Thursday, April 29, 2010
With Riverfest and the Great Limerick Run set to bring thousands of fun-seekers into the city this weekend, music and arts venues are outdoing themselves to stage events to cater for the thousands expected into the city.
Graffiti enthusiasts are expected to flock to the “Just Writing My Name 2” international graffiti jam taking place in “The Spot” on the Dock Road, which is to play host to a stellar line-up of international graffiti talent, including Cope 2 from New York - a legend on the international scene.
Various different music events are to take place around Riverfest and the Great Limerick Run, with the BBQ taking place on George’s Quay on the Saturday afternoon, and music being provided at various points along the route of the run, which is expected to feature over 5,000 competitors.
In a great weekend for live music, Limerick is to play host to the like of 80s legend Nik Kershaw on Friday night, and high profile DJs Dave Pearce and Norman Jay (pictured above) in separate events over the three days.
Limerick man Steve Ryan releases his new single as windings this Friday in Dolan’s, while very highly rated songstress Jennifer Evans takes to the stage in Baker Place this Saturday. Johnny Duhan brings his new show ‘The Voyage’ to the Belltable, while former member of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, brings his indie-acoustic duo Uncle Monk to Dolan’s.
For theatre fans, the new Loft venue in the Locke hosts the last couple of nights of the excellent Language UnBecoming A Lady, featuring Myles Breen and finishing on Friday, while the Choke Comedy Improv Troupe return to the Belltable on Saturday night.
With live music also taking place in the People’s and Arthur’s Quay Parks this Saturday, Limerick will be alive with sound this weekend, prompting Laura Ryan of Limerick Co-ordination Office to proclaim that there is literally “something for everyone to do this weekend”.
“Limerick is the place to be this weekend and has firmly established itself as the May Bank Holiday festival location,” explained Laura, whose office is co-ordinating Riverfest.
“The weekend has now become synonymous with Limerick and fun and there is lots of stuff happening with close to 50 events taking place,” she added.
NIK KERSHAW was undeniably one of the absolute kings of the ‘80s, no question.
Try and conjure up a mental image from the seminal music videos of the mid-80s period and you can’t look further than the strange ‘Tron’-like video for ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’, in which Kershaw danced around in a strange, glowing suit, hair coiffed to the max.
Likewise the Bristol-born singer’s ‘I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, which featured vacuous, pale-faced children mouthing the words to the song, while the teen-idol danced around a castle which billowed smoke, on this occasion sporting a dyed blonde look.
Kershaw, who was also one of the standout performers at Live Aid, comes to Limerick this week for a ‘No Frills’ acoustic gig - his first time gigging in Ireland in more than 20 years.
“I'm very much looking forward to this Irish expedition, or exhibition,” says Kershaw, speaking from his home and stumbling momentarily over his words.
“It might be a bit of both - me making an exhibition of myself,” he laughs heartily.
A genuine legend, both of the above songs were absolute standards of the 80s era, ensuring the Bristol-born singer spent a record-breaking 50 weeks in the UK Top 50 singles chart in 1984. Both featured on the debut album ‘Human Racing’ - still a classic to this day.
However, come 1990, his star was beginning to wane, and after four albums and eight million record sales, Kershaw stepped out of the spotlight, rather abruptly.
He has flitted in and out since, preferring to remain as a songwriter and producer, working with the likes of Elton John, Cliff Richard, Bonnie Tyler and more latterly, Imogen Heap, Gary Barlow and Let Loose.
Oh, and he wrote and produced The One and Only, sung by Chesney Hawkes - a monster smash hit that no-one the planet could ever claim not to have heard.
“It was huge and it still keeps coming back to haunt me,” agrees Kershaw when asked about the song, which was sung memorably by Chesney Hawkes.
“I'm still very good friends with Ches - despite me ending his career,” he laughs. “That was a weird one, that was almost the first thing, when I decided to write songs for other people, that was almost the first thing I did, and then I stuck it on a shelf and forgot about. I co-produced it, recorded it and then forgot about it. A year later the film came out and blimey - it was mad.”
Remembering the dizzy heights of his own career, Kershaw is more phlegmatic. It is clear that he was never interested in the attention and trappings of fame, indicative of his decision to step away from the limelight, rather than become almost a parody of himself.
“Well you know, it is like the old adage - be careful what you wish for, because I wanted to make music and be known for making music, and I wanted to play in front of thousands of people, but then I was totally unprepared to deal with it, to deal with the public thing, the press and media - I just wasn't very good at it,” he says simply.
On Live Aid he laughs: “That was certainly a big moment - although I keep getting reminded about it, because for obvious reasons people want to know about it, but most of my memories from it have been.. I don't know if they are real anymore, because it has become something I talk about in interviews, and I don't know how much of it is made up and how much is real”.
While he has been keen to stay out of the limelight, the affable Kershaw has nonetheless released a studio album every four to five years, all to considerable critical acclaim, most recently on 2006’s You've Got To Laugh.
He returns this year with ‘No Frills’, which essentially documents his return to the stage, performing acoustically, solo and minus the mullet and shoulder pads.
“Saying I choose to do anything is a bit misleading for me, because there is never a plan, I have always just bumped into things, which I have been doing all my career,” he explains.
“What happened was, I got offered a couple of gigs in Dubai, little acoustic ones, and I thought, I fancy going there and I can try the acoustic thing out and no-one will know any different.
“It went ok and the next time somebody asked me, I surprised myself and said yes, and I did a load of acoustic gigs last year, and I have done quite a few this year. I'm quite enjoying it, so I'll keep going.”
Kershaw is playing a wide variety of songs, classics and newer material, possibly some very new. But surprisingly for a guy who performed in front of hundreds of thousands in Wembley Stadium and elsewhere, he still admits to the pang of nerves before going on stage.
“I'm not beyond nerves, I get nervous before every show. In some ways, especially the smaller gigs, the more nervous I get, because it is just me and a guitar - no smoke and mirrors or a band to hide behind,” he says.
“I was very surprised because I was thinking "anybody can do this" - you think there is nothing special, but you are sharing something with a bunch of people, and I am delighted with how well the gigs have been received,” he adds.
Nik Kershaw plays in Dolan’s Warehouse this Friday night, with an Eighties Night to follow.
‘So Runs The World Away’
JOSH RITTER has never really appealed to me, I’ve never really understood how the Idaho singer is so popular in - particularly - this country.
Apart from some early promise shown on his second album, Golden Age of Radio, Ritter, who was spotted and adopted by The Frames when he was a fresh faced performer, has never really seemed to live up to the hype.
And what hype; movie stars herald his work, while he has been referred to as “most gifted interpreter of Americana, as an arranger and a lyricist, working today”. Or at least it says so in his press release.
Ritter’s last album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, left me cold. Bland and boring, it evoked Americana alright, but was of no special originality or boasting any appeal to be remarked upon.
It is refreshing then to have this opinion turned upside down by the merest listen to this rather interesting album, which took Ritter two years to make, and takes its title from a reference to Hamlet.
So Runs The World Away is that strange hybrid of beasts; an album with its roots in sawgrass and blues, incorporating modern day recording techniques and guitar effects, delicate strings and quirky touches here and there - and, if this album doesn’t really sound like a Josh Ritter album, it also certainly doesn’t sound like Mr Ritter himself.
The dark and grim Folk Bloodbath, echoing as it does Nick Cave, is astonishingly guttural and eery, while the flipside is the breezy Lark, a Gospel-influenced ditty that would be at home on the O Brother Where Are Thou soundtrack.
Ritter stretches to evoke Tweedy and co on the Wilco-esque blues standard The Remnant, while he channels Neil Young on the superb Southern Pacifica.
It is the range of sounds on this album that is surprising, with Ritter demonstrating an impressive range, touching the ethereal on See How Man Was Made, and the emotional on the charged Another New World.
It is hard to find a bum note on what is an immensely satisfying album.
Welcome back Josh, all is forgiven.
RATING 4/5 Alan Owens
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Often accompanied by heavy branding and advertising, the bands can often be of a poor quality and lacking in spirit and guile. Thankfully, that is not the case with the IMRO Showcase tour, which is run by the Irish Music Rights Organisation - in association with 2FM and State magazine - and seems to have a genuine interest in unearthing the latest new music talent on these shores.
The 2010 IMRO Showcase has been touring the country since March 25, featuring the likes of The Ambience Affair, C!ties, The Minutes and Talulah Does The Hula - names to watch out for all, take it from us.
This weekend the showcase rolls into Limerick for the local leg - the penultimate on the tour before the Best of IMRO Showcase Tour 2010 gig in the Academy, Dublin, where the cream of the crop will be selected to perform.
A record breaking 800 music submissions were received for this year’s tour, and a heavyweight local line-up has been selected for the Limerick leg; Windings (solo), The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, Nick Carswell and The Elective Orchestra and Supermodel Twins.
Now, none of these bands will be - or at least should not be - unknown to those that regularly attend gigs in Limerick, but gathered together on one stage, broadly represent some of the finest acts this city has to offer to the country.
Top of the bill is Windings - Steve Ryan of Giveamanakick’s new full-time project, which is gearing up for a single release this Friday of the rather excellent “Brain Fluid”, and Steve will play a solo Windings show this Saturday, with a full band show to come the following weekend.
The Brad Pitts are also gearing up to (finally!) release their debut album, which these ears have heard and can strongly recommend.
Completing the line-up is Nick Carswell and his Elective Orchestra, who have been somewhat absent from the local scene of late, but will be back with a bang and some new tunes this Saturday, while the Supermodel Twins are riding high since the recent release of their single Bruises, from their much-anticipated debut album.
It is rare to get four bands of this quality on one stage, so get out and support them.
The IMRO Showcase Tour takes place Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday, April 24. Doors at 8pm.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The former frontman with much-loved Irish indie band Turn, who broke up in 2006 after becoming the nearly-men of the Irish music scene, has just released his solo album ‘We Albatri’, and is calling into Limerick on Thursday to perform songs from it.
The affable Kells man describes the process of recording his new solo offering as a cathartic one, after the demise of the band he was in for the bones of ten years.
“I spent about three years making it - or at least, I started it straight away after I left the band,” says ‘Ollie’.
“Then I kind of went off the rails for about a year, a long-term relationship ended, and there was a crisis of confidence. I came back to it about a year and a half ago and finished the record - and I am glad I took that break, I got a fresh perspective on things.”
The album is far removed from anything Turn produced, We Albatri ringing with a pop sensibility that chimes of everything from McCartney to The Shins.
“That is something I had never done before - Turn was quite a dark band, and I didn't want this record to be dark, even though I had an awful lot of things I needed to talk about, I wanted to disguise them in hooks and good melodies and keep the listener interested,” explains Cole.
In 2008, following a chance conversation via MySpace with a German fan, and a swap of some unreleased songs for a box of sweets, Cole ended up in deep in the Black Forest in Germany, in a studio owned by Philipp Rauenbusch, bass player with multi-platinum selling act Reamonn.
Cole recorded the album with friend and producer Ciaran Bradshaw, while some old friends chipped in, including Graham Hopkins, Paul Noonan, and old Turn mucker Gavin Fox.
“That was amazing, I think if that didn't happen, the record would never been made. It was a gift from the heavens. It was a very positive time,” he adds.
“Turn was a lot more claustrophobic. We were a rock band that were good at writing power pop songs, that were inevitably really noisy - and we could never really get away from that, and as a songwriter, I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. I want to grow up to be Billy Joel or something, turn into a proper songwriter at some point,” he laughs.
Listening to the strength of his solo record, Cole is well on his way to showcasing such ability, and his new departure has clearly lifted his spirits. He has finished a journey, but a new one is beginning.
“Yes, but this is the fun part. Ireland is a great place to travel, people are in a good mood and I'm really looking forward to it,” he adds chirpily.
Oliver Cole plays Upstairs in Dolan’s tonight.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
THE HAND wringing and angst that has accompanied this album has been a genuine pleasure to observe.
What? MGMT have gone and made a self-indulgent, psychedelic album, with no singles? Described as “challenging”? And wanted to give it away for free? Are they mad?!
It seems the whole world wanted ‘Oracular Spectacular’ Part 2, except two Brooklyn lads called VanWyngarden and Goldwasser, who wanted to make the album they always wanted, an introspective, sprawling odyssey that takes some time to get your head around.
Let’s get one thing straight, despite what you have heard, this is not a drastic departure for MGMT - several of the songs on Congratulations are reminiscent of those on the debut album, but songs along the lines of bombastic hits Time To Pretend, Kids and Electric Feel, are conspicuous in their absence.
Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser never wanted to be the band that churns out anthemic songs like those mentioned above, which they wrote while still in college, and pasted onto their debut album for a patched-up release. Even in Time To Pretend, they lampooned this attitude, singing, tongues firmly stuck in cheek: “Let’s make some music, make some money, find some models for wives/This is our decision, to live fast or die young”.
Abandoning this route, to the record company’s despair no doubt, MGMT have channelled modern-day acoustica through a 70s psychedelic tunnel, and emerged, blinking, on the other side.
With producer Sonic Boom, or Peter Kember, of the cult British psychedelic act Spacemen 3, MGMT have made a 9-track album that is at turns beguiling and bizarre, but is very memorable, and will require many listens to get to the bottom of.
That said, they have produced some very catchy songs on Congratulations, no less than the title track, Someone’s Missing and I Found A Whistle, while the psychedelia is largely limited to the sprawling trippy-folkie 12 minute behemoth of Siberian Breaks and Pink Flloyd-esque Lady Dada’s Nightmare.
Echoing The 5th Dimension’s ‘Aquarius’ on several tracks, notably opener It’s Working, MGMT have loaded the album up with sitars, harpsichords and pan-pipes, which at times can be overloading, but ultimately, even within the twelve minute Siberian Breaks, they produce some very tender and melodic moments.
While Song for Dan Treacy sounds like something The Libertines might have produced if they weren’t, well, crap, there is very little on this album that won’t stand the test of time, and prove that the duo were correct not to merely reproduce their big hits, and instead make an effort to challenge and provoke.
As they sing in Congratulations, “Its hardly sink or swim when all is well, or the tickets sell”. Listen to this album, ignore the bluster, and make up your own mind.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play in Dolan's Warehouse this fine Tuesday evening - they will also perform at lunchtime in Java's in UL at 1pm and appear on Spin Talk in and around 2.15 (that's good going). For more see here.
NO CONTEST this week, those funk-soul, jazz and bass hounds from Chicago, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, are coming back to town this Tuesday and it is officially the gig of the week, if not the month, or even year.
Almost regular visitors to Limerick at this stage, the nine piece brass explosion of HBE most recently played a storming gig in Trinity Rooms last October, but since that superb evening of adrenaline-fuelled jazz magic, Barack Obama’s favourite band have recorded with Gorillaz on their superb new album Plastic Beach, and are visiting Limerick before they head off on a worldwide tour with Damon Albarn’s not-so-cartooney band.
The Hypnotic Brass are dashing around Ireland this April to promote their forthcoming Heritage EP - recorded for Choice Cuts late last year - which is coming out in advance of their first official studio length album in May, coming out on Albarn’s Honest Jon’s record label.
All sons of legendary Chicago jazz trumpeter and Sun Ra Arkestra founder member Kelan Phil Cohran, plus drummer Christopher Anderson, HBE supported and played with Blur at Hyde Park last year, as well as Glastonbury and Electric Picnic, and to see these musicians perform live is to be literally hypnotised, an aura of telepathy surrounding them.
The last time they were in town, Gabriel Hubert - aka ‘Hudah’ - chatted to On the Beat, and put down their symmetry to the fact that they grew up living and breathing music.
“We enjoy creating music - you have to have fun. That is not the main element, but it helps,” said Hudah. “The thing that makes our sound so unique is that we have been playing together since we were kids. We have been hearing these notes since before we were born. Our sound is more of a cosmic and spiritual connection than a physical connection - it almost can't be put into words, because it is bigger than our personal egos and feelings,” he added.
Get down to Dolan’s Warehouse tonight, April 13 to see for yourselves what makes these guys so special.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Of course - we note smugly - we knew all about O Emperor long before they appeared on RTE, with word coming from Waterford and Cork music circles - where the five piece outfit went to college and are based - that this was a band to watch.
A very early gig in January of this year saw the Waterford outfit come to Dolan’s with fellow hotly tipped UK counterparts Sons of Noel and Adrian and Alessi’s Ark, and those that braved the cold were not disappointed by this trio of bands.
O Emperor carry a weight of obvious, if often very simplistic comparisons; vaguely Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and Radiohead, channelled through the 70s slow burning, soft-core rock of The Band or Neil Young - but blew this reporter away with their performance that cold January night.
Intertwining three part - at times five-part - vocal harmonies on certain songs, most notably forthcoming single Don’t Mind Me, the band displayed off signature rhythms and brooding beats, and a deep multi-layered sound that was so apparent on the debut Persephone EP, and first single Po.
The band are set to release another EP this month, and are gearing up to a full album release in September. Paul Savage, singer with the band, joined City Life for a genial chat recently, with the band fresh from supporting Mumford and Sons in the UK and Ireland.
“They were really great gigs to do, and they were really nice bunch of lads - it was nice for us to play for that crowd,” says Paul, who fronts the band along with school chums Alan Comerford (guitar), Philip Christie (piano), Brendan Fennessy (drums) and Richie Walsh (bass).
“It is just crazy to see a band, of our own age, getting so phenomenally big; it was almost like Beatle-mania when they came on stage. It is crazy to see that, behind the scenes, to see how big someone can get just from one album. It is always nice to see as well - so it gives you some hope that it could be a viable thing to happen,” he laughs.
Paul met the other four members in secondary school, who had all been pals since primary school, and they all decamped to Cork to attend college. Four out of five men studied Music Management and Sound Production courses. Handy then for recording an album, it seems.
“O Emperor first properly began when we left college, about three years ago now,” explains Paul. “Before that we were called different things, but what we were playing before didn't really interest us. We completely scrapped the whole thing, went back to the drawing board, came up with ten songs and renamed the band and pursued that style. That was it.”
He adds: “It is a long story but really it is only happening in the last two years that it is taking off”.
The band recorded the album Hither Thither, but, as they began to send it out and get feedback from music industry people, decide to wait to release it. In the intervening period, new songs were written, which cried out for inclusion. With management sourced and a link-up with Universal secured, O Emperor decided to re-record their debut album, adding new material.
A recent trial trip to a Welsh record studio was scrapped, as the band failed “to gel” with one producer, but have found a happier set-up at a studio in Dublin, and are progressing nicely. However, it is an arduous process at times, Savage admits.
“Obviously re-recording a song is very tedious in itself, it is quite laborious, but it is working quite well this time around,” he says.
“We are working with a good engineer and are working in a nice space in Dublin, and it hasn't been a chore to re-record the old stuff, and it is quite refreshing when you have a bigger studio to work with. We are a lot tighter after a year of playing as well.
“It can work against you sometimes - you can end up imitating what you did originally and it can seem a little forced. It is a tricky thing to do, to get right - but in the end I think it will stand to us.”
O Emperor play Upstairs in Dolan’s this Friday night.
FACTFILE Band: O Emperor
Members: Paul Savage, Alan Comerford, Philip Christie, Brendan Fennessy and Richie Walsh.
Famous For: Debut single ‘Po’, which was well received, and a recent appearance on RTE’s Other Voices
Releases so far: Persephone EP, Reverie EP (due on April 18)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
‘The Logic of Chance’
THE DEBUT album Angles from Essex duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip was one of the best independent releases of 2008, launched successfully off the back of the success of first single ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ - the very first collaboration between the duo.
At the time they resisted major label offers for their much-sought after debut, and resisted the urge to rush release the album, instead taking their time to craft what was a stunning turn of anthemic hip-hop/rap and electro-dance tracks, formed of Scroobius Pip’s (David Mead’s) acerbic and very vivid lyrics and Dan Le Sac (Daniel Stephens’) production and beats.
The Logic of Chance follows the same winning pattern, but we are not sure if the duo took as much time with this release, as they did with the first album.
There are some stunning tracks on The Logic of Chance; the electro-grime and acerbic wit of opener Sick Tonight, the knife-crime referencing Great Britain and dancey first single Get Better, which hypothesizes about encouraging teenagers to take more account of their actions among other topics - but overall it misses an opportunity to follow up on the urgency and superior listenability of the debut offering.
Also, considering he is a master lyrical wordsmith, it is unfortunate that Pip’s vocals are often drowned in the mixes of some of these tracks, and he is simply incomprehensible at times. However, when they are clear, the lyrics deployed here are exceptional - full of anger and vigour - and make The Streets look more like Sesame Street.
Also, when Le Sac gets it right, such as on the dancefloor hip-hop of The Beat and the softer album finisher Cowboi - this is very, very good.
It is just a pity the whole album didn’t get the same careful attention.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Last year hundreds of revellers turned out to see fifteen bands on the main stage and eleven DJs in the newly introduced dance tent, in a field in Murroe.
Great Friday returns this year with an even better line-up, and a “shiny new” location. The location of Great Friday is shrouded in mystery, and those interested in attending must take a bus from Arthurs Quay, which will run from 11am today.
“We have a shiny new field all ready to go, and while it is much flatter and more convenient, I would still advise people to wear wellies and to bring something to sit on,” laughed Cathy O’Flaherty, of Great Friday Event Management.
Cathy said she didn’t think that the decision to allow pubs to open on Good Friday would affect the one-day music festival.
“I might have a small impact, but I don't think it will be much,” said Cathy.
“It is still a big day out for people and we are showing the Munster match, so people can keep their options open.”
This year’s festival will feature a dozen bands, including local acts the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and Acoustra, with Dublin band Funzo headlining, while 11 DJs, including Dan Sykes and Jamie Behan will perform.
A number of magicians, fire-breathers and graffiti artists will also showcase their talents at the festival.
“It is certainly a more eclectic line-up than last year in terms of the group of bands we have - from electronic bands to full-on rock bands, a bit of everything,” explained Cathy.
“We also have the chill out tent for acoustic acts and a dance tent for the DJs,” she added. All of the profits from the festival will go to Rape Crisis Mid West, and just 600 tickets are available, so get moving.
“The whole thing is for charity, any and all profits will go to the Rape Crisis Centre,” explained Cathy. “We only do this for the fun of it, no-one gets paid for this. We are trying to keep costs down to a minimum, so only 600 tickets are available, and quite a few have been sold. I would advise people not to wait until the day to buy tickets, as they are selling fast.”
Great Friday takes place today. For full details see www.greatfriday.ie.