Myles Manley, Whelan's, 23rd Aug. 2013
The Vincent(s), Whelan's, 23rd Aug. 2013
In my college days I would have frequented Dublin's smaller music venues regularly such as The Temple Bar Music Centre (now The Button Factory), The Mean Fiddler (now The Village), Whelan's on Wexford Street and a handful of pubs as well. While this wasn't a long time ago (about 15 years), it was still at a time when venues were filled with cigarette smoke, half of your friends didn't have a mobile phone and we thought dial-up internet was propelling us headlong into the high-tech age. I saw many good bands back then, The Frames in arguably their heyday, Mic Christopher's amazing band The Mary Janes, Kells band Turn. At some stage the music scene seemed to really dry up in Dublin and Ireland, around 2001-2002, and it became saturated with singer-songwriters and crooners. While some were undoubtedly talented, it was as though the scene had gone stale, there were no groups with cult followings, no must see small acts and so, reluctantly, I stopped keeping an eye out for who was playing at these small venues and instead concentrated on going to see established acts, but I think that might be about to change, and I find it quite exciting.
Two weeks ago a friend asked me would I be interested in going to see part of The Jack of Diamonds Festival in Whelan's, it was free in and there were 9 acts playing over three floors of the venue, admittedly he said he knew none of the bands but thought it would be worth checking out. So off I went on a Friday night and met him and his wife and we sat down upstairs by the bar before moving in to the Upper Room. The first act we saw was a very shy young girl with an acoustic guitar and I thought to myself, wow, nothing has changed since 2001-2002, my prejudice was woefully ill-founded. By the end of her opening song the hairs were standing on the back of my neck and my friend turned to me and simply said; 'That was fucking brilliant', I couldn't have agreed more. This was Liza Flume, an Australian Dublin-based songwriter whose painful shyness and almost apologetic presence on the stage belies an incredibly strong voice. What I found most interesting was her use of a loop pedal, a device where the singer records live her singing and then plays it back while singing harmonies to the recording, literally, with herself. Liza played a short 6 song set leaving me wanting more, I will be attending future gigs of hers based on this performance.
One week later and I find myself inadvertently in Whelan's again, after meeting a very dear friend who I'm not talking to today after he threw a pint of beer over me for his own entertainment. Looking for adventure after a few pints in a local pub we headed into town and made our way upstairs where yet again, unexpectedly there were more live shows on. The first act was a young guy from Sligo called Myles Manley (normally plays with his band The Little People) whose upbeat songs remind me very much of Bombay Bicycle Club (when I mentioned this to him after the show he had never heard of them) but it was his melancholic songs that really caught me. I arrived in Whelan's in a very good mood but after two of Manley's songs I felt terribly sad, and I suppose that's what good music is all about, ability to grab you inside and affect you instantly. He also comes across as a very interesting character, and struck me as quite the libertine if he wouldn't mind me saying so, and he was an amiable chap to talk to, he even kindly allowed me buy one of his albums off him and a book of poetry that I don't remember enquiring about.
After Manley came glum Cork rockers The Vincent(s), the bastard child of The Pixies and Sonic Youth. Heavy bass, crashing drums, rip-roaring lead guitar and....a saxophone player all combined to give a great live drone sound, but it was clean, it wasn't unintelligible distortion and noise for the sake of it. I found them very different to what you'd expect from a young Irish group and as they say themselves on their www.breakingtunes.com/thevincents page; 'We, as a band, want to bring something completely new to the Irish music scene, something a bit darker than we are used to.' I have to say I enjoyed their live set, but Manley stole the night for me.
Three very different acts, all very talented and a far cry from my memories of the small venue music scene from 10 years ago when it seemed like someone had poured water on Damien Rice after midnight and given birth to hundred's of singer-songwriter gremlins that swamped every stage available. It has changed my attitude to up and coming musicians and I now intend to go to a lot more gigs, why wouldn't I considering they're free, but I think I'll stick to the orange juice from now on. Below is a track from each of the aforementioned acts for your aural pleasure.
Liza Flume, 'What We Called Love'
Myles Manley & The Little People, 'Easter Morning'
The Vincent(s), 'Asked Her To Dance'