Hey hey! Welcome to the first part of my Summer Madness trilogy, my biggest and most epic of experiences to date! Before we get started, I’d just like to take a moment to dedicate this blog post in memory of Blue, a life short lived but who’s legacy lives on. So, “Summer Madness”, Seán what the hell are you spouting on about now? Let me explain. In the next 7 days, in the fashion of an ideally typical week in The Merch Perch, I’ll put out 3 blog posts – Monday, Thursday, Monday. The contents of those posts however, well that’s what happens when I smash the barriers of a typical week and go absolutely insane. Buckle up, here begins the journey of 3 major concerts in a span of just 6 days. Also just one note to this, I’m going to experiment a slightly different approach to the writing with this blog by tweaking it to a chapter based style, so we’ll see how this goes.
Concert One: The Backstory
This one actually begins as the silver lining to a different tale’s dark cloud. Paramore had just released their single ‘Hard Times’, announced their upcoming album ‘After Laughter’ and accompanying tour of awesomeness. Say no more, Paramore was back and I was already set to grab myself some sweet sweet tickets! And then, heartbreaking tragedy! Despite my absolute best efforts and timeliness to the very dot of tickets going on sale, I was unable to purchase them as they immediately sold out. That left me with funds in my bank account and a gaping hole in my concert timeline. And as fate would have it, a new opportunity arose. I was looking at the ‘aul Facebook feed the very same day when something special caught my eye. In what I can only call a poetic turn of events, in the void of the Paramore concert I discovered a Walking on Cars concert in it’s place. For those without prior reading of my posts, my very first concert was Paramore in 2013, which I went to with a friend called Christopher and together we’ve since been to a couple other concerts/gigs/shows together. The support for that concert was none other than Walking on Cars, who I had never heard of at the time and didn’t pay nearly has as much heed to as I would come to in the years following. I ended up wishing I could see them live so badly every time an opportunity arose and I couldn’t go, only to be reminded that I had already experienced the opportunity once before!
That’s not even the best part. The post in which I discovered I’d be going to this concert was actually announcing the support act, who just so happened to also be another of our mutual favourites between me and Christopher, Oh Wonder. The English duo consisting of Anthony and Josephine, we fell in love with them and their music from pretty much our very first exposure to them which came around the time they were launching their first album. Their music is just absolutely amazing on all levels, particularly in their vocals where they harmonize beautifully with each other, and they just come across as so wonderful and genuine. We had been keeping our eyes peeled like hawks ever since we heard of them, and particularly with their second album coming out, we were ready to drop everything at a moments notice if they were going to come to Ireland and do a show, but it was well beyond our expectations that the opportunity would present itself in such epic fashion. However this time it wouldn’t be just me and Christopher attending together. I was telling my good friend, and at the time coworker for a short while, Mihaela about my concert plans as they were being made and while the name ‘Oh Wonder’ didn’t register much recognition, it quickly became clear that she was a huge Walking on Cars fan. Just as quickly, further tickets were acquired. I very quickly converted Mihaela into an Oh Wonder fan to the point where she could no longer decide which artist she was looking forward to more despite being a fan of Walking on Cars for quite some time (Oh Wonder are simply that amazing). And thus, we were set.
The Story of Blue
Nearly 2 months later, it was time at last. In the meantime, I had begun to move my life away from West Cork to Cork, so meeting up with Mihaela again when she got into Cork was as much a chance to catch up as it was to go forth on an amazing adventure. The concert was taking place on Saturday June 24th in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. As a bonus, this was actually going to be Mihaela’s first proper concert, so in that sense I was her mentor for this experience. We took a bus for the long journey to Dublin, and probably sounded like a bunch of idiots telling tales and bantering. It was during this that I learned the tale of Blue from Mihaela. Basically, Mihaela had been at work when she spotted a blue bottle fly buzzing around her. Curiously, the fly seemed to settle close to Mihaela and observe her as she worked, seemingly without being disturbed for many hours during the day. She grew attached to the fly and named him Blue, and for the rest of the day they were best friends. Unfortunately for Blue, the workplace in which he chose to visit and become friends with Mihaela in, is one I know from working in that is ruthless in it’s ability to make flies just randomly drop dead, guess it must be something about the air. At the end of the day after their bond had grown, Blue shared the same fate as those who had passed before him, but we like to think he had a good last day in this world.
So we arrived in Dublin and connected with Christopher and got food and whatnot together. We had many a merry experience, including a priceless moment whilst eating some food at Burger King. During a segment of the ‘conversation’ that had become a montage of weird noises, expressions, and outbursts of cackling laughter, Mihaela suddenly realized the unsaid but obvious reality that she would be featured in this particular blog when I’d come to write it. This resulted in quite the outburst of excitement from Mihaela, who has also been one of my biggest fans and supporters from day one of this project. The three of us together have become quite the core group of tight knit friends bound together by our passion for music and similar artists, forming a pairing we like to call The Music Aficionados. Apparently my suggestion we be called The Three Mercheteers didn’t fly so well.
With the time looming, the inevitable journey to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which would stage the massive open-air concert, was underway. The air, particularly in the bubble of sheer anticipation that was moving with the three of us, was absolutely brimming with excitement. There was a fair amount of walking involved, but we breezed through the various steps of entry into the concert, including passing an unofficial merch stand without stopping, the three of us remembering the lesson learned during my experience at my first concert with Paramore, and then at last we stepped foot into the grounds of the night’s spectacle that lay ahead. We were there barely a second, before we were bee-lining it to where we had spotted the Merch counter. It was Mihaela’s first concert and she was also really excited to acquire some merch, influenced aswell by reading about my experiences with it. I worked my magic at the merch counter, pointing out item after item after item to add to my arsenal. I picked myself up two Walking on Cars T-Shirts and a Hoodie, there was no Oh Wonder merch being sold to acquire. Mihaela nabbed herself a shirt, and thus I had started another down the path of no return (muahahaha!).
An Aside of Vinyl Appreciation
There was also a Walking on Cars vinyl available to purchase of their album ‘Everything This Way’ but I in fact already owned it at this point. After my first collected record being EDEN’s EP last year, I was definitely hooked and wanted to have more. I did purchase one more record that I absolutely had to have, and will talk about another time, that year, but it wasn’t until February this year that I really kicked it off. For my birthday, and in an extremely rare instance where I actually knew what I would desire as a present, my dad was amazing enough to get me my own record player, thus transforming my desire to collect some records into a functioning reality (Perhaps I should get a CD player so I can listen to all these CD’s I’m collecting…). That week I went just a tad crazy as I immediately found a Golden Discs and went to their A-Z record display, picking up vinyl after vinyl as I went down. This resulted in my sacrificing of many choices as the competition for a slot in my purchase list grew tougher and tougher, and it was all going well with my selection from about G to V with some I unfortunately had to skip. I thought I had safely picked a couple options and wouldn’t be further tempted, but then I reached the bottom shelf, flicked through some W’s and suddenly discovered Walking on Cars had a vinyl and my wallet was done for, no question about it. Later in the year Oh Wonder re-pressed the vinyl for their first album of self-titled nature, and I nabbed myself a signed copy of that to my delight.
The Sheeran Curse
Back to that particular day in June we go, and we were kitted the hell out. I had already gone and changed from my other clothes of a merch-ly nature to 2 layers of Walking on Cars merch, and Christopher was being typical Christopher and wearing his EDEN shirt still. I hadn’t seen him in 7 months but I was pretty sure he’d never taken it off since. We grabbed ourselves a nice spot very near to the front, although off-center to the right side of the stage. I do actually have one qualm about the concert experience, and that was the playlist of music that was being played out for the evening until the real music began. Don’t get me wrong, most of the songs were fine, but for an event on this scale the playlist really ought to have more than like 10-20 songs, as we were constantly on a loop of repeating the same songs we had already heard and it was really grating on us after a while of the repetition. And don’t get me started about Ed Sheeran. He’s a fantastic artist and has some amazing music, but we were just about played out at this point. While walking through Dublin, we passed a street group playing their rendition of ‘Shape of You’. We passed comment among ourselves about this, and I guess this must be where the curse started. We were in Burger King right after, and sure enough onto the radio we were greeted with more ‘Shape of You’. The very first sound we heard as we entered the big open of the Royal Hospital, you could guess it in one, was ‘Shape of You’! And this playlist in particular had it back-to-back with ‘Castle on the Hill’ and we would be freshly reintroduced to the pairing every 20 or so minutes for several hours. It was a blessing when the playlist cut out and gave us the signal that we were soon to begin with the music we were here to experience.
The Concert Begins!
Only took me like a typical blog post and a half in length to reach the point where the concert even begins, oops. The time came for Oh Wonder to grace the stage, which was like a dream come true for us, especially me and Christopher who had anticipated this moment coming for so long. Anthony and Josephine came out, with live band members in tow, and proceeded to put on a stellar performance. They mixed the set with a lot of their great songs from their first album, with a few of the singles they had released from their new album ‘Ultralife’ that was released a couple weeks after their supporting slot at this concert. The only thing about it was because they were the support and not the headline for the concert, it was quite a concise set that felt like it was over far too quickly. But it wasn’t without some good news first. Because of their new album coming out, they were planning a HUGE world tour (67 dates globally in less than 3 months, proper mental) which they are currently about to embark on very soon after an already impressive number of summer slots at various festivals and the like. They had announced many of the locations on this tour already at this point, however had not said anything about Ireland. I was definitely sure they would be coming here during it though, and they confirmed it during the concert by announcing they would play at The Academy in Dublin (Same place as EDEN was last two times!) in November. And of course you know I’ma be hitting that concert, had my tickets in the net the minute they launched. All in all, it was an amazing experience to finally see Oh Wonder in the flesh playing live, but it was only a teaser of what’s to come. Keep an eye out for that follow up post in November, I’ve got some real special plans for it and I can’t wait. Mihaela and Christopher shall also be involved!
When Oh Wonder departed the stage after an excellent show, me, Christopher, and Mihaela collectively groaned when the next thing we heard was the all too familiar ‘Shape of You’ on the PA system once again. There was a gap between performances and they wasted no time looping us through their derelict playlist a couple times more. We wondered if there would be a chance to meet Anthony and Josephine anywhere but we didn’t see any such opportunity. We saw afterwards on social media however that they had gone into the crowd not far behind us to greet some fans who had taped ‘High on Humans’ onto an Irish flag, which is the name of one of their new songs. The ill fated mis-attempts at meeting musicians for me and Christopher continued once more. The grounds had already been filling out quite nicely when Oh Wonder were playing, but as the evening wore on it was getting more and more packed and we were glad to have copped ourselves a spot at the front when thousands of people were crammed up behind us.
When the time finally came for Walking on Cars to emerge, the place was absolutely packed out, and the crowd was going wild (We of course included). On the stage there had been a big structure of some kind covered in black sheeting, and we had been curious to what would be revealed beneath. It turned out to be a huge tiered platform setup with light-screens on the front faces. Elevated on the top tiers was the setup for drummer Evan Hadnett, and also for pianist Sorcha Durham. On normal stage level, Dan Devane was over on the left side with his Guitar, Paul Flannery on the right with his Bass, and then front-man Patrick Sheehy was in the center, though he was running about with an energetic display that saw him at just about every part of the stage throughout the night, including climbing up to the very top of the mountainous platform now and then. After the first couple of songs, they went into their song ‘Tick Tock’ at which point the light-screen came to life in an awesome display, this particular song having a backdrop of clock faces spinning rapidly, with many of the songs for the rest of the night having their own equally and more-so impressive artsy displays. The band were just epic to watch, especially the antics of Patrick as he moved about on stage, sometimes playing acoustic guitar while pirouetting wildly, and generally owning the stage. Given that it had been some time since their album ‘Everything This Way’ had been released, there had been a lot of anticipation of new music from the band, with photos on social media teasing from their creative processes in the studio. With that said, interspersed throughout their set on the night, the band kept dropping some absolutely banging new songs, debuting somewhere between 4 and 6 brand new songs to give an idea of what’s in store for their next album which is aimed for 2018. Two of the new songs in particular caught my attention, with one I’m going to assume might be called ‘Coldest Water’ being a really catchy song that I’m sure will be one of their big hits/singles from their new album. You know a song is gonna be a hit when you can’t stop singing it in your head and it’s not even released yet. Another one which I’m not sure what it’s called, was a step in a completely different direction as they slowed it down, bringing out a piano for Patrick to sit and play at, and the result was just awe-inspiring. It’s no surprise that Patrick has an amazing vocal range, but when he brought out this song it was like he had unlocked a whole new level, beat that level, and reached the next again. He hit some amazing high notes that just blew me away and was like nothing I’d heard from him ever before. Me, Christopher and Mihaela looked at each other as this unfolded, all of us just speechless.
At the end of the day, the whole experience went above and beyond everything I had ever imagined and hoped for in what seeing Walking on Cars live since last I saw them as a support band would be like. Well worth the effort and travel it took to get there. We left the grounds with so much energy and elation, the kind of exhilarating high only a massive concert like that can give you. We made the very long return leg to Cork on the Sunday, just in time for me to catch the next stage of my awesome concert journey in Cork on Monday. But that’s for next post to reveal, so I’ll see you Thursday with more! Adios, and remember, keep on Merching!