Thursday, March 19, 2009

Caprice and the Meteor Ireland Awards

One of the more interesting evenings I have spent recently was last Tuesday in the company of this lady - well, I was in the same room as Caprice, trying hard to pretend I wasn't drooling in her direction..

Yes, attended the Meteor Ireland Music Awards - in other words I spent my St. Patrick's Day in the company of the 'great and the good' from the Irish music scene, plus various luminaries from the television and modelling worlds, and some other assorted celebrities.

Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), Louis Walsh, Bernard Dunne, Padraig Harrington, half of RTE, Michelle Doherty, Westlife/Boyzone, Grainne and Sile Seoige, Lorraine Keane, Duke Special, MTV's Laura Whitmore, Republic of Loose and more milled around beforehand, adding some level of glamour to the occasion.

RTE tried hard to inject the proceedings with a feeling of pomp and ceremony, but watching clips on television last night, it all felt a lot flatter than it did on the night. There was a mixed bag of performers, but the performances themselves were surprisingly good. Even Boyzone sang live, or at Keating and the other fella did anyway, whatever about the other three, who hardly looked like they were even attempting to mime..

Kelly Jones and the Phonics dragged themselves from obscurity to open the show, playing a medley of songs from their recent Best of collection, an exercise that really served only to remind what a decent band they once were, mixing Maybe Tomorrow with More Life in a Tramp's Vest, Local Boy in a Photograph etc.. time to knock it on the head now, methinks.

Amanda Byram hosted, but spent most of the show trying to liven proceedings up with a series of bawdy jokes that fitted ill-at-ease with the largely teen audience that did its best to explode eardrums as James Morrison, Enrique Iglesias (can you believe this guy has sold 60 million albums and is soon-to-be Mr Kournikova) Boyzone and the Blizzards all performed, vying for their attentions and single-buying power.

Elbow were class, scooping Best International Band to the bemusement of most in attendance, and performing a storming version of Grounds for Divorce that reminded how good they were at Electric Picnic (look forward to Oxegen then)

Unsurprisingly The Script won the major awards on offer, the screams alone in the RDS suggesting that they will sell a lot more than the 600,000 records they have already flogged..

There were some poignant moments, a tribute to Ronnie Drew and the humanitarian award for Fr Shay Cullen, doing terrific work with abused children in the Philippines.

Hard luck to the Zoo Crew from Spin South West, Conor Quaid and Michelle McMahon being our only local representatives, who were between by Dublin 98FM, who undoubtedly had half of the nation's capital voting for them.

Wallis Bird won Hope for 2009 - good for her and nice cartwheel onto the stage, but unlucky on Fred, who would have been my personal choice.

Clare woman Sharon Shannon wrapped up proceedings with the exceedingly awful Galway Girl - can you believe the most downloaded song of last year? Says it all really.

(must say I'm delighted with myself for getting a pic of Caprice up on the blog)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Halfset - Salmon

Some fun/interesting links..

Bell X1 are album of the week in the Sunday Times for the excellent Blue Lights on the Runway, (which I still haven't gotten around to reviewing, but have worn out listening to - yes, it is good)
Check out the Culture review here..

The JD Set takes place tomorrow night in the Trinity Rooms, featuring local man Nick Carswell and his Elective Orchestra - plus Aortal and Neon Stars - and Camogie Lovers, VIC and Roadrunner on Friday night. It's free too, and some free Jack Daniels? Yes please..

The Observer/Guardian are running a superb feature about the 1000 songs everyone must hear - well worth flicking through..

Video here for Dublin band Halfset, who, to sound like a broken record, are playing in the Belltable on Saturday night along with the equally superb Adrian Crowley - I can't recommend this gig enough, and only 8 bobs concession (the magic word is Eightball). Watch the video for Salmon here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Currently on rotation

Currently on a loop on the headphones, in no particular order..

Jape - Ritual (see review in previous post re Choice Award)

David Kitt - The Nightsaver (superb new album from Kittser - sounds more like his Spilly Walker project than his previous output, some lovely quirky electro sounds running through it)

Villagers EP - Conor O'Brien's (formerly of the Immediate) new guise, the EP certainly lives up to all the hype..

Halfset - Another Way of Being There/Dramanalog (Listening to both of Halfset's albums, they're playing in the Belltable on Saurday, only a fool would miss it...)

Noel Gallagher - The Dreams We Have as Children (LIVE cd, free with yesterday's Sunday Times, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust - old songs, B-Sides, Beatles' tunes, two duets with Paul Weller - and an unbelievable version of Slide Away - listened to this walking into work this morning, helped lift my depression no end!)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The return of Messiah J and the Expert

Messiah J and the Expert return to Limerick this Saturday night, playing in Dolan's with Adebisi Shank (woo!). Fresh from appearing at the Choice Music Awards, this should be a good one - Upstairs in Dolan's - by rights the rooms will be groaning with people.
Stealing an idea from Ciaran (thanks!) and because I didn't get a chance to interview the boys before this gig - I have reprinted an interview I did with Messiah J last November, enjoy!

THINK about the genre of hip-hop and you can’t help but conjure up images of rappers, particularly of the American ‘bad-boy’ variety.

Think about Irish hip-hop and you might do well to stifle a dismissive cough and a laugh.
Well, think again.

Messiah J and the Expert are an Irish, two-man hip-hop crew based in Dublin that are doing their best to subvert the connotations surrounding the genre. Key to this is the fact that their latest album From The Word Go features a wonderfully eclectic mix of different types of music, swathed in Messiah J’s often biting lyrics, but not falling prey to the more typical, often misogynistic form of the genre.
Frankly, this is hip-hop, but not as you know it.
The album is driven forward by Messiah J’s lyrics, but is underpinned by the Expert’s impressive musicianship. Importantly, this album is suffused with influences as broad as The Clash to Marvin Gaye to Aphex Twin to Parliament. This is a fact not lost on the duo.
"We take our lead from hip-hop as much as any other kind of music," explains MC Messiah J, aka John Fitzgerald.
"Good songwriting is the bar all the way. We listen to indie, soul, jazz, reggae - whatever; good songwriting is what makes songs stand out no matter what the genre and I think we tried to learn from many sources and express it the way we do.
It is a very eclectic album, there is a lot going on. We are particularly happy with the fact that it all ties together well, it is cohesive."
It is certainly cohesive, not least given that there are some weighty subjects tackled in the duo’s lyrics. Whereas their Choice Music Prize-nominated second album 'Now This I Have To Hear' dealt with more personal issues, 'From The Word Go' attacks and questions the outside world and the realities we all live with.
Take the brash 'Year of the Genie' - "They wave, they smile, they clap, they pose - anything to boost the opinion polls" - which seems to denounce the political system.
"That was written from the perspective of standing at a bus stop looking up at all these election posters promising this and that, but history has proved that these are empty promises," explains Fitzgerald.
"It is a healthy scepticism that fuels the song, it is saying I’m not so sure if I believe you. Politically we are as confused as everybody else, we don’t have the answers but we won't let that confusion be swept under the carpet, we are going to ask questions."
Songs such as 'Panic Stations' or 'Keep The Noise Down' also deal with the issues around growing up and taking responsibility for your actions. As you would imagine, there is plenty of humour and lyrical witticism on these songs.
"Yes, politics is just one side of it, there is also a general fear of growing up," agrees John. "Those songs are concerned with how people change as they grow up, I am personally terrified of responsibility, I feel like a giant child, I'm not ready for the big bad world and never will be," he laughs.
While they demonstrate a willingness to tackle meatier issues in the subjects of their songs, there is also clearly a strengthening in the relationship between this duo, who have been performing together as Messiah J and the Expert since 2003. This will stand to them in a difficult industry; one made harder given that they are in a niche market that can be viewed with scepticism.
John however has a simple philosophy that should help them through and allow their undoubted talent to be exposed to the outside world.
"It can be difficult if people don't like the idea of what you do, but we have always believed that if we are good enough about what we do, it will set us apart. We know that even if people hate the music, at least we don't sound the same as everyone else.
It is difficult to shift records and you just have to gig and do your best and do what you can to make money, you have to be mad to be in the music industry, to be honest. It is a crazy industry, but somehow we all keep at it. And once people listen to us they will realise that there is a lot more to us than just a tag of Irish hip-hop."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

News, news and news - Halfset to play in Limerick

Some news on shows coming this way - just remember where you heard it first..

The wonderful Halfset are coming this way next week (Sat 21), on the back of their Choice Music prize nomination for the excellent album, Another Way of Being There.

They played three tracks from the delightfully electro-acoustic-dreamy album at the Choice, complete with eye-catching visuals etc. Another Way.. is possibly better than debut Dramanolog, released in 2005 - and I never thought I would find myself typing that.

But wait, there's more!! Halfset are going to be supported by Adrian Crowley (also a Choice nominee, in 2008) in a wonderful double bill - his fourth album Long Distance Swimmer is still burning a hole on my I-pod.. All of this, in the Belltable? Can't go wrong..

Some other news now, Dolan's on the Dock Road venue are to welcome Detroit rockers the Von Bondies - who have signed to Dublin label Model Citizen, home to Fight Like Apes - to the Warehouse on May 12. New album due from the garage rockers on April 10 - Love, Hate, And Then There's You - previews on their myspace.

The Warehouse are also welcome Northern punk-rockers Stiff Little Fingers (May 21), Delorentos before they break up (May 15), and Lloyd Cole (May 9) - plus the return of Fred (April 8), Bell X1, Duke Special, a Giveamanacoustic gig, The Enemy (April 19), John Mayall, Paul DiAnno (Iron Maiden frontman!! April 3), David Kitt (super new album - April 5), RSAG (April 22) and more!

We will have news soon on some other high-profile gigs happening on the May Weekend, but we have been ordered to keep stum in the meantime while the kinks are ironed out..

Going to Fight Like Apes tonight in the Warehouse - after an incendiary performance at the Choice last week, looking forward to it..

Also Messiah J and the Expert on Saturday - Recession? What recession?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Des Bishop in Dolan's Warehouse tonight - recent interview

DES BISHOP has a cold. Or the flu. One or the other, he’s not sure.
On the phone to plug his latest show, Unbéarlable, Bishop’s health prompts the question as to what stand-up comedians do when they are sick and tired, and just cannot face going on stage to make people laugh.

“Well, it depends. For me, I never completely pretend. If I am really tired and sick, usually an element of that comes into the show, because I like to leave at least 20 percent of the show to the energy that is there on the evening.
I tend to keep things relatively loose in case things happen. But if a crowd is really rowdy and you are sick, you just have to pretend,” laughs the affable Bishop.
Bishop is now one of the foremost comedians in Ireland, thanks largely to a self-imposed, 12-month sojourn to Connemara to learn Irish. This journey was documented for his third television series, In the Name of the Fada, and in his last his stand up show, Tongues - both of which played to record numbers in their respective arenas.
Unbéarlable, is about life after that period. Maybe.
“Truth be told it is a title that has nothing to do with the show really. I thought when I titled it there would be quite a bit of stuff about Irish in it, but actually there is not,” he explains.
“It finishes with about 15 minutes of bad Irish, but it is fairly generic material about my life since the show finished. It was a pretty big experience, so it was natural that there was going to be a follow-on from it, but so much else has happened in my life as well, that it is material like anything else - a bit more stereotypical stand-up.
There is a lot of stuff in the show about intimacy and Irish people's problems therewith - obviously including myself- and a bit about struggling with emotions, but not in a cliched way, I try and explore it a little bit, I'm not trying to freak people out, I'm just hoping people will identify with me.”
Bishop describes Connemara as a “life-changing” experience, one that has refreshed him and given him new perspective on life, and his career. He is leading a charge to change the Irish curriculum being taught in schools, but that is a discussion for another day.
He is refreshed, and ready to entertain the masses with a new show, one that is “gag-heavy”, and allows him to renew his observations on Ireland. But, lest we forget, the native New Yorker has now lived on this isle for 18 years - which allows him the right to do just that.
“Yeah, 18 and a half! At what stage do you get to become somebody who talks about Ireland without the “you know us so well” tag,” laughs Des.
“This show is quite honest, there is probably a lack of honesty in comedy, and I hope people will think my observations are good, whether it is as an external observer or just good observation, I'd like to think people will engage with them in a way that is unique.”
Des Bishop plays in Dolan’s Warehouse tonight and Wednesday - a limited number of tickets remain for Wednesday's show.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Jurassic 5's Akil the MC to perform in the Belltable, Limerick

Look at him there, none other than Akil the MC from the now-defunct, former Kings of hip-hop Jurassic 5. Hot off the presses comes the news that Akil is to come to Limerick to perform a very (very) special live show in the Belltable (@ 36 Cecil Street).

Akil will perform (wait for it) a healthy mix of his own material and a "host of J5 classic", which has left one Limerick Leader colleague (the pithily witty Chalkboard) salivating.

From the blurb (boiled down by yours truly):

A founding member of J5, Akil was at the forefront of the seminal hip-hoppers, taking vocal, production and lyrical charge of many of the group's most famous works in cluding
'Concrete School Yard’, ‘Quality Control’ and ‘Thin Line’.

Akil hails from the boroughs of South Central LA and through his Rebels of Rhythm group, quickly rose through the ranks of the LA hip-hop scene - his "crew" later amalgamating with the Unity Committee to become Jurassic 5.

Jurassic 5 were picked up by Interscope in 1999, and their first order of business was to re-release the under ground classic J5 Ep, which was followed by ‘Quality Control’, ‘Power In Numbers’, and ‘Feed Back’.

While J5 called it a day in 2007 (to the Chalkboard's considerable chagrin) Akil is still touring, playing and spreading his message and comes to Limerick as a special guest of Eightball for a special Release Party live show at the Belltable on Friday, March 27. Tickets are 17 bobs and available from the box office - 061-319866 and, as an added bonus, show your Akil ticket at the door of The Release Party from 11.30pm at the Club @ Au Bars for free entry and a late night.

Interview with Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand

Here is the full text of the recent interview with Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, carried in the Limerick Leader print edition of Saturday, February 28

The Scottish rockers have let their sound evolve at its own pace for the third album, Alex Kapranos tells Alan Owens

THERE is an unmistakable air to the lead single from Franz Ferdinand's new album, but there is something different about it too.
There in spades is that thumping dance-floor, jaunty beat that so imbued their Mercury Award-winning debut, but Ulysses boasts new variables: swirling prog-rock/synth sounds that kick in before those familiar, clanging guitars.

"I found a new way," sings lead singer Alex Kapranos in the lead track to Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. The Scottish rockers might not have reinvented the wheel, but there is sufficient development on this album to mark it as an improvement on troubled second effort, 'You Could Have It So Much Better'.

"I think Ulysses is a good indicator of what the album is like, because there is a few different sounds and surprises to it that maybe weren't on the other records, but it is still us. I think our band has a quite distinct character and we wouldn't ever want to lose that," explains Kapranos, speaking to the Limerick Leader.

Of the album, songs such as Twilight Omens, No You Girls and the initially balladesque Bite Hard, containing the lyric "You don't know the pseudonym I assume / for you," leap out at the listener.

Kapranos admits that more time was taken on this offering than its less illustrious predecessor.

"Definitely. When we made the second record, we were a bit frustrated. When we made the first record, we had all these ideas that we hadn't properly explored, bits of songs that hadn't been used."

We ended up touring for so long that we were really impatient, we just wanted to get in to record and so we did - I'm not going to regret it, it is the way we were at the time and we were happy to get it done."

The well spoken Scot refutes, however, any suggestion that album number two was rushed, or indeed difficult.

"There was definitely a difference in perception because the first album was a surprise, because nothing else really sounded like that at the time. Of course there is not going to be as much shock when the same band does another record."

I think each album is as good as each other, but the second album didn't have the surprise that the first did. I don't even know if it was rushed. In the 60s they used to make a record a week, and that was extravagant. No, I think it is unfair to say it was rushed, I think it is unfair to say it was difficult."

Nonetheless, this time around the band had a new perspective, seeking to let the album evolve in its own time, playing smaller gigs to try out the developing material, and recording in an old town hall in Govan, on Glasgow's outskirts.

"We started off using it as a rehearsal room, then we got some recording gear in and before we knew it, it was kind of a studio. We went down to a real studio in London and did some recording; while it sounded pristine and perfect, it didn't have some of the quirkiness and character that this building had in Glasgow, so we recorded it there.

"We had no idea what this record was going to be like, and decided to just wait and see. There was a weird way we went about writing it, by playing little gigs. You are so close to the crowd and close to each other on stage - you are really aware and you play tighter and react to the other musicians some of the songs would survive, some would die, and a lot would change as well."

The small gig idea has transferred to these shores, as, thankfully for us, Franz Ferdinand are to kick off their European tour in Dolan's Warehouse this Saturday night.

"It was a conscious decision, because we've not played in Limerick before, so it will be great to get down there," says Alex. "A lot of our crew are from Ireland and we thought we had to play somewhere other than just Dublin this time, so we are. We heard the crowd in Limerick are up for it as well, so I think it is going to be a good gig."

Franz Ferdinand play Dolan's Warehouse this Saturday night.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jape wins Choice Music Prize - On The Beat loses money

What a night! (Ow, my head)
Attended the Choice Music Awards last night in Vicar Street - and as has been well reported and discussed elsewhere, Jape (aka Richie Egan) was a hugely popular winner.
Interesting really, after the bregrudgery (replace with heated debate where necessary) about SEBP winning last year, but Richie is such a nice guy and his music is top class, so well done.

Interestingly - as my review of Ritual reveals below - when the album came out people were surprised at the direction Jape had gone, wayy more dancey etc, as The Monkey's In the Zoo.. was really a rather laid-back, lo-fi affair. There you have it.

Loads of the bands/pr/music industry/danny from the Script were at the after-show party but Richie's Da was the best craic - revealing to On the Beat that he had backed his son in the bookies to take home the prize! Nice if you can get it, I lost money on Halfset/Lisa Hannigan, thought I had it all sewn up!

The performances on the night were superb, notably Halfset (brilliant visuals), Mick Flannery (his second song, Wait Here, was jaw-droppingly good) and Fight Like Apes who basically went absolutely mental, particularly at the end of Battlestations, replete with cartwheels, epuipment damage and May Kay lobbing her Nord stand at Pockets. Fun.

Excellent, super-charged performance by Jeremy Hickey too (aka RSAG), Stick to your Line was super, although he went a bit mad at the end. Rescued it nicely though.

Messiah J put in a bit of a mixed performance, although Jean is Planning An Escape was top class.
All in all a great night, already looking forward to next year. See below for my review of Jape's Ritual, printed on its release in the Limerick Leader last year.

Ritual – Jape
I RECENTLY overheard two prominent Irish musicians having a conversation in a men’s toilet, both unaware I was eavesdropping. They were discussing Jape - aka Dubliner Richie Egan - with one having been to the Olympia the previous night to see him. The conversation went along the lines of "I’m not sure about his new stuff, it’s very dancey".
They were correct.

I have been a fan of Egan’s since I heard ‘Floating’, long before Jack White and the Raconteurs jumped on the bandwagon and started performing it at their shows. However, debut album The Monkeys In The Zoo Have More Fun Than Me, other than the pounding Floating, was simply too subdued after such a powerful opening.

This time around and following the interest generated by the Jape is Grape EP, Egan has taken a new and wonderful direction. I Was A Man, with its infectious guitar riff, is every bit as memorable as Floating, while Replays will have you in thrall at its falsetto harmonies and synth-heavy, catchy chorus.

Graveyard is a striking paean to sneaking a bit of fun in a graveyard with a former flame, while Streetwise is at the pinnacle of any electro-dance track released this year. Egan lays his soul bare on the beautiful and epic Nothing Lasts Forever - still refusing to let the tempo drop.

The only time that threatens to happen on the album is the quirky Phil Lynott - a sustained note in the verses seems like it will grate with the listener, but surprisingly does not. It is a moving dedication to the former Lizzy front man, clearly an influence on Egan who hails from the same area.
He recollects a half covered moon and a cover version of a Lizzy song, apparently this song wrote itself in ten minutes - "someday I’ll be a dead man who played the bass from Crumlin, like Phil Lynott".
A superb album. I for one am delighted Egan decided to go a bit more "dancey", despite the misgivings of others.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Franz Ferdinand impress in Dolan's Warehouse

So rare to get a chance to see a band of Franz Ferdinand's stature in a relatively small venue like Dolan's Warehouse. I mean 'small' in the best possible sense, and in this case, the venue came into its own in a way that defies recent memory.

300 odd sweaty and very happy people enjoying an hour and a half of quality music and performance, from no more than 10 feet away. It occurs to me that I might never have been closer than say, 100 feet, to a Franz Ferdinand performance in the past.

If even. I vaguely remember walking past Franz Ferdinand performances at recent festivals, without exhibiting much interest. Sometimes a tune or two, sometimes not. But when such a band come to town, to play in the local venue that you inhabit on a regular basis, then that's a different story altogether.

Now, I was a big fan of the Scottish rockers' eponymous debut. Sort of lost interest - like many - with the follow-up You Could Have It So Much Better. But it is strange how the songs from this album sound new and vibrant after not being heard in time, and also played live to an appreciative crowd.

In fact, all of the songs that FF play tonight sound new and fresh.

The racheting, military style precision drumming of Come on Home opens the show, ripping through the crowd like a knife - attention is immediately grabbed. The central motif to the song is a meandering keyboard scale that Kyle McLachlan-esque guitarist/keyboardist Nick McCarthy allows to hang in the air.

Blue light falls upon your perfect skin/Falls and you draw back again/Falls and this is how I fell..

There is a rush, an energy - no, a tautness about this four-piece, confidently exploring songs from their back catalogue, allowing them to sit comfortably alongside their new output, from third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.

Second on the list tonight is No You Girls, from Tonight, an ear-buzzer of a song that will grab you and won't let go.

Kiss me, flick your cigarette and kiss me.

The shouty chorus is an instant classic, popular with this audience.

Do you ever wonder? No you girls never know - how you make a boy feel.

Matinee and Do You Want To? follow in breathlessly quick fashion and the floorboards creak with the effort of 300 people jumping in unison. Not for a minute did I expect these songs to sound as good as they do, here and now.

Another new song follows, the organ driven Twilight Omens, Kapranos allowing the full range of his falsetto capabilities to stretch their vocal legs.

Walk Away follows, and it is clear the band are going to follow a sort-of one on, one off type strategy to their music, dipping in and out of the first two albums, alongside new material. Fine with us.

Line of the night arrives in the form of Bite Hard, another new song that stands up to the effervesence exhibited by material from album #1 and 2.
You don't the pseudonoyms I assume for you.

The peak of the set arrives with the effortless grind of Take Me Out, the two minute groove of Turn It On, 40', Michael and new single Ulysses, which throws a prog-rock sound into the angular rock mix.

After a brief walk-off the Scots return with first album classic Better On Holiday, new track What You Came For and finish with a roaring version of This Fire that sees all four members stand around drummer Paul Thomson's drums and bash the living daylights out them. Superb.

In Baltimore, No One Left to Press the Police


Not only can the man make incredible, riveting television, but he can write.


I should have known that, having read his book. THE book, that spawned The Wire. 60 episodes, across five seasons.

However, this article, from the Washington Post, should be read by everyone with even a passing interest in the road that print media is heading down. A scary one. Particularly so, it seems, for the residents of Baltimore.

Wow, I say again.