If you’re someone who has read my blog before, you should be pretty familiar with the name Sarah-Beth by now, named as one of my top five One’s to Watch for 2018 at the start of the year, she’s gone from strength to strength and backed up my faith in her already and we’re only half way through the calendar year. Naturally when I heard that she was being hosted at The Roundy on June 28th by The Electronic Folk and launching her new single (more on that later on), I was all over it from the jump and cleared my schedule for that day.
So who are The Electronic Folk? The Electronic Folk is pretty much what it sounds like, a collective of musicians within the genre of Electro-Folk banding together to strengthen each others opportunities in a scene where it’s often hard to get playing time in the public eye. Established roughly two years ago, they’ve put a lot of work in to get to where they are now, including throwing monthly gigs at The Long Valley Bar in Cork and collaborating with each other musically. They’ve recently secured a new monthly residency for themselves in The Roundy which began with a show back in May and continued with this one now. As well as hosting Sarah-Beth’s evening, they played the support slot as a collective made up of original founder Simon MacHale, HYPNOTYST and Kevin J. Power.
Kicking things off was Kevin J. Power, formerly operating under the moniker Circuits Of Heaven. Firing away with just his Acoustic Guitar and his voice, he started us into the musical journey we would be carried through for the rest of the evening. Besides creating his own music, it’s of note that he also owns a Record label called ‘Inner Chapter’ with which he does Music Production and Sound Design. You can find out more about the label at the website, link here. Interestingly throughout the night during pauses from the live music, there was music playing over the system which was all as-yet unreleased music from various artists set to release music under his label soon which was great to get a sneak preview like that. For parts of his set he was accompanied by Simon MacHale on keys/synth and vocals. On the evening he was selling copies of his CD ‘Songs For No-One’ released last year under his Circuits of Heaven alias, and I was enticed from his set to go and purchase it for myself.
After Kevin was finished, Simon was up next with a few of his songs. Of particular note that I caught were ‘Whatever It Is’ which he introduced as just about the closest thing to a love song that he has. Further in the set he’s rejoined by Kevin for ‘Quiet Young Readhead’, a lovely song about Simon’s own father. All in all he played a fantastic set and I was quick to pickup his album ‘Let Down Those Old Defences’ to join my collection from the night. The album features a cool double fold case with some lovely illustrations and was quick to find it’s way to my CD player for a listen, brilliant piece of music and features the second song from above among the tracklist.
Let Down Those Old Defences Lyric Book and CD
Let Down Those Old Defences Case
No sooner had Simon stepped off the stage to let HYPNOTYST up was he reminded that he was actually joining HYPNOTYST for his first two songs for vocals and 180’d on himself to go right back up. Wearing a cool shirt with an astronaut cat on it, which I thought to dub Astro-Kitty once I saw it, HYPNOTYST got to work behind the keys/synth showing us a heavier emphasis on the Electro part of Electro-Folk. He’s a pleasure to watch in action as he truly seems to get lost in the music and has great fun doing what he’s doing, jamming away to the music that he’s producing when he’s up there, occasionally becoming an actual human blur with his motions.
HYPNOTYST going full Human Blur mode
Simon MacHale and HYPNOTYST rocking the Astro-Kitty top
Without further ado it was time for the main act of the evening to follow on from the lads, Sarah-Beth. In what was to be my approximately 15th show seeing Sarah-Beth live now, I’m finding myself to be running out of adjectives to describe her musical brilliance, so let’s just crack on and see what we come up with. She kicks us off with an old song and staple of her set, ‘Houston’, setting the pace nicely going forwards. Immediately following it is a general fan favourite, ‘Easy On The Eyes’, forgoing the usual intro and jokingly applying the meaning of the song to her bassist Lee Kennedy. Given his irresistible Bass-Face, I’m inclined to agree with this new found understanding of the songs premise.
Interestingly with Sarah-Beth no two shows are ever truly alike, from a change-able set of songs to suit the intent of the evening in question, to the progression her and the band are continuously making as they strive to better themselves each and every time they perform. It’s nice to be able to pick up on some parts of their progression through the slight alterations and subtle rewrites some songs have undergone, they’re passionate and let that shine onto their work ethic. It’s been about two months since the last Sarah-Beth viewing at this point and her set features a couple new gems such as ‘Heart On The Left’ which she shares as being sort of her mantra on life.
As we reach the halfway point of the evening they break out the song of the moment, her newly released single ‘Let Me In’. I’ve found much enjoyment hearing this song played live since the beginning and am so happy it’s now out in the world for me to enjoy at my leisure. As always it features the two-punch duo of the intense and catchy instrumental that draws the listener in, with the lyrical song-writing and incredible vocal delivery that adds so much depth to the music and never fails to blow me away time and again.
It’s important to note that despite being inside we’re in the midst of the sweltering hot weather that has been plaguing blessing us as of late and thus the conditions have everyone melting a bit, no less those on stage who actually have to put in some effort in the warmth. When Guitarist Aaron O Sullivan wipes the beads of sweat away and glances down to his set-list, mumbling ‘That’s fitting right now’ with a grin, there’s only one song he could be looking at which is of course ‘Heatfire’. This song notably is one Aaron has priorly expressed an extra level of joy as one of his favourites to play in their set.
A couple songs later we approach the end portion of the set and the band departs the stage leaving just Sarah-Beth on stage which typically means we’re going to experience the side of her music displayed on her EP ‘Your Muse’. We’re treated to songs ‘Little Girl’ and ‘Love Or Lust’, with drummer Paul Brennan and bassist Lee Kennedy making a timely return to the stage after those to finish out with the song ‘Your Muse’. Et voila, an amazing gig concludes… Almost. Unprepared for the calls of encore and one more tune, the band huddle together and fittingly decide to play ‘Let Me In’ again for the evening that’s in it. After a brief scramble to locate guitarist Aaron who has assumed his role is finished 3 songs ago and started relaxing in the sun outside the premises, he makes his return to the stage and goes through the motions of plugging things in, turning things on and away we go for one last blast. Given the nature of Sarah-Beth’s sets, plus the inclusion of further new music on this evening, there’s always going to be songs that don’t make the cut at certain gigs. On this occasion most notably not making the cut are ‘Masterpiece’ and the bizarrely named but oft well-received ‘Protein Baby’.
It was another fantastic night of music from start to finish, I look forward to the next 15 Sarah-Beth shows, and I really enjoyed the new discovery for myself with The Electronic Folk. Their next residency gig at The Roundy will take place on August 16th, keep an eye on their page for further info on that. For all the latest in TMP updates, tid-bits and postings that don’t make blog posts, make sure you like and follow The Merch Perch on Facebook, and feel free to interact or give the blog post a share if you liked it. Fancy contributing with your own blog post like my friend Darragh with the Ed Sheeran Blog Post recently or work together with me on something? Read about that here and contact me! As always folks, keep on Merchin’!
Hi guys, allow me to introduce myself, my name is Darragh Cashman and I am Sean’s friend, the same Darragh that accompanied him to Stephanie Rainey at Cyprus Avenue (which you can find here). Credit to Sean he has given me new opportunities, since I got to know him only a year ago through our mutual friend John, to explore new musical talent and to meet great people along the way. Just to add I am a first time writer of a blog, so any criticisms please take it easy! Also on that note if you find my piece entertaining, please do note this to Sean for me as feedback, it would be greatly appreciated!
I wonder how the hell he does it going around to the various gigs he gets to go to, and then I remember I’m basically after following his pattern after Music Cork. I am here to write about the Ed Sheeran concerts that took place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh from the 4th to the 6th of May. I was fortunate enough to have one ticket for myself on the Friday night and Sean jokingly approached me about doing a blog when I got the time after, to which we had a good laugh and I said I’d consider it. The Saturday morning I got a phone call asking would I be interested in going a second night with a family friend, once I accepted and told Sean the news, the text simply read ‘oh by god you’re doing a blog post now, no excuses!’ as I read in his sarcastic tone as if he was there standing next to me. So yes, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to see Ed Sheeran twice, I thought I was lucky to see him once but twice in two nights is crazy! This is my version of events..
Getting to the concerts themselves wasn’t too much hassle, allowing for traffic of course. Both nights we decided to park in Cork Constitution FC grounds. While it was €10 to park each night, the fact we were so close to the stadium made it worth it. The facilities were fantastic and there was food and drink in place on the evening, so everyone was able to fully enjoy themselves, no matter how old you were! From here each night is different, the very first night I was standing, albeit on my own, but I knew I would find someone I knew be it from home or from college on the night to tag along with. For a while I was channeling my inner Sean (I know I know shots fired.. sorry not sorry..) and went in it alone, not knowing anyone. Eventually I found people I was friendly with from college and we all had a great time. Standing isn’t the easiest thing for me given the fact I am only 5’6/5’7 but I was adamant to get as good a view I could get. Saying that though, being this small has its perks, such as sliding through people to get close to the barrier.
The perch of the Merch..
One thing I definitely noticed is that the merchandise (or anything for that matter) wasn’t exactly the cheapest. However given such a concert, one must Dive into their bank account and say Ciao Adios to their money (see Sean I can do puns too!) for a bit of Ed Sheeran merchandise. The obvious go to’s are t-shirts, the first night I bought the limited edition Cork Páirc Uí Chaoimh t-shirt and on the second night I bought a t-shirt of Ed jumping in the air and a wrist band. Now I won’t lie, the merch was a little bit steep in terms of prices but some of the designs of the t-shirts were fantastic and there was so many options to choose from, it was hard to resist really.
Merch Night 1
Merch Night 2
So who’s the support
The line up for the tour in terms of the support for Ed Sheeran was of a tall standard. On this line up going across Europe you have Beoga, Jamie Lawson and Anne Marie. Beoga are more known for their traditional Irish music and even accompanied Ed in the production of Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan, more on that later though. Unfortunately I was too late getting to the stadium both nights that I missed Beoga, yes Sean I know that’s your pet peeve about people for concerts leave me alone! However from all accounts, especially those of my friend who were in attendance to their Cyprus Avenue gig the Thursday night, they were supposed to be amazing and seeing on social media they live up to said reviews.
Then there was Jamie Lawson, I personally never listened to much of Jamie before, so I was intrigued to see what he was like. He played a number of songs from different albums including his latest album Happy Accidents. One song that stood out to me from him was The Only Conclusion, he explained how he came to write this song when he finished watching an episode of the Big Bang Theory as Sheldon Cooper came to terms with the feelings of love he had for Amy. I found the meaning of the song and the lyrics quite interesting and it made for a great song. He then finished on the song he would be more renowned for in Wasn’t Expecting That. A great set overall.
Then came Anne Marie, who became more renowned for her song Rockabye with Clean Bandit and Sean Paul. I was very excited to see her as I wanted to see how she would be live, and she lived up to the expectations. Starting with Ciao Adios was an interesting one as I thought it would make more sense to end her set with that song but not going to complain as she got the crowd pumping. Interesting that she switches around songs on her set list as she followed with Heavy on night one and Do It Right on Night two. She got great involvement from the crowd as she got us to join in at any point possible, including for her song Trigger, the song itself was catchy and she worked the crowd really well by getting the crowd to sing at the chorus. Other songs across her setlist included a popular choice of Alarm, her latest single 2002 which she had written with Ed Sheeran himself and my personal favourite of the songs that I hadn’t heard before the concert in Breathing Fire, the song is such an easy going song and has a catchy interlude where she got the crowd to join in with the nah nah nah’s. She finished a fantastic set on her song FRIENDS, everyone was singing it across the stadium and with the end of her night, the crowd was good and ready for Ed.
And so, the man himself
The man of the hour was upon us, you could feel the electricity in the air as we anticipated the Ginger Nut himself that was Ed Sheeran. My only concern going into the concert on night one was the fact I hadn’t seen him live before and I didn’t know if it was worth the price I was paying for the ticket, given it was only him and his guitar on stage. Oh how I could be ever more wrong as my fears were put to bed in 5 minutes as all I have to say is HOLY f**K WAS I WRONG!! Starting with Castle on the Hill he had everyone on their feet across the stadium and singing at the top of their lungs and wasn’t on the stage 3 minutes. It was such a crazy atmosphere, literally having us hang on every lyric and it was amazing the way he controlled the crowd from the moment he was on the stage it was crazy.
After the crowd had calmed down, long night ahead for my throat, Ed went on to explain how his concert is run. He explains that he has a loop pedal at his feet, it becomes noticeable throughout the night how well he is trained at using it. He would begin the start of every song by strumming the tune of each song into the loop pedal and throughout the song he would play a beat off his guitar and it would be played into the loop station, very well thought out for one man and his guitar on stage. He goes on to explain he starts afresh each night, nothing is the same night after night (hmm is it really though Ed, considering you did the same shtick each night?!) and that it would be deleted after each concert, coincidentally leading into Eraser, a song with a good vibe to it.
Next on the set list was a favourite to everyone and a popular choice for karaoke from what I’ve seen is the track that shot Ed to fame in the first place, the A Team. Just staying quiet myself and listening to everyone in synchronisation was chilling. My only negative point about The A Team, was how early in the setlist it was put, this was due to the fact that it was still bright both nights when it was played and while people still took out their phones and put the flash on, it just didn’t feel right. Things picked up again when he broke into another classic in Don’t. As previously mentioned it was going to be a long night on my throat as it was full of screaming, whooping and singing. This song was no exception, and was expertly mixed with a rendition of the song from the latest album Divide, New Man. The lyrics and song title make it clear, this is about a woman who is still clearly hung up on her ex that she goes on and on.. and on about her latest beau and how great he is, despite constantly trying to get in contact with her ex to meet up. When the music stops, and the crowd calm down after yet another standing ovation, Ed interacts with the crowd, talking about how people look in a crowd at a concert, hilariously making a blank stare into the crowd
He also went on to say that 98% of the crowd are always screaming and singing at the top of their lungs. Going on to point out that the 2% of the audience were the boyfriends that didn’t want to be there, getting them into trouble of course! The other part of the audience were who Ed called the ‘superdads’ of the world, who wanted their sons and daughters to have a good time. On a final note Ed did say he wanted his concerts to be judgement free as people would feel they would be judged if they started jumping around, so asked for everyone to sing out of tune as loud as they can and jump around as much as they cared to. He then went on to play Dive which I found to be played very well live compared to the album version and hearing everyone echo back the lyrics was amazing, a theme that would be set throughout the night.
From here Ed would play Bloodstream, again involving the crowd he would ask everyone to wave their hand in an up and down motion when the beat kicked in after each chorus. At the end of the song occurred the first of a few drawn out endings of some songs, with the assistance of course of the trusty loop pedal. Don’t get me wrong, each song was very well drawn out and never felt as if it was being dragged out for an eternity. Next song up was the current single by Ed called Happier, written about a previous flame of his where he describes how happy she actually is with her new partner, unlike the girl of the song New Man might I add.
When people think of Ed Sheeran, they remember him for his emotionally driven songs such as Perfect and so on. Here comes the emotional part of the set list then, the first of these songs would be the smash hit that was Thinking Out Loud, a song that never gets old in my eyes, with just a few light strums of his guitar and uttering the lyrics ‘when your legs don’t work like they used to before’, everyone was drawn in. This song was played a lot later in the setlist on night two, however I am working the setlist off of night one.
Now I’m not going to fool everyone in to thinking I’m the die hard Ed head because the next few songs I was not familiar with that I had to recheck after the concert to make sure I had the right name of the song.. yes I know I’m an amateur leave me be!! The next song on the list was I’m A Mess, followed by Tenerife Sea, after not recognizing these songs I found them to be good songs, good beats and good vibes to them. Just to note, credit must be given to the visual backdrop for each song especially for the songs Tenerife Sea and I See Fire, the next song on this list, very eye catching as darkness set in over Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Such images in the background setting included a multi coloured lion changing colours as the image was displayed, amazing display across the night so credit where its due to the production crew too. Ed went on to begin with the famous Feeling Good song whilst drifting in to I See Fire, a nice slow tempo song that, not for the first time of the night, got the lights off everyone, including my own phone flashing and waved about slowly. Finally of the list that I wouldn’t be aware of fully would be One, I recognized the song but never knew its name.
Sticking to the emotional theme we come to the next song that was Photograph, another song I’d always listen to when it comes on the playlist, just hearing 40,000 people sing every song word for word is something that gives me goosebumps, hearing it in practically every song is amazing. Another song that got the extended version and it was brilliantly drawn out. As previously mentioned, production for the theatrics of the stage were well done, streaming down photos of Ed’s past. The final song of an emotional theme was the second most recent song released by Ed in Perfect, seeing the jaw dropping sight of the lights of everyone’s phones on the second night from a seated view was a beautiful sight to behold, also on the second night, a couple numerous rows above me got engaged, I was unaware of it until I heard the cheering and whooping amongst the crowd above me half way through the song. To put it quite simply, the song was Perfect.
The night took a great turn when after Perfect, Ed took time to note the tremendous support acts of Beoga, Jamie Lawson and Anne Marie, and asked the crowd if they would want Beoga on stage one more time, to a resounding yes of course. We all knew what was coming next, Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan much to my delight!! Interestingly to give an extra Irish feel to his rendition of Galway Girl, he starts the song with a quick chorus of the original song made more recognisable by Mundy and Sharon Shannon. At this point, everyone in the Páirc were on their feet as Nancy Mulligan came to be, and I honestly thought I would lose my voice as I gave it everything. Nancy Mulligan is by far and away my favourite Ed Sheeran song, just the catchiness of the song and how infectious it really is, it’s a toe tapper and the backing music provided by Beoga is truly amazing. After Beoga exited the stage once again, it came to Sing, where Ed demanded everyone started jumping around, secretly I was saying to myself ‘ahm Ed, my legs are kinda banjaxed from standing here all night, might not be able to jump!!’ Nevertheless I, along with the 40,000 in attendance gave it absolutely everything.
As most concerts go these days, from here he exited stage left to the chorus of ‘one more tune’ and ‘we want more’. By god did we get more! To our approval he returned gracing a Cork GAA jersey! On the second night came out wearing the Republic of Ireland jersey, either way we were going to approve. He came back doing two classics, the first release off the Divide album Shape Of You, the beat is so infectious and as always the lyrics being sung back to Ed is just amazing. The final song of the night was a song I wouldn’t have heard as often but was always a good song to listen to, You Need Me, I Don’t Need You from his first album +. It relates to the path that Ed has faced to get to where he is today and it is the perfect song to end the night on, and that’s a wrap as they say!!
The first night as a whole was absolutely amazing and I was very fortunate to come the very next night to go through the experience all over again. I was always a fan of Ed but as previously said was skeptical about spending the amount I did on a ticket to go see him as I was fully aware it was just him alone on stage with the guitar. It is safe to say any doubts I had about the idea of it were put to bed fairly quickly. I would have no hesitation in going again, and on that note, was actually offered a third ticket for the third night in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but had to decline as I was actually busy on the Sunday night. If there is anyone who shared my previous doubts about Ed or just haven’t had the opportunity to go, I’d advise you to go the next time he comes around as he is genuinely one of the best artists on the planet right now. Looking back at the setlist, I found there were a few notable hits that were excluded from here, songs I thought could have fit well here would be Lego House and Give Me Love but understandably not every song can make the cut.
On a final note, the support acts as a whole were amazing, Beoga since the concert I have listened to through spotify and I regret not getting into the stadium earlier to hear them as they’re outstanding. Jamie Lawson I was familiar with and have started to listen to him a bit more as time has passed. Anne Marie was amazing as expected, her new album Speak Your Mind is constantly being played on my Spotify and I would gladly go and see her live when she comes to Ireland for her own individual tour.
Finally I would like to thank Seán again for this opportunity for me to try something new, never written a blog post before and its been an interesting experience, who knows, maybe another collaboration could be on the cards depending on the events that take place.
Righto, been heavily delayed getting this post out into the world with a packed schedule of events, so let’s get right to it. After the great experience I had at the half of the Garageland gig showcase I attended back in November, I eagerly awaited the occasion to experience the caliber of event they throw once more. Said opportunity arose with their return to the Crane Lane on April 12th with another stellar 4 act line-up of Irish talents to show what they could do. I made it nice and early to the event this time and got to meet some of the Garageland team. That in itself was brilliant as all the fantastic work they’re doing for the scene is highly inspiring and it’s an honour to cross paths with people with such dedication for Irish music. I also got my hands on the Garageland Volume 1 CD which features 16 Irish artists and bands which was a nice pickup.
First up on the bill for the evening was opening act Rufus Buck. Rufus Buck are a Cork-based indie-rock outfit who have quite freshly emerged in the scene and were playing their first gig together on this very evening. A notable point about the four-piece is the fact that their front-man is the cousin of The Elation’s frontman Chris, showing that music is something that runs in the familial blood. The lads put on a good show with some wholesome rock vibes. They gelled well for their first time gigging together with only a small tech issue towards the end of their set taking anything away from their performance. I’m hoping we see more from these lads in the not too distant future.
Rich City Vultures
Next up for the evening was Rich City Vultures, the only band of the night I was priorly familiar with and had seen live once before. They were unfortunately down a member of their band for the evening, with their hot-shot bassist JJ Lee unable to make it with them. They made do with a fill in replacement that they hadn’t played with before. Despite that set-back, the bassist was solid and didn’t let the lack of practice with the band show, looking every bit comfortable with the band. RCV demonstrated why they’re one of the hot prospects of the Cork scene right now, their live performances continuing to amaze. Personally one of my favourite antics of theirs is during their song ‘This Moment’, where their drummer switches out the regular drum-sticks for a red neon-lit pair and puts on quite the drumming spectacle. By the end of their set, their energy is off the hook with instruments being thrown and swung around the place in a wild display. Check out their EP ‘Cool Boy’ below.
Up to the stage after RCV was Eden Isle. They first popped their head up in the scene around the latter half of 2017. They put out a photo online hinting at a project they’re working towards called The Eclectic Church. They were fantastic live with a few styles showcased across their songs, loosely bundled into the genre of melodic rock/alternative. There was particular emphasis on their track ‘Numb’ which is set to be their debut single release anytime soon. The song focuses on the topic of peer pressure and is sure to go down well when it hits the aul’ interwebs. Besides the great music I was also intrigued by the stylish footwear of the front-man Kevin, which upon closer inspection had a kick-ass Joker design from batman. Irrelevant to current proceedings but I thought they were cool. Back to the music, they continued to kill it for the full set. While all their music was probably new to most in attendance, they partially played a particularly new song to their repertoire called ‘Ghost of You’ which was still in the writing process at the time, providing an interesting insight into their creative process before they’ve fleshed songs out fully.
The final act to the stage for the evening was alt-rock four-piece Black Violets. They had a stellar performance rocking the place and entertaining the crowd, which at this point was nicely filled out. They showcased their adept abilities with the switching of instruments at ease between members at the requirements of particular songs, with all but the drummer playing their hand at a number of the instruments in their arsenal. Much like Eden Isle before them, they ended out their set with a brand new song freshly finished just 2 days prior called ‘Know The Score’, absolutely smashing it for their debut of the tune. They’ve a 3 track EP available on Soundcloud that you can check out below to get an introduction to their sound.
Cork based band We March first entered my radar when they played in the November Garageland Ireland Cork showcase. Despite me missing their performance on the evening due to an over-saturated personal schedule, I heard great things and the evening was a big success overall. I made a note that I must experience their music live after missing out, and I kept my eyes and ears open for such an occasion to pop up. Funnily enough, such opportunity fittingly arose in the month of March. A band I hadn’t encountered before, Pinhole, was set to play at the Roundy on March 16th and We March were supporting. John Paul FitzGerald, the Pianist and songwriter for We March, was vigilant enough to remember my interest and notify me of the gig for which I’m very much grateful.
We March wasted no time showing why they’re an exciting prospect in the music scene right now. Playing tracks from their debut EP ‘The Dumb Angel’ and other as-yet unreleased material, they announce their presence emphatically. Songs such as their self-titled introductory track ‘We March’ and ‘Fight or Flight’ entice the listener with their incredibly catchy and energetic musical arrangements. With ‘Bones’ they deftly switch up the pace after reeling the listener in and get to work sinking their musical claws underneath your skin, to the bone perhaps if you will, and impacting on a deeper level. The titular track of the EP, ‘The Dumb Angel’, is a hauntingly beautiful minimalistic song carried by the masterful piano work of John Paul Fitzgerald and the mesmerizing vocals of Debbie Calzaccia, and completes the spine-tingling process of their music gripping you tightly and staying with you long after the final note has played out. John was brilliant enough to supply me with a hard copy of their EP after the show, and suffice to say it has seen plenty of spins ever since. With what they’ve accomplished on a 4 track EP, I’m certainly excited to see what time brings to the table in later releases. (Go on, press that play button below, you wont regret it)
After that incredible bit of music I am reminded that the evening has only but begun, as up next is the 4-piece Pinhole to take to the stage. Have I mentioned enough times over the last year how much amazing music there is in the Cork and Irish scene that has slipped past my attention? Flying under my radar until now, Pinhole is another perfect example of this. Not content to have their music placed in a meaninglessly labeled box, they transcend genres and have let their music carve a different path altogether. The result is a refreshingly unique and unpredictable sound that breathes with a life of its own. They put on a captivating performance that had me transfixed from start to end. At the front of the pack on lead vocals and Violin is the incredible Ciara O’Flynn. A neat trick I watched her do in a couple songs, something I’d personally never seen before, was her using her violin as a singing apparatus by singing through its acoustic body. It was an incredibly mystifying thing to watch and listen to, and produced a different and very cool sound.
Captaining a corner to himself surrounded by his triple piano set-up and on backing vocals (And for one song, lead vocals) is the talented Mark McLoughlin. He has a great sense of humour and, despite his self deprecating jokes before his main singing bit for the song ‘God Was Making Snow’, nailed it with his performance for that too. Towards the end of the set Ciara announces that they are going to attempt a brand new song fresh from it’s creation. Through the angles of limbs and instruments I glimpse the drummer at the back with the most priceless ‘I have no idea what we’re doing’ face aimed at Mark before they cracked into it. They smashed it though, drummer included, and closed out the set shortly after. They’ve a good few tracks up on Soundcloud (You know what to do, hit that play button below) to delight the ears with, and are currently expecting the release of their album at some point this year which should be an incredible piece of work. You can also check out their rather intriguing music video for their song ‘Oh No’ down below.
Yoo, so it’s about time I had another blog post featuring the ever fantastic Stephanie Rainey. Since last I wrote about her with her amazing Dublin show with Hermitage Green (Big ol’ essay of a blog post can be found here), I tucked another 2 shows under my belt before the year was out, that I unfortunately never got around to writing about. The first was another show with Hermitage Green in Cork. The second was Stephanie’s headline show at Cyprus Avenue in November, which at the time was accompanied with the release of her single ‘Sorry’.
This was an utterly amazing gig which featured a number of notable changes in Stephanie’s show. Up until then, the tune ‘Before We Fall’ had been a staple opener for her set, though this tour saw that shifted further down the set for the first time to be replaced with the banging tune ‘Question Mark’ as opener. This tour also saw the inclusion of a 4th member to the ranks, with Peter Piggott adding an electric guitar element to the show that previously had not been there. I had my curiosities about how this might work, especially when he stayed on stage, guitar in hand, when the set moved into the likes of ‘Please Don’t Go’. There was definitely no cause for worry though, he did a fantastic job and his contribution to Please Don’t Go was subtle but effective and did every bit of justice to the song. Last new point of the tour was the introduction of a full range of meeeerch, but more on that later. I want to give a shoutout to Tim Chadwick who supported the show as well. The fella is incredibly talented and put on a brilliant solo performance to open the evening, dividing his time on the stage between playing with acoustic guitar for some songs, and piano for the others. Definitely recommend checking him out for sure.
Now that I’ve sped through the previous show, let’s get into the current show in question which took place again in Cyprus Avenue in mid March. Initially scheduled for the beginning of the month, the Beast from the East swept through the country and caused the gig to be postponed, which turned my liking of the snow at the time to contempt quick as a flash. Support for this tour came from Rob Burch, but with the rescheduled date he wasn’t available for this show and so Sarah-Beth got the call-up to grace the stage before Stephanie Rainey. Sweet deal for me, got to witness two of my favourite Cork artists in the scene right now for the price of one.
Given the last minute nature of the replacement, and Aaron O Sullivan plying his trade on Guitar over in Italy for the weekend, this was a solo set from Sarah-Beth. It was a nice touch though, because it brought out the more lyrical-heavy, dreamy side of her set with the likes of her tracks from the EP ‘Your Muse’ seeing some play time, which is always nice. For this gig I was joined by my mate Darragh, so I had the pleasure of introducing him to the music of Sarah-Beth for his first time. Safe to say, like the first time I listened to her music and saw her play, he too was mesmerized and instantly hooked. I was glad that Stephanie Rainey would get to hear Sarah-Beth’s music too, because Stephanie and Gary had in fact walked in on the 1000 Beasts gig she supported in February, but had missed her set at the time. That evening ended up being the inspiration behind this International Women’s Day blog series I am currently writing (This post included) as the idea occurred to me when watching Sarah-Beth and noticing my schedule had a lot of female talent in it, including Stephanie Rainey who walked in unexpectedly about 10 minutes after me realizing this. #serendipity.
Without further ado, it was time to experience Stephanie Rainey live for my 8th time, and I was as excited as ever. Just as Darragh was joining me for this gig, he too was joined at this gig by my now-acquaintances that I met for the first time on this evening, Mary and Grainne. Just as the last headline show for Stephanie Rainey had heralded in a change to her live show, so too was the case on this evening. Besides the trending pattern of her shows/tours arriving at the same time as a new single, this time with the release of ‘Question Mark’, there was yet another new addition to her full band set-up, albeit with an asterisk for this particular gig. Joining her set-up as a 5th member going forward is none other than Kevin Herron, who we have previously seen on the blog a number of times between him being in Tiz McNamara’s band and also being the new addition to Little Hours since the summer. Kevin is taking over Acoustic guitar duties from Stephanie Rainey, freeing her up at the front of the stage to sing and perform her heart out to the crowd. That said, Little Hours got whisked off to Dubai for Paddy’s weekend and took Kevin with them, so filling in on the night was the wonderful Ian O’Doherty. Ian was fantastic for this gig, putting in a wonderful performance and was instrumental to the show going as perfect as it did.
In keeping with the adjustment to the set in November, Question Mark continued as the opening song for the night. With it’s recent release as the newest single, it was fresh on everyone’s minds and went down a treat, kicking us off to a brilliant start to the show. One thing was definitely clear from the go: This was going to be a very special evening. Stephanie, Gary, Sarah, Peter and Ian were giving it 110 percent of the magic they’re capable of, and there was a great crowd in on the evening who were very responsive for singing along, which is a key factor to any great Stephanie Rainey show. Stephanie without the guitar in her hands was able to focus entirely on singing and putting on a show for the audience, and delivered in abundance. A couple songs into the set, we were treated to something new! A lovely new song I’d never heard in Stephanie’s set before called ‘For You’. Elsewhere in the set all the usual favourite’s made their appearances, ‘Sorry’, ’13’, ‘Please Don’t Go’ etc. I’ve been so sure ’13’ was the next single in line since before ‘Sorry’ came out, however it has a couple of times been pushed further down the line of release, so it’s rather tentatively that I note now it’s pegged for a summer release, here’s hoping. About mid-way through the set, we were treated to a cover song. Too early in the typical Rainey set to be the Man in the Mirror MJ cover, it had to be something new instead that we were about to witness. Sure enough, the band cracked out a fantastic performance of the song ‘Simply The Best’ to much fanfare and approval.
The rest of the set followed usual form, with the likes of the as-yet unreleased ‘Beauty In Your Madness’ being a crowd favourite for going crazy and signalling that we were heading into the latter stages of the remaining songs. From there the energy and excitement in the room only builds up, as everyone sings along to ‘Man in the Mirror’ and ‘Nothing Of You Left to Love’. Before the show closes on 100 Like Me, Stephanie does the usual stressing to the crowd that it is in fact the last song and that they don’t do encores in a setting like this where you can’t really just ‘leave’ the stage and come back. 100 Like Me get’s the room absolutely shaking as always, but when Stephanie and Co. leave the stage, they’re blown away by the ‘we want more’ and ‘one more tune’ chants. In a huddle to the side of the stage, I observe them consider their options. And for the first time I’ve witnessed in a Stephanie Rainey show, they walk back up, and Stephanie asks us if another go of ‘Question Mark’ would suffice. It’s a resounding yes from the crowd, and thus the show opener serves also as the show closer. That being said, the energy of the amped up crowd at this point is so electric that the second dose of Question Mark is an absolutely stunning anthemic display from both the band and the crowd singing and is incomparable to the first time heard on the evening.
Merch and Next Shows
When I went to the headline show in November, I spent my last pennies of the week acquiring Stephanie’s 100 Like Me shirt and their CD with 100 Like Me (2 versions), Sorry, Nothing Of You Left To Love (2 versions) and Please Don’t Go on it which is essentially a self-titled EP if not officially considered as such. I gladly had this signed by Stephanie, Sarah, Gary and even the after-show elusive Peter Piggott at the time. For this show, I was proudly rocking the shirt and equipped with the tote bag too, so I just had to finish up my hoard with the 100 Like Me beanie hat that I missed last time and complete my lyric sheet collection. Darragh wasted no time in collecting every bit of merch he could too. Chilling with Darragh, Mary and Grainne afterwards, being the walking advertisements that me and Darragh were, eventually Mary and Grainne all but caved to the temptation and acquired the shirts too, so we all looked the part.
100 Like Me Beanie
100 Like Me Shirt
Question Mark Lyric Sheet
Sorry Lyric Sheet
Stephanie Rainey CD
With my 8th show under the belt, I’m eagerly looking forward to my next opportunities. I currently have shows #9 and #10 planned, and I dare say I even have #11 in the bag too but I’m going to hold onto the details of that one for the moment while I confirm it. Coming up on the 25th of this month, Stephanie Rainey will be playing alongside Hermitage Green, The Strypes and Fontaines D.C. at Cork Opera House as part of the Music Cork events ongoing that week. I’m super excited for that as I’ve been eagerly awaiting more Hermitage Green, have been meaning to get around to The Strypes, and have heard good things about Fontaines. Next from there is June 7th, Kodaline at the Marquee which I bought the minute tickets launched, and Stephanie Rainey has just been announced as the support which I am absolutely over the moon about, as a Marquee show from Stephanie Rainey is going to be absolutely mental. That’s about it for this one folks, stay tuned for the next post in the International Women’s Day series which features Pinhole and We March.
Happy Easter! Up next in my International Women’s Day series, is a gig from the very day itself, when Cyprus Avenue put on a fantastic line-up to celebrate the day that’s in it. First up for the evening to hit the stage was Míde Houlihan. Míde is an artist I had been loooong overdue getting around to catch live for the first time, with her name circulating on the peripherals of my attention for ages. I was most notably familiar with her role over at the Bru Bar in relation to all the amazing music they put on their stage all year round. The first thing to strike me when she went on stage was her acoustic guitar which displays a plethora of stickers, adding stories and character to it’s frame. Everything from Vans to the Beatles, CEX to De Barra’s of Clonakilty adorns it’s body.
My attention wasn’t long being drawn away from the visuals of the guitar when Míde began to sing. I’m a sucker for emotionally gut-punching music, and Míde has cracked the code in that particular style of song-writing wonderfully. She has a captivating vocal presence that draws you in real close while at the same time sending the mind spiraling away into a place beyond the room in which she plays, following the trail of the story she spins. She’s a master of making the music relatable for the audience and making you think, or at least that’s how I’ve viewed it but I’m quite certain it translated across well to many others in attendance too. I’m really loving her album ‘Coloured In’ at the moment, much of which comprised the set that she played for us on the evening in question.
Well well well, Sarah-Beth we do be meeting again. It seems impossible and yet entirely a true fact that 7 months have passed since first that name became known to me with the launch of her EP ‘Your Muse’ (The blog post for which can be found here). It has been nothing short of an eventful period of time, with Sarah-Beth being featured as one of my Top Five One’s to Watch for 2018 in my recap blog at the beginning of the year. Indeed, judging from the first few months of the year so far, she’s off to a great start already. With a steady gigging work rate in the time since first I saw her take the stage, she has staggeringly overtaken Stephanie Rainey as my most viewed live artist, clocking up at something around the likes of 13 live shows I’ve now attended at the time of writing.
I have followed her progression as an artist in that time with keen interest. From first discovering the dreamy & lyrical side to her music and then promptly finding out about the other side with the alt-hip hop vibes and electronic influences, to entering 2018 ready for new growth with a fresh look, building the band back up from scratch. Initially I saw this take the form of Aaron O Sullivan playing with her as a duo (There he goes again, sneakily working his way into yet another consecutive blog post. There’s no stopping him now, he has spread to all corners of the Cork music scene!) on stages such as KINO and The Roundy when Sarah-Beth and Travis is a Tourist supported 1000 Beasts (Absolutely unreal show that unfortunately slipped through the cracks of a hectic schedule of blog posts, a name that will undoubtedly show up for me again soon though).
This International Women’s Day gig being the 3rd Sarah-Beth show of 2018 I’ve witnessed, it came with yet another new development. This was the debut for Sarah-Beth’s new full band look, which including Aaron O Sullivan bossing it on guitar also features Lee Kennedy on Bass and Joe Keniry on Drums. They put on a mesmerizing performance in true Sarah-Beth style. A most peculiar and unanticipated event occurred when Sarah-Beth was doing her song ‘Easy On The Eyes’. She was about mid way through the number when suddenly, travelling through the air in an impressive arc from the distance, what should fly onto the stage landing by her foot but someone’s bra. That was certainly something else. This was not long followed by the owner of said bra making a recovery mission for her misplaced property and scampering away from the stage again sheepishly. Absolute madness!
Up next to follow in the footsteps of Sarah-Beth was none other than Sara Ryan, which of course meant that Aaron O Sullivan was barely with a foot off the stage before he was straight back onto it again, what a champ. Sara picked up where she left off with the performance in Coughlan’s a few weeks prior, putting on another stellar set of music with the band. Sara continues to showcase gig to gig, performance after performance, why she is on the path to bigger and greater things as time goes by. She brings the magic to the stage each and every time, and has this infectiously positive demeanour both in and out of the music that brings out the best of moods and brightens the day of anyone who has the pleasure of being in her presence. A right gem so she is.
Gadget and the Cloud
Bringing the finishing touches to the evening was Kelly Doherty on the decks, AKA Gadget And The Cloud. Kelly is a DJ/Producer in Cork, and she has just released her first album ‘Songs For Sad People To Dance To’. When it comes to the live performance on the night, I unfortunately didn’t catch much of it except for the start as it was running rather late into the night and I had work early in the morning to think of. The part that I did catch at least however was solid indeed, with Kelly doing great work at getting people moving to the music, and left me standing at the exit reluctant to leave and wishing I could stay and experience it in full. You can listen to and buy the album on her Bandcamp page at the following link, I recommend checking it out for sure.
Just over a month ago I was scrolling through Instagram on a boring evening, and I happened across the Instagram story from Luke Tai. Keen to see what the ex-Elation drummer might be up to, I checked in to see what’s up. I found him promoting the inaugural event for a new music platform in Cork called Tower St. Music, taking place that weekend. Exciting new platform, Cork music scene, the lovely venue that is Kino hosting it, and Luke Tai involved somehow? Sounds right up my alley, I signed up immediately, no hesitation.
So, before I get into the event itself, how’s about we shed some light on what Tower St. Music do. Standing at the helm of this new platform are three people: Brian Davies, Ciara O’Toole and Enda Mullan, and they certainly deserve a lot of praise for what they’ve put together here. The main functions of Tower St. Music can be split down into 2 main operations: The online segment, and the live-gig. The online segment is where the team at Tower St. get together with the artists they will be showcasing, and record interviews and live performances from them to go online for the web-series. This is a great way for people to get familiar with the artists and to push their names out there a bit. This all culminates in the monthly live-gig then, with the artists who have shown up on the web-series coming together for an evening and playing a gig in a well organized evening of music. This currently resides in the fantastic venue Kino on Washington Street. Typically three artists/bands will be featured at a time, and the web-series is a great tool to determine whether or not the bands who will play would be to your tastes and therefore draw you to attend. Personally I don’t see myself missing too many of these shows this year or indeed any year, unless I am already tied to other plans on an evening in question.
A Matter of Loyalty
Without further ado, let’s get cracking with the event. I rocked up to the Kino, and was delighted to see the online buzz generated by it had actually translated to a good number of physical humans in attendance, with plenty of people filling out the place. I recognized a number of people there, such as Sarah-Beth and Sara Ryan, Luke Tai of course, and wouldja believe it I was only talking last blog post about Aaron O Sullivan suddenly cropping up everywhere I go, and here he was too, the second time that day alone I had bumped into him no less. The very first order of business upon entering the door was to be presented with my very own Live Gig Loyalty Card. I’m sorry, did I hear that correctly or had I died and gone to heaven? You’re giving ME a loyalty card for GIGS? Find me a more tailored loyalty card, you wont. Catch up, ye venues and promoters of the world, Tower St. Music just snuck through the inside line and stormed through into first place, this needs to be implemented everywhere ASAP. I nabbed myself a cosy spot up the front on a bean bag and spent the next half an hour or so twirling the loyalty card in my hand like I was Gollum and it were my precious.
And so, proceedings began. The great big screen came to life with a countdown, and then announced for us the first act of the evening: Sinéad Murphy. Up onto the stage she came, joined by Derbhaile Maclean and Sarah Hickey. Sinéad was equipped with both an acoustic guitar and a piano with which to present her music to us listeners on this fine evening. Sinéad is very close to releasing her new EP ‘The Golden Book’ soon, some of the tunes from which she played to us in this gig. She played her heart out on the stage, channeling her experiences and stories out in the music and carrying us along with her. Songs such as ‘Old Church Street’ lifted us up on a cloud and took us to her home town of Athenry and demonstrated the love she has for the place. She played some of the set solo, and some of it with Derbhaile and Sarah, the combination of them creating some wonderful three-piece harmonies. Along with the live-gig, Sinéad was the pilot episode of the Tower St. web series, with an interview episode and a live performance episode. You can catch the interview below, and check out the recorded live performance on the Tower St. youtube page at the following link (Here).
Next up to the stage was Just Charlie. A band so big, they actually had two bands! They have their songwriting feet firmly planted in two opposite directions, and throwing the poetry of Robert Frost to the wind, split their body and traveled both roads simultaneously. With the first side to the band, they explored the route of lyrical songwriting and emotional music. Halfway through, and with a switch in the cast, they veered down the direction of a more electric feel. My man Luke Tai himself came up and played the drums. Albeit not in a manner I’m used to seeing him, for he was sat behind one of those electric drum pads whacking away at that instead of a real kit. Both sides to the band played some really good music and had their merits. The last song they played especially stuck out to me, reminding me somewhat of the music Talos makes.
The Davies Brothers
Bringing a fantastic evening of music and an overall very well run event to a close was The Davies Brothers. No sooner had Luke Tai left the stage than had he come straight back up, this time at the helm of the physical drum-kit. And over to the left, playing for the 76th band I’ve seen him among the ranks of in 2018, the one and only Aaron O Sullivan was there to do some damn good guitar playing. A Luke Tai and Aaron O Sullivan combo in one band, now that’s a mix I hadn’t anticipated but was pretty excited for. At the front of course were the Davies brothers themselves, Eoin and Brian. A fine pair they were, with acoustic guitar, bass, and their voices between them. Watch out Dan and Barry Murphy of Hermitage Green, you’ve got competition! With that, an epic and highly successful launch night reached it’s end. Brian, Ciara and Enda made their way to the stage to much fanfare to give their thanks and their speech of what it meant to them to kick off such an amazing project. The next live gig is in fact tonight, with an incredible line-up consisting of Ghostking is Dead, Sara Ryan and Sarah-Beth hitting the stage. I’ve seen all three before, and it’s for sure going to be amazing, I’m looking forward to catching that second stamp on my loyalty card.