A Matter Of Taking Risks
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.
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.
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’!