James OR at Coughlan’s Live

Photo Credits

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

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Dan O’ Keeffe and Tim O’Mahony. This photo is my own

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.

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James OR kicking off the show solo, credit to Dave Lyons Photography

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.

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Credit Dave Lyons Photography for this one in a million superb band shot. L-R: Barry, Tom, James, Isaac, Aaron, Hannah

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.

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Lovely shot of the band in action, credit to Dave Lyons Photography

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.

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I’m quite the fan of this hefty gear case. I took this photo

Throwback T’Fook

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.

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’!

Searchlight 2018 at The Button Factory

A Whole New Level of Crazy

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.

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NIMF. L-R: Connor, Joshua, Aoibhín & Oisin

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.

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Matilda O’Mahony, with Emily on the left (Poor lighting) and Dav on the right

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.

No Tie Friday
No Tie Friday

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.

Ger Kelly
Ger Kelly

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’.

Dreaming of Jupiter
Dreaming of Jupiter

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.

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TMP Official Tote Bag (Courtesy of Susanna Korpela)

 

 

Dry Roasted Peanuts – ‘Former Child Stars’ New EP

 

Who Are Dry Roasted Peanuts?

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Band Photo – Taken by their photographer Caoimhe Coleman

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

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Dry Roasted Peanuts EP ‘Former Child Stars’ cover photo.

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.

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Dry Roasted Peanuts on the Fred Zeppelins stage

Cider Wasps

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’!

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Cider Wasps at Fred Zeppelins
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Cider Wasps frontman playing the guitar with his face

 

 

David Keenan Live at Whelan’s

A Matter Of Taking Risks

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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.

Stephen Murphy

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.

 

 

 

 

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Stephen Murphy & Claire Maguire

Junior Brother

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.

 

 

 

Junior Brother
Junior Brother

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.

 

Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane
Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane

David Keenan

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.

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.

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.

Merch

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’!

David Keenan and I
Me and David Keenan

Talos Live at St Luke’s

A Long Overdue Follow Up

Talos is a name that has appeared on the blog before when they supported EDEN the first time I saw him in 2016 (That blog post can be found here), however have yet to have had the proper mention they’re well deserving of. When I was writing the EDEN post, it was already nearly a year and a half since I had seen the show and thus it was little more than a cameo appearance to the post. So when I saw that they were playing Live at St Luke’s Church on December 21st, I was all over it immediately and hotly anticipating the show for many months in the lead-up. Talos consists of Eoin French on Vocals and Guitar – Josh Sampson on Percussion – Sam McNicholl on Percussion and Vocals – David O’Connell on Strings and Keys – Sonny Sampson on Bass and Alex Sampson on Guitar and Vocals. Last year was most notable for the band in the release of their debut album ‘Wild Alee’, with the likes of Nialler9 among others receiving it in great favour.

Christof Van Der Ven

So without further ado, let’s get into it. Playing support for Talos on the evening of the gig was Christof Van Der Ven, a Netherlands born singer-songwriter who moved to Ireland and spent some years living in Galway before moving over to London a few years back. Although it was my first time seeing him play, it came to my attention recently that Christof is yet another artist who played at Sounds From a Safe Harbour, albeit I did not get the opportunity to see him among the other’s I witnessed that weekend. Just goes to show that even those I didn’t see at that festival went on to have further impact on me as time moved on from the event. Christof played a lovely set of songs, including a few from his 2016 EP ‘Montreal’. His strong vocal presence worked well in tandem with the acoustics of the church and overall I was very impressed by the performance he put on to warm us up to Talos.

Talos

As a band with incredible musical arrangements across the board that compliment singer Eoin French’s otherworldly vocal presence, it’s only fitting that the visual aspect of the show with the lighting is on-point to complete the sensory experience that their music brings. That was entirely the case when Talos came out onto the stage and began the set with ‘Odyssey’, starting in darkness with a low light cast forth from the back of the stage and silhouetting the band members behind Eoin while he stood illuminated. Whether by design or pure happenstance, I found it rather interesting the way this light beamed particularly towards the back of Drummer Josh Sampson’s head, creating a vivid halo effect outlining his hair as he started playing.

Talos
Talos live at St Luke’s Church

A few songs further into the set, I noticed that Guitarist Alex Sampson had produced a violin bow to play his electric guitar, creating some wondrous sounds in the process. While I am aware this is an occasionally practiced technique with some guitarists, this is the first time I’ve personally seen someone do it and it really is an amazing touch. He used this for two or three songs at various stages throughout the set. Another thing I love from Talos is their two-percussionist approach and the extra layers this brings to their music. Watching the second percussionist Sam McNicholl in action, I couldn’t help but feel a weird sense of familiarity, but I couldn’t place it at the time. However recently it dawned on me that it’s none other than the owner of legendary venue Connolly’s of Leap in West Cork that I’ve been to on a few occasions before. Small world eh.

On an aside between songs, Eoin took a moment to give us an update that the band have been working on some new material, which is awesome news. Such a tease he was, though, that he added afterwards “We’re not gonna play any of it now though”. Grr, guess we’ll be left guessing for now as to what’s in store, though undoubtedly it’s going to be out of this world. When the show was over, I got to meet a few members of the band which was cool. Heading to the Merch counter, I immediately picked up the Wild Alee album on Vinyl, an addition to my collection I had been hotly anticipating, and I also bought Christof’s EP ‘Montreal’ which he kindly signed for me too. That’s about it for this one folks, and remember, keep on Merchin’!

 

HamsandwicH

Niamh Farrell & The Norm

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.

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Joe O Leary

HamsandwicH

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.

Ham Sambo Niamh having fun
HamsandwicH’s Niamh Farrell having fun in the moment with the music

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.

Ham Sambo
HamsandwicH at Triskel Christchurch

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.

Meeeerch

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’!

 

Stories from the Surface Deluxe
Blue Deluxe Vinyl from the ‘Stories From the Surface’ Album

 

 

Little Green Cars

Brian Mooney

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.

Brian Mooney and Seán Mac Erlaine
Brian Mooney playing Acoustic Guitar and Seán Mac Erlaine playing Bass Clarinet

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.

Brian Mooney and Seán Mac Erlaine2
Brian Mooney on Electric Guitar & Seán Mac Erlaine on Bass Clarinet

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.

Little Green Cars 1
Little Green Cars on stage

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.

Little Green Cars 2
LGC after Faye was given Stevie’s coat

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’!

LGC The John Wayne
LGC playing The John Wayne
LGC Midnight On Other Planets
LGC playing Midnight on Other Planets