A music blog from Ireland.
There’s more to music than just making it my job. There are times when I sit down to the laptop in the dead of night or the crack of dawn because it just seems so important to write about what goes on here. And ultimately I end up frustrated because every single time it feels like I’m writing the diary entry I’ve been writing for years, that music in this country is special, vibrant and fresh, and after a few hours I dump the words and go to bed.
Well I’ve deleted what I wrote when I got home from the Alliance gig last night but the sentiment is still strong. The hundreds of happy faces I saw over this brilliant weekend in Dublin at two very different gigs tell me that it doesn’t matter how it’s written, the truth is that Irish music is fresh, special and vibrant, because they were there too and the excitement was not just some figment of my imagination.
The most obvious sense of satisfaction this weekend came from the sold-out Alliance gig at Whelans that was organised by Leagues O’Toole to gather together the most promising Irish musicians on one bill to bring a huge glut of hearts and minds under one roof to raise money for the Concern campaign to help the people of East Africa who have been struck with the horrific situation of famine and drought. It was a wonderful day and night, a lovely calm, warm sense of supporting a great cause to make a change for those who need it desperately and getting a brilliant return in amazing music without any fuss or fancy about the representation of the line-up. We all just knew the bill was stellar and the craic was mighty. Along with Leagues himself, a huge shout of ‘nice one!’ must go also to all the artists on the bill who performed: I missed Former Soviet Republic but was there to see great sets from Sert One, Great Lakes Mystery, We Are Losers, Retarded Cop, Alarmist, Tieranniesaur, The Jimmy Cake, And So I Watch You From Afar and Patrick Kelleher & His Cold Dead Hands, while upstairs, White Collar Boy, REID, Soil Creep, Moths, Angkorwat, Daithi, Toby Kaar and Last Days of 1984 also gave their all. Nialler9 DJ’d upstairs while I looked after the downstairs and for my first time, I only messed up a tiny bit, which I’m really happy about. In retrospect, I should have got a guy in a gold bikini to draw the tickets from the raffle bucket instead of fumbling around with the microphone clenched in my armpit as I called out the winners’ names but they seemed to live with my shame okay so I did too.
Fun is the most important factor in the music scene in Dublin. I won’t to go to a scene show just because everyone else is going to be there. I won’t pretend to like music that doesn’t interest me because it’s cool. I only want to go and have fun and hear the sounds I love.
Even though I liked them, at the start of this year I didn’t think that LeGalaxie were going to be the band that would grab me by the scruff and drag me out dancing. When their album arrived however it was like a missing chink in chainmail of Irish music had been inserted to make the whole article shinier and stronger than before. Hundreds of euphoric heads swinging, voices chanting and feet moving in the Button Factory on Friday night let loose as if they’d been pent-up without release for far too long, and it felt like a show from some big international touring band people had counted down to, instead of a local group of musicians who always have something in the works. After years of defining the package they want to deliver, LeGalaxie brought a hefty album of bold dance songs from the stage, refined them in a studio and hurled them back out in the faces of the crowd and it’s clear from the reception at the packed launch gig, the packed festival slots and the packed Button Factory that they’ve stepped up. I know how it goes down in Dublin: what LeGalaxie have to offer is exceeding the confines of this space and it’s raising them to the same platform that Adebisi Shank and ASIWYFA have looked out from for the past few years. It’s a cusp, it’s great, and if they leap they will discover the curious sensation of falling upwards. That, and a stage invasion, is the best feeling in the world to start off the weekend of a music fan from Dublin.
I know I wasn’t alone in feeling terribly sad to hear the news of Tony Wright’s departure from ASIWYFA on Friday. Feeling sad is okay though, same as when a friend decides to emigrate, you worry. With a gig in two days’ time however, how were ASIWYFA going to get on without that red speedball guitarist? Everyone who listened to their songs knew which parts were his, when they performed he was like an electron on stage, everywhere at once.
Well, it wasn’t the same to watch them play with Niall Kennedy standing in last night but it was still a mindblowing experience. Niall wasn’t trying to fill Tony’s shoes but standing in his usual space of the left of the stage, he performed his duties exceptionally well, playing his parts like his guitar had heartstrings and hoping that those reverential fans wouldn’t despise him. He didn’t zip all over the place but he moved well, he didn’t command the microphone but he drew attention, dressed in a white LeGalaxie t-shirt. When a member leaves a band, there is always contempt for the replacement – except in the very rare cases when it becomes clear that the new person isn’t just a musician but a fan of the band itself. You could tell he knew those songs as well as anyone, that he’d spent his time at their shows and felt the blister of pride pop when they achieved success. They knew that this show was different but instead of playing out of kilter as if a spanner had been thrown in the works, they were strong, tight and well-oiled, loud to ear-splitting proportions. They are an unrelenting dynamo and will continue to convert energy to music as long as they have those incredible songs in their repertoire. I didn’t cry but I did bite my knuckles when I saw that ASIWYFA would be okay and now I can just turn to Verse Chorus Verse and hope to hear that Tony’s secure in his new direction.
Changes, good and bad, some sugar, some a bitter pill. Nothing stays the same but since I began to write about Irish music the good changes far outweigh the bad. There’s so much more I can say, other gigs I didn’t get to go to, things I’ll just keep for myself and others who were there. Just a diary entry of a weekend. It’s not another declaration of the strength of Irish music: that point no longer needs to be rammed home. It’s clearly evident to all who walk these corridors that the acoustics are just right.