Friday, July 30, 2010

Indiependence Music and Arts Festival

THE AUGUST Bank Holiday weekend is proving to be the weekend of the small, boutique festival with a number of events taking place to cater for the festival-going crowd who are located beyond the walls of Dublin.
However, by far the most interesting of those small festivals taking place this weekend is the Indiependence Music & Arts Festival, taking place in Mitchelstown, just over the Limerick border and a mere 40 minutes drive from the city.
There is nothing small about this festival though, the brainchild of Shane Dunne, who went to college in the University of Limerick from 1997 to 2002.
With five stages, 90-plus bands and DJs and a capacity of 4,500 people in a brand new, green-field site, Indiependence is truly the way of the future for music festivals. This is the fifth year of Indiependence, which has grown organically bit-by-bit from its origins as a free concert in the main square in Mitchelstown.
Shane, of Curve Music Management, has brought the festival to this point, where the headliners are none other than the White Lies, Alabama 3 and Reverend and the Makers, which virtually every Irish band worth seeing joining them on the bill, including; Duke Special, Delorentos, Jape, God is an Astronaut, Codes, Super Extra Bonus Party, And So I Watch You From Afar - plus Limerick bands including We Should Be Dead, while Fred, with one member from Limerick, also take to the Indiependence stage.
As befits the name, this is a completely independent festival, and the team have done something few have managed; created a low-cost, affordable festival with a magnificent line-up.
“It is completely independently run,” explained Shane, speaking from the site this week.
“It gives people the option that they don't have to travel too far for their festival, plus the fact that it is only €79 for a weekend camping ticket and the line-up is strong helps. We have capped all the prices on site and it is a really good value weekend on an intimate site with no hassle - it will be a really laid back, enjoyable weekend for everyone I think,” he added.
The short drive from Limerick suggests that local music fans will make up a significant percentage of the crowd, we would wager.
“Yes, it is very close, just a short spin really. I went to UL so it is a road I know well myself,” explained Shane.
“We should have six or seven Limerick bands on the bill in total, we got together with UL Music Society this year to run a couple of ‘Battle of the Band’ events so we got a few from there, and we have We Should Be Dead, who are probably the most well known, outside of the 20 percent of Fred that is from Limerick,” he laughed.
Last year’s event was plagued by poor weather, but Shane is optimistic that this weekend should be better.
“Even though last year the weather was atrocious - it rained for two weeks solid in the run up to it and destroyed the site - the feedback was brilliant and a lot of people who were there last year are definitely coming back,” he explained.
“But this is a much drier site and a much better set-up and the forecast is ok for the next week - no heavy rain predicted, so it should be good.”
Securing the services of hugely popular UK indie band White Lies for their only show in the Republic of Ireland this summer is hugely impressive, and a sign that this festival should continue to grow in years to come.
“It took a little bit of back and forth, they are in the studio this summer doing the second album and they were only planning to come out for really select shows where they are the headline acts, so it is great to get an act like that. They are one of the biggest bands in the UK and I can't wait to get them in here at the weekend and up on stage."
He adds: “I think this year now because we have grown it substantially, it is important to leave it get through this year and consolidate a little bit. If we could get to the stage where we were selling out at 4,500 every year for a couple of years, maybe we could look at stepping on a bit at that stage”.
In the meantime, Indiependence is the place to be this weekend for all keen festival-goers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bump Muzik Festival this weekend

AS THE recession continues to bite the music industry hard, particularly the live scene, smaller, boutique festivals are springing up all over the country in response to the major, corporate music festivals that are simply out of many people’s price range.
Events like the recent Body and Soul Gathering in Mulllingar and No Place Like Dome in Sligo, plus the upcoming Indiependence in Mitchelstown are booming, and Limerick is set to join the ranks this weekend with the Bump Muzik Festival, admittedly being held in and around the Angler’s Rest pub in Clonlara, Co. Clare (see pic above).
However the site is just six miles from Limerick and features predominantly local acts seeking to display their wares to a festival audience.
Bump is set to feature some top DJs and bands playing over two days, with three stages set-up on the idyllic site. With full bar and camping facilities on site, plus the finest in local food, produced by local artisans, this could just be the gig of the summer.
The festival is capped at 700 people - with most of the tickets sold at this point - so crowds won’t be a problem, and as one of the organisers Dan Sykes of Viva Music explains, the concept behind the festival is about a “celebration of music, fun and good people”.
“That is what it is all about. You can go to so many things and the vibes aren't right at them. This is about people going to their festival where they can relax and listen to good music, with friendly people. That is what we are trying to promote,” explains Dan, local DJ and promoter.
Running the festival along with Viva are Eanna Byrtt of Dubble Bass, and Emma Ryan of Secret Stash Music.
“The idea came from putting on gigs over the last few years, it was something we wanted to do and put on an event that you would like to go to,” continues Dan, who also runs music production courses from his studio on O’Connell Street.
“We wanted to do something nice and small to capture that community vibe,” he adds.
A host of internationally renowned names are set to play at the festival, including techno maestro Luka Baumann (pic above), tech-house whizz Bearweasel, drum and bass genius Marcus Intalex (pic below) and rising star Rockwell. Irish producer Fran Hartnett and drum and bass DJ Calibre are also in the mix, as are a host of local musicians and crews including Subtle Audio, Micronite, Roots Factory and Cheebah, plus local bands We Should Be Dead and the Freeform Foundation.
“There are big names from outside Limerick but we are really trying to get as many people from Limerick as we can, because there is a really good scene here at the moment that we are trying to promote as well,” says Dan.
“There is enough there to showcase stuff from Limerick - we have the best and the brightest right here, with both the older and newer guys coming through,” he adds.
One of the highlights promises to be the Boudoir Stage, which will feature a “1920 gramophone disco with fancy dress”, according to Dan, while Sunday attendees will be able to purchase a roast dinner, possibly unique among any festival.
“A Sunday roast is something I have always wanted at a festival,” laughs Dan. “The surroundings are idyllic and there is a good energy off the place, you have the Shannon beside you, and there is something to be said about that, definitely,” he adds.
The Bump Muzik Festival takes place this Saturday and Sunday at the Angler’s Rest, Clonlara. Buses will run from Arthur’s Quay from Saturday morning.
For full details see here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More new acts for Electric Picnic 2010

AFTER a storming set at Oxegen, the seemingly ubiquitous Bangor electro-poppers Two Door Cinema Club have been added to the bill for this year's Electric Picnic festival, as have Mercury Music Prize nominee Laura Marling; Swedish star Robyn; The Antlers (whoop!); melodic Swedish outfit The Tallest Man On Earth; US indie up and comers Cymbals Eat Guitars; London electro-trio Chew Lips; Brooklyn quintet Fang Island; Dublin four piece The Riptide Movement; Donal Dineen & Friends; and Cork native Brian Deady.

Superb! They join a line-up that already includes Roxy Music, Leftfield, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem, The Frames and Mumford and Sons.

This latest batch of acts follows a recent announcement regarding the comedy stage at the Stradbally-fest, which will include the likes of Mario Rosenstock, Reginald D Hunter, Ardal O’Hanlon, Phil Jupitus, Ed Byrne, Colin Murphy, Dead Cat Bounce, Glenn Wool, Joe Rooney, Karl Spain, Eleanor Tiernan, Dermot Whelan and many more!

There is now just six weeks to go until the Picnic, and we can't wait! Tickets still available here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Villagers on shortlist for Mercury Music Prize

WE ARE delighted to receive the news that Conor J. O'Brien - now better known as leader of Dublin band Villagers - has been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize for his superb, sparkling debut album Becoming a Jackal.
The shortlist was revealed in London earlier today and the winning album will be announced on 7 September.

The full list is:

Biffy Clyro “Only Revolutions” (14th Floor)

Corinne Bailey Rae “The Sea” (EMI)

Dizzee Rascal “Tongue N’ Cheek” (Dirtee Stank)

Kit Downes Trio “Golden’ (Basho)

Foals “Total Life Forever” (Transgressive)

I Am Kloot “Sky At Night (Shepherd Moon/EMI)

Laura Marling “I Speak Because I Can” (Virgin)

Mumford And Sons “Sigh No More” (Island)

Paul Weller “Wake Up The Nation” (Island)

Villagers “Becoming A Jackal” (Domino)

Wild Beasts “Two Dancers” (Domino)

The xx “xx” (XL)

A lot of great albums on there, particularly I Am Kloot and Laura Marling's offerings, which are both enrapturing. The Foals album, I thought, failed to hit the heights of their debut Antidotes, while Paul Weller's inclusion is frankly bizarre. Dizzee and The XX have immediately been installed as favourites, and after last year's Speech Debelle debacle, it is thought that the judges will be under pressure to reward a popular winner. Therefore keep an eye on Mumford and Sons, but our money is on Villagers, simply because it is one of our favourite albums, full stop. Review below from when it was released, if you need a refresher. We know that plans are afoot to bring Villagers back to Limerick also, so stay tuned here for updates..


‘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.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oxegen 2010 round-up and review

FOR THREE DAYS it rained, poured and rained some more, turning the Punchestown-based Oxegen site and surrounding camping areas into veritable swampland, despite discussion beforehand that the best June in 40 years would help keep the mud away.
Then, miraculously, on the fourth day - fittingly a Sunday - campers awoke to clear skies and sunshine.
If it sounds like a Biblical scene, then all that was missing Thursday through Saturday was a plague of locusts to complete the effect.
However, as ever at this massive spectacle, the quality of the music on display and the positive disposition of the majority of the crowd, meant Oxegen was once again more about happy festival memories than the already fading scenes of deluge and muck.

In one of the festival’s strongest ever line-ups, there was a virtual array of highlights - Vampire Weekend’s preppy, upbeat tunes warming up a rain-soaked crowd on Friday afternoon; MGMT-lite Aussie band Empire of the Sun donningt mind-bending costumes and employing psychedelic visuals in a heaving Heineken Green Spheres tent; rap mogul Jay-Z performing his mash-up of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday and the anthemic Empire State of Mind to a heaving crowd, watched by Beyonce and accompanied by an 80-strong entourage; Arcade Fire performing some new material alongside their biggest hits in a very rare balmy and dry hour and a half; Conor O’Brien almost stealing the show with his epic, heartfelt songs in the 2FM/Hot Press Academy tent; Florence warming up yet another sodden crowd with her soaring vocals; Muse belting out their epic rock-opera tunes along with a stunning light and laser show, proving them to be one of the biggest bands in the world right now, and members of the Irish rugby team joining Mumford and Sons on stage for a drum-pounding finish to their upbeat set on Sunday evening.

Despite rumours to the contrary, and after apparently refusing to walk 50 metres at Scotland’s T in the Park on Saturday because of the mud, rapper Eminem did actually make it to Punchestown to wrap up the hip-hop heavy festival, playing some of his biggest hits, including storming versions of The Way I Am and Cleaning Out My Closet in his opening coda.

Securing some or all of these acts was a major coup for promoters MCD, who claimed a crowd of 75,000 - a figure which relied heavily, we would estimate, on the massive crowd of Saturday day-trippers, such was the long lines of queues we saw early that day.

The usual assortment of stars popped into the festival, including the aforementioned Ms Knowles and Messers Jamie Heaslip, Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald and Cian Healy, as well as Jared Leto, whose band 30 Seconds To Mars played late on Sunday night, while fetching movie star star Rachel McAdams also made an appearance.

On the Beat met a large and varied assortment of fans who made the pilgrimage from Limerick to the Punchestown extravaganza - often seen as something akin to a rite of passage for many in their late teens - while Tim Kelly of Kelly Bus Travel reported a busy trade in those using the round the clock bus services from these parts.
Pleasantly beer prices seemed to have come down this year, making the festival a bit easier on the pocket.
With some of the world’s biggest names appearing on the Punchestown stages, the only thing missing from the line-up was the good weather, but then there’s always next year.
We live and hope it might be better, but the masses will descend regardless, and we will probably be among them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dylan delights fans in Thomond Park

THE ICONIC and evergreen Bob Dylan celebrated his country’s national holiday in style this Sunday, treating an expectant Thomond Park crowd to some of his greatest hits on American Independence Day.

Concert promoters Aiken Promotions and Thomond Park bosses claimed a crowd just shy of 15,000 people, all of whom appreciated the varied support acts on offer, but were in reality in the stadium to witness a piece of history, as Dylan played his first ever show in Limerick.

Watched by a hugely varied crowd that included Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, in town for the JP McManus pro-am this week, Dylan rewarded life-long fans and interested observers alike to a set that included songs such as Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Just Like A Woman, Lay Lady Lay, Like A Rolling Stone and Blowin’ in the Wind.

Stadium director John Cantwell revealed to the Limerick Leader after the show that not only did Dylan sign a Munster jersey for display in Thomond Park – as Elton John et al had done before him – but that the gruff-voiced Dylan had personally requested four Munster jerseys to bring back to America with him.

“He requested four jerseys specially and signed a jersey for us, he liked the look of it and we explained what it was about – hopefully he will spread the word wherever he goes,” explained a delighted John Cantwell after the concert.

“In terms of musical legends and cultural icons, they don’t come much bigger than Dylan. To have him at Thomond Park and in Limerick just goes to show exactly how the venue is becoming established now in terms in international terms,” added the Thomond Park boss.

Mr Cantwell also revealed that concert promoter Peter Aiken had “assured us that he is going to raise the bar even higher next year”.

Mr Aiken confirmed this to the Leader himself, saying with regard to next year that Aiken Promotions would “definitely” be back at the venue.

“We have a couple of things lined up, we just have to wait and see,” he said.

“I was just talking to John and trying to figure out a certain date for next year I’m trying to get, something I want to do,” he added.

The concert promoter admitted that he was slightly disappointed with the turnout, which was the lowest of the four concerts held in the venue thus far.

“It wasn’t bad, just a bit disappointing, I thought with the bill and all it might have been more, but that is what is at, that is what it did, and we are happy enough with it,” he said.

Mr Aiken paid tribute to local band Last Days of Death Country, who won a competition to open the show, which also included Alabama 3, Seasick Steve and David Gray, who all turned in superb performances.

“They were great. I couldn’t believe it, they were so confident. They really were a good band. They were really able – everybody was impressed, particularly the Bob Dylan crew and David Gray’s people, everybody was watching,” said Mr Aiken of the Limerick band.

Last Days lead singer Patrick O’Brien told the Leader that the opportunity afforded to them was “brilliant”.

“It was brilliant, it was great. There was a nice crowd and we went out there and played like we did last Friday and it was great. We are delighted,” he said.