Friday, June 25, 2010

Five Limerick bands go head to head for Bob Dylan support slot

AND THEN there were five.. After over a month inviting applications from the great and the good of the Limerick music scene, a whopping entry has been whittled down to five contenders, all vying for a prized spot on the same stage as Bob Dylan in Thomond Park.
This, as they say, is no time for nerves.
For most up and coming bands, regardless of genre or variety, the iconic Dylan is something of an awesome figure - an elusive character who overcame a perceived lack of vocal ability to become one of, if not the, best known and most distinctive performers in world music.
Five Limerick acts have been shortlisted to go head to head against one another for a spot on Dylan’s Thomond Park bill, which also features heavyweights David Gray, Seasick Steve and Alabama 3.
The acts are Windings, Last Days of Death Country, Brendan Markham, Nick Carswell and the Elective Orchestra and Animal Beats - all seeking to scoop the chance to open for Dylan on July 4, in front of a potential audience of 20,000 people.
Dolan’s Warehouse, in association with the Limerick Chronicle and Limerick’s Live 95FM, will host the event tonight, and with five bands playing for a mere five euro, you can’t get better value anywhere else this summer.
A panel of select media representatives - including On The Beat - will watch the bands perform this Friday and pick a winner from the bunch.
Concert promoter Peter Aiken, who was requested by Dylan personally to select a local act to open his only Irish show this year, told City Life recently that a support slot for an unknown band had, in the past, yielded huge results.
“One year we had an unheard of band to support Pink – the Coronas, and she took them on a world tour, she loved them. Dylan will be listening, so who knows? It will be good, and we are looking forward to it,” revealed the concert boss.
Mick Dolan said the volume and quality of entries received for the competition proved that Limerick’s music scene was “fantastic”.
“The standard is fantastic and the five that were picked will do us proud, whoever wins,” said Mick.

The bands selected represent the cream of the crop on the local music scene, and are wholly representative of the diversity ever-present in local music circles.

Windings is the solo project of Steve Ryan of Giveamanakick, which is, despite being around for several years, only really a band in its infancy, given that Ryan only put the band together last year after Giveamanakick went their separate ways. The group played their first Limerick gig earlier this year in support of the release of excellent new single Brain Fluid, with an album slated for release later this year.

Castletroy band Animal Beats represent the best of the young, up and coming bands in Limerick, formed in late 2007 and displaying a moody brand of rock and roll, reminiscent of The National. The band were overall winners of Limerick's Got Talent 2009, beating over 50 acts to secure first place.

Raheen native Nick Carswell has been hovering on the fringes of the national scene for the last couple of years, with Today FM’s Paul McLoone a dedicated fan of his melodic tunes, stuffed as they are with sweeping orchestration, thanks to Newcastle West sisters Deirdre and Kate Cussen on strings, while local music stalwarts Colin Bartley and Bart Kiely are also full time members, as is vocalist Sian Murray. This is one of the most eclectic ensembles on the local scene, in our opinion.

Post-rock four piece Last Days of Death Country are a band that have been championed on these pages for some time, sporting as they do one of our favourite monikers, plus an impressive set of songs that pack an aggressive rock and roll punch. Debut EP Mode and Effect, recorded with Fergal Lawler of The Cranberries, is one to check out.

Finally, last but certainly not least, is stalwart Brendan Markham, who has been around for many years, particularly as a founder member of the now defunct Limerick band The Driven, but who has only really found his niche with the release of his debut solo album False Witness, which he released earlier this year, and gathering a settled band around him.

The top five bands will battle it out for the Dylan support slot in Dolan’s Warehouse tonight.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Body and Soul Solstice Gathering this weekend

The first ever Body and Soul festival is gearing up to take off this weekend, with superb weather forecasted for the next few days.

The Body and Soul Solstice Gathering 2010 has essentially relocated the beating heart of the Stradbally based Electric Picnic extravaganza to Ballinlough Castle in Co. Meath for the weekend, with Four Tet, !!! (CHK CHK CHK), Jape, R.S.A.G and Tuung, among many, many others, set to provide a superb soundtrack to the festival.

The full line-up for the main stage is listed below, but, like its older Picnic-brother, the Body and Soul solstice festival features a veritable cornucopia of events, music and otherwise, including - I am led to believe - "acoustic jams, impromptu parties, wood-fired hot tubs, winding paths through delicious food stalls, holistic arts, a secluded soul kids garden, a masquerade ball with a moonlit orchestra, and bonfires under the stars".

The closing ceremony on Sunday will also feature a night-time extravaganza celebrating the theme of this year’s Summer Solstice: Phoenix Rising, and those present can expect Pyrotechnic/Pyro-Performance pieces around Sun Discs, fireworks and some other fire-fantastical elements.

A full line-up of events is available here.

Ballinlough Castle is nestled between the towns of Athboy and Clonmellon, Co. Meath. On the N52 (Kells to Mullingar Road) 3 miles south of Clonmellon and 4 miles west of Athboy.

Saturday's line-up/times:

12:15 - 2am - Gaudi
10:45-12:00am - Four Tet
9:15 - 10:15pm - Jape
8:00 - 8:45pm - Crystal Fighters
6:15 - 7:15pm - Voice of the Seven Thunders
4:30 - 5:30pm - Broken Records
3:00 - 3:45pm - Wiggle
2:00 - 2:30pm - Chequerboard
1:00 - 1:30pm - Patrick Kelleher & Cold Dead Hands
12 - 12:30pm - Jennifer Evans
11:00 - 11:30am - Imogen Gunner & the Imo band


1:00 -2am - RSAG
11:15-12:30am - !!! (Chk Chk Chk)
9:30 - 10:30pm - Blue King Brown
7:45 - 8:45pm - Tunng
5:40 - 7:15pm - Donal Dineen, Niwel Tsumbu & guests
4:25 - 5:10pm - Kormac's Big Band
3:15 - 3:55pm - The Egg
2:00 - 2:40pm - Katie Kim
1:00 - 1:30pm - Eoin Duignan
12 - 12:30pm - Colette
10:30-11:30am - Dr Alex Paterson

A limited number of tickets are still available and are available here. Gates open at 9am on Saturday. For more see here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

R.S.A.G. in Dolan's this Wednesday

ANYONE WHO has actually seen Rarely Seen Above Ground (R.S.A.G.) perform will tell you it is something akin to an illusory audio-visual experience, less gig than cinematic event.
R.S.A.G. is Kilkenny man Jeremy Hickey, but when he performs, festooned in the middle of a drum-kit, he sits in front of a screen, upon which a virtual band is projected.
Of course, every member of the virtual band is Hickey himself, the man clearly a talented multi-instrumentalist as well as evocative drummer.
But where the show might be considered something of a gimmick if Hickey didn’t have the musical abilities to back it up, this is not the case.

Hickey releases his third album as R.S.A.G. this week, the excellent Be It Right Or Wrong, straight-away a contender for Irish album of the year, we feel.
Where his double album debut, Organic Sampler, was a raw rush of frenetic, infectious energy with influences as varied as David Byrne to Eastern rhythms that saw Hickey acclaimed and Choice Music Prize nominated, the many facets of Be It Right Or Wrong are smoothed, unruffled and bursting with warmth and melody - the product, largely, of Hickey working with a producer for the first time, Leo Pearson, who has worked with U2 and Elvis Costello. For a man who recorded his first two albums at home in his bedroom, working with an outside influence was clearly a departure.

“I had never worked with a producer before, especially a guy who actually had his own studio, particularly one as nice and relaxed as Leo's,” explains Jeremy.
“I was thinking I needed to approach this album in a different way. I did a lot of stuff at home and brought the demos to Leo, but it was his thing to say, let's do everything again. When I heard the quality of his studio, it didn't take much to convince me.”

The result is warm and rich, the central core of songs the superb The Roamer, Movement and Bitter Swing, Hickey allowing more melody to come through than ever before, and particularly allowing his vocals to shine through in a much more pronounced fashion.
“The consistency of the drum and bass sounds are there and there are a lot more guitars on it because Leo has a nice collection of guitars, old style and new style, so I could pick up whatever guitar I thought would suit the sound in that way,” explains Jeremy.
“Between the both of us there was more of a knowledge of what kind of sound we were trying to get. It was very much, get the sound, record it, there was no real major treatment of the sound, the way it was recorded, and I was excited about that, because you have more of an idea of where the album is going, whereas on the first one it was a bit of a mish-mash.”

He continues:“I was into getting more of a melody, especially with the delivery of the vocal, rather than hiding behind an effect. When I met Leo, the first thing he wanted to do was to make sure the vocals were much more to the fore, and they are. That is the difference in working with someone who knows exactly what they are at.”
Hickey says the moniker was inspired by something a friend used to call him - although “he doesn’t remember it all,” he laughs - and the idea for the visual band came from seeing DJ Shadow live in concert. His brother encouraged him to use that idea of shadows on a screen, believing it to be a powerful image.

For the first time, on this tour, Hickey will have a live DJ with him, who he will perform a sort of soundsystem with after his own gigs. But he warns against reading too much into the fact that he has replaced a band with versions of himself.
“The whole idea is with music, visuals and having a good time - it is not supposed to be seen as a band or not a band, the whole idea is that we are going out to put on a show, so hopefully people will get it and continue to enjoy it,” he says.

R.S.A.G. plays in Upstairs in Dolan’s this Wednesday, June 16. Be It Right Or Wrong is in all good record stores.

Donal Dineen Presents :: Natural History Musuem

Friday, June 4, 2010

Interview with Ellie Macnamara from Heathers

PRECOCIOUS twin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara, better known as Heathers, are finding that the inclusion of their upbeat brand of acoustic pop on a national ad campaign is reaping dividends for the duo.
The guitar-toting double act have had their single ‘Remember When’ included on the current Discover Ireland ad campaign, with considerable impact, as their music is introduced to a new audience.
You know the ad - long, lingering shots of Ireland, accompanied by the Macnamara’s twins singing “I need to find a way to get away from everything”.

“It has definitely given us a massive boost, it is incredible and we are so proud to be a part of it,” says Ellie, speaking to On the Beat from the twins’ Dublin home.
“I think so many people who wouldn't have listened or heard our music before, have now heard it, which gives us a different audience. It is a bit overwhelming and hilarious, especially when you are in the cinema and the ad comes on,” she laughs.

Just twenty years of age, the twins burst onto the scene in the summer of 2008 with the release of their debut album 'Here, Not There', which they recorded while preparing for their Leaving Cert exams. Some weighty acclaim followed for the duo, who only started writing music together the previous year, despite growing up alongside each other.

“We hadn't really played music together, we had sang together once or twice,” says Ellie. “We started writing music together around April 2007. We didn't ever really plan on starting a band, it was just a bit of fun and then gradually it kind of formed into a band when people started listening to our music and hearing it and really liked it, which shocked us,” she explains.

The duo progressed from playing friend’s parties to gigs, and on their third ever live performance, played with an American band called Ghost Mice, who liked what they heard and asked them to tour in America with them.
A band member also asked them to record their album on his record label, despite the fact that they hadn’t written it at that point.
“It was mental,” says Ellie. “We didn't even plan on writing an album immediately anyway, so it kind of gave us a bit of a push, which was incredible. We have been very lucky.”

Luck is one thing, but Heathers have raw talent to burn. Their album is filled with hook-laden, harmony-driven pop tunes, and any success attained is a measure of their ability.
Since the release of their album the band have played several acclaimed gigs in the States, and last year, at the IMRO New Sounds Stage at Oxegen - all of this while balancing full-time college courses.

This summer they will embark on a short national tour and then take some time to write a follow-up album. The experience gained over the last few years will stand to them, Ellie believes. “In a way, the fact that we have had a couple of years, our taste in music has matured and we have had a lot more time to think about what we like,” she says.
“Also playing gigs and touring with bands and seeing how they play, travelling to different places - we have learnt a lot, I guess, so maybe that will have an impact on the next album.”

Heathers play Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday night, before which they will play as part of the first ever ‘Cruises St Live Festival’ on Saturday from 11am-3pm.
They will also play at the Special Olympics opening ceremony in Thomond Park next week.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Album review - LCD Soundsystem 'This is Happening'

LCD Soundsystem
‘This Is Happening’
JAMES MURPHY has always been known as something of a prankster, famously roping EMI into releasing albums by other lesser known artists in return for the rights to his music as LCD Soundsystem and releasing songs such as the jokey dance classic “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”.
Murphy, co-founder of DFA Records, released his first single as LCD Soundsystem, Losing My Edge, as something of a lark in 2002, before it became an underground dance hit.
Here, on his third and apparently last excursion under the Soundsystem moniker, it appears Murphy is getting a bit serious on us.
After the universally acclaimed Sound of Silver in 2007 - the second LCD album - Murphy had the world at his feet, such was the superb quality of anthems such as Someone Great and All My Friends.
However, it seems Murphy never imagined LCD as a long-term project, a fact reflected on some of the tracks on this album.
Gone mostly is the bombastic dance-pop tracks we knew and loved - with the exception of the loudmouth indie-dance tracks Drunk Girls and Pow Pow, and in its place is a sort of beleaguered electro, that still often reaches euphoric levels, despite Murphy’s hangdog expression.
The key track on the album is ‘You Wanted A Hit’, where Murphy sings: “You wanted a hit / but maybe we don’t do hits / I try and try / but it ends up feeling wrong’.
This album is something of a grower, such is the diversity of sounds and influences on offer, from the synth-heavy, Human League influenced opener Dance Yrself, the Chemical Brothers beat of One Touch, and the slow, druggy, Lou Reed haze of Somebody’s Calling Me.
The standout tracks are the effervescent All I Want, which sees Murphy employ a David Bowie of Heroes-era guitar line, and the absolutely superb album closer Home, drenched as it is in synths, beats and harmonies.
Murphy would have us believe that he is tired of all of this, a 40-odd year old producer lost in a world of younger dance producers.
Despite this, his latest album, against the odds, stacks up among his finest work. It is just a pity he doesn’t seem interested in continuing to add to this heritage.

Pink kicks off European tour in Cologne

AMERICAN superstar Pink, who is set to rock Thomond Park to its very foundations in less than three weeks, kicked off her brand new concert tour with a stunning performance in Cologne, Germany last Saturday night.
Pink – real name Alecia Beth Moore – kicked off her new ‘Funhouse Summer Carnival’ European tour in jaw-dropping fashion, employing a 70-foot crane, trapeze wires, and amazing special effects throughout the show.

The audacious star is set to bring this full-scale production to Thomond Park on Sunday, June 20, and we can reveal that Limerick is set for a show of epic proportions. 52,000 people crammed into the RheinEnergie Stadion in Cologne for the show, which the self-styled rock chick was performing for the first time in front of a live audience.
A complete sell-out, the audience were treated to a dazzling performance from the athletic star, who is a trained trapeze artist, and performed several stunts without any back-up wires, including flying over the audience’s head.
The Pennsylvania-born performer, who has sold a massive 30 million albums worldwide, revealed to the Limerick Leader backstage before the show that she is really looking forward to coming to Ireland, and particularly to Limerick, where she will perform for the first time.

“I’m glad you are all here, thank you for coming, the show is going to be fun, say lots of prayers,” laughed the singer.
Of the show, which she revealed had caused her to suffer several bumps and bruises in rehearsals, she said: “You’ve got to make it bigger and bolder and brasher or what’s the point?” The production features a massive set and over 100 people working behind the scenes. While conceived by Pink, the show is being directed by Irishman Baz Halpin, and tour coordinator Bill Comstock Buntain told the Chronicle that the star has a “special relationship” with Ireland.
“Pink did her first ever big arena show in Ireland, so she has a special relationship with the country,” he said. “We have never been to Limerick, so we are all looking forward to going,” he added.

Peter Aiken, of Aiken Promotions, said “people will not believe how good she is” when they see her in Thomond Park.
“Within five songs people will be convinced, it is a spectacular show, people won't believe it,” he added.
A limited number of tickets remain for the Thomond Park show on June 20, which the promoters believe will be a sell-out.

Fresh Air in Daghdha last weekend

A picture from Fresh Air in Daghdha last Friday night, where the Donal Dineen curated gig featured the awesome Natural History Museum, Thread Pulls and Sunken Foal. Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I could only stay for the Carol Keogh/Dunk Murphy collaboration - Natural History Museum - but the combination of eclectic beats, electric and acoustic guitar, off kilter rhythms and Keogh's amazing voice, was inspiring. All of this combined with Dineen's wonderfully bizarre visuals, meant I was loath to leave early. Check out more here.