Friday, July 31, 2009

Mitchelstown "Indiependence Music and Arts festival" this weekend

ONCE BILLED as "Ireland’s only free independent music festival", the Mitchelstown Indiependence Music and Arts festival is still set to offer Limerick music fans one of the best festival line-ups this summer, at a ridiculously affordable price.
The brainchild of event organiser and Mitchelstown man Shane Dunne - who went to college in the University of Limerick - this year’s Indiependence has become a paid ticket affair for the first time, but still retains its original ethos.
Held for the last number of years in Mitchelstown town square as a free festival, Indiependence has outgrown its roots and will take place in a green-field site outside the town on the August bank holiday weekend.
Hold onto your hats music fans, because perennial favourites Ocean Colour Scene and Super Furry Animals are to be joined by the cream of Irish acts, including Mundy, Delorentos, The Blizzards and Fight Like Apes, plus Limerick band Vesta Varro and 202’s, who also boast Limerick members.
And all of this for €59! Hang on, that can’t be right, can it?
"Yeah, we have bumped it up a couple of decibels alright," laughs Shane Dunne, speaking to the Limerick Leader.
"The line-up is massive. Obviously you have two big UK headliners in Ocean Colour Scene and Super Furry Animals, but I think Paul McCloone said on his radio show that we have every Irish band worth seeing and that says it all."
When it is suggested that the ticket price is "reasonable", Dunne utters a guffaw that might still be echoing around the Galtee mountains.
"Reasonable? I think that is the understatement of the year," laughs the organiser."We have also just announced a campsite so it is €59 for two days, plus camping, so it's not bad."
Considering rival festivals Castlepalooza and Cork X Southwest are taking place the same weekend - at €89 and €50, respectively, the latter being just a one-day festival - there is no better value to be found anywhere else this bank holiday weekend.
Mitchelstown is just a 40 minute drive from Limerick, suggesting that local music fans will form a large percentage of the expected 4,500 fans that will descend on the town for the two day festival.
"Last year the crowds were big - big enough to the extent that there was too many for a free gig, it wasn't manageable," reflects Shane.
"It outgrew its level as a free gig in the square so the natural progression was to move it to a green field site, still within the town and go for a much bigger event with much bigger bands, and that is what we have done."
The site is less than five minutes from the middle of town, the first pub is three minutes away coming out of the gate. But the whole town really has been turned into one huge venue, all of the bars have extensions until 2am so the whole town will be one big venue," he adds.
The Indiependence team have done something few have managed; created a low-cost, affordable festival with a stellar line-up. Sponsors Bavaria, Red Bull and Cypress Avenue will each have their own stage, with different acts, and there is no weak point to the line-up; the likes of Villagers, Messiah J and the Expert, Fred, The Chapters and Ham Sandwich among the 63 acts playing over two days.
With a catchment area including Limerick, Cork and Killarney, festival-goers have a viable option outside the mainstream at last.
"I think there is a market for it, the two major festivals in Ireland are based in the greater Pale area of Ireland, so they target the Dublin market," agrees Shane.
"Down around this end you have Cork and Limerick and Killarney and geographically it is very well located."
And the future?
"I think we probably need a year this year to consolidate and if it goes well two years in a row we will look at expanding it," says Shane.
Watch this space.
Indiependence Music and Arts festival takes place next Saturday and Sunday, August 1-2. For full details and booking see here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Album reviews - Wallis Bird and Mos Def

FROM Tuesday's Limerick Chronicle: Many thanks to guest reviewer Ger Fitzgibbon for his interesting insights into the world of Mos Def...

Mos Def - ‘The Ecstatic’

(Downtown Records)

IN the past ten years, the mainstream has chewed away at the edges of some of hip hop’s finest craftsmen, and the genre has suffered because of it.

In 2006, when he released the utterly uninspiring ‘True Magic’, Mos Def forced many purists to gasp a sharp breath and avert their eyes. Once the finest exponent of the cut-and-paste sample with the hard political question, Dante Smith seemed to be on a greasy slide to the middle.

Thankfully, ‘The Ecstatic’ has tethered the thinking man’s hip hop leviathan back to his base. Mos Def’s fourth solo album is a masterful return to form, and one that has come not a moment too soon.

The overlapping production of Madlib, Oh No and Mr Flash (plus another posthumous appearance from J Dilla on ‘History’) pulls the sound of the record in different angles, with Bollywood samples in ‘The Embassy’ contrasting with the bombastic synth in ‘Life in Marvellous Times’.

But throughout ‘The Ecstatic’ there is a simmering energy that is driven by some of Mos Def’s finest lyrical flow in years. He, like Q Tip before him in 2008’s opus ‘The Renaissance’, seems invigorated by the pragmatic joy of the world view of Obama’s America - ‘And we are alive in amazing times/delicate hearts, diabolical minds’.

‘The Ecstatic’ may not reach the stratospheric heights touched by ‘The Renaissance’, but it takes a admirable shot nonetheless. It is, however, a tad unsettling to think that the skill required to execute such a polished hip hop record today lies in the hands of probably less than two dozen men, many of whom are scraping 40.

Still, if Mos Def can continue to summon this sort of prolificacy, we will not have to wrestle with the death of hip hop just yet.



Wallis Bird - New Boots’


IT CAN’T be easy to be Wallis Bird; acoustic guitar-toting dynamo, a whirlwind of energy and whitticisms - leading the way for the new batch of Irish singer songwriters in her inimitable style.

It can’t be easy because of her very obvious independent streak; this is the type of girl who would likely tell some big-wig record company exec to go and jump if she was asked to bend her music to some mainstream bent.

Bird, from Wexford, surfed into 2008 on the back of some gushing reviews for her debut album Spoons and strong word of mouth on her exuberant live performances, before playing sold out tours of Ireland, the UK and Europe, and supporting acts as diverse as Gabrielle and Billy Bragg.

Spoons was a triumph to her individuality; a superbly crafted acoustic pop album that was often whimsical but also capable of erupting with a harder edge, and there was plenty of bite to her lyrics.

Bird had already recorded Spoons when she signed with Island Records - a deal that fell apart last year, a marriage destined not to work, the spiky singer reckoning that they did “f*ck all with it”.

Now, after much soul searching, Bird is back with excellent follow-up New Boots. An album that is at times overwhelming due to it’s incredible energy, it nonetheless firmly underlines the potential displayed on her debut.

The theme running through this 13-track offering is of a performer living on the edge, one searching for love, that may be just beyond her reach. Capable of running the gamut of memorable female front women from Joni Mitchell to Chrissie Hynde in the blink of an eye, there is affection and anger here in equal measure.

Unsurprisingly there is a harder edge to this second album; see the bassy-funk of La La Land and the visceral energy of opening track Can Opener, which features a spine-tingling yelp from Bird. The jazzy Travelling Bird has plenty of bite, while first single To My Bones screams of radioplay potential.

By contrast the whimsical acoustic groove of An Idea About Mary, the emotional When We Kissed and soaring Measuring Cities showcase a singer and songwriter capable of combining the sweet with the sour.

This Bird is too wild to be caged up - and more power to her.



Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lisa Hannigan interview

WHEN WE last spoke to beguiling singer Lisa Hannigan her debut album had just been released and she was gearing up for a 45 date tour of the United States with crooner Jason Mraz.
Since then she has garnered platinum sales of the excellent Sea Sew in Ireland; completed that tour and another of the UK and had music reviewers and critics eating out of the palm of her rather gorgeous hand; appeared on Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert and Jools Holland’s shows and racked up award nominations and plaudits.
Seems that the rest of the world is waking up to how brilliant this softly-spoken singer really is. “We have just been gigging the whole time really - that's how we have spent the year and it has been great, we are very lucky to have been able to do it, we have just played and played and played - it has been amazing,” says Hannigan when the Limerick Leader catch up with her in Galway.
“The American tour with Jason was brilliant, it was more gigs than we had ever done up to that point. We just said yes and went and did it and had the craic, toured properly together as a band and had an absolute ball.”
A chance viewing of the video for I Don’t Know - filmed by Today FM DJ Donal Dineen in the snug in Dick Mac’s pub in Dingle - on You Tube by Stephen Colbert saw Hannigan and her band receive an invite to perform on his show, The Colbert Report, which is regularly watched by millions of viewers.
Musicians are not regularly invited to appear on the show with the comedian.
“Yeah, the Colbert thing was amazing, very unexpected. It was nice - he had just spotted us on You Tube and asked his producers who we were and to find out if we wanted to do the show, so that was nice how natural it was,” whispers Hannigan.
“Normally you would need someone plugging you and bigging you up, but he just saw the video and asked us.”
Colbert, who portrays himself as a hardline conservative on the show, regularly tearing guests to pieces, even broke character and urged his viewers to buy Hannigan’s album.
Just one more to fall under her spell then.
Up until the release of her album, Lisa was better known as Damien Rice’s backing singer. Over time, it became apparent that she was the shining light in his group, the spine-tingling ying to his often more dirgeful yang, if you will.
He let her go and she went out on her own, with most of his former band. His loss has been our gain, her soulful, restrained and warm debut one of the Irish releases of last year.
Previously she has expressed discomfort at being in the spotlight, often a bundle of nerves before appearing onstage. A year of almost incessant gigging seems to have soothed those tendencies.
“I feel more comfortable on stage definitely. I hadn't really played on stage much at that stage - I had done a bit, but I definitely feel much more comfortable now,” says Lisa.
“I am almost enjoying it more now. The terror of the album coming out, while I was so excited, you do worry as well and you hope it goes well, but you never know. I am really looking forward to doing the next one now and touring more - it has been such a fun year of playing music, I couldn't ask for anything more.”
She says she is working on new songs, some are written, some will be in time. A handful of lucky Limerick Hannigan fans - of which there are many - will get the double benefit of hearing these new songs in the delightful surroundings of St. John’s Church.
“I've heard the church is amazing, my nice uncoordinated dancing should be at home in the dance space,” she laughs, adding with a nice flourish that she is “a big fan of Limerick”.
Expect an almost spiritual experience.
Lisa Hannigan plays in St. John’s Church on Thursday, August 6.
Tickets are available in Empire Music.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bon Iver at Galway Arts Festival

WENT to see Bon Iver at the Galway Arts Festival last Thursday and left immensely enriched by the whole experience.

I travelled to the city of tribes for several reasons; A to see what kind of a set up they had for the Galway Arts Festival and B because Bon Iver released one the albums of last year and I wanted to see what the gig would be like in the Festival Big Top.

Bon Iver - a deliberate aberration of the French Bon Hiver, meaning "good winter" - is essentially a vehicle for singer songwriter Justin Vernon, who locked himself in a cabin in Wisconsin for a time and recorded the album in its entireity.

The superbly winsome, profoundly affecting, music crawling under your skin and refusing to leave-album was Forever Emma, Forever Ago, a collection of lo-fi musings that don't seem suited to such an arena as a large tent on the banks of the river corrib.

Having seen Bon Iver in National Stadium late last year I knew that Vernon and co (guitarist Mike Noyce, Sean Carey, and Matthew McCaughan) were capable of producing a spell-binding gig in intimate surroundings, but I feared for their ability to keep a couple of thousand people under their spell in a large tent.

A set like this; nay, music like this, should not work in such a setting, but - and it is testament to Vernon's songwriting ability - boy does it on this occasion, a rapt crowd alternating between singing along with every line to falling silent at just the right time, leaving the band to do their thing.

And do they. In this setting Vernon fashions something new with his material, a dual drumming set-up, coupled with birthday boy (just 22!) Noyce's charged guitar lines and Vernon's ragged acoustic guitar playing giving the songs a new life.

Opening with Flume, it is clear that the gig is going to be something special, the steady throb of Lump Sum following quickly behind. A spirited Creature Fear comes next, but it is Skinny Love that sets the mood, the tent nearly lifting off with the sing-along that transpires.

Babys from the Blood Bank EP sees Vernon introduce an electric piano, his rising chorus of 'multiply' echoing through the night air.

In fact, it is Vernon's incredible falsetto vocal that drags this rustic sound into the realm of other-wordly.

By now the rain is falling outside and it feels akin being in a mobile home while the rain lashes off the roof, curiously cosy in a large and draughty tent. Blood Bank itself is a triumph, as is the epic Re: Stacks. For Emma closes the set on a melancholic note that merely serves to whip the crowd into a frenzy, screaming for more.

They justly oblige, the encore of The Wolves (Act I and II) predicated with Vernon requesting the crowd to sing the line "what might have been lost" repeatedly, before howling at the moon like a rabid, well, wolf. Which we all proceed to do, with much delight and animation.

Someway through the set, Vernon reveals he chose to play his only Irish show of the year in Galway because he worked in a mobile phone shop on Shop Street some 8 years ago. He bemoans the lack of a former fast food outlet, but regardless of his reasons for choosing the Galway Arts Festival, his appearance represents something of a coup for the organisers.

Likewise, the return of David Gray, the effortless cool of Femi Kuti and the final night of Primal Scream, Spiritualised and David Holmes! All of this, plus the many, many events taking place in Galway over a two week period saw the GAF pull in €25million with an estimated 180,000 festival goers enjoying a massive programme of theatre, music, literature and comedy at dozens of venues across the city.

The bottom line is, in the aftermath of An Bord Snip's report, which showed little interest in arts and culture events, that these things bring people - and more importantly - money to the city brave enough to stage them!

We need a Limerick Arts Festival asap - combining the incredible resources we have here with a can-do attitude that may help the city recover from the verges of the doldrums.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Album reviews

The Chapters
‘Perfect Stranger’

THE SIREN call of 'Juice', the opening track on the debut album from hotly tipped Irish band The Chapters, is an immediately affecting one, dispelling preconceived notions about this outfit.
I had fears that the album in my hand was going to be a proto-pop/rock offering, a la the Blizzards - as is the wont of many Irish bands out there, seeking to follow in the footsteps of that bizarrely popular band.
Not in this case.
"I don't know why you hurt yourself so/I just don't get it," croons lead singer Ross McNally, his gravelly timbre a refreshing one, revelling in its impurities. These gruff tones remind one more of The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon.
The short, sharp opening track is followed by the keyboard/synth-driven tones of 'Videotapes' - clearly a summer hit waiting to happen, the harmonic efforts of McNally’s fellow bandmates filling the listener's ears with beautiful melodies. No surprises that this is the first single off the album.
Several tracks continue in this vein, ie 'Automobiles', but it is when the Chapters display their range that you find yourself being sucked in by their music.
Particularly 'Moving' and the foot-stomping acoustic-punk of 'Ukrainian Gymnast', featuring a superb closing barbershop-quartet effect.
Original single 'Looking For Love' is still bursting with energy, throwing up all sorts of Talking Heads comparisons but sounding fresh, bouncy and like a band having fun.
That is the key here; rather than banging out some run of the mill, moody rock and roll, the Chapters have combined a retro synth sound with some well crafted songs and an all pervading sense of a band happy with their sound.
This is an excitingly catchy and engaging album that will require, nay demand, to be listened to over and over.
Let's catch hold of ourselves here; these lads are not the saviours of Irish rock and roll, but there is enough here that sounds fresh and exciting to lift the spirits of this oft-beleagured reviewer.

‘Imidiwan: Companions’

IF SOMEONE told you that an eight-piece electric guitar group, hailing from the bowels of the Southern Sahara Desert, had released one of the albums of the year, would that sound far fetched? Well it’s true.
The “band” is Tinariwen, a rag tag collection of Tuareg guitarists, poets and rebels - members of a nomadic people who inhabit the Sahara. It is clear that their environment is a crucial ninth member of the group, forming and shaping the sound on their fourth album “Imidiwan” or Companions, like the wind shapes the dunes in that expanse of desert.
This beguiling 13 track album has been produced by Jean-Paul Roman, who worked with Tinariwen on their debut album The Radio Tisdas Sessions, which was rapturously received in world music circles.
Let me say, I hate that genre-definition, “world-music” - and find it hugely condescending. Surely all music is world-music? The problem is that anything slightly left of centre - or sung in a foreign language - is labelled as world music.
This is an album that Hendrix fans and sean-nos chant lovers alike should love in equal measure - the album containing a magnetic quality that makes it simply intoxicating.
Intoxicating is a word that keeps recurring; opening track Imidiwan Afrik Tendam (My Friends From All Over Africa) containing a fabulously intoxicating melody, fixed over a chorus of guitars and bongos. Tenhart (The Doe) features the most gorgeously repetitive, simple blues guitar lick, transposed with a sort of Malian rap, while the incessant throb of Enseqi Ehad Didagh (Lying Down Tonight) is eye-opening, despite its raw simplicity.
The album was recorded in the Malian desert village home of band members Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and Hassan Ag Touhami and is such a simple, yet devastatingly effective offering, that you can simply close your eyes and see the windswept village and its inhabitants.
An astonishing album.

Galway Arts Festival continues

The two week Galway Arts Festival draws to a close this weekend, but not before some superb gigs take place in the Festival Big Top in Fisheries Field.

David Gray made a return to an Irish stage on Tuesday night, while Nigerian legend Femi Kuti and the Positive Force take to the stage this Wednesday evening. One of the highlight's of the festival is sure to be the appearance by the superb Bon Iver - who produced one of the finest albums of last year in Forever Emma Forever Ago.

Apparently Bon Iver's Justin Vernon worked in Galway several years ago, and this is the reason he chose to play there, rather than at any of the other Irish festivals. Support is from the winsome Alela Diane - I'm heading along to this myself.

Primal Scream, Spiritualized and David Holmes perform in a mouth-watering triple bill to round off the festival in style on Friday - but there is still loads going on around the city - see here.

Having seen the Frames play in the Big Top a number of years ago, I am keen to see how this year's festival compares. See here next week for a full report.

The other question that pops into my head is, why doesn't Limerick have an Arts Festival like Galway or a Marquee Series, as they do in Cork? I went to Crosby, Stills and Nash in the Marquee in Cork recently and see no reason why a set-up like this couldn't be established in Limerick.
With the recent Thomond Park gigs we have started the ball rolling and shown that there is a large audience in Limerick for big shows. The MBNA/ICO festival was a good start, but let's try and get a piece of that marquee/arts festival action, no? Any thoughts, you know where I am.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lisa Hannigan shortlisted for Mercury Music Prize

The beguiling, charming Lisa Hannigan has been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, the UK's top annual award.. The singer is nominated for her superb Sea Sew album, one of our favourite album's of last year.

Hannigan is nominated alongside:

Florence and the Machine


Speech Debelle

Friendly Fires

La Roux

Bat For Lashes

The Horrors


Led Bib

Sweet Billy Pilgrom

The Invisible

We only just talked to Miss Hannigan last Friday - see interview in today's Chronicle. Early odds on favourite is English media darling Florence and the Machine, who will take some beating. Lisa is at 18/1 (I'll have some of that thanks!) and Friendly Fires are at 8/1 (tip!).

The winner will be announced on September 4. Lisa Hannigan plays in Daghdha's Church on August 6...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tonelist - album review

RATING: *****

FAIR PLAY to Noel Hogan; the former Cranberries’ guitarist is using his considerable clout to help Limerick bands get a leg up by releasing a 14 track collection of the best in up and coming local bands.
The selection process employed here is varied, giving us the best in rock and roll (local noisenik duo Giveamanakick, frenetic rockers Walter Mitty and the Realists), indie (Supermodel Twins), electro-ambient (Drumming Room, Headgear), pop (We Should Be Dead) and more.
It is a testament to the local scene that there is such variety on display here - a sign of strength if ever there was one.

The LCD Soundsystem-esque synth sounds of Drumming Room open proceedings, with the very fine Good Riddance.
The whispering, dulcet tones of Steve Ryan open Giveamanakick’s offering, the excellent Brittle Bones - one of the highlights of their outstanding recent album Welcome to the Cusp. The duo showcase their softer side with this track, a subtle and menacing offering with a delightful sting in the tail.
One of the heavyweight offerings comes from Headgear, Daragh Dukes contributing the superb Where is Home, all twinkling glasses and slightly countrified guitars and violins, a stand-out track.
The poptastic two girl-boy quartet We Should Be Dead demonstrate some depth with Disaster - ‘don’t come lying to me/telling me I’m all you’ve got/you can’t live without me’ - Tara Nix’s lead vocal mixing beautifully with Anna Murphy’s backing, the quartet showing why their brand of bubblegum-pop is going a storm in the US.

A quick burst from Supermodel Twins and Vesta Varro follows - two of the more well-known bands from the local scene; the Twins currently recording their debut album, with Footprints an early sign of their upbeat, pop-rock potential and Vesta Varro showing why they have garnered praise in Canada and Germany, where they currently have a booking agent. In fact, this a rather more melodic offering from the local band - full of harmonies and soaring vocals.

Hogan’s latest project, Arkitekt, follows quickly with Pacing, seeing him teaming up again with Oxford singer songwriter Richard Walters, formed from the ashes of the Monoband project. Leaping like a phoenix from the flames is this soaring track, bearing Hogan’s stamp - curt strings and military style guitars and drums. A real eye-opener.

The album literally leaps from strength to strength as it reaches a conclusion - the superb Grace Jones from the devilishly theatrical ensemble Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, in our estimation one of the most exciting of all local outfits.
Shannon artist Alan Fitzgerald - operating under the moniker of Alkali Flat - offers one of the more textured offerings, Preferred Vision cutting a dash between acoustica and heavier rock. There is a raw element here, one that screams of potential.

The laid back acoustic nature of Seneca is apparent on Playing Fair; exhibiting their flair for anthemic melodies that will stick in your head long after you hear them. The quartet embrace their Irishness in a confident way not heard since the last big thing to emerge from Limerick, Mr Hogan’s former group.

Nestled around one of the best things to emerge from the Limerick rock scene in years - the frenetic, Talking Heads-esque Sucker Punch by Walter Mitty and the Realists - are two local singer songwriters with a difference.
Brendan Markham, once of Drive fame, gives us the balled False Witness, one evocative of a young Jagger as Markham howls with his bluesy timbre.
Finally, veteran local musician Mark O’Connor offers us the Bells of St. Mary’s as a final track, a delightful shoe-gazer of a track, with a distinct Limerick-edge, all brooding guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

A superb slice of the local scene, bundled into one package. We know there is enough material for a follow-up - Tonelist 2 - so let’s have it.

Wilco (the album) - Review

Rating: ****

FROM THE chugging opening moment on the new Wilco album, as Jeff Tweedy opens his mouth - set against Nels Cline distorted guitar - the listener feels assured that this is another high-quality offering from the American outfit.
It takes a brave and comfortable band to not only mark their eighth studio album as a self-titled effort, but also to begin with an eponymous track, Wilco (the song).
"Are you under the impression/this isn’t your life?" growls Tweedy.
The chorus speaks for itself: "Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you baby".

Well, the feeling is mutual on this staggeringly consistent effort, following hot on the heels of 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.
In fact, on closer inspection, Wilco - in all their various forms, revolving around frontman and focal point Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt - are a staggeringly consistent band, producing an album nearly every other year.
After a 15 year career, Tweedy and co have finally settled on a line-up that feels solid and settled; and in guitarist Nels Cline, he has found the perfect foil for his off-centre lyrics and unorthodox voice.
Oft defined as alt-rock, or even, embarrassingly, alt-country - these definitions feel tremendously ill-defined for a band that has a myriad of influences, yet sounds fresh and inspired.

The release of this record was threatened with being overshadowed by the death of former member Jay Bennet, with whom Tweedy parted ways in 2001.
But, in reality, Wilco after Bennett have long been a different proposition, this incarnation of the band producing some of the finest and most cohesive music of the band’s career.

There are some staggering moments on this album; the frenzied, tubular distortion of Bull Black Nova is gripping, while in contrast, the Tweedy and Feist duet on You and I is a tender moment.
It seems the band have mined elements of 70s rock in You Never Know, while Country Disappeared is among Tweedy’s finest work, Stirratt’s bass lines a particular stand out, while the jazzy-countrified I’ll Fight will stick in your head long after listening.

An astonishingly solid effort from one of the finest bands around at this moment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oxegen 2009 review

The below piece from today's Limerick Chronicle..

Alan Owens
DESPITE apocalyptic weather predictions ahead of the Oxegen music festival that took place at the weekend, there was really only one serious period of sustained rainfall.
As New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem - Bruce Springsteen’s favourite band - took to the stage on Saturday afternoon around 3pm, the rain began, coating the mammoth Punchestown site in a blanket of heavy swathes of rain, an incessant shower that remained until around 10pm.

However, as suddenly as it began, so it stopped, allowing the bulk of the 80,000 fans, plus movie-star Natalie Portman, to enjoy a headline set from Kings of Leon - their third show in Ireland in 12 months - while the remaining brave souls sampled the dark and delightfully lyrical wares Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds had on display on the O2 Stage.

The Australian troubadour was joined by Shane MacGowan for a masterful encore, but really impressed with tracks Midnight Man and Red Right Hand.
In that difficult, rain-filled period, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Guy Garvey of Manchester band Elbow, tried valiantly to blast the rain away.

Elbow were resplendent in green ponchos, finishing their blistering set with the rather ironic One Fine Day, while a shower of confetti sprayed over the massive crowd.

Previously, on a bone dry and balmy Friday night, headliners Blur predictably drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.

In something of a coup for organisers MCD, the newly reformed band - who haven’t played together in six years - were fresh from gigantic gigs at Glastonbury and Hyde Park, and didn’t disappoint with a 24-strong set that encompassed all of their greatest hits, from opener She’s So High to epic closing track The Universal.

Elsewhere, the post-rock stylings of Mogwai seriously impressed, as did the mash-up skills of Swedish House Mafia and the heavy beat of Pendulum’s set. Even Snow Patrol weren’t too bad, enjoying a massive crowd for a large sing-along.

Cork band Fred opened proceedings on the massive Heineken Green Spheres stage at 2pm on Saturday, drawing a huge and appreciative crowd for a triumphant set. The band boast a Limerick member in bassist Jamin O’Donovan, who hails from Caherdavin Lawn and who spoke to the Limerick Chronicle backstage after the gig.
“The gig was brilliant, we were delighted with it,” said a happy looking O’Donovan.

“We did think, two o'clock Saturday afternoon, will there be 20 people out there - so we are absolutely delighted with it. We think we have found our niche, we think we have found what we like now, and that is playing big festivals,” laughed Jamin.

With a brass and string section backing up their set, the band drew thousands into massive tent, demonstrating why they are one of the finest Irish bands around at the moment.
Another Limerick man, Steve Melling, playing with well regarded band the 202’s, told the crowd that they “can only get wet once”, but at its height, the deluge took no prisoners - sending many running from its unforgiving nature.

Almost predictably, UK band Doves played one of the best sets of the weekend, the edgier material from recent album Kingdom of Rust sitting happily alongside their older material, with finale There Goes The Fear one of the highlights of the weekend.

Although Sunday was reasonably dry, the site had become something of a mud-pit due to the previous night’s rain.

However, Lady Gaga got some temperatures running high with a risqué show that left little to the imagination; the New York popstar strutting her stuff through various costume changes.

UK bands Friendly Fires and Foals played two of the sets of the weekend in the Green Spheres tent, while on the Main Stage mod band the Specials played together for the first time in 28 years - classic track Ghost Town wrapping up an impressive set.

Promoters MCD declared themselves happy with a weekend that saw crowds of almost 80,000 attend each night.
Local Limerick bus service Kelly Travel told the Chronicle that they ferried nearly 1,000 local music fans to and from Punchestown with absolutely no trouble and that they were “looking forward to next year already”.
Smiles all round then, just as long as the rain stays away entirely next year, we will be happy too.

Honourable mentions:

Fever Ray - the quirky Karin Dreijer Andersson (of Swedish group The Knife) played to about 100 people in the Dance Arena on Sunday afternoon. Why could she not have been scheduled for the picnic, where she'd play to a full field of appreciative listeners? Fab, quirky, scary show tho.
Howling Bells - Sydney shoegaze rock, great frontwoman in Juanita Stein (great name too).
The Chapters - great new Irish band, great new album in Perfect Stranger.
The Saw Doctors - Is there another Irish band that could play in the rain on the main stage and still get a massive crowd, singing and dancing and feeling good? N-17 was a popular one..
Not so much:
Kings of Leon - Lads, go away for a year or two and come back then, please..
The Gaslight Anthem - I think all that can be said about the New Jersey band is that Springsteen likes them. Everyone else was hanging around waiting for him to show up, a la Glastonbury.
Lady Gaga - Great look, choreography and decent pop songs, but just too over the top for this reviewer - trying waaayyy too hard for my liking.
Mud - Ok, not an act per se, but what is the story with lads diving headfirst into mud pools, wearing nothing but a pair of GAA shorts? Made me nearly lose my lunch several times..

Five things you may not have known about Oxegen but now you do:

5: There are 700 flags on site.
4: There are 250 food vans on site (that's a lotta food).
3: Dublin graffiti artist Maser did the various artworks that adorned those temporary walls people were pissing up against.
2: €1.5m was spent on erecting permanent roadways and thicker grass to soak up the rain, while €2 million was spent on security, gardaí and medics at this year's festival.
1: The view from the side of the main stage is very, very good - a bit like actually being on stage. The closest I'll ever get to performing in front of 40-50,000 people!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oxegen over for another year..

Oxegen was, well, wet and mucky, but not for the whole weekend, as some would have you believe...

Immediate reaction? Friendly Fires, Foals, Blur, Nick Cave, Elbow, Doves, Howling Bells and Swedish House Mafia(?!) were all brilliant.. Kings of Leon (yawn) Lady Gaga (apart from her outfits) less so.
I'm too wrecked to get into the weekend too much, have a review in tomorrow's Limerick Chronicle which I will post when it is published.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oxegen 2009 - kicks off this weekend..

Oxegen this weekend, looking forward to it - great line-up, good weather forecast etc. I'll be there all weekend, hope to get some stuff up on the blog, will be joining Spin South West for a chat at some stage, and will have a decent sized review in next week's paper.

By the way, we here in Leader towers have a new city paper out - a bumper edition of the Limerick Chronicle - the new weekly city paper for your delectation. Check it out, it's the biz..

Anyway, here's an Oxegen preview, from a fairly local perspective...

Alan Owens
THOUSANDS of local music fans are expected to make the annual pilgrimage to the Oxegen festival in Punchestown this weekend.
Local sources have said that the demand for tickets, both to the festival and to bus services travelling to Naas, has ramped up over the last few weeks.
Dave Jackson, owner of Empire Music on O’Connell Street, said ticket sales have been “very busy” in the last few weeks.
“Sales have been very busy in the last two weeks - it has really taken off,” said Dave.
“We had a near constant queue at the ticket desk last week and as many people were buying Oxegen tickets as were getting them for Rod Stewart - we sold a load today even. It is going to be busy right up until the weekend because the weather forecast is so good.”
Similarly, Pallasgreen based Kelly Travel - who will run shuttle buses to Punchestown from 7am this Thursday morning, said demand was unprecedented for the service. The company are the only the only officially licensed bus service in the area.
“We have been providing this service for years and it is definitely the busiest year - we can hardly handle the phones, it is an unprecedented level of demand,” said Tim Kelly.
“We have services going from 7am Thursday, every hour until 5pm and from 7am until lunchtime on Friday. The return buses will run every hour from midnight on Sunday night until the last bus at 9am on Monday morning,” added Tim.
The campsites in the Punchestown racecourse open this Thursday at 12 noon, with a packed three night schedule of live music beginning from 2pm on Friday afternoon.
Spin South West FM will be broadcasting on site from 9.45am on Friday morning until Sunday evening, airing over 30 hours of interviews, reports, tips and updates. Live 95FM’s Eleanor Fitzgerald will also be on site in Punchestown, providing plenty of coverage for local audiences. This year’s line-up is a contender for one of the strongest since the festival’s inception in 2004, before which it was previously known as Witnness.
A newly reformed Blur are set to attract a huge crowd when they headline on Friday night, as are heavyweights Snow Patrol, Kings of Leon and The Killers. Lily Allen, Bloc Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Specials and Pet Shop Boys are also set to play over the weekend.
For tickets contact Empire Music on 061-317211 or log onto Bus tickets are available from Kelly Travel on 061-384422.


Don’t miss: Blur (Main Stage, Friday, 23.10): David Holmes (Heineken Green Spheres, Friday 22.20): Elbow (Main Stage, Saturday 20.25): Doves (O2 Stage, Saturday 22.05): Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Main Stage, Saturday 18.55): The Specials (Main Stage, Sunday 19.05): Friendly Fires (Heineken Green Spheres, Sunday 17.15)

Avoid at all costs: The Script (Main Stage, Friday 19.35): Keane (O2 Stage, Friday 23.35): Razorlight (Main Stage, Sunday 20.35): Paolo Nutini (Main Stage, Sunday 17.45)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tonelist - Noel Hogan releases album of local acts

FORMER CRANBERRIES’ guitarist Noel Hogan has released an album celebrating a new crop of local music talent on his label Gohan Records.

‘Tonelist’ is a fourteen track compilation of acts and bands from around the city, selected by Hogan and Alan Jacques of Live 95 FM, whose ‘Green and Live’ radio show was used to tracklist the album.

“The objective is to highlight the huge amount of wonderful music being created locally and to give it a springboard onto the national stage,” said Noel.

“This CD is first and foremost a celebration of Limerick’s rich and diverse music scene. There is so many great bands and singers in Limerick doing great work right now and they really deserve to be heard by a larger audience,” he added.

Hogan noted that Limerick has produced some superb acts over the years, including Granny’s Intentions, Tuesday Blue, The Driven, The Hitchers, Woodstar and his former band.

Now, the intention is to give some up and coming ‘Limrock’ bands a chance to flaunt their wares. Included on the CD are a superb collection of songs from some of Limerick’s more established and well known acts, such as We Should Be Dead, Giveamanakick, Vesta Varro, Headgear and Hogan’s own current project, Arkitekt, which has contibuted the song Pacing.

Side by side with these tracks are those from up and coming talent such as Drumming Room, Supermodel Twins, Pio, The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, Alkali Flat, Seneca, Brendan Markham, Walter Mitty And The Realists, and Mark O’Connor.

A number of these bands are touring both in Ireland and the United States at the moment, but some have yet to make an impact beyond the Limerick music scene.

It is undoubtable that a push thanks to Hogan’s considerable clout will help with exposure. Hogan has already released his own music on the Limerick based Gohan Records - under the Monoband and Arkitekt monikers - but this is the first such release and in giving local bands the chance to showcase their wares, is to be congratulated.

Tone List will be available from I-tunes and record stores from Friday July 10. For more information log onto

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Leaked additions to Electric Picnic lineup

More acts have been announced to play the Picnic (Dan Deacon, Kid Creole, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - yaay!), thanks to Jim Carroll for announcing them, apparently the announcement was due tomorrow, but the list is out there already. Certainly making for a superb festival.

Kid Creole & The Coconuts

Dinosaur Jr

Neko Case

Dan Deacon Ensemble


Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

The Temper Trap

Buraka Som Sistema (live)

Major Lazer

The Acorn

First Aid Kit

Julie Feeney

One Day International

Fake Blood

Boy 8 Bit

The Lost Brothers

(Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on Cruises Street)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Micronite moves to Dolan's - Jachoozi to perform

THE MUCH respected and well attended regular club night Micronite is to move to a new home this Saturday as Dan Sykes takes his guests to the Upstairs venue in Dolan’s.
The new venue will feature ‘Jachoozi’ - an electronic three piece from Berlin, who, as Dan explains, “have consistently managed to deliver their very own mongrel style of electronic pop music”.
“They have an avant-dub-glitch-step-based sound that combines honest, communicative pop sensibilities with warm sub-basses and a crunchy, precise yet organic sound texture,” says Dan, somewhat perplexingly.
Jahcoozi have released music on various international labels such as Kitty-Yo, Asound and Playhouse and have collaborated with a wide range of artists including Modeselektor and Asian Dub Foundation. “They are a bit like a cross between MIA and Modeslektor, really energetic music, check them out on youtube, it really should be a great night, possibly one of the gigs of the summer so far,” adds Dan, who runs Viva Music Studios in O’Connell Street.
We have two double passes to give away for the gig which takes place Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday from 10.30pm.
To win simply email alan(dot)owens(@) with ‘Jachoozi’ in the subject line.