Thursday, May 27, 2010

Donal Dineen presents 'Fresh Air' in Daghdha this Friday

TO LATE night radio listeners, he is something of an innovator, at the cutting edge of promoting new music. To regular Electric Picnic-goers, he is known for curating the beating heart of the festival, the stage in the Body and Soul arena.
He is Donal Dineen, radio presenter, filmmaker, gig promoter.

The Small Hours, Dineen’s nightly radio show, has something of a fervent cult following among music-lovers. The decision for him to take the music he champions on his weekly show into the live arena was a relatively simple one.
Present experimental music - live music - to a new audience, and make it almost an extra sensory experience with the aid of his own visual projections.
However, for Dineen, it wasn’t as straightforward - the introspective and quiet-spoken presenter being thrust into the spotlight as the organiser and MC of the live shows, known as “Fresh Air”, and before that, as “A Month of Sundays”.

Now however, into its third incarnation, Fresh Air has happily become a living, breathing thing, with a more confident Dineen at its helm, happy to express himself and his films, in tandem with the music that excites him.

This Friday Dineen presents three of Ireland’s “freshest soundmakers” at an unusual gig in Daghdha Dance Company’s space in St. John’s Church, and the results promise to be stunning.

“It should be good. I think in terms of the line-up it is probably the most interesting,” says Donal of an exciting line-up which features Sunken Foal (aka Dunk Murphy), Natural History Museum (also featuring Dunk, along with Carol Keogh - ex of the Tycho Brahe) and experimental two-piece Thread Pulls.

“I have never actually seen Sunken Foal or Natural History Museum, but I am a big fan of both - it is a unique situation in that Dunk is doing both sets - he is one of those people that I have total faith in everything he does,” says Dineen.
“Thread Pulls come very close to being a conventional rock band, but they have a different pace about them, and they have a different type of sound, which is what I am looking for usually, something that has an edge,” he adds.

This will be the third time Dineen has brought his live showcase to Limerick, the first featuring Matt Elliott in the Belltable, and last year’s amazing Daghdha gig, featuring Katie Kim and James Yorkston.
The city, and particularly St. John’s Church, has a special place in his heart, it appears.

“The venue is a totally inspiring place. The minute I saw that space, I couldn't believe my eyes, and it is most definitely the most interesting place that I have done any gigs in this country,” he says.
“I am really looking forward to ending the tour there, and we specifically chose to do that, having had the experience the last time, to kind of wind it up in Limerick. There is just a core group of people in Limerick who are really passionate and who share my passion for whatever I am trying to do,” he adds.

Dineen has used his discerning ear to seek out and encourage experimental music in all genres, especially music made in Ireland, and this tour is no different.
He is, in turn, inspired by the music he hears.
“The intention is to make and add to the atmosphere or create the atmosphere, so that people actually appreciate the music as best they can, there is nothing more to it than that,” he explains. “If I can make a space comfortable for the artist to perform in, and enhance it for the audience, it is all about making that happen. With each person that plays I just try and listen to their music and try to imagine something on their behalf - sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.”

He adds: “I have definitely gained confidence and I feel very lucky to have the chance to repeat these things. I am able to pull it together more and talk more and actually tell a story somehow - the original intention was that I wanted to say something and express myself. This is a great vehicle for that, and I am inspired by this music”.

Fresh Air with Thread Pulls, Natural History Museum and Sunken Foal takes place this Friday in Daghdha from 8pm. Tickets are €15/12 and are available from or on the door.

Spilt Gin present 'Andy Warhol's Nothing Special' in the Belltable

FOUR FIGURES stand, hands by their sides. They are well-dressed, fashionable even, wearing sunglasses and matching blond wigs. This is the cast of ‘Andy Warhol's Nothing Special’, a new play by the Dublin based theatre collective, Spilt Gin, which was co-founded by Limerick woman Maeve Stone, originally from Castleconnell.

Described as a “playful riff on pop-art”, this innovative piece of writing from James Hickson - fellow co-founder of the new theatre company - is a play about love, art and beauty, and “really pops”, as the tagline goes.

“The piece is basically a treatise on art and love, but in a more practical sense it is about this artist who is not too confident in himself and his work, and he creates an alter-ego called Andy Warhold,” explains Maeve Stone.

“This character becomes the embodiment of what he would like to be as an artist and as a result and falls in love with a character called Eve. It is about the relationship between the characters, which makes it sound serious, but it is really funny, the writing is brilliant,” she adds.

The duo formed Spilt Gin while still in college in Trinity, where they studied Theatre and English. With Maeve more interested in directing and James a natural playwright, the partnership was an instant one.

"We have been working together just over a year and it has been going really well. It is a partnership that works, that dynamic is always crucial,” explains Maeve. “My focus was always primarily on directing and James really shone against the backdrop of our writing, it was always terrible having to read after him in class,” she laughs.

There have been some serious changes made to the piece, which they first performed for 'The Theatre Machine Turns You On' festival in the Project Arts Centre, Dublin in December last year. Chief among them was losing the main actor who played Andy.

“We have made some huge changes. The actor that originally played Andy had to return to London and wasn't available, so we re-cast the main part, and we found that to be a positive thing, because in some ways it invigorated us and made us look at the play anew,” she explains.

“It has expanded from the original show - James took the opportunity to revise it and expand on it and add a lot more meat to the characters, so it is a bigger beast,” laughs Maeve.

Fittingly for a piece inspired by ‘pop-art’, the staging features some vibrant colours, while the music of David Bowie and the Velvet Underground has been reworked and recorded for the play. “James has a real knack for quick wit and pithy humour, so it is really funny and the music in it is great as well,” says Maeve.

“A lot of the design elements are inspired by pop-art and it has got a lot of vibrant colour and the designs and costumes gesture towards that era,” she adds.
‘Andy Warhol's Nothing Special’ opens in the Belltable tonight, and runs until Saturday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Album review - The National 'High Violet'

The National
‘High Violet’

THE OPENING tracks on The National’s third and fourth studio albums - Alligator and Boxer respectively - were instantly engaging, incandescent tracks that set the brooding tone that followed.
‘Terrible Love’, the brooding epic on the Brooklyn-based band’s fifth studio record, High Violet, is no ‘Secret Meeting’ or ‘Fake Empire’. Doused in militaristic drumming and throbbing guitars - as is The National’s trademark - High Violet takes some time to reach the epic heights of the openings to the album’s critically acclaimed predecessors, but by the time it has come, the Cincinnati formed band have worked themselves, and the listener, into something of a subtle tizzy.
The lead single, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, is the emotional centrepiece of this album, an astonishing continuation of a richly textured period for the band. The effervescent track sees vocalist Matt Beringer allow his rich baritone to be at the beating heart of the song, allowing himself - as in other places on this album - to stretch his vocal chords toward breaking point.
As with most of Beringer’s vivid lyrics, they are opaque and difficult to permeate - ‘I was carried, to Ohio on a swarm of bees’ - but this is one song you won’t be able to get out of your head after even the merest of listens.
The spooky, spine tingling ‘Afraid of Everyone’ is another stand-out track, while ‘England’ - possibly a paean to the band’s spiritual home - is the most musical song that The National have offered in recent years.
The kooky album closer, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks is, bizarrely, one of the most uplifting, soaring tracks you will hear this year.
The National, channelling The Cure and Joy Division through a modern, indie-rock standpoint - a la contemporaries Arcade Fire and TV On The Radio - feel like the anti-Springsteen on this album, such is the restraint shown on tracks such as ‘Sorrow’ and ‘Anyone’s Ghost’.
There is a tenderness and subtlety that mirrors the band’s ascent to greatness, slow and deliberate, but gathering increasing speed.
There is no doubt that Beringer’s baritone will continue to prove divisive, but for those willing to delve in, this is an astonishingly powerful record that will reveal its richness with every listen. RATING: 4/5

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Album review - Villagers 'Becoming A Jackal'

‘Becoming A Jackal’

RARELY has an Irish album release been accompanied with such universal expectation. Likewise, it is rare that such expectation is accompanied by a fulfilment of potential.
This is the exception to the rule.
Villagers - essentially Conor J. O’Brien - finally release debut album Becoming A Jackal after whetting many appetites with the superb Hollow Kind EP, released in February of last year.
The first Irish act signed to trendy UK record label Domino (home to Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys etc), this is an album that began life as a nameless collection of musical poems, but has become a heart-wrenching, melodic odyssey that should see O’Brien become the biggest act to come out of Ireland in many moons.
O’Brien was once in The Immediate, who imploded just as rave reviews began to see them appear set for stardom, and then spent the latter part of the last two years touring as Cathy Davey’s guitarist - notably standing out in her shows. But O’Brien was always meant for bigger and better things, such is the vividness of his lyrics, and the epic soaring scale of his vocals and musicianship (he recorded this album largely by himself with the help of producer Tommy McLaughlin).
This is quite simply a stunning album, one that will inevitably see the Dubliner compared to Eliot Smith or Conor Oberst, but there is more of a older-style feel to his debut, epic at times, subtle in others, not unlike Neil Young’s Harvest in that sense, for example.
Indeed, on the superb title track and first single, O’Brien channels Simon and Garfunkel in a song with off-kilter rhythms and popping bass lines, mixed in with soaring harmonies. It is something of a relief in the middle of two dark and subversive songs - the eerie I Saw The Dead and the unsettling and up-tempo Ship of Promises.
The Meaning of the Ritual follows, one of two songs included here that was also on the EP (the other being Pieces, in which O’Brien moves from slow, Burt-Bacarach croon to a wild, howling, finish - think Radiohead recreating the Beatles’ orchestral antics on A Day In The Life), and has been tweaked to include some impressive horn sections.
But it is the gentle lullaby of Home that is the centre-piece of this album, and shows a lighter, more playful side of the musician. The Crosby, Stills and Nash-esque The Pact is another standout, as is the subtle Set The Tigers Free.
Subtle is a defining word for this album, one that crawls under your skin, O’Brien’s lyrical abilities literally eye-opening in scale.
Quite simply, this is the finest Irish album released in many years.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Interview with Cathy Davey

CATHY DAVEY has always seemed to me to be the perfect indie performer; not in a spiky, PJ Harvey-type way, but rather the type of performer who can furrow her own path, and not listen to the demands of a meddling record label.
On her third album, the just released ‘The Nameless’, the Wicklow chanteuse has released the record on her own label, Hammer Toe Records.

The album is an astonishing piece of work; dark and eery at times, soaring and epic in others, delicate and often vulnerable, like Davey’s voice, which is simply captivating. But Davey, whose superb second album ‘Tales of Silversleeve’ saw her scoop a Meteor award and Choice nomination, plus double platinum sales in this country, has really had to go through the wars, as it were, to reach this point.

Signed initially to Parlophone's Regal Recordings, Davey released her debut Something Ilk in 2004, which was, in her own words, confused. Struck by stage- and studio-fright, Davey enlisted Liam Howe of Sneaker Pimps fame for her follow-up, which she recorded in a house and away from the pressures of a fancy studio and was released on EMI.
However, despite the album’s success in Ireland, she was dropped from the monolith label in 2008. This may have been the best thing that happened to her, we venture.

Davey, who was crippled by nerves when performing, was pushed out of her comfort zone to find a place she is conversely more comfortable in.

“It is the right time for me to independent, definitely,” she says by way of agreement, speaking from Belfast where she has just performed.
“I really didn't know my own head or what I was capable of or what my limitations were. By the time I got to recording this album, I had a definite sense of how I wanted to come across, and not feeling I had to disguise it for fear of being seen as being too theatrical or affected,” she adds.
She rules out any measure of success having an effect on her confidence, pointing more figuratively to the “experience of having success”.

“The larger the shows were that I played, the more I had to dig out of myself to perform in front of more people than I was used to, or rise to the occasion, that all helped me bring out, I guess, a more performing side of myself that I never imagined I had,” says Cathy.

In the aftermath of Silversleeve’s release, Davey took herself off to a little town called Albi, near Toulouse, France. There she lived in a house once occupied by a family, with the woman - now widowed - who owned it living next door. Armed with a “bag of tricks” - recording unit, drum kit, mandolin - she cocooned herself from the outside world and found the mood of the album, rediscovering her love of “song-smithery”, she says.

“I did a month there and wrote about a third or maybe half of the album - I definitely got the bones of the idea or structure there,” Cathy explains. “The people who had lived in the house before me had left an atmosphere. Also I was there on my own and I don't really speak French, so I was kind of isolated. I had all these characters - and the Nameless character evolved and I enjoyed getting lost in that world.”

As a result, the album became loosely based on that character, a “fantastical story”, Cathy explains.
Armed with help from the peerless Conor J. O’Brien, of Villagers fame, Neil Hannon and her own father, Cathy developed the album into what it is now with the help of an engineer, and clearly revelled in the process.
As a result, she has carved out a niche for herself, and sounds happy in the process.

“I have never been the type of person who wants to do any breaking of countries or endless tours just to show the world my music,” she laughs.
“I would really like to make enough money to make another album. I guess I want the ideal world, but I want to be happy in that ideal world,” she adds.

Cathy Davey plays in Dolan’s Warehouse this Sunday night. ‘The Nameless’ is now on general release.

Album review - Cathy Davey ' The Nameless'

*We've just heard that this has gone to number one in the Irish charts, congrats to Cathy!

Cathy Davey

‘The Nameless’

(Hammer Toe Records)

THERE IS something astonishing about Cathy Davey’s voice; delicate, quirky, at times vulnerable, always soaring - she is possibly one of the most listenable female vocalists out there in this day and age.

Where debut album Something Ilk was a decent record, Davey was unwillingly pitched as a spiky PJ Harvey, something she was never comfortable with. On the superb follow-up, the Choice nominated Tales of Silversleeve, Cathy revealed her tender side, producing a beautiful album, one that was stirring and emotional as well as featuring some brilliant pop tunes, and which catapulted her to the forefront of the Irish music scene.

That wasn’t enough for EMI seemingly, who dropped her - and much of their roster - in 2008, granting Cathy an independence she probably always craved, but possibly wasn’t ready for. Until now.

The Nameless is a cracker; stuffed full of tunes that will require much digging to get to the bottom of, but an album that sees Davey revel in her strengths and not seeking to conform to an imaginary, stilted mainstream genre.

There is an eery darkness to the album, not the least of which is the mandolin inspired title track, a delicate and moody piece that swells and falls with Davey’s delightful timbre. Likewise the imperious Army of Tears, on which Neil Hannon stops in to help out on backing vocals.

There are some beautiful tunes, such as the emotional Lay Your Hand, smothered as it is in soaring strings, and the gorgeous finale End of the End.

Davey has kept her propensity for pop tunes intact also, as evidenced by the lead single, the folky, soulful Little Red, and the humorous Happy Slapping.

One of the strengths of this album is undoubtedly the pitch-perfect group of musicians that Davey has surrounded herself with, including the peerless Conor J. O’Brien, who no doubt added his own dark intensity to the album. A

ll in all, an astonishing and spine-tingling album that is definitely the best thing Davey has done to date.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Local band to open Bob Dylan Thomond Park gig

LEGENDARY singer songwriter Bob Dylan has personally requested that an “up and coming local band” open up his Thomond Park concert on July 4.
Entry forms carried in today’s Limerick Leader and this week's Limerick Chronicle offer a local band the chance to open for Bob Dylan at his July 4 Thomond Park concert.
Aiken Promotions have teamed up with the Limerick Leader and Chronicle newspapers, plus Live 95FM and Dolan’s Warehouse, to offer an up and coming local band the chance to share a bill with the legendary singer-songwriter.
Concert promoter Peter Aiken revealed on Friday that Dylan had personally requested that a local band open the show, which will also feature Alabama 3, Seasick Steve and David Gray.
“We are going to get a local Limerick band, an up and coming band to open it up. Dylan wants it to be a young band to open up the show - a good band,” said Peter Aiken.
A shortlist of acts will be compiled, with entries closing on May 28.
A showcase night will be held in Dolan’s on Friday, June 25 to select the winning act.
Mick Dolan said: “It’s an amazing opportunity for a young band. It doesn't get any better than sharing a bill with Bob Dylan”.
Peter Aiken also revealed that Dylan, who he called “one of the greatest icons of the 21st century”, was looking forward to coming to Limerick.
“He is looking forward to coming here. They have been looking up Thomond Park on the internet - he knows exactly where he is going,” said Mr Aiken.
Mr Aiken also revealed that he had “made a commitment” to John Cantwell, Thomond Park stadium director, to keep returning to the €40m stadium to stage two gigs a year.
“It is our intention to keep coming here and we are going to keep doing two gigs a year,” said Mr Aiken.
Mr Cantwell said Peter Aiken had “provided the goods again in terms of headline acts”.
“It doesn't get much bigger in terms of names, and the reaction has been very positive. It is going to be a great day out and the city can put its best foot forward in terms of profile and image and positive publicity,” he added.
Gates to Thomond Park will open at 2.30pm on July 4, with the first band on at 3.30pm. For tickets - priced at €60, €70.70, €81.25, and seated at €67.50 - check out and other usual outlets nationwide. Booking line: 0818-719300. See page 3 of the Leader 2 section for entry forms for the chance to perform on the Thomond Park stage on July 4 with Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eight new acts added to Electric Picnic line-up

This just in; eight new acts have been added to an already impressive Electric Picnic 2010 line-up: Mark E Everett's Eels, who are set to release their eighth studion album this year, End Times; UK electro-pop outfit Friendly Fires; world renowned DJ Laurent Garnier, Mancunian post-punk veterans The Fall; downtempo Ninja Tunes’ act Bonobo, who will appear as an eight piece band; Oxford five piece Stornaway, who featured on the BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll; much loved Irish electro-pop-punk act Fight Like Apes and Dublin techno rockers Channel One.

The acts join a line-up that already consists of Roxy Music, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem, Leftfield, Modest Mouse, Hot Chip and the Frames, among many many more. Tickets are currently on sale from all usual outlets. For more on the original line-up announcement see here.
In other news, EP '10 organisers have put a "Ticket Installment Plan" in place for this year’s Electric Picnic to make things a little easier for those wishing to purchase a ticket. The scheme is open until the end of this month, 31st May. For more details see here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Norman Jay plays Streetlife in the Warehouse

A couple of photos of Norman Jay playing the Streetlife gig down in Dolan's last Sunday - thanks to Joe and Ken Coleman for the pics. I didn't make it down, but heard loads of folks did and that it was a super evening, with Norman Jay in effusive form as he celebrated 30 years of his 'Good Times Soundsystem', which has earned him a Knighthood.
On the Terrace Paul Webb hosted the latest installment of his Balance New Talent Sessions with Brian Sexton, Michael Jason Grant and Dave Hall - check Webb out on Spin South West on Fridays from 21.45.
The next Streetlife party returns on May 21 with the immense line-up of Japanese Popstars and Justin Robertson, tickets on sale now!