Alrighty then, kicking us off in the blog series celebrating International Women’s Day is Cork artist Anna Mitchell, with support from Marie Danielle. Marie hails from Pennsylvania and was here for her first Irish tour, journeying around the land alongside Anna’s own tour. Taking place at none other than my local venue of choice Coughlan’s Live on the 8th of February, this was the first of two of their dates in the same venue due to popular demand. Taking to the stage with just herself and an acoustic guitar, Marie captivated the room with her natural stage presence and imaginative story-telling in her music. She had wonderful tales to tell in relation to the songs she was sharing with us, from the likes of working with someone like Simone Felice on her album ‘Hustler’, to the culture shock of being a big city girl moving to the back end of nowhere. She’s currently working on her second album which I am rather intrigued to hear more about when there’s more to say on that front.
Up next was Anna Mitchell, performing with her full band. Anna was touring to promote her newly released self-titled second album. While her music was a new experience for myself, a quick look around the storied walls of Coughlan’s is quite telling of Anna’s prowess, with her name making it’s mark on the vibrant history of the place several times over. In the run up to the album launch, she released a new music video for a single from the album called ‘It Pours’. The song features an infectiously fun, funky, up-tempo vibe to it, and a mesmerizing music video of Anna donning bright neon face paints in the dark to perform the song. As pretty much my first introduction to Anna as an artist and her music, I was pleasantly hooked immediately and awaited the date of her show eagerly.
As far as the live performance goes, it was a stellar show all round. The energy was high and the feeling in the room was incredible, Anna and her band really know how to put on a great show and connect with the room. The craic was mighty, the air was buzzing, and the music a flowin’ freely. There was a matching theme of the colour red around Anna herself, from her red leather skirt to the red keyboard before her, and the red tambourine she broke out for a few tracks of shaking and clapping to boot. My attention was also drawn with much intrigue to her guitarist at the corner of the stage and his guitar in question, which appeared to be missing a jagged section from the side of it. No doubt a well storied instrument, it certainly added an extra dimension of interest to it and it’s owner.
After the show was finished, I found myself at the Merch table in the hall eyeing up a glorious Anna Mitchell vinyl in the middle of the table, grabbing at my attention. I’m a big fan of the wonderful artwork on it, and I loved the music I’d heard, so it was a no-brainer that I added that to my collection. I also nabbed Marie’s album ‘Hustler’ on CD while I was at it. I bumped into Anna and thanked her for a great show. That’s it for this time, keep an eye out for the next post in the series where we return to this very same stage for a whopper cast in the form of Sara Ryan, Emma Langford and Jess Leen. I’ll try be quicker on this one, I’ve been mad busy. Too many gigs, not enough writing time, what a complaint to have!
Alright folks, it’s International Women’s Day today, so you bet I’ve got something to write on the matter! This post is going to serve as the introduction to the series of blog posts that will follow this over the coming weeks, all of which contain some amazing women from the thriving Irish Music Scene. To try and write of every wonderful female artist that I’ve come across thus far would extend for pages upon pages, and I’d fear the possibility of leaving some of them out by mistake. What I will be covering however, is a run of gigs that have conveniently landed in the last 3-4 weeks, with a couple more yet to occur (2 Postponed because of that damn Storm Emma and the snow), that just so happened to all involve some fantastic women in this timeline, some new to the blog and some familiar faces. Across a 6 post series, I’ll be covering 18 wondrously musical women!
Quick Cast Run-Down
For the first post to look forward to, I’ll be covering Anna Mitchell at Coughlan’s Live, joined on the evening by support artist Marie Danielle who was over from America!
Coming up after that is another show at Coughlan’s Live with a whopper of a line-up. Supporting the show was Jess Leen, and co-headlining the double header event was Emma Langford and Sara Ryan, both of whom were joined by the ever wonderful Hannah Nic Gearailt.
In at post number 3 is Tower St. Music’s launch night at the Kino, which among other artists had Sinéad Murphy play, joined on stage by Dearbhaile Maclean and Sarah Hickey. To follow that will be an event that hasn’t happened yet, tonight’s gig with Cyprus Avenue’s very own International Women’s Day line-up, which will see Mide Houlihan, Sarah-Beth, Sara Ryan and DJ Kelly Doherty AKA Gadget and the Cloud all do their thing on their stage.
Finally, coming in at second to last is one of my personal favourites, the 8th time I’ll be attending one of her gigs, none other than Stephanie Rainey and her baesist Sarah Power who will play at Cyprus Avenue on the 18th after being postponed from last week. Closing out the series then will be Wyvern Lingo with support from LAOISE at Live at St. Luke’s, which should be an absolutely incredible event, coming up in April after a reschedule from last week.
I am well and truly excited to get cracking with this series of posts, got a wonderful mix of returning names and new names to delight over. Also since it’s my Finnish friend Susanna’s birthday today as well: Hyvää Syntymäpäivää!
Want to check out the full size photos from each of the sets used above? They’re all on my profile on Instagram now!
Disclaimer: For anyone reading this that isn’t a follower of the battle-rap scene (E.G. Most likely anyone here from following my blog before), this post is covering a battle-rap event and as such includes niche references and potentially offensive material. Any quotes from within the battles are not necessarily the real life views or opinions held by the battlers in question.
Disclaimer 2: For people reading this who DO come from the battle-rap scene or the forum, and you’re one of the one’s who comments on posts longer than a tweet about it being an ‘essay’ and too long, sucks to be you because I’ve never been one for short posts so strap in and let’s go.
Before I get into anything, the news broke during the writing of this post that battle rap legend Bender has unfortunately passed away, my condolences are with all far and wide feeling the impact of his loss, RIP. The team over at King Of The Dot the Canadian (And beyond) battle rap league, put together this wonderful tribute to him that you can view below this.
Shouts to Cork Hip-Hop artist Trigger who I’ve covered twice on the blog before. In the approach to this event I decided I would like some suitable attire to rep while up in Dublin, and the first person that came to mind to holler at was Trigger. Without so much as the bat of an eyelid, Trigger was sound enough to sort me the hookup on one of his shirts which was well cool. He even decided to go along to the event as well which was pretty cool, the more the merrier.
So, battle rap, eh? Most who know me have no idea I’m into it, but I’ve followed it with great interest since being introduced primarily to the UK and Canadian scenes in mid 2016. When it comes to the Irish scene, that’s something that only really came to my attention in 2018 through the Irish league ‘Rap Is Full’. Their top of the crop battlers Podge Dwyer and Terminal had garnered enough attention to fly over to the UK and represent in a few leagues. It just so happened that I discovered the league at a particularly special point in time, as their latest event ‘Last Words 2’ approached with a line-up of a quality to rival the kind of cards other international leagues are putting on, even after a few drop outs should have considerably lessened the quality of the card. I’d never been to a battle rap event before, so this was the perfect opportunity to begin. Boasting a strong card top to bottom, at the very peak of the card was a match-up between arguably the greatest American Battler of all time, The Saurus, and the greatest British Battler of all time, Oshea. I don’t know what strings the main man behind the league, Ruairi Hartigan, had to pull to make it happen, but safe to say it’s a legendary feat to put such a calibre of a match on Irish soil.
Rocking up to the venue on February 24th, at The International Bar in Dublin, it was a really surreal experience to see, meet and chat to all these people in the flesh that I had only witnessed in videos. Between the time before the battles and after the battles, I got to meet and chat to pretty much everyone possible, though I may have missed a few. I still can’t believe it’s a real memory that I got to spend a considerable amount of time chilling with The Saurus, even going for food with him, Terminal and Pedro at one point. He was as humble and down to earth as you can get, despite being a worldwide name. Given his status as ‘Mr Two Times Everything’ since he’s been there, done that and done it again for pretty much any accolade in the scene you could list, I said he needs to come back again now to be Mr Two Times Ireland, to which he agreed definitely needs to happen. If I list every person I met, had a chat with and recollect the great conversations that was had this post will probably be miles longer than it already will be, so I’ll just post the pictures that I managed to get taken and leave it at that. I do want to say one thing though, is that I got to meet Bagnall who did the video shooting for the event. That in itself I thought was a very understated aspect of how incredible this event was, with Bagnall being a stalwart figure in the UK scene as a veteran of battle rap event videography, and here he was in Ireland doing the same for Rap is Full. Shouts to everyone who made the event an absolute pleasure and that I met along the way. You know who you are. If you don’t, well at least I do.
Myself, The Saurus and Trigger. Photo by Kim Marie
Photo by Kim Marie
Photo by Kim Marie
Photo by Kim Marie
Above photos by Kim Marie. Below are my own
Myself and The Saurus
Row-B, Myself, Gwame
Not sure, Myself, Pedro
Shapey Fiend vs Coleman | Sonny Phelo vs Carl French
Kicking off the battles for the day was a clash between Irish battlers Shapey Fiend and Coleman. This was a one rounder with Shapey going first. Bottle of Jameson in hand, he started strongly with good humour (TMP Best moment: “And now if you’ll give me a moment, one for me *Takes a swig of the Jameson*… And one for my homies *Pours a serving out onto the floor*”). Unfortunately for Shapey, he trailed off shortly after with his material eluding him, and after trying to style it out for a bit called time. Coleman was left with the opportunity to capitalize and take the reins of the battle, and he didn’t disappoint. With a strong round and consistent delivery, he finished the bout with plenty of strong tailored punches and schemes for his opponent. For my favourite part I’m gonna go with one of his more underrated schemes in the battle where he had a PUBG video game theme.
The next battle was Sonny Phelo vs Carl French, and the general consensus after this battle was that it exceeded expectations as an undercard battle and was a genuine contender for battle of the day. It was a 3 rounder and Sonny Phelo went first. Straight out the gate he came into the clash with strong material and was getting good reaction from the crowd, including The Saurus himself reacting heavily to good bars. Each time he ended a round I was thinking ‘What a tough round to follow, he’s surely won that’. But following each round was a round from Carl French, and it quickly became apparent he meant business. He started on a real hard hitting note as he explained his near 2 year absence with losses close to home he suffered, lifting a picture pendant of his friend hanging openly around his neck and saying “This one’s for you bro promise you I wont lose”. From there he was flawless with solid punches, schemes, jokes you name it. In his second round closer he produced the most quoted room-shaker of the event. With pinpoint perfect timing and delivery, he built up the intensity of a scheme of real life stuff climaxing when he said “Do you think I’m bluffing man? DO YOU KNOW THE MUFFIN MAN?”. I’m gonna go ahead and award Carl French with the meaningless accolade The Merch Perch’s Performance of the Night.
Pedro Vs Balor | Darkly vs Kinell
After a break, it was time to get into the first two international matchups. First up was UK battler Pedro facing off against Irish battler Balor. Pedro is well known in the scene for his crazily unpredictable and inventive humour and multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, highly energized performances, and freestyle ability. On the flip side to that, it’s also not always sure how hit or miss he will be and how much he will actually write for a clash. Balor has been steadily proving himself time and again in the Irish scene as a force to contend with and it was only natural that he would be due an international battle after his showings so far. This is a battle that delivered on the potential it had in so many ways. Balor came with a lot of hunger and proved he could stand toe to toe with international opposition, putting on a fantastic showing up against Pedro. Pedro on the other hand seemed to turn up with just as much hunger and fire in his belly to prove his doubters wrong, with an incredible showing and solid material. His showing can be summed up in one line from the general reaction afterwards: ‘He actually wrote 3 full rounds’. Balor even threw in a freestyle to close out his third round, giving us a rare opportunity to say that someone freestyled more than Pedro in a battle. TMP moment of the battle: They both had so many quotables, but Pedro’s jokes are so outside the box and second to none, with his line “He tried to do a bump and sniffed his house key” sticking out to me.
The previous battle was a tough act to follow, with the energy that Pedro brings to a stage putting the crowd into a different gear altogether. Irish battler Darkly took on UK battler Kinell, with the former going first. With a very strong pen-game for punches, Darkly came with great material, but he was just missing a bit of impact in his delivery that would have carried his material across stronger and was slept on massively by the crowd. It’s hard to say what might have improved his performance, whether it needed just a dash more confidence in the delivery or if it’s just the timing of certain lines that was off. Then you have someone like Kinell standing opposite him, who oozes the battle rap charisma that controls crowds effortlessly and the bout looked a lot more one sided than it actually was on paper. Kinell is also a battler with very strong potential and high ceiling for what he’s capable of, but has also been hit or miss in what side of Kinell you’ll see when he hits the stage. On this occasion, we saw him in his stride putting on one of his best performances I’ve seen so far. He balanced his material perfectly between jokes and clinically breaking down his opponent with personal angles. TMP moment of the battle: Kinell came with such a plethora of brilliant quotable moments that it’s hard to choose, but I’m going to go with the moment he said RIP to Dolores from the Cranberries, referenced their song Zombie and then finished the scheme with “he thought he stood a chance here but it was only in your heeeaaad”.
Row-B Vs Gwame | Dialect vs Podge Dwyer
Entering the final stages of the card before the headline of the event, we were treated to a big clash between two respected names in the Irish scene, Row-B and Gwame. This was a fire battle with both battlers putting out incredibly solid performances with everything you could ask for. Punchlines? In abundance. Freestyled rebuttals? You betcha. The back and forth across the three rounds was constant, perfectly crafted material and an incredible pen game from both. Row-B quickly showed that he had some very tight rhyme schemes to rival Gwame at his own biggest strength. This is a battle that was incredibly close and I can’t really call a winner, as it changes each time I rewatch it back. TMP Best moment: The respective third round closer’s from both. As friends battling each other, it was only fitting that after three rounds back and forth they had their mutual showings of respect to finish. Row-B stylishly finished by producing a can of coke out of nowhere and handing it to Gwame saying “As I said me and Gwame are actually friends, so give my bro a can of coke, cause I just murdered someone that I love, now next time give me someone that I don’t!”. Meanwhile when Gwame finished his round he addressed how he could have personally broken Row-B down “Can you imagine what I know, but that’s not for them to know, that’s the kind of shit a loser disperses, whether you take that path or not says a lot about you as a person. And you didn’t so fair play” It’s too obvious to award this to The Saurus vs Oshea, so I’m giving my other meaningless accolade of TMP Battle Of The Night to Row-B and Gwame.
Up next was Leeds rapper Dialect vs Irish battler Podge Dwyer. This was a highly anticipated clash between arguably the biggest export in the Irish scene right now against a veteran on a fresh wave of motivation hitting god tier status in his recent battles. I had seen Podge constantly practicing his rounds throughout the day, and without hearing a single bar of it, it was clear he was ready to put on a show with the intensity of his material and delivery evident even from his walking around reciting it. The same could be said of Dialect when I stumbled across him practicing his material on the stairs before the battle. The battle kicked off with both putting out very strong first rounds. However starting his second round, Podge did something we haven’t seen from him before: A freestyle rebuttal. And a damn good one at that, taking the edge off of some of the angles Dialect had come with perfectly. Meanwhile Dialect’s second round started brilliantly, with him bringing some of his trademark Grime element to it. However he had a stumble in the latter half of the round and after trying to grasp it back for a bit, had to let the round go unfortunately. Podge went into his final round pumped that he might have a chance to beat Dialect (He was confident but under no illusions of his underdog status in this battle) and continued with his intensity. Dialect recovered from his second round mishap in his third and got his material out, although he had some stumbles towards the end he avoided a choke. With the handicap of the choke in the second, Podge arguably won that battle 2-1, but it was a debatable close bout either way. TMP best moment: There’s a few moments from Podge that were amazing (His breakdown of Dialects Grime sequences in his battles, his ‘You make cushions for your girl to make bread on the side’ joke, and his ‘other ways Dialect has been leaving earth’ scheme coming to mind) but I’m going to go with this killer punch he threw. “..Heading towards legendary status, admittedly I’m not quite there yet though. At the moment I’m just half man half GOAT but to you that’s the devil incarnate!”
The Saurus vs Oshea
Finally, after an incredible event packed full of high quality battles, we’re down to one. GOAT v GOAT, Legend v Legend, Unstoppable Force vs Immovable Object. The Saurus is the epitome of battle rap consistency. If you’re someone in battle rap, chances are you’ve inevitably faced up against The Saurus or are on the radar to do so at some point. Oshea is that unpredictable, joke-heavy character that can absolutely own a room full of people while insulting them at the same time. We’ve seen two variations of Oshea recently. He had a battle against Zain Azrai which is arguably one of the worst ever showings he put out. However more recently he’s come to rectify that and battled Raptor Warhurst on Premier Battles and gave one of his best ever showings, redeeming himself. Both battlers are incredible freestylers, so that was definitely something we could expect intertwined. Oshea kicked off the first round in pure hilarious fashion with a freestyle about Gwame looking like Wolverine and then brought up Carl French’s Muffin Man room shaker from earlier. Not one to be one-upped, The Saurus made sure to rebuttal the Muffin Man line too, making Carl’s impact on the event completely certified. The love these two have for the game was evident with how much effort they put into the quality writing and performance for the battle, and how much they were enjoying each other’s rounds. The Saurus could be seen during most of Oshea’s rounds, creasing and laughing his ass off at the angles that he had brought for him, and the same in reverse. One of the arguably best moments of the battle came in a freestyle rebuttal from Oshea. Saurus said he was being 3-0’d by alcoholism, and Oshea flipped it saying he’s not being 3-0’d by alcoholism, it’s a debatable 2-1. One of my favourite schemes from The Saurus was his multi-layered meaning using Stephen King novel titles to break down Oshea’s run as title-holder in Don’t Flop many years back. When all is said in done, they both came with such an incredible battle that it’s almost impossible to call a definitive winner between them, both came away from it with the W on this one. This battle and all the others are currently watchable on a Pay Per View at this link, otherwise you’ll have to wait for them to hit YouTube to view.
The after party held another three great undercard battles between some of the newer additions to the scene. They all impressed, though I need to see them some more and they are currently not available to watch on the PPV or otherwise so I await that opportunity. Seanie Mac took on Hughie Boom, Scabman the Scauldy (Formerly: Kez) took on Tommy West, and Intimidation took on JPEG. There was a bunch of live performances put on, with Dialect headlining with his Grime set and putting on a fantastic show. That’s about it for this post, it’s 3000 words long which is probably far longer than ye wanted to read! Til next time. -Seán
First things first before we get into it – Some of the photographs in this post are of a vastly greater quality than my norm, what manner of sorcery have I come up with? I am delighted to say that for this post I have been able to collaborate with the extremely talented professional photographer, Dave Lyons. Dave has a passion for music photography and is just about to launch his photography website, go check him out at his page by clicking his name above and keep an eye out for that announcement! I will clarify under each photo in the post whether it is my own or Dave’s, though the vast difference in quality will of course also be quite the indication for this upon a glance.
Dan O’ Keeffe
Aaaand we’re back! I had a setback for a while with my computer going a little kaput on me, but now we’re back to full running order, so let’s get to it. On January 26th, James OR was set to headline Coughlan’s Live with a full band show, an opportunity I had anticipated for ages. Supporting on the night was Dan O’ Keeffe. Dan is a talented up and coming singer/songwriter currently based in Cork. He comes from a family with strong musical roots, with the likes of his sister Elly O’ Keeffe already generating large waves of interest in Ireland for her folk-music. I had seen Dan play once before with a solo set on the same stage before Elly O’Keeffe headlined it in December. On this occasion, he was joined by his fellow bandmate, Tim O’Mahony on Cello. Seeing them both set up, it occurred to me that I recognised Tim, taking a moment to place him in my memory. I recalled he had joined The Band Anna as a sit-in Cello player at their Cyprus Avenue headline gig last August. Having already enjoyed Dan’s music the first time I saw him play, I was interested to see how the Cello accompaniment might add further depth to the performance. I was not disappointed, as they paired together seamlessly to compliment Dan’s charismatic vocal delivery. From the slower songs to the more upbeat songs, the duo nailed it, even turning the energy up a notch to close out on one of Dan’s songs that usually requires his full band around him to pull off. Definitely an artist to be keeping a lookout for, hopefully I’ll catch him with his full band at some point
James OR and Band
So, James OR with the headline show – Now that’s something I’ve been waiting for a bit to be able to write about. But there’s time yet to get into that. James has been quite the catalyst behind much of the on-goings in The Merch Perch, from bringing several brilliant musicians to my attention and sprouting the seed of inspiration behind a number of my prior blog posts, to being actively spotted on this blog no less than two times before this point. One, when he played support to the brilliant duo Cry Monster Cry, and Two, when he played support to the ever so charismatic Mark Geary. When he’s not plying his trade on the stage as a talented musician and music-technician for other talented musicians, or gallivanting about on Social Media with quirky posts and intellectual musings in equal measure, James also finds the time to run his own podcast called The NORM. This ketchup illustrated corner of the internet sees James engage in great conversations with some fabulous people from all walks of life, from musicians and gaming youtubers to wedding planners and preventers of violent extremism and much more. Christ, what a fellow, ’tis a wonder if he finds time to sleep among it all.
Back to where we were, Dan and Tim have just strutted their stuff and have since vacated the stage. The crowd are awaiting in anticipation for the next part of the evening to continue. Sure enough, there emerges James OR now, Acoustic at the ready and sporting the freshest haircut. No expense has been spared, he is going to sound good and damned if he doesn’t look good doing it. He begins solo, stood in the middle of a cluttered stage set to host an army of musicians soon, and he opens the show subtly with the track “Don’t Get Used To Me” from his debut EP ‘Cold Open’. He slides into ‘Berlin’ straight after, the stand-alone single he released last year in the wake of Cold Open.
A brief pause follows as his cast joins him. Barry Wilson clambers across the stage to his drum set tucked in at the back corner, attempting not to clash with too many instruments on his way. The effort isn’t entirely successful, but make it he does. Tom Cahalane fills the gap between Barry and James with his guitar. Isaac Higgins settles in to the other side of James and dominates his space with the bass (Aren’t I a rhyming ace). Book-ending the other end of the stage sits Hannah Nic Gearailt on keys. For some songs, Aaron Bowen accompanies them to play Acoustic Guitar. Flitting around the floor Dave Lyons can be spotted working his magic, enjoying the challenge of fitting such glorious chaos into the space of his lens. By the door I notice Adam Kenneally watches on. Why is that particular detail of note? Never mind that, I’ll tell you later. Once settled, the band wastes no time as they crack into “Cartoon”, another tune from the EP. I’ve only seen James play Acoustic sets, at most joined by Hannah on the keys before this point, and he was amazing each time, but it’s incomparable to what unfolds before me here. The added depth and energy from the whole band working together is breathtaking. The musical arrangements are perfect and flesh out James’s full sound like I’ve never experienced before. Their performance is controlled mania, the small space doesn’t prevent them from throwing shapes, remarkably without bashing each other in the process.
The following song “In Your Praises” is one I’ve come to consider a staple of a James OR performance. Every time he’s approached this song, he has preceded it with a powerful explanation behind it’s meaning. On each occasion, it’s been completely genuine and from the heart. As a song tackling anxiety, it’s rather fitting that the words behind his explanations are never the same each time, for there are many different ways to approach the subject in describing it and James does it justice each time. Hearing the song in it’s full band form for the first time was nothing short of amazing, with so much added layers and depth to it. They really succeed in carrying the message of the music across to a level just that bit beyond what the one man on his own with an Acoustic can quite reach, though both renditions are brilliant. You’re damn right I’ll be keeping you in my praises, James. Moving on, they played the title track to the upcoming album “All The Beds We’ve Been In” that James is currently working on, followed by “Safe & Sound” from the EP, which James recently released a music video for ,shot by none other than Dave Lyons, officially closing the book on the 2016 EP in anticipation of what’s yet to come.
Next up was “Ins & Outs”, which is another song I’ve come to know as a James OR staple, hell even since before James OR was James OR, this is a song I’ve heard him perform going many years back to his old band days in Suede Halo, though I’ll digress further on that a bit later. Always a great tune. A couple more songs go by, and James casually throws a bit of Talking Heads into the mix, covering their song ‘Life During Wartime’. I’ve not heard that song as much as I’ve heard the material on their Stop Making Sense album, but irregardless of that fact, their style seeps through every note and mannerism that goes into covering one of their songs and is instantly recognizable, and the band did a stellar job with it much to my delight.
Moving into the closing segment of the show, I was pleasantly surprised to be hit with back to back waves of nostalgia. From the second James started to name the next track, I was rolling back the years to Suede Halo once more as he revived their song “What Happens In Vegas Stays On File And Is Dealt With Accordingly”. Also acceptably referred to as “Vegas”. It was great to hear it in the present day and note how it’s aged and progressed as a tune. Further Suede Halo nostalgia was provided in the next track ‘Last Night a DJ’ which also recovered more of their classic material in all it’s glory. They closed the set with the song “Miserable”, which is nowhere near as sad as it sounds, and is a likely candidate to be a key Single from the album when it’s finished.
While we’re on the nostalgia wave, let’s embrace it altogether while we’re here, why not. When I spoke at the start about James’s support and contributions to The Merch Perch, such as putting musicians onto my radar (whether he was aware of his doing so or not), truth be told that doesn’t even scratch the surface of it. James makes up one quarter of the single biggest inspiration behind me ever becoming interested in Indie music, the Irish music scene, and non pop chart-garbage music in general. How’s that? I present to you, Suede Halo: A Brief History (Through my eyes and recollection at least). Take it back 10 years or more, and four lads are tearing it up in the Cork music scene looking to make their mark. Pre-music moniker, James is just Jimmy at this point. He’s joined by my step-brother Isaac Higgins on bass (An iconic duo to this day), Adam Kenneally is the super talented lad behind the drums (See, the cryptic references above are starting to make sense now right?), and Dave Lyons is shredding it on the guitar (And that was the first truly nostalgic moment of the James OR headline gig for me, realizing the whole original band was in the room). I’ve been growing up at the time listening to Isaac dedicate himself to learning the Bass from the room beside mine, watching as he progressed with a hungry passion for the music, influenced by the likes of Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers among others. The computer printer used to see all the action it could ever wish for with the endless procession of chords to different songs that it would churn out.
Naturally, I quickly idolized this band, always wanting to see them, though having to make do with waiting for the opportunity to see them at All-Ages gigs. Among the places I saw them at the time was an open air gig in Cobh, plenty of gigs at An Cruiscin Lán, and even Cyprus Avenue, one of my trusty go-to venues to this day. Going to gigs at Cyprus Avenue today, I can still recall it through smaller eyes, as I ran around making people buy the lads EP ‘This Definitely Needs More Milk’. At their biggest point that I got to witness, I attended Indiependence Festival in 2011, where Suede Halo played on the main stage where The Coronas also played. That was a brilliant festival and one I must live again at some point, I have many fond memories from that experience.
Like most good things of course, Suede Halo unfortunately came to an abrupt end, which I understood little about at the time other than the fact I was devastated. They had been hitting the studio and recording for their debut album at the time, which was going to be amazing, but it never saw the light of day which is tragic. All that left me with as a remnant of those days was my treasured copy of their EP, which to this day remains a much played CD and the very first item of collected Merch I have acquired. In a way, the anticipation for James’s upcoming album for myself is not just about how great the music will be, but also a form of closure over half a decade later being in the same position.
Suede Halo’s 2009 EP This Definitely Needs More Milk
L-R Suede Halo: Dave Lyons, Jimmy, Adam Kenneally, Isaac Higgins
These days, Dave has hung up the Guitar, but does professional photography and like myself can be seen at the front of loads of cool music events doing his bit and enjoying himself. Adam plays in a wedding band called The Old Moderns. Isaac plays in The Old Moderns, for James OR, for another wedding band called The Jabronis, for a funky original band called Goosefat, for a once in a yearly occasion band called Baked Potatoes, and probably twenty other bands I’m unaware of because he’s cool like that. And you know what Jimmy does, of course. Fun little side note: Jimmy has a cover band called The Ramblings, which originally started in the Suede Halo days and was the same line-up, though nowadays it has different members with Jimmy still at the front. That said, the day after the headline gig, The Ramblings played The Oliver Plunkett in Cork with the line-up of Jimmy, Isaac and Adam playing together once more, which I was very happy to attend and enjoy in the spirit of old times. They couldn’t be convinced to try crack out a Suede Halo tune though, although Isaac gave a fair attempt at knocking out a quick bassline from memory for a few seconds between songs. And that is just about it for this post, crikey we’ve reached the end already. Until next time folks! And remember, keep on Merchin’!
Righto, let’s get to it. For those that haven’t read my 2017 wrap-up blog post, I had a personal top five One’s to Watch list for this year. Of those five, the only one I had yet to actually see play live was NIMF, formerly putting out music under the handle Aoibhín. This was simply unacceptable, so I had to form a plan to eventually catch them hitting the stage. It didn’t look too promising that they would be playing a date that would overlap with free time for myself any time particularly soon, so a bit of crazy improvisation was in order. When it comes to mad shenanigans, I thought I had done it all at this point. From three major concerts in six days, to two in one night, to buying too many tickets of an evening and running around all corners of Cork City to show-face at everything, I’ve been no stranger to some madness.
When I saw the announcement for Searchlight 2018 at the Button Factory, which featured a number of musicians and bands that would be well worth checking out alongside NIMF, a plan of pure insanity started to take shape. It seemed little more than a fanciful idea, I was working both on the day of the gig and the day after it, in Cork, whereas the gig was in Dublin. However, as I added all the components together required to pull it off, it formed an ambitious but achievable timeline, and that was all I needed. The schedule: Working January 18th from 8 AM til 4:30 PM. Travelling approx 5 KM from there to reach a bus to Dublin leaving at 5 PM. Arrive in Dublin at 8, go straight to the gig for a couple hours, then catch an 11 PM bus home, arrive back at 2 AM, and work again at 9 AM. Easy peasy, right?
NIMF & Matilda O Mahony
Without further ado, I made it to the event as per my schedule, walking in to find NIMF mid-set. Bit of a bummer that, but I still got to see about half of their set at least so it was still very much enjoyable and a pleasure to finally see some of it played live. Their ‘Electro-Fantasy’ genre has had me hooked since first listen, and translating it to the live stage they did not disappoint. My eye was already drawn to watch their progress this year, and there it shall remain fixated. They played a few songs before closing on one of my favourite’s of theirs ‘Drifting’ from their 2016 EP ‘Don’t Look Down’. NIMF’s band line-up consists of Aoibhín Redmond on main vocals and keys, Oisin Redmond on bass, Connor Duignan on guitar and Joshua on drums.
The event featured a fantastic dual-stage set-up allowing for a quick turnover between acts, as soon as NIMF had finished playing on one stage, the attention was shifted over to the second stage where the music continued almost immediately. When it comes to the line-up for Searchlight, the only other name I knew of beforehand besides NIMF was Matilda O’Mahony. I wasn’t familiar with her music so much as I was of the person behind it, having gone to school with her for a couple years. There she was, sat in the middle brandishing a cool black Acoustic Guitar, joined by Dav Campbell on Guitar to the right, and Emily McCormick to the left on backing vocals. Together they put on a lovely set, with Matilda and Emily’s combined vocals working their magic. The trio has recently featured in a video with Project 82 where they played three of their songs ‘Coffee’, ‘Sleep’, and ‘Down To Me’, which you can view below.
No Tie Friday & Ger Kelly
Back up on the main stage a band by the name No Tie Friday kicked off, with it quickly becoming apparent that they were here as somewhat of a crowd favourite. The Wicklow natives – consisting of Keith Molloy on Vocals & Rhythm Guitar, Matt Morgan on Drums, Niall McGurk on Bass and Barra MacMahon on Lead Guitar – were ready to put on a show without hesitation. With their driven Indie-Pop/Alt sound, they had the crowd hooked to every ebb and flow of their sound with a brilliant performance. Among other tunes, they played their debut single ‘Delay’ which you can check out under this piece. They’ve been working hard recently in recording sessions putting together their much anticipated debut EP which they’re eager to share with the world soon.
After No Tie Friday, on the second stage stood one man and his electric guitar. Ger Kelly is his name, and a fine musician he was. I enjoyed his storytelling, with standout tracks in my memory being ‘New Breed Of Fish’, ‘You And I’ and ‘Maps’. The latter of which he announced before playing, then to the reacting crowd proclaimed ‘No, not that one, this one is my own’. As I was watching from the front I noticed the capo on his guitar had an engraving on it, though I couldn’t quite see it in the right light to make out what it said, so I questioned him on it after the set. As it were, the engraving is a nod to an EP he is working on releasing at some point, and if I heard correctly it read ‘You Can Mean More Than One’. Keep an eye out for that sure and we shall see indeed what comes of it.
Dreaming of Jupiter
The last act I got the chance to see before I had to head away was Dreaming of Jupiter. They are a Dublin band comprised of Zoë Gough, David Levins and Sam Oye. Their sound has a genre-transcending mystique to it that fluidly travels the pathways genre to genre but doesn’t quite land in any one for long enough to grant it as a title. Indeed, listening to them is an elixir of musicality, concocted from the finest mix of ingredients. A touch of pop, pinch of soul, a healthy serving of electronic ambience and a splash of secret spices preserving the uniqueness of their recipe. Have I taken this analogy too far? Perhaps. Nonetheless it’s a potion I’ll continue to drink from going forwards with much intrigue. Like many others of the evening, they too are working on new material to release in the not too distant future. They’re poised to drop a new single ‘Let Me Down’ soon, which is taken from their upcoming debut EP. Until then, enjoy a single they put out last year called ‘Eyes of Stone’.
That just about sums up my Searchlight 2018 journey. Shouts to the musicians that I unfortunately missed due to time but I am sure did a fine job: Laura Ryder, Tanjier and Future Stops. No doubt I’ll be seeing some of these names down the line. Congratulations to everyone who helped make Searchlight an incredibly well put together evening: Sound Training Productions, Garageland Ireland and Music Maker. That’s all for this one folks, and remember, keep on Merchin’! -Seán.
P.S. There was no merch to acquire at this particular event, but I did debut a new piece I carried with me on the night. Huge thanks to Susanna, supporter from the beginning and concert partner in crime at Hermitage Green last September (And out-did me in mad concert shenanigans at the same time) for this one. She personally hand-painted me an amazing custom tote bag in Finland and sent it to me for Christmas, makes me feel just that bit more official on my outings when I’m carrying this to events now.
Dry Roasted Peanuts are a Cork based Indie-Rock outfit who have been descending upon the music scene in a storm of electrifying live shows and sell-outs nationwide. Last year they came away from the Battle of the Bands in the UCC Music Society as victors, and went on to achieve the same result at the inter-varsity finals. Since then they released a blisteringly sharp debut EP ‘Sometimes I’ll Stay In/Sometimes I’ll Go Out’, to largely positive reception. Their line-up consists of the following members: Marc O Cearnaigh (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) – JJ Lee (Bass) – Robert McDonnell (Lead Guitar/Vocals) – Chris O’Sullivan (Drums). Their name has generated a lot of buzz, with many touting them to be among the most exciting hot prospects emerging from the Cork music scene as of late. Their year going forward already looks bright, with the first wave of Townlands Carnival line-up announcements seeing Dry Roasted Peanuts joining the fold for the festival. You can find DRP across their socials at the following links: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram You can also go check out their photographer Caoimhe Coleman at her blog, she took the above photograph, and conducted the following interview with the lads: Link
Former Child Stars
Following on from the rip-roaring year they had in 2017 and the success of their debut EP, the lads show no sign of dropping the ball as they hit the ground running in 2018 after a brief respite for the holiday period. They’ve come away from the studio with a brand new double single EP called ‘Former Child Stars’, featuring tracks ‘Honey + Lemons’ & ‘Upstanding’, which is out today across all streaming platforms. To my understanding, these songs have played a part in many of DRP’s live sets already thus far and are likely to be received with much excitement from fans new (Myself included) and old alike of the band.
DRP Live at Fred Zeppelins
Having not yet seen this band in action, I no doubt had to get myself to one of their shows eventually. I’d attempted a couple times before already, but schedule conflicts held me at bay each time unfortunately. Luckily for me, it was announced that they would be playing support for Waterford based Alt-Rock band ‘Cider Wasps’ at Fred Zeppelins on the 1st of February. The band put on a furious display to kick off the evening, showing just why they are considered such a phenomenal band to catch live. Among other tunes, they played both songs from the new EP, and did a solid cover of Lana Del Ray’s tune ‘Video Games’. The collective showed a lot of hard grit and determination through their set, exemplified by front-man Marc singing and jamming away on his guitar, while it’s pearly white pickguard collected crimson dashes of his own blood. Now that’s dedication. Minor flesh-wounds aside, their set wasn’t without it’s issues. A tech problem put Marc’s guitar out of action for the latter half of their set, though their on-the-fly adjustments saw them never lose their stride, maintaining a fantastic showing and entertaining the crowd right to the final note. Earlier in the same afternoon, the band had also just confirmed on social media that they had brand new Merch shirts that fans would soon be able to buy. I was interested in picking one up for myself, however on this particular occasion they did not have them to sell, so I’ll have to wait til next time for that.
Cider Wasps took to the stage shortly afterwards to carry us through to the end of the evening. Their band consists of the following: Danny Dunford – Tommy Dunford – Stephen Keating – Colin Drummey. I had seen the band once before under the same roof, and they smashed it that time to a hardcore fan-base in attendance. It was no different on this occasion as they got right into action. In the first half of the set, they played some new material, one of their older songs ‘Lúnasa’ and a cover of ‘Bubbles’ by Biffy Clyro. Their manic energy is a joy to watch and really gets the crowd pumped. When they break out their song ‘Far Be It From Me’ (As yet unreleased), my attention is shifted to their front-man and his guitar antics, as for a certain part of the tune he hoists his guitar up and plays it with his mouth. Perhaps for applications of the guitar such as that, it’s probably for the best that he didn’t share in the same fate as Marc in playing with bleeding fingers. Another song they do is a banging cover of ‘Plug In Baby’ by Muse, always a great tune. The energy and the sweat is thriving and constant song to song, reaching higher and higher peaks as we come towards the end. In the penultimate tune which they kick off their encore with, they have the crowd jumping and going wild. To bring the set to a close, they play their song ‘Quasar’, which shifts the momentum with a slower start, though at it’s peak sees the band and the crowd at their craziest point, jumping around and converging in a mosh of bodies at the center of the floor. I come away from the evening with a copy of their EP ‘Ethereal’, one of their signature band stickers, and a ringing in my ears. That’s all for this one folks, and remember, keep on Merchin’!
After my last two times catching David Keenan live, I knew I absolutely had to see him in a headline show setting. As it were, on January 6th he was set to headline Whelan’s in Dublin in what was sure to be an absolutely magical evening. The only catch? It was completely sold out before I got the opportunity to get my hands on a ticket. Now this simply would not do, so I hatched one of my Mad Bastard master plans. I would travel the 3 hours to Dublin on the day irregardless and… Err well, hope I somehow got a hold of a ticket by some chance. Clearly the plan of a genius right there! I researched gig alternatives for the evening should I fail in my endeavor, so I did at least have something to fall back on after making such a journey. Fortune was on my side however, as I managed to successfully track down a stray ticket for sale, so Whelan’s was a go! Whelan’s has also been one on my list of venues that I had to try out having never been there before, and what better an evening to accomplish that.
Having arrived at the venue and taken in the wonderful atmosphere and lovely stage set-up, the night of entertainment was underway. MC’ing and doing introductions for the night was none other than Pat Carty of Hot Press Magazine. First to hit the stage was Poetry/Spoken Word artist Stephen Murphy. Personally, I’m quite a fan of the medium of Spoken Word and thought it was a good way to start off the evening. He kicked it off with a few nice pieces before bringing out an accomplice in the form of Claire Maguire for a poem titled ‘Ériu’. This particular piece was a standout performance for me, with the wonderful lyrical delivery and storytelling from Stephen Murphy, and then the absolutely incredible vocals from Claire segmenting the verses. There’s a fierce Celtic power and raw emotion channeled through her voice that sent intense shivers down my spine. Although not from the night in question, Stephen has a video of it uploaded that I shall put below, highly recommend you give it a listen.
Next to grace the stage was the rather enigmatic character that is Junior Brother. Sharply dressed, equipped with Acoustic Guitar, and with a Tambourine taped to the floor beneath his foot to stamp on, he proceeded to play. I’d never heard his music before, and I was somewhat disarmed by his unique vocal delivery. It took me a moment to get attuned to his style, but I was quickly drawn into it and enjoying it thereafter. I particularly enjoyed his songs ‘Castlebridge’ and ‘Hungover at Mass’. He was pegging his wonderfully titled EP ‘Fuck Off I Love You’ on the evening, which I picked up a copy of for myself after the show.
Crowd Rant & Jack Lee
My one qualm at this point in the event was actually some rather obnoxious people in the crowd that made it harder to enjoy the music. I had nabbed myself a spot right in front of the stage, and thus was confused to find a girl in a similar position to myself facing away from the stage in full blown loud conversation and constantly backing up into me. I had a nice little rant on Facebook about this at the time, but yeah, don’t spend your money on tickets for gigs, go to the extra effort of getting a prime front row position once in the venue, and then go and behave like that. On the other hand, a mutual distaste of these actions between me and a fellow next to me at least sparked a conversation (In appropriate manner). It turned out that he himself was a musician by the name of Jack Lee, and goes back a while with David Keenan. Jack himself is working towards releasing an EP called ‘Vinegar’ at some point this year which I’ll be sure to look out for. I checked out a track he performed with the Dreams Loft Sessions called ‘Anyhow’ which I’ll put below here. Solid bloke, and since I had traveled from Cork on my own the company during the gig was welcomed.
Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane
After Junior Brother, 4-piece band Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane came out, consisting of Harry Hoban, Gerry Kane, Gar Kane & David Bellew. A Folk band with Acoustic and Punk elements, they put on a really impressive show. They were a fantastic unit and by all accounts are prepped to seize 2018 to be their year. They’re looking to make a heavy impact on the festival circuit later in the year, and are set to release some great music, not least of which is the upcoming single ‘Tyrannosaur which you can see them playing down below. I’m eagerly looking forward to their releases and maybe even the opportunity to see them again should the occasion arise.
Without further ado, David Keenan himself came out, initially hitting the stage alone with just himself, his guitar, and all the charisma and charm in the world. He started with a fan favourite ‘Lawrence of Arcadia’, quickly having the audience hanging on every word, every strum of the guitar. He even successfully lulled the annoying crowd member behind me into paying attention to the show at last. After a few songs, David was joined on stage by a special surprise guest, none other than Josh McClorey of The Strypes to strum it out for a couple tunes with him. I gotta say, Josh has one of the coolest Acoustic Guitars I have seen, and the synergy between them playing together was on point and an absolute pleasure to watch.
David Keenan In The Moment
David Keenan and Josh McClorey
After Josh departed the stage once more, David continued for another couple tunes on his own, including a stint behind the piano for ‘Tonight I Want To Lie’. His full band then came out to join him, which switched up the tempo and energy. I was certainly intrigued coming up to this point how he would pull it off. I had thus far only ever heard David in an Acoustic setting, which personally I had him pegged to be a master of. However had I been doubting, I was quickly shown that the full band set up served to elevate David to yet another level. The further intricate layers added to the music while still complementing his core style previously showcased truly worked some wonders. Songs such as Cobwebs, James Dean and Unholy Ghosts which I had adored in acoustic setups were just amazing to hear in this form.
David Kenan On Keys
David Keenan and Band
Coming up to the latter stages of the set, the band once more departed the stage, save for Harry Hoban who remained to play ‘Tin Pan Alley’ with David. I’d also like to note at this point that I had watched with interest the workings of a photographer up on the stage throughout the evening who was really in his element and seemed to be working some wonders. As it turned out, this was none other than Rob Benson himself, an incredibly talented photographer who has done amazing work immortalizing David Keenan many a time with his artsy shots of the musician. It was awesome to see him working live in the moment and put a face to the name. Back to David Keenan, after ‘Tin Pan Alley’ he came down from the stage into the throng of the crowd and performed ‘A Beggar to a Beggar Cried’ in the intimate acoustic setting. Finally, David closed out the show back on the stage with ‘Rip Your Eyes From Your Phone’ in epic fashion, with a shower of confetti and a plethora of David’s friends and bandmates linking up with him on stage in a beautiful moment of ecstatic jubilation.
David Keenan and Harry Hoban play ‘Tin Pan Alley’
David Keenan Amidst the Crowd
When all was said and done, I headed over to the Merch table, where I plotted my purchase plan with my limited funds. Other than managing to receive one of the Set Lists after the show, I ended up coming away with David Keenan’s handsome mug on a shirt photographed by Rob Benson, and Junior Brother’s EP. I had already ordered David Keenan’s Demo EP ‘Strip Me Bare Vol 1′ online which arrived shortly after. I got to meet David briefly and have a picture taken, though in the loud setting I would certainly love to chat to the fellow properly some time, for a master of words he surely is. I’d say that’s about it for this one folks, until next time, keep on Merchin’!