Real quick before I get into today’s blog post I want to quickly introduce the idea behind today’s title ‘TMP Flashbacks’. As is probably clear to most observers with my sporadic content – Or lack thereof – I’m constantly hitting walls with my writing process and not getting material out. There are many factors at play for this, though 2 of the biggest are the sheer volume of gigs and concerts I attend, and my habit of writing an awful lot in my posts (It’s just naturally how my process goes) which means I’m oft unsatisfied with tackling a piece if I can’t give it the full attention I expect of myself. That said, with Flashbacks I intend to, at any given opportunity, revisit concerts and gigs that got lost by the wayside down the line and complete some posts for them, some of which will likely be proper flash pieces of a shorter length (By my standards, at least). Some of these will be posts I even began writing before falling off the map with them just before completion, which is where this current post began with about 80 percent already completed 2 months ago (woops). There wont be much different with this one compared to my other stuff considering how close to completion the post already was. So without further ado, let’s get back to the juicy stuff
The right place at the right time
Finding myself sitting in the Bello Bar in Dublin on February 23rd was very much an impromptu plan concocted off the back of a perfect set of circumstances lining up. Days prior I was not even aware of the event that would be taking place, indeed only learning through my old school friend Matilda posting on Instagram stories about band rehearsal for the occasion. As it would so happen, my intent for that evening was going to see me pass through Dublin anyway, as I was travelling up from Cork that day to fly out from the airport the next morning for a brief holiday in Scotland. The opportunity to pass a few hours in the company of assuredly good music was far too tempting to pass up, and I was sure this gig would be right up my alley. It had already been more than a year since I had witnessed Matilda in action at the Button Factory for Searchlight 2018 (Blog post about that here), and I had regrettably had missed Laura Ryder (Formally titled Laura Ryder Ampersand as a band) in action upon that fateful evening due to the nature of my travel. Being much overdue witnessing my first Laura Ryder performance, attendance was a no brainer.
In typical manner, I arrived early to the Bello Bar and made myself comfortable inside when the doors opened. My first time being in this venue, I was in awe of the set up within, where a beautiful atmosphere has been carefully and lovingly crafted everywhere the eye looks, from the candlelit table arrangement to the stylish but not overstated decor, there was much to take in. While sitting opposite the performance area letting my surroundings sink in, I was joined at my table by another gig-attending lone wolf by the name of Conor. We discussed much with keen interest and passed the time with ease, graduating from strangers to friendly acquaintances, a welcomed added touch to the evening’s experience. Conor talked of seeing Laura Ryder before with high praise, giving me a great indication of what to expect before the show kicked off.
Laura Ryder Ampersand
If somehow it wasn’t already set in stone in the leadup, it became pretty damn clear within no time at all once Laura Ryder & her band were out that we were in for a very special evening. Before even beginning, Laura is already seen sporting an infectiously vibrant grin that alone is capable of lifting your mood. She sets off into the tunes behind her keyboard, her vocals immediately capturing my full attention. Beside her is Conor Cunningham on Clarinet, and the vocal landscape is backed up by the ethereal combination of Hannah McKenna and Matilda O Mahony. Laura has the room latched on closely from beginning to end, brimming with positivity and filling the gaps between songs with her wonderful quirky quips.
Around the halfway mark or so of the set, the collective are joined by drummer Shay Sweeney to shift the tone a bit and carry us out to the end of the performance. By the time we’re at the end of Laura’s set I’ve already been carried on such an awesome journey of emotions that I’d nearly forget there is a whole other act to follow; but indeed this has merely been the warm-up and there is much yet to come for our eager hearts to fill up on. You can check out Laura’s brilliant album ‘Vestigial’ down below and it is available to purchase digitally or physically from bandcamp at the following link here! It has given me much enjoyment to listen to since attending this gig.
A brief break, and then we’re off into the main portion of the evening as Lōwli come together before us. There is a familiar face among their ranks as Matilda retains her position, joined this time by fellow backing vocalist Lorna McDonnell. At the helm on Piano and main vocals is Roisin Lowry, Shay Sweeney sits once more behind the drums, and the wonderful string section is comprised of Aisling Bridgeman on Violin and Muireann Ni Cheannabhain on Cello.
There are very few gigs which have so successfully transported me to another plane of existence within myself than what I experienced that night in Bello Bar. It was the perfect coming together of a room set in perfect ambiance hosting beautiful music. I found that I was often drawn into an almost trance like state, the flickering flame of the candle on the table serving as a hypnotizing tool which opened my consciousness to the delicate sound waves cast forth by Lōwli to hit on a deeper level. Safe to say that while the new EP ‘Feathers’ gives a delightful look into what Lōwli has to offer, there is most certainly much more to look forward to from this incredible artist in times to come. I couldn’t leave without purchasing the CD of course, not once but twice, impressed as I was I knew immediately of someone I needed to share this new piece of music with. Make sure you give her EP a listen to, it’s comprised of three tracks ‘Feathers’, ‘Fading’ and ‘Colourless’ and is linked down below
It is with great pleasure that I direct your attention today to the Debut Single ‘Good Enough’ by emerging Cork artist Ruth Brosnan. Ruth is just one such example of the many incredible home grown talents that have come through the system of music courses on offer at Cork School of Music, with ‘Good Enough’ being but the first impression of what is sure to be a voice you’ll find yourself hearing more and more about in times to come. Coupled with her musical education in Cork, Ruth has also spent time abroad in LA, where she has honed her Songwriting skills to further her career as it begins.
‘Good Enough’ builds like a carefully tended fire, starting off as a slow burning flame and gradually growing in power until it becomes a soaring anthem of positivity. We all have this same fire and passion burning within us, even if at times it can be so difficult to grasp it and hold onto it, and Ruth calls on us all to slow down for a moment and take in the fact that, yes, we are indeed good enough. Moreso in fact than just good enough, we are strong and dangerous and capable of so many things if we just let ourselves. Check out this stunning debut down below and make sure you follow the artist for whatever projects may follow down the line. This song is Produced, Recorded and Mixed by Wavefield Recording Studios and the video brought to fruition by Epic Productions.
Last week I was delighted to present to you an interview I held with the wonderful James OR, which you can read here, in which the topic at hand largely focused on his new single ‘An Attempt At Momentum’. The single has since successfully launched out into the world and is making the rounds through radio plays and online streaming services. There is also an amazing music video accompaniment to the song, featuring the Directorial debut of Playwrite and Musician Jess Leen, filmed by Robin Guiton and starring Darragh Byrne who passionately portrays his role in the video to perfection. You couldn’t ask for a better team of individuals coming together and combining their talents to capture a visual befitting of the beautiful song that is An Attempt At Momentum, so do check that out below.
You can catch James OR live with his full band playing this song and many others that he has at his disposal on May 3rd in Coughlan’s Live, for which you can get tickets here. Joining James on the evening as support act is none other than Chris Ward who promises to put on a wowing performance of his own before James takes to the stage. If you are further afield Geographically, you may perhaps find solace in the fact that James OR will be having a Single launch show in London as well, at The Islington on May 30th, support act to be announced.
Alright folks, got something a little different for you today! I recently had the opportunity to catch the fabulous artist James OR for a conversation about some of the things that he’s got coming up and had going on for himself. We cover his brand new single ‘An Attempt at Momentum’, and I must say I’ve heard him perform this a few times live, mostly Acoustic, and it was already a wonderful song, but it has emerged in the recorded version like a Caterpillar post-cocoon as this truly magnificent piece of art. I’m blown away by the leaps and bounds the track has taken to reach it’s final form. Elsewhere in the conversation we talk about the accompanying music video directed by Jess Leen, working on his debut album with Christian Best in Monique Studios, and his upcoming headline show in Coughlan’s Live on May 3rd (Grab tickets here!) among other things, so read all about it below! Keep an eye out for the single dropping on Friday as well, I’ll be posting it here on the page once it releases.
So to kick us off, your new single An Attempt at Momentum is out on April 26th, can you give us an introduction to what the song is about?
James OR: It’s about sort of meeting someone who you haven’t seen in a while, who you care a lot about and you know you’re gonna miss again when they’re gone, but you’re not gonna see them again for another while. It’s just getting that thing off your chest, that you’ve been thinking about for a while, and you’re just picking your moments to get it off your chest – Cause I went to an Elbow gig about 3-4 years ago and Guy Garvey said the two things you should never do when you’re about to meet someone who you haven’t seen in a while and you’re not gonna see again for another while, is you should never meet them at night and you should never meet them over alcohol. And so AAAM is about the time I did both of those things.
Is there plans for a music video release to accompany the upcoming single?
J: Yeah the music video is coming out on the release day, April 26th. I worked with Jess Leen and Robin Guiton on it. They put together this really nice concept and they went ahead and shot it. I got the finished video back last week and I really love it, I think it really sums up the message behind the song really well. The main actor is called Darragh Byrne and he is just fabulous in it, he’s incredible. He had just on the day of filming asked Jess ‘does this video require a lot of facial expressions’ and she was like ‘yeah it definitely does!’, and he said ‘great well I’m just after doing a class on mime, so I’m gonna use all the stuff that I’ve learned in this video’. So that’s what you’re seeing, this really cool expressive appeal that I can’t wait to show people
It must have been great to have such a creative mind in Jess involved, a fabulous Playwrite, Musician and Director too…
J: Yeah, I really love Jess’s stuff, she really is one of my favourite writers. I saw one of her plays Waiting For WiFi back in January 2018, and I just thought it was such a spectacular piece of work. So when I was thinking about who I’d approach to do the music video she kinda seemed the most natural choice, cause I love her sense of humour, and I love how witty her writing is. So I’m like it would be so great if I could get that witiness and that cleverness across in a music video. So yeah it was magic to have her on board and she actually connected me with Robin who shot and edited the whole video. It seems now if you’re looking at a music video in Cork, Robin’s name is attached to it. You’ll be watching a music video and be like ‘Ah it’s by Robin ok’, he’s just got this really clear shooting style and really great way of capturing images and really just sharpening them up and making them really exciting to watch.
How did it feel to close the book on your debut project Cold Open with the final music video for Safe & Sound last year?
J: Good question, it was really good fun because Safe & Sound was put out I think a year and a half after Cold Open came out, and it was nice to do something different with those songs. We’d done the music video for ‘The Fear’ and we were getting ready to record some new songs, and then myself and Dave Lyons got chatting and we were just like yeah look I mean there’s this track here and Dave had just started his company Speire so he was looking for projects to work on. He approached me and said look how about we make this music video, and originally it was a very straightforward idea of maybe just me singing to the camera. When we looked over the first shots we were really happy with it but we thought maybe it just needed a little bit more, and over the course of a day or so we started teasing out this idea for a little story. It was this really enjoyable process because we didn’t have an Actor on board and it was basically just gonna be me, it was nice and it was really good fun. I think it was the best way to close Cold Open because Cold Open gave me a lot of opportunities to bring my music to new places and to new people. So it was nice that we got to go back to it so long after the EP itself had come out and so close to when we were recording new music, it felt like a very natural conclusion and felt like we were giving it a proper send off.
I understand that you spent some time in the lovely Monique Studios with Christian Best, working towards your first album All The Beds We’ve Been In, how’s that process been for you?
J: Wonderful. I really love working with Christian, he’s got such a great way with people and such a great way with… I mean, saying he has a great way with music is definitely underselling him, he’s got a great ear for how a song should sound. He seems to be able to do this across the board which is obviously a mark of a great producer, I’ve seen so many other acts come out of his studio and their music sounds stronger for him having been a part of it. I can definitely say that was the case with me, cause when we went in to record the tracks, we worked very hard to get them to where they were but Christian definitely helped us to sort of… I suppose he helped to mature the songs a little bit, and he helped to bring all the songs to their final shape which was really nice. There’s just such a great atmosphere down there, there’s magic in that room that he has brought to it, and there’s a reason why people want to go down to him so much and why people wanna work with him. So he had done Cold Open, he’d actually just recorded the tracks for Cold Open, whereas this time I was really excited when he agreed to come on and produce the album. He really does just get the mood of each song and he gets the mood of the musicians he’s working with as well. He knows when to speed the day up and when to slow it down, and that was a really cool process to watch and a cool process to be a part of. I really loved it.
You’ve been living in London for about a year or so now, have you picked up and new insights or perspectives on your approach as an artist from being over there?
J: That’s a really insightful question. I mean I wouldn’t say I learned anything new as such, because I came out in the Cork music scene, and the Cork music scene is somewhere you can really learn a lot from. So when I was going over to London I think London is probably more hyperactive. There’s a lot going on there and it’s a much more communal music scene than I think it gets given credit for. There’s a very relaxed sort of confident vibe about musicians there in that they really wanna hear new music from their peers, and they’re also quite content with what they’re doing. It’s very much a you do you attitude, it’s very much like ‘that’s cool you’re doing that man, and I’m doing this over here’. Because it’s such a big city and there’s so much going on, so far it hasn’t felt like jarring, it’s actually felt like a really nice to place to be in and a really nice place to make music.
Your homecoming show at Coughlan’s is coming up on May 3rd and it’s looking on track to be a sell out, how much does this show mean to you?
J: Coughlan’s means a lot to me, it’s such a beautiful room and I’ve never had anything but great experiences in there. I think coming back to play in Cork and bringing a single back to Cork means an awful lot as well, and getting to do it in a room like Coughlan’s is very much the icing on the cake. It means a lot to be playing a full band show again, which we haven’t done in Ireland in a while, just over a year and Coughlan’s was the last Irish show we did. It feels exciting, it feels like something is starting again. It’s kinda that feeling when you get started in a new process and you’re building back up that momentum that you need as an independent musician to keep going and make an impact. So the Coughlan’s gig is a week after the single is released, so I’m also looking forward to the week before Coughlan’s. We’re gonna be practicing and we’re gonna be putting the songs and the set together. It means a lot as well that we get to play our music to a room full of people again I think that’s gonna be really great.
What do you think makes Coughlan’s a venue that so many aspire to play in, where you see so many calibre’s of artists choose to play there?
J: I think it’s the people that run it to be honest. I think they have a very set idea on what they want the venue to be, and from what I’ve seen it’s just such a welcoming venue. You come in there and you play and the funny thing about Coughlan’s is like – Obviously the first few gigs I did there was as a support act to some people, and when you’re a support act it can go one of two ways. You can be playing to a room of people and they can just be y’know at the bar getting their drinks or getting ready for the main act who, to be fair that’s who they’re there to see, or you can have a really attentive crowd. With Coughlan’s any gig I’ve ever played there the crowd has been so attentive, and I think that’s because the room demands it of the audience. It’s very much like if you don’t want to sit and listen to the music, then you can go outside to the beer garden or the bar, but this place here is for music. This is a place for people to appreciate art and new performers and have an evening of enjoyment through music. I think that comes from a certain respect that the venue has built up for itself. People don’t go into Coughlan’s and stand and talk while an act is playing, they realize you know we’re here, we’re listening to music now we’re not here for a night out of chatting. It’s never forced on you, it’s just kinda like, it’s like when you go into a church, you don’t know why you’re supposed to be quiet in a church, you just know you are. People sort of observe that, I think it just has that weightiness and that authenticity to it, just that organic feeling that just makes everyone go yeah I’m in Coughlan’s and I wanna see some music. And you’re right up in the face of the musicians as well so like it’s hard for you to stand at the edge of the stage and talk over them, you will feel the heat of their stares pretty quickly!
So looking further forward beyond Coughlan’s, you’ve just been announced for Indiependence music festival once again this year, is this perhaps the first of a few announcements from the festival circuit?
J: Yeah, the plan is to tour the UK and Ireland throughout May-July this year, and that will include a few festivals as well. There’ll be more announcements to come, Indiependence is always a very special one because I’ve been involved in the festival in some capacity for a long time. The feeling of getting asked back, or knowing you have a slot and that’s where you’ll be for the August bank holiday weekend, it never loses it’s shine. Every year at the start of the year when I’m putting stuff in my calendar, like what do I need to put aside, where am I gonna be at certain weekends of the year, one of the first weekends that gets blocked off is Indiependence weekend. To be able to go back and to play, especially with new music and new releases is really exciting.
To wrap this up, you posted on Facebook that you’ve signed off on the artwork for your next 3 singles, after AAAM when are you aiming to put out your next song?
J: The next single should be out just before Indiependence, the second last weekend in July. The next one a few months after that. Don’t tie me to that date but it’s gonna just a few months after AAAM, the only reason we wouldn’t release a single is I suppose if we’re still working at getting AAAM out there. But the plans are that we have the next 2 singles after AAAM kinda ready to go, and then the plan then is to release the full album sometime next year. I love the tracks on the album, I just think my music has grown a little bit since we recorded the original tracks and so I think there will be a few new additions to what is going to be ‘All The Beds We’ve Been In’. The next few months are gonna be focused on showing people what we’ve done and then bringing it out in a fuller form in 2020 then.
Howya folks, your friendly neighbourhood procrastinator-blogger here, I’ve wasted enough time not writing til now so let’s skip the explanations and just get straight to talking about some crazy events, how about that? What better opportunity to return to the keyboard than to recount an insane evening in Belfast being swept away by Brand New Friend. For those unaware, Brand New Friend’s name has graced this blog once before, back when I finally saw Snow Patrol for my first time last year and made the epic side discovery of this very talented band. Given our positions at polar opposite points of this grand aul’ Country, rare is the opportunity with which our musical paths cross and I get to witness BNF rock out, though I have had a couple chances to do so and tide me over each time for the next fix. I managed to catch their set at Indiependence Festival at the end of the summer, and then once more they came down to Cork in December where they would play support to Ash at Cyprus Avenue – A gig for which I bought my ticket to see Brand New Friend – Ash being a mere bonus as they put on a helluva show too.
These fleeting opportunities to see the band were like morsels of food to my insatiable appetite, before long I would need something of more substance to feast upon and have my fill. When Brand New Friend announced a 3 day billing in January at a venue in Belfast called ‘The American Bar’, it occurred to me on closer inspection that the tail end of the gig run landed on a Saturday and there was a slight possibility that I could manage a show around my rota. It took a while after having that notion to confirm I could start making a mad plan, as I had to wait and see if the rota gods would be in my favour when my hours were dished out. When it came through that January 26th was aaaallll clear, my money ran out of my account at an alarming rate – Gig ticket, one bus, two bus, three bus and four, and finally a bed at a Hostel were booked super quick. And thus the mad plan was underway and the rest of January was an intense waiting game. Before long, I even had a travelling companion joining in on this conquest – My trusty music Compadre Kathryn was up for the journey from Limerick to have an awesome night in Belfast.
The American Bar
January 26th couldn’t come quick enough, but at last the wait was over and the fateful day was upon us. An early rise in Cork set the tone for the day of travel ahead, beginning with a 3 hour bus journey to Dublin. Earphones in – Spotify up – ‘Seatbelts for Aeroplanes’ queued… and queued again another couple times as I had a lot of time on my hands. “Why Are You So Tired?”, cry out Lauren and Taylor in my ears, to which I can only respond that I was silly and stayed up late the night before and this journey was loooong, but alas not very accommodating to sleeping through it. A rendezvous with Kathryn in Dublin and no sooner was I off one bus, were we hopping on another with Belfast as the final destination, rounding out nearly 6 hours of travel. Wild Youth’s new EP ‘The Last Goodbye’ provided the soundtrack to this portion of the journey, a poignant reminder of the sacrifices being made to make the spectacular Belfast mission happen – With Wild Youth playing Dublin that very same evening.
We touchdown in Belfast, and after a few errands, we’re on our way to The American Bar. We hit the venue at pretty much the same moment that Brand New Friend arrive to set-up, a collision of hugs and greetings taking place at the door. Some behind the scenes snooping and chilling, and a large Apache pizza later, we’re stood front and center and the night is set to kick off, with the support Bed Manager taking to the stage. Bed Manager is Belfast duo Jake Harris on Acoustic Guitar and Vocals, and Sam Green on Electric Guitar, Keys & Vocals.
By all accounts a quieter and more contained affair than what the evening is culminating towards, Bed Manager give us a sound roughly rooted in Alternative/Folk. I find myself identifying quite strongly on an emotional level with their music from the early onset, reminded somewhat of French artist Syd Matters, whose songs ‘Obstacles’ and ‘To All Of You’ gained millions of new listeners, myself included, for their use in the soundtrack of the game ‘Life is Strange’ many years after the band itself had ceased to produce music. Likewise, much of what Bed Manager played to us wouldn’t be out of place in the emotional landscape of the LIS soundtrack. BM captivated our attention and drew us in close, with Jake’s melodic plucking of the Acoustic combining exquisitely with Sam’s guitar and keys across their repertoire of songs.
Sensing an unasked question lingering in the air, Sam spoke up between songs to clarify that despite Jake being BNF’s drummer Luke Harris’s brother, it was of course not that familial connection which had earned them the support slot. Instead, it was the fact that Sam himself was sleeping with BNF frontman Taylor that contributed to why they were playing before us now. The lads rounded out their set by inviting up a fellow musician to bash the drums a little for a somewhat more upbeat number, the fellow looking every bit the deer in the headlights who potentially never knew he was playing this evening. Nonetheless he got up there, shimmied his way behind the drumkit in the alcove in the corner, and took the set home with the lads to finish it off. I definitely recommend checking out some tunes from Bed Manager on their soundcloud page linked below.
Top 1 Favourite Gig Moments
And with that, there was only one thing more on the agenda and that was to rock the F out. The crowd in the small room of the American Bar packed up in eager anticipation for the main attraction of the evening, with a collective roaring and cheering confirming that our stars were making their way through to the stage. They kick straight off with a crowd favourite in the form of ‘Mediocre at Best’, getting us pumped up off the bat for what was for sure going to be a smashing show. They slam out tune after tune, a mixed bag of album tracks and set-list regulars, with throwbacks to their Soundcloud demo’s era intertwined within, topped off with a new track or two as yet unheard. The sheer joy the band have when performing their music can be read clear as day and translates to an infectious positive energy upon everyone who witnesses it. Taylor can’t thank everyone who’s come along enough, stopping after every other song to pour his heart out in gratitude, combined with the dropping of many sharp quips before returning to rocking the stage.
Everyone on stage is digging deep and giving an extra 110% of their entire being to putting on the best possible show. Lauren’s busting moves to the left of the stage while she sings and lays down the keys, Taylor is putting in a wild performance with the full vocal capacity his lungs can provide channeled into his microphone, even drummer Luke can’t hide the smiles from cracking through his oft expressionless facade (Though he manages to escape it being caught on camera due to no shot coming out clean), and finally bassist Aaron is a picture of total delight, feeding off the crowd’s energy. Speaking of Aaron, he becomes the man of the evening as Taylor piles praise upon the wielder of the funk stick, leading the crowd into uproarious chants of ‘AARON! AARON! AARON!’, a feat repeated much throughout the remainder of the evening.
BNF round out the main set in a sweat inducing haze with a few ultra energized anthems including my favourite ‘Girl’, and the crowd needs no encouraging to let loose and go absolutely crazy to the final moments. The band departs the stage, but of course that is not the end of it all. Letting the air linger with the ‘One more tune’ chants in their absense, they re-emerge and we’re straight back to business. Surely running on reserves after such an intense set, they didn’t let that show and brought the insanity back out immediately with penultimate song ‘Your Friends Hate Me’. This left us with only one natural conclusion to the gig and that was of course the banger ‘I Was An Astronaut’ off the album, which had just become their latest single with a brand new music video released in the lead-up to these headline shows. The already hectic action steps up even more at this point, with Sam from Bed Manager surfing atop the crowd. This is when my favourite ever gig moment happens, when unexpectedly Aaron steps down from the stage in front of me. Channeling the songs namesake perhaps thinking he’s in outer space from the adrenaline high, he relinquishes control of his body to the forces of Gravity, falling backwards into my arms where I hold him up as he plays the song through its final moments. As the final notes fade away, the crowd swallows him into their depths and just before he disappears altogether I gently rescued his bass from his outstretched hand and return it safely to the stage.
Merch & Mystery
And so the show was over and the band briefly retire away to freshen up. I already have one of Band’s shirts from the Ash gig in December, but I forgot to bring a spare shirt and the clever bastards had entertained us to the point where a change of shirts was a necessity, so of course I find myself people picking out a new shirt from the merch table in an alternative design and adding it to my collection. Then Taylor pops out and approaches to hug me, but I signal him to stop. I had immediately noticed the fresh shirt he was wearing had Drake & Josh on the front and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity not to pass up. I shout “HUG ME BROOOTHAAA” like the iconic step Brothers of television nostalgia and then we shared a hug. The next while is spent running around chatting to members of the band and Taylor & Lauren’s Dad, getting my set list signed, and getting photos taken, and as ever they are the most wonderfully friendly and wholesome bunch who emanate a super welcoming vibe.
Before I finish, step a little closer and listen carefully while I indulge in telling a little secret. Today might seem like any other day upon which a blog post could fall on (Besides my super inactivity, my bad about that again), but it is in fact very much intentionally planned that this post would come out today (Saturday, February 9th). See, the interesting thing about today is as I put the finishing touches into the writing of this post, I may be in Cork, but quite shortly and indeed before this blog post is out, I shall be setting down in Manchester. Why am I in Manchester? Well a while ago a highly established league in UK Battle Rap (Another thing I follow with much interest) called Premier Battles announced an event taking place here today featuring some top names performing, including a couple Irish battlers from back home. I made my plans to fly over, and then completely by coincidence didn’t Brand New Friend go and announce an intense run of shows touring the UK with Sean McGowan, and where else would they be on February 9th but the Star and Garter in, you guessed it, Manchester. The events don’t even overlap, with plenty of time between them it’s simply a no brainer. The kicker is I have not told Brand New Friend anything about this so my attendance today has been a surprise (I hope) until now! Yay for more awesomeness, thats all for now folks, stay tuned for more posts from The Merch Perch that hopefully don’t take 6 month gaps to come out. Keep on Merchin’!
Alas, once against we find ourselves back here with Garageland Ireland being the focal point of attention. After an awesome gig in April, time seems to have flown far too quickly altogether, though if that served to bring their return to Crane Lane for the summer edition of the Garage Gigs along all the sooner then I can’t be complaining. If you’ve not been following the work of Garageland, they’re pretty much a legendary gig promoter in the Irish scene who have played a role in the early musical careers of many a big named artist and band flourishing in the scene to this day. They’re still taking off and growing in Cork, but in the likes of Dublin and other counties up and down the country they continue to make their mark on the landscape of Irish music. They’re always rooting out unique and undiscovered talents around the country through their showcase gigs at which they always feature about 4-5 artists or bands in an evening of music. In Cork this year, they’re throwing a gig roughly every quarter, with events in April and July already so far, and their last 2 for 2018 scheduled for September 27th and December 6th, both in their trusty regular venue The Crane Lane. For more information on how the evenings work, and if you’re a musician interested in getting involved, check out this link for everything you need to know.
Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road! The act set to kick off our evening of music was none other than emerging alternative/rap artist Darce. New to my radar, his inclusion on the Garageland line-up had my curiosity piqued and it wasn’t long before I was checking out a few tunes and bopping my head in appreciation. You can catch a brilliant music video made to accompany his track Valhalla below, it features a powerful message regarding refugees. I was further pleasantly surprised to find out in the approach to the event that Darce’s squad of musicians includes someone I was already familiar with in the form of Blakkheart. It’s been quite a while since I saw Blakkheart in action, back last year when she was a performing member of Sarah-Beth’s band she highly impressed me. As a music producer she’s unreal and to see her working with Darce now and the things they are making together is super cool to see.
I arrived first thing on the evening eager to catch Darce and see what the live experience would be like. Interestingly it was a mad evening in store for him, as not only was he opening the Garage Gig here, he would then be whisking straight off to Cyprus Avenue, opening only for none other than Sean Kingston right after this. Darce has an infectiously happy, wholesome and fun stage presence and is no different off stage, with him approaching me to introduce himself when I arrived before I even had a chance to look out for him myself. They killed it with their performance, with Darce showcasing both amazing singing and rapping, switching it up between the two. I was especially happy to see Blakkheart utilized for her vocals as the opportunity for me to hear her sing has been few and far between though she has one helluva unreal voice, working especially well in tandem with Darce. You can catch Darce in Dublin next month among a super line-up for Hard Working Class Heroes (I’m tempted…). Check out the new song ‘Moonlight’ below which is an Electronic/GFunk inspired single collaboratively released by Darce and Blakkheart ahead of a combined EP they’re working towards.
Gee, me writing a blog post that happens to include Sarah-Beth in it?! (That) (Totally) (Never) (Happens) (Here). Sarah-Beth was only included on the billing for this event a short time before the gig in replacement for a prior drop-out. When I heard the news that she would be part of the evening, I was ecstatic as she’s one of my favourite artists coming up in Cork and it’s always great to see opportunities unfolding for her and the band. As a newcomer to the Garageland format, I was pleased to hear that the team were quick to fall in love with her music much like I did at first discovery last year, with them bringing her on for a slot on the radio at RTÉ 2XM in anticipation for the gig which went superb. Given that her slot on the stage at Crane Lane would only be about 6 or so songs, I was well intrigued as to how the set-list selection would go due to the plethora of songs at Sarah-Beth’s disposal. As can be expected, she came perfectly equipped with a set to match the occasion, a skill I’ve seen her utilize time and again when picking from her catalog for different shows. She and the band wowed everyone in attendance, many of whom without a night like this from Garageland would never have crossed paths due to the disparity in their chosen genres of music. If you’re attending Electric Picnic this year, make sure you catch her on the Friday and Saturday at The Hurly Burly, you wont be disappointed.
This is one that I have been well overdue catching. Echosoul featured at the Crane Lane in November at the first Garage Gig I ever attended, but before I had been in attendance. I’d heard and continue to hear great things from the Garageland team so it was only a matter of time. At last, and quite fittingly, they once more featured on the Garage Gigs so that I may finally witness what I’ve been missing. They played a belter of a set for us, with songs such as ‘A Is For Apricot’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Standby’ catching my attention. They were also playing with a fresh addition to the band in the form of their bassist, who slotted in perfectly in the trio. In the middle of the set singer Glen Galvin elicited a laugh from the crowd and fellow band members when describing themselves as ‘3 guys in our thirties very out of shape’. Check out their brilliant song ‘Something Good, Going On’ down below on Soundcloud, and if you like that check out more on their Soundcloud page!
Red Sun Alert
It is perhaps a criminal occurrence that Red Sun Alert have not featured on my blog before this point in time, as they blasted their way into my attention early this year. It all began by word of mouth when I was blown away by their guitarist Cian Mullane when I caught him playing in the band Crojayn, and from there learned of his involvement in the band Red Sun Alert (Mind you, Cian tears it up in so many bands I can’t imagine how he keeps track of it all). Following up on this recommendation, I finally got to see Red Sun Alert themselves play when they were in the CIT Music Society Battle of the Bands competition, which they eventually came through the other end victorious in. Enthused by their highly energetic, loud and entertaining display I continued to follow them, landing myself in an unusual setting for myself: A day of Metal music to see them play their part in a mini festival called Seshfest. Not the hugest fan of Metal and/or going deaf, I debuted a new pair of earplugs at this event for the heavier, ear blistering acts, but all in all had a good time, which brings us up to now.
Their full line-up consists of Julia Pawlak on Guitar and Vocals, Cian Mullane on Guitar, Jim Spillane on Bass, and Dylan Walsh on Drums. Before they were set to take the stage I learned that Jim was after cracking two of his ribs before the gig. Knowing them well enough by now, I knew that probably wouldn’t matter to him one bit and he would nonetheless go absolutely mental on that stage. Sure enough, we were greeted with the one signal that lets everyone know RSA is about to blow the stage a new one: Jim Spillane chucking his shirt away as he takes to the stage with his bass. And from there, the night was theirs. In usual fashion, guitarist Cian could be seen flying around the place as if the guitar had a mind of it’s own absolutely shredding it up. Julia captures the crowd with her captivating presence and vocals, and you’d never guess Jim was injured with his usual crazy antics rocking out. They’ve just released their debut EP ‘Luna’ available to listen to on streaming services, you can check that out below. Their launch gig takes place this Friday (August 17th) at The Roundy in what is sure to be an unreal evening. One of the most interesting things for me about Red Sun Alert is their style and it’s way of bridging a gap between genres. Performing under the general genre of ‘Progressive Rock’, and yet not sounding out of place among a line-up of Metal bands, they’re in a rather unique position of appealing to both sides of the fence. I’m not a fan of Metal music and was overwhelmed at some of the bands at Seshfest, and yet I’m a total fan of Red Sun Alert and every aspect of their characterful and manic performances. If you don’t make it to the EP launch, keep an eye out next month as they hit Dublin, Galway and Cork on the 11th, 12th and 19th of September respectively, touring with Galway band Dead Horse Jive which should be some monumentally awesome shows too.
And Finally, Le Merchandise
All in all it was an incredible evening of music and more importantly a very diverse selection of genres mixing here to create a mix of something for everyone. Most of the artists were just that much different to each other that without a night like this they genuinely may have never interacted and made new fans and connections with each other because of it. I wont lie, I was pretty disappointed by the attendance level of the Cork crowd. It was a once off type of opportunity for amazing discovery and an unreal evening of music, and the numbers simply weren’t there. Nonetheless I can only continue to hope that more and more people in Cork realize the talents surrounding themselves if they simply take a look. In other news, the new range of Garageland Ireland shirts have dropped and are available til the end of this week for just €10 with free postage at this link, after which the price will be going up from this super cheap rate. Mine just arrived through the door now and I’m loving it, especially how I know of more and more artists from the list slowly but surely between each time I read it. Until next time folks, peace out and Keep on Merchin’
Bloody hell, where do I start with this one. Snow Patrol are back in action folks, 7 long years out of action but it was worth the wait. When I heard that they were back – And with that, playing a show in Cork Opera House of all places, it was like a dream come true. The only problem is I heard about it AFTER they had already sold the damn thing out in pre-sale, from a co-worker who knows my penchant for concerts nonetheless, totally upstaging me. I wasn’t having that at all, my reputation was at stake here, so one way or another I had to be at this concert. It quickly became apparent that there was an unusual case with this concert of almost no tickets being touted online, with everyone gripping their precious tickets close to their chests. In the weeks leading up to the concert on May 12th, I in fact only witnessed one singular person looking to dispatch of one ticket, a drop-out from 4 going so it was. The gig gods shone in my favour for some unknown reason, as despite countless offers and some ridiculous figures suggested to them by people, that person who I did not know at all held onto that ticket tightly just for me and allowed me to experience this magical concert, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Brand New Friend
So without further ado let’s get this show on the road. When Snow Patrol burst back onto the scene with a new album on the way, a mini-tour of intimate shows to show face and build the hype was on the agenda, thus a venue like Cork Opera House when they could have easily smashed The Marquee for example. For the support slot, they chose Northern Irish hot prospects Brand New Friend. Indeed to me a brand new name, a quick scout ahead of the show assured me that these guys were making some serious waves and turning heads. Watching them emerge onto the stage, it didn’t take them long to win over everyone in attendance with their exuberance and domination of the stage that would soon host a much bigger band. On vocals are the brother/sister duo Taylor and Lauren Johnson, who are also on guitar and keys respectively, and then Aaron Milligan on Bass and Luke Harris on drums. Their passion and hunger is evident to see as they are both comfortable up there and yet equally incredibly excited for the opportunity they’ve been given. Taylor takes the chance any time he’s not singing to stumble around the stage lost in the music and the guitar that he plays. It’s not lost on them the sway for their local scene they have by performing with such legends, so for every gig of the tour Taylor reps the shirts of local Northern Irish bands, a commendable move and obviously one that meets with my deepest approval. On this night in particular it’s January, elsewhere it’s Sad Tomorrow, General Fiasco, Sleeping Outside, The Couth & Hot Cops. Phew, some list that, if you’ve the time make sure you go checking some of those out!
On stage, Brand New Friend emanate the most wholesome, joy-filled love for music. They’re electrifying, they’re infectious and they’re authentic. When Taylor calls Snow Patrol the best band in the world before dedicating a song to them, you better believe it’s not just because they’ve put them on a big stage, this band got to share the same stage with their idols, multiple times, and it’s clear they’re simply happy to be there. Towards the end of their set Taylor promises the band will return to Cork soon, and when it eludes him as to what that occasion shall be the trusty bassist Aaron is in quick as a flash to inform us, and him, that it’s for Indiependence festival (An amazing festival that they’re for sure going to kill it at, might I add). When they finish and leave the stage, their choice of band name is apt because the general consensus of one who has heard or seen them play is that they have indeed made a Brand New Friend and are left with a lasting impression. Brand New Friend just released a new video for their latest single ‘Why Are You So Tired’ (This title alone speaks to me on so many levels, relatable), check it out below!
Sweet jesus I don’t even want to write this part, how does one do justice with these words to that exceptional evening from Snow Patrol? Hope you enjoyed reading about Brand New Friend, peace out ’til next time.
Oh, you’re still here? Fiiine, I’ll try. Once the curtains dropped after BNF’s reign on stage had finished, a huge stage set-up befitting of giants like Snow Patrol was revealed. At the very back of the stage hung a giant, somewhat translucent, curtain featuring the astronaut from the Wildness album. With it’s slightly wavy shimmering it gave the added effect of the astronaut moving slightly, like it was floating in a vacuum of no gravity. The air was tense with the anticipation of Snow Patrol’s appearance, for some like myself it would be the first opportunity to see them in the flesh, for others it was a long awaited reunion. Any doubts one might have had about Snow Patrol being as big a name as they once were by being out of action for so long would be quickly debunked the second Gary Lightbody and co. hit the stage. The yells and cheers from the crowd were deafening, with the smallish population of Cork Opera House sounding every bit like a sold out 3Arena or stadium crowd, myself obviously included. It wouldn’t take much to imagine the absolute rush that they were feeling on stage to be greeted with such a reception – It was evident on Gary’s own face as he looked out at us in gobsmacked awe, the biggest smile on his face. This was going to be simply magical.
What ensued was hands down one of the most incredible concert experiences I’m lucky enough to have in my catalogue. From the quieter songs to the absolute anthems, they had the crowd eating from their hands every second of the way. At this point in time we’d had 4 singles released from the album to give us an idea of what was to come, and we got to experience these plus one or two more sneak peeks, with Gary leaving the crowd particularly entranced by an emotionally driven acoustic rendition of one of the new songs (Don’t Give In, if I recall correctly).
All the biggest hits and crowd favourites had their place in the set, and the crowd singing the songs back at the stage was unlike any other occasion I had experienced as everyone was pitch perfect, timed to perfection and clear as day. At one point the instrumental intro to a song began, and just as Gary was about to sing the first note, he was absolutely blown away by several hundred voices blasting away at it, leaving him standing there in a moment that he’ll probably never forget, as the crowd sang the whole verse in unison with 100 percent clarity and pacing with Gary unable to get a word of the song in edgeways (I believe the song in question was ‘Run’).
From start to finish I was so lost in their performance that nothing else was on my mind, I was simply mesmerized by the whole ordeal. It therefore came as quite the surprise to me to find myself looking at my hand, finding that I had caught one of Nathan Connolly’s plectrums that he threw out to the crowd. Despite going to so many concerts in the last couple years, I had been woefully unsuccessful in my attempts to catch such a piece of memorabilia, and now finally at last I had accomplished it and from such a high profile amazing band nonetheless. Safe to say, it’s now one of my most prized possessions and the best possible ending I could have thought of to what was already an otherworldly experience that evening.
In a state of pure elation I began the exodus out of the Opera House, shuffling along towards the exit. I was already thinking ahead to the merch counter, and as enticed by getting something Snow Patrol related, I had only one thing at the front of my mind. On the way into the venue I had glimpsed a Brand New Friend vinyl for their debut album ‘Seatbelts for Aeroplanes’ on the merch counter and I knew without a doubt after that show that it was coming home with me. I reached the counter and immediately without hesitation pointed out the vinyl, then spotted a Snow Patrol shirt I wanted and added that in.
Glancing over next to the merch counter I spotted all the band members of BNF so next on my agenda was to meet them and thank them for an incredible show. Meeting them in person, they were every bit as friendly and enthusiastic as they came across on stage, just the most genuine bunch. They passed around my vinyl for them all to sign and we chatted a little bit. In my fresh excitement from what had transpired inside the concert, I mentioned that I had caught my very first band pick from Snow Patrol. This led to another unbelievably awesome moment from the evening as without even a moments hesitation BNF’s bassist Aaron Milligan quickly reached into his pocket, produced his own pick and signed it before handing it to me.
I went home that night in the highest of spirits, and once I got in the door I was ready to chuck the vinyl on immediately for a good spin. I was in for a right awesome treat as I took the vinyl out only to discover it was an amazing wine-coloured record, what a lovely surprise. I intend to get the Snow Patrol album Wildness on vinyl soon, though in the meantime I managed to pick up an awesome bargain of their album Eyes Open on a double vinyl, the album that originally brought the music of Snow Patrol into my life.