a handpicked list of 8 acts who under no circumstance should be missed over the weekend.

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  • White Lies

I normally try to tip-toe around the headliners with these lists. Sure if you’ve gone to the bother of buying a ticket I’m guessing you’ve at the very least glanced at the 3 big names on top of the line up? But either way, there’s no avoiding the big Saturday night headliner, White Lies. The UK trio originally headlined the festival back in 2010 with only a debut album to their name. This year, they are returning with a wealth of festival experience as well as two more highly acclaimed albums to their names. Closing the main stage on Saturday night, White Lies are certainly, as the title suggests, not to be missed. (Saturday Main Stage 23:00-00:30)

  • Delorentos

Delorentos are no strangers to Indiependence and have graced various stages of the humble festival over the years. This year however sees them step up to the main stage for what is sure to be a highly charged set. As one of Ireland’s most exciting and entertaining live acts, Delorentos are a band who will not disappoint. (Saturday Main Stage 21:15-22:15)

  • Findlay

I knew nothing about Findlay prior to the Indiependence line up announcement. Don’t look at me like that! Sure I could have used Google, looked up a few facts and played the ‘all knowing music blogger’ card. But in saying that, I have been listening to her music. And if tracks like ‘Off & On‘ are anything to go by then Findlay’s one-woman, rock n roll assault will go down a treat. (Saturday The Big Top 20:00-20:30)

  • Hozier

Hozier has been flying the flag for Irish music as of late. With a deep soulful voice and a small but captivating array of tracks to his name, it’s not hard to see how the Wicklow native has built such a following. (Sunday Main Stage 20:00-20:45)

 

  • Kapitals

With raspy throat-wrenching vocals packaged within the confines of a sometimes subtle yet always captivating indie band, Kapitals is a name which should be on everyone’s ‘to see’ list. I had the pleasure of watching these guys play an early set at last year’s festival. The crowd was sparse but the band’s talent was there in abundance. (Sunday Big Top 15:30-16:00)

  • Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

With Indiependence being their last ever Irish performance as a duo, it’s only fair that Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip get a mention here. They’ve played the festival in the past and also individually (well Pip did anyway). But with their musical endeavours coming to a close it would only be fair to expect something special. (Friday Big Top 23:30-01:00) 

 

  • Raglans

The last time I saw Raglans at Indiependence was 2012 (the year of the mud) where they had the unfortunate task of opening the main stage. With nothing more than a self-released debut EP in their arsenal, the would-be indie rockers pulled off one weekend’s best sets. Unfortunately though, only a handful of people got to witness the above. This year, they return to the main stage, with a new album in place of the previous EP, a major record deal and a wealth of live festival appearances under their belts. (Saturday Main Stage 18:00-18:30)

  • We Cut Corners

We Cut Corners have the uncanny ability to deliver pulse-racing rock ballads in a manner that is both subtle and sublime. With an array of hand-crafted, ear-pleasing tunes I’m sure the guitar and drum duo will go down a storm Friday night. (Friday Big Top 22:00-23:00)

The Riptide Movement – Vicar Street

The Riptide Movement

The Riptide Movement have worked hard over the years to not only associate themselves with, but in turn become, a beacon for the never-dying spirit of good ole Irish Rock music. Invoking the spirit of Lizzy and co. each release has acted as a steady and determined stepping-stone towards something great. The most recent of these steps took the Lucan rockers to Vicar Street last Friday night to launch their new record ‘Getting Through’ to an adorning mass of 1,500 or so, die-hard fans.

With the venue close to capacity and the band ready to explode with a setlist jam-packed with shiny new material, the atmosphere was, if you’ll excuse the overused analogy, electric. Kicking off with the instantly recognisable crowd pleaser ‘Hot Tramp’ the crowd were unleashed and the stage was set. Ireland had once again scored the opening goal in the Rock n Roll World Cup. But then it happened. Enter stage left (or was that my left), a neatly matching four-piece troupe of backing singers and to the right an equally enthusiastic brass section. All of a sudden, the rough and ready rockers were engulfed in an homage to something not unlike The Commitments.

And when the collective talents of  The Riptide are taken into account, the distractions flanking the stage seemed to be an unnecessary gimmick. A collection of hits such as ‘Thieves in the Gallery’ and ‘Hard to Explain’ taken from their critically acclaimed album, ‘Keep on Keepin’ on’ do well to feed the hungry revelers. But once the newer tracks are unveiled it all becomes clear as to why the band may have wanted to hide on a busy stage. Songs like ‘All Works Out’ (the current single) and ‘How Can I Let You Go?’ seem but a cloudy memory of The Riptide Movement’s musical ferocity. It seems that they are a band in transition and with a new major record deal with Universal Music you’d forgive them the odd experimental slip up (even if ‘You And I’ sounds a bit like something lifted from Aslan’s back catalogue).

Overall the band have done well to propel themselves from the days of busking on Grafton Street. But it seems that all their early efforts have left a positive and permanent mark. No matter where their all but certain fame and fortune brings them, there’ll always be a warm welcome waiting back home.

Indiependence Festival Review 2013 – Day 3

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Keeping with the tradition of Irish bank holiday weather the rain finally caught up with Indiependence on Sunday. Which thankfully did nothing to dampen spirits. An afternoon set from Solar Taxi in the Big Top allows festivalgoers to take shelter with the added bonus of some pleasing music. Their set is a live showcase of debut album ‘Broken Brother’s Secret Bells’ and features the likes of ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Fool’.

Corner Boy, a band who earned their festival slot through recent success in the Red Bull Bedroom Jam, played to a packed out Bier Hall. With their blend of Bluegrass, Americana and Folk it’s hard not to draw comparisons between frontman, and band founder, Michael D’Arcy and Marcus Mumford. The hand-clapping, foot-stamping set is jammed with pop hits in the making such as ‘Morning Morning’, ‘Let’s Hit The Road’, and the more subtly appealing ‘Move To Paris’.  Judging from the crowd, strong media presence and raw talent it’s fair to surmise that these Corner Boys are destined for something special.

Like the festival itself, Windings aren’t ones to rest on their laurels and churn out the same set gig after gig. The Sunday evening set, although only forty-five minutes in length, catered for every facet of the Windings Support. From the gargantuan ten minute opener ‘Sun In My Bones’, to something a bit older with ‘The Hassle’ and with even some newer stuff in the shape of ‘Blade Rubber’ it’s fair to say that no one was left out. This loud, sweaty, head banging set carried all the ferocity of a headline gig and was easily one of the weekend’s top performances.

 

If there was a reward for shock performance of the weekend then Paddy Casey would undoubtedly be walking away with gold. It’s not that people were unfamiliar with Casey or his songs. Hits such as ‘Saints and Sinners’ and ‘The Lucky One’ have graced the Irish radio waves for years now. The surprise factor came from the Dubliners sheer ability to work a crowd. And by crowd I mean the jam-packed, bursting at the seams Big Top stage. Casey’s semi-time travelling set list traversed his four previous albums and delivered the weekend’s largest sing-song’. Popular and slightly unorthodox covers included Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ and The Jungle Book’s ‘I Want To Be Like You’. The fact that all of the above was delivered through by a hoarse voiced singer, fatigued from a busy weekend of gigging only adds to the magic of it all.

Unfortunately none of the above plaudits can be transferred to Bastile’s Main Stage performance. There as a crowd drawing, ticked selling device rather than musical talent it was quite painful to witness the Londoners headline set. But judging from the crowds, I fear I may be alone in my estimations. Swords offered much needed relief over in the Bier Hall. Their blend of infectious electro-pop was the perfect antidote. It is unfortunate that the numbers present were as low as they were. But this did not discourage the band who made every effort to encourage the small pocket of resistance who defied Bastille.

Once again the festival was a resounding success. With the expansion of the arena and ever-growing popularity it seems that the future of Indiependence is safe and secure for years to come.

 

Indiependence Festival Review 2013 – Day 2

Indiependence really has to be commended for the addition of the Bier Halle stage to this year’s festival. Situated within a huge barn, it is more of a music venue than stage with its own bar stocked with the finest local craft beers, lounge area with comfortable seating and even ping-pong tables. But it is the line-up itself which makes the Bier Halle so special. The honour of kicking Saturday off early fell to Wexford band, Redwoods. Their upbeat blend of indie-pop ballads including the newest single, ‘Don’t Take Me Down’, were the perfect antidote for the tired heads camped out on the hard but dry concrete floors of the Bier Hall.

 

Staying put for Kapitals proved to be a wise decision. Their throat-wrenching vocals and pleasing guitar riffs did well to blow the cobwebs away and recharge empty batteries for the long day of festival merriment that lay ahead. With songs like ‘Paris is Burning’ it’s easy to see why this North Dublin band have been tipped for big things.

 

A search for pastures new ended in the Maxol Big Top with Irish electro-synth band, Le Galaxie. What followed was one of the weekends best live sets. The band, all male band, were decked out in matching sparkly outfits and spurred on by the mad antics of frontman Michael Pope and his ‘questionable’ dance moves. The set list trawled the bands back-catalogue, especially the ‘Laserdisc Nights 2’ album, with noticeable fan favourites coming in the shape of ‘Midnight Midnight’, ‘The Nightcaller’ and ‘Solarbabies’.

Unfortunately Kodaline failed to replicate the same levels of energy and enthusiasm over on the Main Stage. Their careful and subtly crafted set seemed lost amidst the inadequate sound levels emitted from the premier stage. But that didn’t stop the band forging an instant connection with the crowd. Kodaline may have come a long way in a short period of time but it is apparent that their roots are not forgotten. With announcements regarding the bands humble campsite accommodation and songs such as ‘All I Want’ and ‘Love Like This’ it’s not hard to see why Kodaline are fan favourites.

Headlining duties at the halfway point of the festival fell to Bell X1. In a day that did so well to showcase the current strength of Irish Music it would have been hard to find a more fitting headline act. Adoring fans relished the display of instantly recognisable hits including ‘Flame’, ‘Velcro’ and ‘The Great Defector’. But it was the encore of ‘Rocky Took A Lover’ that cemented the Dublin group’s place on the Indiependence Main Stage.

With the formalities of day two at an end, all left to do was to enjoy the post-apocalyptic jam session that is King Kong Company. The glow stick laden musical conglomerate did well to keep spirits high and ensure the longevity of late night festival revellers.

 

Indiependence Day 1

Indiependence Festival Review 2013 – Day 1

The Indiependence Music and Arts Festival is more living entity than music festival. One which is undergoing a constant hormone fuelled growth spurt, that is. Having become a sort of indie regular with three consecutive visits I can honestly say that the same festival has not greeted me on more than one occasion. But while the festival grows and expands, the one thing that remains constant throughout is the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. This one significant element, aided by the low ticket price (99 euro for weekend camping) and capped attendance of 4,999 fun-loving festival revellers, has enabled the humble Mitchelstown festival to propel itself to the highly coveted top spot of the Irish festival calendar.

Arriving on site Friday afternoon, it is not hard to spot the changes from last year’s festival. The most substantial of which being grass! Amidst a week of torrential rainfall, gale-force winds and tornado warnings of all things, it is a welcome relief to see that the green leafy welcome mats have been rolled out. The arena has also undergone a serious face-lift with new stages, a craft ‘Bier Halle’, intimate acoustic/interview spaces and even a graveyard. On the ‘Molson Canadian Main Stage’ bands like ‘Tarantella Fall’ and ‘Trucker Diablo’ provide an atmospheric soundtrack to early festival wanderings but Welsh-Rockers ‘Funeral for a Friend’ are the first noticeable crowd-draw. Their less than original brand of ‘noise’ is lapped up by the small but ‘die-hard’ contingent of fans who occupy the spaces in front of the Main Stage.

The first and only real timetable clash of the weekend saw hard-hitting indie rockers ‘We Are Scientists’ do battle with Dingle natives ‘Walking on Cars’. Thanks to the close proximity of all the stages at Indiependence this clash was easily averted by sprinting from one gig to the other and back again, in a dignified way of course. First up to the block was ‘Walking on Cars’. These relatively new kids on the block have done well to build colossal following over the past 12 months, and from the looks of things most of them were present at the Bier Halle stage. But unfortunately I found their ‘Corona-esque’ musical styling’s not to my liking, so it was time to see what the other side of this clash had to offer.

Over on the Main Stage, ‘We are Scientists’ put in a heartfelt performance with an array of tracks old and new including ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’, ‘Let Me Win’ and ‘The Great Escape’ which front-man Keith Murray performed from the middle of the crowd. The levels of passion from the indie stalworth was palpable. Unfortunately the same could not be said for The Fratellis who’s bland and ‘dead behind the eyes’ set failed to get going. Barring of course the anthemic ‘Chelsea Dagger’ more life was present in the Indiependence graveyard.

Whilst ‘De La Soul’ were creaking away on the Main Stage with their long in the tooth style of washed up hip hop, The Hot Sprockets took commanded of the Bier Halle. The over-sized barn/shed proved to be the perfect setting for the Dubliners own brand of bluegrass-folk. The crowd, though modest in size, were loud, energetic and instantly vindicated for shunning not one but two headliners in the form of De La Soul and Bosnian Rainbows. Friday night belonged to The Hot Sprockets.