My first brush with the name HamsandwicH came in mid to late 2017 (And somehow no earlier, I’m shocked at how much I’ve missed over the years), when I started to see their gig at Triskel Christchurch in December being promoted. I read the accompanying review with intrigue as it had caught my eye at the time. Further down the line I saw musician James OR posting on Facebook with further endorsement of their latest single ‘Bodies’ that had just been released at the time. I tend to trust James OR when it comes to his musical tastes as he has never steered me wrong so far, and I checked out the music video which impressed me greatly. That was about all the convincing I required, and I picked up my ticket to go see the Sambo put on their show at the Christchurch in mid December.
In the meantime, James OR revealed Niamh Farrell of HamsandwicH to be a guest on his wonderful podcast The Norm. I love James’s podcasts and follow every release on it when I have the time, so this was naturally no exception. I got proper cosied up with blankets and tea on a cold evening after it’s release and gave it a good aul’ listen through. I’ve enjoyed every conversation James has had on the pod so far, both before and after Niamh, but I can assuredly say this one was personally my favourite to date. One of the most lovely and heartwarming conversations I have had the pleasure to listen to, Niamh being such a genuine and brilliant character throughout their chat. Definitely recommend you give that a listen here and check out some of the other conversations there if you enjoy this one.
Joe O Leary
Getting to the matter of the show itself, HamsandwicH brought along Joe O Leary to support them on the evening. Joe is considered a legend in the Cork music scene, having fronted the band ‘FRED’ a few years back. I’m not personally aware of much more beyond that, though there’s undoubtedly many a Cork music head who look up to this fellow in awe. Chances are in my youthful days following Cork band Suede Halo around that I probably did come across FRED playing once or twice, though I was much more blissfully ignorant of the majority of the music scene back then. Besides his history with FRED, Joe runs one of West Cork’s most iconic pubs/venues, Levis’s of Ballydehob. Joe mused that these days he is much more used to putting artists and bands onto his own stage as opposed to playing for the crowd himself, though nonetheless he put on a great solo set with his Acoustic Guitar. A solid start to the evening, so it was.
The first thing that struck me from the intro of the HamsandwicH live band was I had been unaware just how many members make up one of their live performances. Band member after band member after band member flooded out onto the stage to their positions and instruments galore, and off we were. Church settings such as this one usually are a great enabler for artists and bands to perform a song or two down in the middle of the aisle, and this was no exception. Opting to bring it out right off the bat, a few of the band came down to the aisle and played ‘Floors’ right next to where I sat. Interestingly it also transpired that James OR was involved on the night, not as a band member but as their guitar tech. Fella can do it all sure, fair props to him.
Celebrating their birthday on the night in question was Podge McNamee, the other half of the two punch duo at the front of the band with Niamh Farrell. Their vocal harmonies across the board, especially between Niamh and Podge, were absolutely phenomenal. They boasted a strong set list that featured a diverse mix of songs from their three studio albums thus far, most notably featuring many songs off the albums ‘White Fox’ and ‘Stories From The Surface’. The night wasn’t without a tease of music to come on the horizon either, as a few songs into the set they debuted a song called ‘Louder’. The song featured a lot of feel good riffs and is an exciting prospect of what to look forward to.
The Craic on the stage throughout the evening was mighty, especially from the amazing character that is Podge, with his quips and his antics. The laughter, the smiles, the pure joy of playing that was evident on all their faces continued to showcase their genuine love of doing what they do. I also gotta give props to Niamh for best instrumental performance of 2017. Despite spending the majority of the evening dancing and singing, her one stint at playing an instrument was gold. Producing a bottle of Buckfast, taking a swig for good luck (Certainly not for the taste, given her reaction directly after), and then tapping it rhythmically with a drum stick. A remarkably effective instrument for what it’s worth, and recyclable too as Podge was quick to display once she had finished using it for musical effect. I must say overall it was an especially fun night of awesome music and antics combined.
With HamsandwicH having been around for quite some time before me finally coming across them for myself, there was much to catch up on regarding their discography over at the Merch table. My eyes immediately fell upon the Deluxe edition vinyl for ‘Stories From the Surface’, and I definitely had to have that, I like me some coloured vinyl. I combined that with a pickup of their album ‘Carry the Meek’ also on vinyl, and finally the album ‘White Fox’ on CD. A solid haul indeed, next on the agenda was to meet Niamh and Podge and have them sign the Deluxe vinyl to complete the evening. I got to have a cool chat with Podge, and I must’ve made an impression because he was really cool in signing the album, calling me a ‘Rare breed of music fan’ and saying to ‘Keep on rocking like a demented rocking chair’. I like it. I also got to meet Niamh and get her to sign the vinyl, with both artists being very genuine and down to earth to chat to. That is about it for this post folks, until next time. And remember, keep on Merchin’!
Shortly after my first time attending an event at St Luke’s Church, I was already heading back there in no time, on this occasion to see Little Green Cars. It was inevitable that I’d eventually find myself at one of their shows – I had first heard their music probably around the summer of 2016 and was really digging what I was hearing at the time. First up for the evening, though, was the support act in the form of Brian Mooney who was accompanied by much established musician Seán Mac Erlaine playing the Bass Clarinet. Brian himself was a bit of a multi-trick pony, showing his hand at Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar and Piano across their short support set, all the while singing, keeping the show fresh from song to song.
My favourite part was definitely the final song he played on the piano, during a portion of which the tone and flow of the music could be said to resemble that of an emergency vehicle’s siren; sure enough Brian whipped out a toy ambulance and held it up to the microphone to play it’s part in accompaniment to the song. Bravo Mr Mooney for that one, bravo indeed. There was no doubt that Brian put on a good warm-up show to build us up to Little Green Cars, though I did wonder where the band had picked him up from, for his name seemingly flew under the radar for the most part as far as I was aware. During an aside from their own set later on, Little Green Cars’s Stevie Appleby took the opportunity to fill in the gap for those unaware. To keep the story brief, Brian goes way back with them and used to drive their band van around for their gigs, and one show a few years back their support act pulled out on short notice. Knowing that Brian possessed musical talents in his own right, they took the chance to ask him if he’d give filling in for the support a go, and they’ve elected to have him as their official support act ever since. I do love that tale myself, and it further backs up the brilliant character behind everyone in Little Green Cars that I’ve heard many great things about. When reached for comment, Brian himself had this to say of LGC “the most inspiring group of people I ever did meet”. Well there ya have it.
Little Green Cars
Without further ado, it’s time we looked at the main segment of the evening. This show, the first of a two night double header due to high demand, marked Little Green Cars’s return to the limelight from somewhat of an incognito year as they set about working on their 3rd album, so there was no doubt we were in for some new treats. Indeed, they wasted no time at all getting to that point, hitting us with two back to back previously unheard tracks right from the get-go. A bold move, I dig it. They reeled it back for the next two songs, bringing some more familiarity back with a couple older tunes. I got the impression their set list was a carefully calculated tug of war between what is expected of a band stepping up to the stage – Which is to entertain their fans with old favourites from their previous two albums – And with their overall intention for the evening – To crowd test a portion of their last year’s work on new material and gauge the response, hopefully to ascertain that their efforts have not been in vain and translate well to their fans beyond the writer’s room as it were. A thin line that they walked confidently and with resounding success in my opinion.
Once more they continued to debut some new songs, the next – and first I caught a title for – being a song called ‘Chomping on My Tongue’ (Here’s hoping I got that one correct). Three new songs down, it was clear from the solid showing that their next album will be a force to be reckoned with. Following that came another new song ‘Bug’. Bug is a sort of love-song written from the perspective of a clingy computer virus which maintains a stalker-ish level infatuation with it’s host’s owner. The execution of this song is flawless, with Stevie’s main vocal presence imitating perfectly in flow, tone and lyrical structure how one might personify a computer virus. Quite fittingly for the nature of the track, I think this is going to be one of those songs that gets stuck in the listeners head upon hearing it and bounce around in their brain for a while. Indeed, nearly a month later and with only having heard it once, it’s sound still briefly makes an appearance in my head’s audio cycle.
Given that it was the Christmas season, and Little Green Cars are no strangers to dabbling with their own stabs at Christmas song-writing, it was high time for them to introduce a Christmas song in the set. Speaking before the song, Stevie explained how they were once asked to write a Christmas song for a charity CD, and their first attempt “There’s No Christmas In Prison” was declined, so they followed it up with “Reindeer With a Broken Leg”. That one made the cut, and can even be found on Youtube (I’ll put it below this). However, this is not what they brought to play for us on this evening. Introducing the song as “In Their Eyes”, it explored at it’s core how people at Christmas time are generally doing the best that they can, or as Stevie puts it, making “A Noble Attempt”. As the song came to a finish, Stevie stepped up abruptly and declared “The show cannot continue! Faye is cold”. It was no lie, it was a viciously cold evening and the venue for all it’s acoustic prowess does not fare well with cold conditions, and Faye had been brave-facing it for a while in her unfortunately ill equipped attire (Though stylishly on point). With that, Stevie shed his great coat and draped it around his fellow band member’s shoulders, as she danced the fence of protesting the style clash and being grateful for the much needed warmth boost. And to Stevie I can only say one thing for that: A noble attempt indeed, good sir.
The show kicked into it’s final gear after that point, as fantastic showings of their older songs ‘Kitchen Floor’ and ‘Party’ accompanied one of their most successful tracks ‘My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me’. The final new song debut of the night came in the form of a song called ‘Midnight on Other Planets’, with Stevie teasing that it was but one of two Space-themed songs from the upcoming album. Another great track that was, it’s got the potential to be a fan favourite when the album drops, only time and hearing what else they have to offer when it comes to it shall tell. Finally, to close out the evening, there was one more song to play, and of course no surprises there with it being ‘The John Wayne’. For this, they all departed the stage and came down to the middle of the aisle and performed it unplugged, with just their voices and an acoustic guitar carrying them through the air of the church, really showcasing the quality of the acoustics in the venue. With that, the evening was over. My conclusion? They play a very exciting live show, their harmonies across the whole band with the stand-out vocals from Stevie and Faye are simply amazing, and I can’t wait for the album to come. Most unfortunately, it turns out that they would have had Merch to sell but it was left at their hotel room, so I sadly left empty handed. I’m sure I’ll be changing that as soon as I can, not least of which I’d love to own one of their albums on Vinyl. We shall see where time takes us on that front. That’s all for now folks, and remember, keep on Merchin’!
After seeing Loah support Oh Wonder in Dublin (Blog post here) and finding out she would be playing Cyprus Avenue in Cork, my regular venue for good music, I was all over the opportunity to see her again. Coming up to the event, it was announced quite last minute that the support act would be none other than Anna-Mieke. This had me delighted, as I had been waiting and waiting for the opportunity to catch Anna-Mieke play a live set ever since I first heard her at Sounds From a Safe Harbour (And another point for event that keeps on giving goes to…), so naturally I was just that extra bit more pumped to see what was already going to be a great live show. I turned up and waited for the evening to be getting on, and sure enough kicking things off was Anna-Mieke, joined once again by the ever trusty musician in tandem Brían Mac Gloinn of Ye Vagabonds, my second time in his musical presence that week.
I quickly gathered that they were playing this one without the Harmonium – No matter, while the instrument had been a bit of an obsession of mine because of the initial mystery to me of what it actually was, I was more than content for them to pluck their Acoustic and Bouzouki strings and deliver their harmony rich vocals. Their rich and passion-infused vocal performances were everything I had remembered and admired them to be from the first time, and then some. Understandably, as an 8 string instrument, the Bouzouki in particular can be a feisty beast to tame and tune between songs, but the duo certainly had their fair share of banter in these moments to carry the momentum through. I love me a good joke, and this particular one that Brían delivered was definitely one I’m keeping in the memory banks for a good while. As he set about tuning one of the guitars as per usual, he lead us into the joke by saying “Why did the Dog fall over in the kitchen?”. Leaving it hanging for quite some time as he finished the tuning in silence, he finally looked up after it was completed and simply said “awkward paws”. There was no drummer but my head definitely added a *Ba dum Tsh* moment after.
Next up to the stage to carry the evening through to the end was Loah, this time she was joined by her full band. And blimey, what a difference that was to make. Loah is an artist I have had the pleasure of discovering not just once but twice. The first time, with her stripped back set to support Oh Wonder in Dublin, was brilliant. But with her full set-up and headlining the show, it reached another level altogether. The energy levels were incomparable, at it’s highest levels Loah could be witnessed in free-flow expressive dance as she sang and the band too were hyped and putting on an impressive show. A nice added touch was Loah had each of her band members wearing her Merch shirt as they played – A nice touch of endorsement for their product and just a cool look for the lot of them in general.
Loah’s show was part of a tour for her ‘This Heart’ EP, so naturally that was the main focus of the set, though it wasn’t without some interesting extras. Starting out the set with 3 tracks from the EP, we were then treated to a new song called ‘Open Up’. Furthermore as the first show on the tour, Loah revealed that we were the first audience to be hearing it played live. It was a brilliant track, and merely the first of two to be making their debut’s on this evening. Also to make it’s first appearance, and more so Loah stressed that we were among the first people in the world to hear the finished product, was a song called ‘Longing’ which she worked with BANTUM to create and hopefully we’ll be seeing released at some point this year. She’s worked with BANTUM before on a song called ‘Take It’ in 2016. BANTUM himself was not present for this gig, though it would have been a cool extra touch, as he’s another artist I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time at the Sounds From a Safe Harbour festival.
Heading into the last stretch of the set, the energy was still escalating more and more, culminating in a fantastic performance of the song ‘Nothing’ from the EP, which was also released as a music video. Personally this song is one of my favourites off the EP and translated to the live stage is equally as impressive. This concluded the set, with the exception of an encore in which they performed a cover of ‘Bills Bills Bills’ to close it out. With the music over, I was quick to make a dash over to the merch table, which had the EP, T-Shirts and Tote Bags for sale. I love the design that Loah has and picked up one of everything for myself, and had the opportunity to get her to sign my CD which was awesome. All in all, it was an amazing evening and I was glad to get the opportunity to see both Anna-Mieke and Loah again.
Alrighty then, here we are. 2017 is over, what a time it was, and 2018 lays it’s bricks ahead of us now. 2017 was certainly a very mixed bag in the overall world outlook, but for me personally I had a good year of it, well beyond what I would have imagined at the start of the year. Firstly I’d like to personally thank anyone and everyone who has read the blog or supported me in this little endeavor of mine along the way, it’s been great. In this year I’ve seen my general interest in live music events and purchasing of items at them reach entirely new and unprecedented levels for myself. I’ve crunched some of the numbers and they alone say a lot about the crazy year it’s been. January 1st, I owned a mere 2 vinyl records. February 11th, I owned a record player. By February 15th, I was up to 6 vinyls, and am now sitting on a comfortable 24 records, with a guaranteed 6 more expected from various 2017 pre-orders, and plenty more to come along the path I’m sure. With CD’s, I started the year at 8, and on May 22nd when I made my first blog post I shared a picture with my collection of 12. Now I own 38, and only got a CD player to finally be able to play them on December 25th. And finally, I had about 6 or 7 merch shirts coming into 2017, which now sits at a cool 32 shirts. Estimated Expenditure: All of the Money’s. Worth it. I also already have at least 15 gigs, concerts and live shows planned so far for 2018 too, with plenty more likely to add to the ranks as time goes on.
I’ve put out 37 Blog Posts since May 22, reaching 1,685 hits across the board. Originally leading the way since it was published was my first post about The Elation, at 72 views, however my second EDEN post over the summer hit a resurgence in drawing views in from people searching for EDEN when he was announcing new content and the likes, leaving it sitting at a cool 95 views now.
Top Ten Events 2017
Sure, it’s a 2017 wrap up and I can quote as many numbers as I like, but this year was a whole lot more than just some figures. It was magical moments, good times and plenty of unexpected amazing occurrences along the way. I put out a post on Facebook asking if there was anything people would like to see for this part, and Benzo (Of 2016 Collective Sessions) requested a top 10 events. I’m thankful he said 10 and not like just 5, because that’d be far too difficult. Hell, at 10 events, I’m still leaving out plenty of events that were simply amazing. Notably to me when I came up with this list is that Greenday didn’t make the cut. The single biggest concert I attended in the year couldn’t even break top 10, and that alone is a testament to what a year it’s been. Greenday was unreal, and I spent it with some wonderful people, but this year I’ve been enjoying a lot of the smaller things, of looking inwardly at our nation and discovering the talents bustling through the heart of the Irish music scene, and a lot of that has just hit harder and more personally to me. So without further ado, my rough attempt at listing my top 10 is as follows, though many spots could be interchangeable.
1. Hermitage Green & Stephanie Rainey – Ok I’m going to cheat here a little and say both the Dublin and Cork edition of this for this slot, because I didn’t want to clog up multiple spaces in a hard-fought list with fairly identical entries. The Dublin concert though was one of the most magical concert experiences I have lived, it was simply amazing. Everything about the experience, both in and outside of the concert and the company I spent it in was honestly perfect. When it came to the Cork show, the same magic was just as present for the most part, and I also spent that in great company. The biggest difference in the Cork show is I actually got to meet the entire Hermitage Green band after the show, which was just unreal. Speaking of, why no blog post yet? I was waiting for my Vinyl pre-order of Gold & Rust, the EP they put out and they were touring for. However I’m informed there is much delay in the pressing of this vinyl, so I’ll likely get around to this post soon after my backlog instead. This listing wouldn’t be complete without Stephanie Rainey in there either, having caught a total of 7 gigs with her and the band, I have been very much loving each and every one of those events!
2. Oh Wonder & Loah – I mean, this one is fairly self explanatory. Getting to see one of my top 3 Artists/Bands play such a special show, and the circumstances around it with the great people I got to spend it with, and the extra lengths we went to make it one to remember (The custom dolls and meeting Anthony and Josephine and getting to give them my gift etc. simply amazing). Discovering Loah through it was a great bonus as well, and going on to see her again afterwards proved to be very much worth it
3. Walking on Cars & Dermot Kennedy – I’ve seen Walking on Cars 3 times this year, so it’s a really tough call to choose this one. The first time with Oh Wonder was nothing short of amazing, the third and most recent time with The Academic was also a brilliant lead-up to my Christmas, but for this I’m going to choose the second one, because on top of a great display from Dermot Kennedy and from Walking on Cars, there was the fact that I got to meet 3 members of Walking on Cars too, and not much will top that experience.
4. Sounds From a Safe Harbour– I mean, it was obvious this was going to make the list. It was a truly unique and amazing experience, and the take-aways from it in terms of artists I follow and listen to is continuously having an impact on me and I keep coming back to it as following events see the same artists of that weekend crop up again and shall continue to do so into the new year.
5. The Elation & Mechner & Generic People – Three shows from The Elation so far under my belt, and I’ve had an amazing time at each of them, with them all having their own brilliant moments to come back to. But I have to return to the original event I attended for a placing in this list, because on top of an epic display from The Elation, as an overall across the board event with Mechner and Generic People it was a fantastic evening of music.
6. Imelda May & Sorcha Richardson– As highlighted above, the continuous returns from SFASH had a great impact, and I got to see Sorcha Richardson put on another amazing performance, and then see a wonderful show from Imelda May and properly re-immerse myself into her music after listening to her many years back.
7. Little Hours & Pat Dam Smyth – Little Hours touring with Stephanie Rainey is pretty much how my 2017 of music started, and I have loved following both parties every since. Catching Little Hours on their return to Cork in the Triskel Christchurch turned that experience up a notch and was a very special show. Pat Dam Smyth was also a fantastic discovery through this event, and was a great fellow to meet as well as John Doherty of Little Hours.
8. King Kong Company & R.S.A.G. – I mean, if you go to a King Kong Company show and they haven’t already qualified for a position in your top ten events, you’re either lucky enough to have been to a special caliber of events above and beyond in the year, or you’re not doing something right. KKC put on an absolute banger of an evening, and it was also great to catch R.S.A.G. again – Shouts again to SFASH for that one.
9. Too Many Zooz & Jay Ronic– This was just such a wonderful way to end an evening that was already packed with superb events, and I was so happy for the opportunity to catch an act like Too Many Zooz come from New York to Cork (Via an EU Tour route, but still). And I got to discover Jay Ronic too, who looks to be moving from strength to strength right now.
10. Ailbhe Reddy & LAOISE – This event is the perfect example of how it doesn’t take a jam packed venue to have an awesome time. It was an evening more on the intimate side, but I can’t be thankful enough to have the music of Ailbhe and LAOISE being a part of my listening regime ever since, simply stellar stuff. I mean, if you’ve read the blog post, I couldn’t hold back the torrent of praise that I had for these artists when writing – It was probably one of my favourite pieces to write in terms of trying to accurately convey the impact it had.
TMP Top 5 One’s to Watch for 2018
I’ve had an amazing year dipping my toes into the Irish music scene and discovered a plethora of phenomenally talented musicians. I still feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface, but of what I have come across I can at least comment that the music scene is bustling with so much brilliance right now and I’m very happy to see it and be following it. There are a lot of artists at varying levels of exposure that I’ve discovered, and I’m following a great deal of them intently, but I wanted to try and select out 5 that I have particularly high hopes for in 2018 to have a fantastic year.
LAOISE – LAOISE has had an incredible year and gone from strength to strength. She put out the EP ‘Halfway’, and followed up with yet more music in the form of single ‘Rich’. She’s put out some incredible music videos and opened up in a compelling way about body confidence in the process and been a compelling advocate on the topic. Seeing her live, she showcased some of the most incredible vocal proficiency that I’ve heard all year and I am well and truly hooked up to see what she comes out with moving forward.
Maria Kelly – Another discovery from SFASH, Maria Kelly also released both an EP ‘The Things I Should’ and another new song ‘Hollow’ following afterwards this year. She bravely fought and broke through the barriers of anxiety in the making of the the music video for ‘Far Below’. I was perusing Instagram on New Years Eve, and she made a slideshow-style look back at the year she’s had through her Instagram story, and it was a brilliant lengthy read of hitting milestones and getting to do cool things. I was delighted when following her campaign to become part of the line-up to play Other Voices in Dingle that she won it and got to play. Together with LAOISE and Ailbhe Reddy, the tight-knit trio of musicians combined to create an extra special live music video for ‘Hollow’, and it’s awesome seeing three of my favourite growing names in the scene right now have such great bonds of friendship among themselves as well. Musically, Maria Kelly channels such a deep level of raw emotion through her singing, even more-so experienced live, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here.
NIMF – Formerly putting out music as Aoibhín, their most recent song ‘Man on the Moon’ marked their distinct separation from that handle and invited us to join them on their new path as ‘NIMF’. Despite yet getting the opportunity to see them play live (But for real, get booked in Cork this year please!), this band has easily captured my attention moving forwards. Although released in 2016, Aoibhín’s EP ‘Don’t Look Down’ has been a source of much enjoyment for me thus far this year since first coming across her name. She hit a further strength again this year when she put out the compelling song ‘My Choice’ along with a brilliant music video, before moving on to release ‘Man on the Moon’ in November. Her incredibly distinctive vocals, the band’s fantastic musical arrangements, and unique, oft eerie vision in the storytelling of the music videos they put out combine to keep me very much intrigued to follow in the steps wherever this journey they take us on is headed.
The Elation – The Elation are a Cork band who have it all. They’re oozing with character, are some of the most down to earth fella’s you’ll ever come across, and are brimming with musical talent that they pour into their feel good pop-rock numbers, from their debut single ‘XO’ to their big summer track ‘Feels Like a Good Reason to get Started’. Furthermore, their efforts backing the Cork Gay Project with the latter song further exemplifies the great attitude these lads have. The lads are currently hard at work on their debut album and it’s sure to be an absolute banger if the track’s we’ve seen of it so far are anything to go by. Heading into 2018, they’ve had a roster swap in the drumming department from Luke Tai to Denis, however they show no signs of slowing as the replacement has slotted in nicely and they continue on their upward trajectory.
Sarah-Beth – Sarah-Beth made for one of the first truly random artist discoveries I had this year, and I couldn’t be more glad that I did. I first became acquainted with her music when she launched her EP ‘Your Muse’, a beautiful 6 track piece of work that has rarely left my listening patterns since first it entered them. I’ve dropped in to some of her various shows across the months since, and continue to be captivated in her live performances every time. Just as the year turned, Sarah-Beth released a track that she had previously made in collaboration with The Monk last year, titled ‘Lost in Loneliness’, another cool gem to see me by while she works on further music projects for the coming year.
A Little Something Special
I’d like to round out this post with the unveiling of a cool new item I have obtained. Sitting down for Christmas this year, I was delighted to find a present under the tree that I wasn’t expecting. Upon opening it, my eyes lit up, I could barely believe the awesomeness they beheld. Definitely one of the coolest things I have received this year, it was a hand-designed shirt with ‘The Merch Perch’ logo on it. Suffice to say I now have my official piece of attire for the year going forward. Thank you to my friend Lily Connell Bass (Also: One of the musicians in The 2016 Collective Sessions I wrote about) for the amazingness. Also shoutout to my graphics dude who did all the graphics for the blog in the first place, the glorious ‘Pasta’, a true gent.
Alrighty, back on November 24th I added another wonderful venue to my gig-attending portfolio. The place – St Luke’s Church in Cork, once a place of worship and now a venue that hosts many a talented musician and band under it’s monumental roof. Boasting a spot among the finest venues in Ireland for it’s acoustic sound and special atmosphere, it was only a matter of time before I would be drawn to it’s doors. The reason – Ye Vagabonds, consisting of brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn. For those that have read my blog covering the Sounds From a Safe Harbour weekend in Cork (You can find that here), I first saw Brían Mac Gloinn when he played a set there with Anna-Mieke, with both musicians immediately capturing my full attention. Just to follow up on that, I wrote at the time of an instrument that Brían played that I couldn’t identify, calling it “a table-top instrument akin to an Accordion”, I have since been informed by the Mac Gloinn brothers that it is a Harmonium, the more you know! Now, if for some reason Ye Vagabonds had not been enough alone to draw me to go to the gig, they only went and announced their support would be none other than David Keenan. David is another of the artists I encountered through SFASH, and I have been eyes peeled like a hawk ever since for an opportunity to catch the man play again, such was the nature of his impact.
Let’s rewind a month or two back from November 24th, I had been following David Keenan’s Facebook page and found out that he was selling a booklet containing the lyrics for a few of his songs, titled ‘A Collection of Words’. Now, again if you have read my SFASH blog post, you’ll probably realize that I rate David’s word-craftsmanship to be of an exceptionally high level. The man has an incredible mind for poetic song-writing and could stand toe to toe with literary greats past and present, in my humble opinion. So naturally I bought that book and received my signed copy in the post shortly after. Accompanying the booklet was a small notebook page with some lovely handwritten words from David. In particular I found great pleasure in this part he wrote that resonated deeply with me and my hobbyist ambitions I’ve been chasing this year “Find your avenue of expression and spill your soul into it!”. The note itself now comfortably resides on my board behind my computer screen where I sit to write these blogs and is a great source of motivation. The booklet divides it’s pages between lyrics to a number of his works, and professional photographs of himself interspersed.
Back to the day of the gig we go, and I made my way to the church – Via the scenic route as I got slightly lost on the way and overshot the distance up the hill to the venue. The venue recommends a cushion and warm clothing due to the nature of the seating and temperature in the building. I didn’t particularly equip myself for either, and thus suffered the conditions of a very cold evening in the venue, but I was unfazed by this. As it happens, I befriended the stranger in attendance next to me at the front pew, and they kindly offered me one of those pre-mix cans of Captain Morgan and Coke, which I sparingly drank from to warm myself. Soon enough, David Keenan made his appearance on the stage. I had high hopes, as I imagined stylistically the sound in the venue would be a perfect accompaniment to his acoustic guitar and story-telling vocals. I was indeed correct to hope, as from the first note and syllable of his set I was once again captivated by David’s sheer grasp of language and lyrical prowess, all the more potent when cast around the open space of St Luke’s church. I consider myself a bit of an English language enthusiast, but faced with the command over the language that David has, it’s hard personally not to feel something in between a mix of inferiority and sheer awe. Pluck at random if you will any line from his music or his writings, and chances are his expression will make you think or lead your mind astray on a journey. One such line of many that catches my attention as he sings: “They swap anorexic lyrics for pyrotechnic rhymes”. All in all, it was a great experience to catch David Keenan live again, I await already my next opportunity to revel in his craft.
And so onwards we go to the Mac Gloinn brothers, accompanied by the rest of their band – Alain Mc Fadden on Harmonium and Mandolin, and Nicholas Cooper on Violin. With such a diverse compendium of string-based instruments at their disposal, such as the Bouzouki, Banjo and Mandolin to name but a few, it’s no surprise that this eclectic mix thrives in the wonderful acoustics of St Luke’s. Couple this with the deep waves of the Harmonium and the rich harmonies across all four members of the band, and one could be forgiven for assuming the church was purpose-built for these musicians to one day stand on it’s stage and perform their artistry. This does come at a minor but worthwhile cost: With many string instruments, naturally comes much tuning. Nonetheless, they play for us a lovely selection of music. As one would expect, they bring to life before us much of the material from their debut self-titled album ‘Ye Vagabonds’, opening aptly with ‘Wake Up’, a song of a mere two lyrics weaved into a harmonious string arrangement. Besides their original material, they also provide their take on a bunch of Traditional Irish Folk numbers, the deep roots from which their own sound is derived and an oft breathtaking tribute to Folk music as a whole. Although performing mostly as a four-piece, for a song or two Alain and Nicholas sink away from the stage, leaving just Brían and Diarmuid with their stripped back sound to play beautifully for us.
After they have completed their show, I find myself at the Merch table – Where else, of course – picking up their album on CD and a large print from their single ‘Half Blind’. I manage to catch Diarmuid and Brían briefly, taking the opportunity to get the CD signed by the pair, and have Diarmuid at last crack the code of the mysterious ‘Harmonium’ instrument for me. From there I found myself on a scurrying trip down the big hill with my loot, traipsing into the Bru Bar to The Elation lads to show off my latest catch and round out the evening of music previously alluded to in this blog post. That’s about it for this post, happy nearly New Year. My next blog post will be an aside from the usual events to do a wrap-up of 2017. And remember folks, keep on Merchin’.
Righto, been terrible at keeping this up to date, my bad! Let’s get back to the action. Having had two great gigs at Coughlan’s Live with Cry Monster Cry and Mark Geary respectively, I had become quite a fan of the venue. It’s a lovely spot and it’s very accessible for myself in terms of location which is a big bonus. I was keeping an eye on the upcoming gigs on their page and an artist by the name of John Blek caught my eye. I was still considering going to his gig on the week it was coming up, when he put out a post saying they were down to just 6 tickets remaining. At that, I made up my mind and purchased my ticket and away we go.
Playing on November 17th, it was apparent from the get-go that it’d be a slightly different gig than usual. There was a great atmosphere of banter in the venue on this particular occasion, with most in attendance likely already well acquainted with John Blek and his music prior to the evening. Where most artists would’ve had a support act, John Blek played his own support set, opting to play a giant set split in the middle for the usual interval. Fair play to him I say, if you’ve that much music to hand and the energy to pull it off, go right ahead. First song of his set was ‘Lace’, the latest single from his 3rd album ‘Catharsis, Vol. 1’ released in October. It’s instantly notable as he plays this song the style he is going for as he opts to play ‘Fingerstyle Guitar’ with pick-like objects attached directly to his fingers instead of a traditional flat pick. The careful plucking of the strings in this manner sets the tone nicely for John’s story-telling drawn from personal experience. Moving through the set a bit further, we reach ‘Compass’, the first of three sea-faring tales on the album. Interestingly, the entire album came about during a period of time early in the year when John was quite unwell and spent his time flat in a hospital bed, with only his guitar to bring him his usual comforts. Not a particularly sea-faring lad himself, it’s nonetheless poignant that such songs of the great expanse of the sea came about through such circumstances.
When the mid-show break came about, I popped out to the hallway and realized there was a merch table there. I was quite easily convinced from the quality of the show so far, so I picked up a good haul, acquiring a T-Shirt, Vinyl of the album, and his book ‘Ceaseless’ which is a selected collection of lyrics from 2012-2017. The book was published by a company called ‘Badly Made Books’ which you can check out here. Having not expected such a selection of Merch, it ate into my money for food-shopping for the week. Did I have enough left to survive? Not sure. Worth it? Yup.
John Blek Catharsis Vol. 1 Vinyl
John Blek Ceaseless Book pub. by Badly Made Books
John Blek Shirt ‘How will I find my way?’
Fresh from his stint as the support act, back came John Blek and the show continued. I was decked to out in my new shirt already. After a few songs further into the set, John at last answered the unspoken question that was probably on some minds, as indeed I had wondered about myself. I had spotted it from the moment I sat down and had been trying to figure it out ever since. Behind John on the stage plopped against the back wall was some manner of small mysterious box. Picking up the strange contraption, he told us that it was a musical instrument called a ‘Shruti Box’ before also suggesting some folk refer to it as a ‘Wank Box’. He played the song ‘Needle & Thread’ with the box, which can be heard on the studio version of the track too, and after that nifty little display he put it back in it’s place to remain untouched for the rest of the gig once more. The banter between songs had been a lot of fun all evening, but one moment in the 2nd set stands out to me in particular. Announcing that the next song he would he playing was a cover, he paused to build suspense. Finally, he cracked that it would be a cover of a song by ‘John Blek and the Rats’, his well known band he often plays with outside his solo career. In good humour I pointed out that he had not only played his own support slot, but was also covering his own songs, a fact I found to be pretty funny. The focus wasn’t entirely on himself all night though, it eventually transpired that he would play a cover that he didn’t have involvement in the creation of, shutting down the jestful naysayers in the process. All in all, it was a fantastic gig and I look forward to catching John Blek again sometime. Until next time, keep on Merchin’
Alrighty then, I’m quite late getting this post out so let’s get to it. Mongoose is a band I discovered by chance in my Facebook feed as they advertised their then-upcoming new EP ‘Four’. The premise behind it of a collective of four distinctive song-writers each penning one song each in their own styles was intriguing to me, so I decided to look into them further. Mongoose consists of Molly O’Mahony on Drums – Cara Dunne on Piano, Organ and an instrument called ‘Glockenspiel’ – Ailbhe Dunne on Guitar & Bass – Muireann Ní Cheannabháin on Cello. All four contribute vocally as well. Upon listening to their prior work, a self-titled full length album ‘Mongoose’ released in 2015, I was pretty much hooked right off the bat. With a gig in their EP launch tour on November 5th at a cosy little venue ‘The Village Hall‘ on St Patrick’s Quay in Cork, I picked myself up a ticket and looked forward to seeing what I was in store for. Upon arrival to the venue I was greeted by a lovely intimate atmosphere and a splay of comfortable armchairs pointing towards the band’s play area – Now this is my kind of venue I thought to myself. I spotted a table laden with some merch items, and already convinced from what I’d heard from them so far in checking them out, I wasted no time in making some acquisitions. Picking up one of everything available (T-Shirt, EP, Signed Cover Art Print & 2 Badges) I then found the most comfortable looking arm-chair towards the front and awaited the commencement of the evening’s entertainment.
Four EP from Mongoose
Mongoose shirt, Signed Print, 2 Badges
Emma Donoghue & Rebecca Ruane
Before Mongoose, there was support from two musicians playing a set together, Emily Donoghue and Rebecca Ruane. Interestingly, about a month or so before the gig, Emily became an official endorsee of luthier Cónan Kilcoyne of Kilcoyne Guitars, and thus was equipped with a lovely Acoustic Guitar branded ‘K-1’. It really looked like a special piece of work and certainly sounded brilliant when played by the talented Emily. The duo kicked off the evening with some lovely music, harmonizing well together and each showcasing their musical talents. They also brought some good spirited humour to the table with some entertaining asides in between songs.
Once the support was finished, Mongoose were up next. With their well honed unique sound, the four piece quickly established themselves with powerful vocals across the board, with each member of the band able to flit from harmonious backing vocals to prominence at the forefront of the aural attention of the listener as required. Combined with a decidedly Irish blend of Folk and Indie-Pop to their music, one can expect to be taken on a pleasant journey when listening to Mongoose play their set. Starting the set with a song titled ‘Nicer by Night’, they followed this with the first piece of the Four EP in the form of Ailbhe’s contribution ‘Bullseye’. With an up-beat Jazzy feel to the song, it served as a great song to bring up the energy and liveliness in the room, before easing the audience back again with the calmer tones of the following songs. This shortly lead us onto the second piece, Muireann’s ‘Counting Song’. With a much more lullaby-esque beginning that builds up throughout, the rich vocal harmonies continue to capture the undivided attention of the viewer.
Moving further through the set, we reach Molly’s song ‘Joie De Vivre’, with a strong Piano presence intertwined with their luscious vocals. With that, we reach our final song, which was also the first single released of the EP, ‘Old Friend’ penned by Cara. The longest of the 4 songs, it starts slowly with subtle piano and low vocals, building up as it goes along, and then hitting the mid-point takes a dramatic shift in direction with more captivating vocal beauty from the four-piece riding the song through to the end. Ending the evening with an encore in the form of a song titled ‘Old Town’, they left everyone in attendance in good spirits irregardless of how they were before the evening began. Interestingly, despite a full set of songs surrounding the central four of the evening, it wasn’t comprised of songs from their previous album, so hopefully there is more material in the works to look forward to on the horizon from Mongoose. I met the band afterwards, getting my CD signed by each of them, their signatures aligning with the portion of the artwork correlating to each of their songs which I thought was a neat touch. That’s about it for now, until next time folks, and keep on Merchin’!