Saturday, 30 December 2017

Remy's Live Music Diary 2017, Part 1

David Keenan Whelan's Remy Connolly
David Keenan, Upstairs in Whelan's, February

(All photos Remy Connolly unless otherwise specified)


Info: 35 gigs, 4 festivals, and over 30 interviews with The Sound Feed (which would sadly finish up later in the year) in JaJa Studios in Stoneybatter, 2017 was a very busy year for me, but one with so many highlights. Each year brings something new and exciting in a live setting, there are familiar faces and new friends, new favourite bands and that very difficult to describe buzz as you walk into a venue for a gig, from the front door off the street to the stage area there's always a tingle. 

One thing that finally struck me this year (but has been the case for a number of years when I think about it) is how professional Irish bands and acts are. There's an astute dedication to both the performance and the audience, and a humility, gratefulness that any number of people have turned up to see them perform. More pointedly though, this professionalism and preparation produces a consistency in the standard of performance, when an audience sees a band so immersed and in tune with what they are looking to deliver, that transfers to the crowd and increases the enthusiasm for the live show.

A lot of the photos (and some poor to middling phone camera video footage
!) over this two-part look-back on the last 12 months haven't been posted before, thanks to all for making these special memories in 2017.

The Fontaines
The Fontaines, Whelan's Ones To Watch, January

As with last year's photo diary we begin with Whelan's Ones To Watch, this is a festival I thoroughly enjoy each time. From the small gatherings at the start of each night to the swell and ant-trail of punters moving from main stage to front bar and upstairs until the wee hours, it's a most gratifying tonic to the gig withdrawal which has kicked in after the New Year has come round. It seems so, so long ago right now, but highlights were seeing what have become some of my favourite Irish bands this year. For the first time I would catch The Fontaines, an outrageous MUNKY front-bar performance (below), Nix Moon, Pillow Queens, The Clockworks and FIELDS live.

MUNKY - WOTW 2017

I was extremely flattered to be asked to introduce the acts at David Keenan's headline show upstairs in Whelan's in February. I've waxed lyrical about the Dundalk mans songwriting enough times, but it was another night that raised the spirits to a place beyond, he was phenomenal. There was also tremendous support in the shape of Lemoncello and Ireland's finest poet Stephen James Smith who recited his well-known ode to his home city 'Dublin You Are'. 

Stephen James Smith Remy Connolly
Stephen James Smith - Whelan's, February

David Keenan

After a MUNKY headline gig on the main stage in Whelan's, where I am so grateful I also saw Sub Motion for the first time (more on them later), my next port of call was Bitch Falcon in The Workman's, finally we've moved beyond Wexford Street!

MUNKY

Later in the month Bitch Falcon had a headline show in what is my joint favourite live venue in Dublin, The Workman's Club. A late replacement in the support line-up, The Scratch, were pretty phenomenal, 4 long-haired rockers on acoustic guitar giving a pumping performance. When Bitch Falcon came on stage the venue was packed, it was sweaty as fuck for February, glasses were (accidentally!?!) smashing at front of stage, and the night was raucous, many people lost their shit, justifiably. 

Bitch Falcon

Bitch Falcon

Bitch Falcon


March and April were the first really busy months for me on the live circuit, on the 11th of March Noël and I hit The Workman's Club together for the last night of August Wells' Madness Is The Mercy album tour. The LP was our Irish album of the year for 2016 and Noël had reviewed most of the singles and the album itself here on the blog, the Not Monsters frontman sharing my deep love for their song-writing and sound. It was a huge pleasure to hear the album performed live and also have a quick chat with ex-Rollerskate Skinny man Kenneth Griffin afterwards. 


August Wells

August Wells



The night before the August Wells show I found myself Upstairs in Whelan's for Montauk Hotel's debut self-titled EP launch, with support on the night coming from Tipperary troubadour Noel O'Brien and one my absolute favs Naoise Roo (pictured immediately below). In quite a short space of time Montauk Hotel have made sure their name, and sound, is widely known and holding its own in a huge cluster of peers. It has been exciting to watch them make big leaps so quickly, and their self-proclaimed guitar-led shimmer-pop sound has certainly resonated with Irish music fans, filling a hole in the wider scene.


Naoise Roo


Montauk Hotel

Montauk Hotel

Montauk Hotel


I couldn't do this post without also mentioning Donegal band For Foresters' headline show Upstairs in Whelan's in the same month, it was a manic affair at times as the brief video of lead singer Gabriel Paschal Blake below will attest. A band I really need to see live again soon.


For Foresters

For Foresters

The start of April saw The Sound Feed go on a short road trip to the musical Mecca of Dundalk, a town that has spawned so many of my favourite Irish acts over the last few years, Just Mustard, Elephant, VIDEO BLUE, Third Smoke, Trick Mist, David Keenan, The Future West and many more. We were very excited about this trip and had planned it for quite some time, a big shout out to Derek Turner at The Spirit Store for making us so welcome and being a complete pro throughout the whole organisation, and of course the three bands who agreed to perform and do interviews in Elephant, Third Smoke and Just Mustard. We also got an impromptu trip to Classified Records in The Town via a hot tip from Just Mustard's David Noonan, an institution in its own right, run by another absolute gent in Neil Waters. Neil regaled us with tales of the live music scene in Dundalk over the decades, famous visitors, the current crop and even showed us some rock memoribilia. All of these people made it a very special and rewarding trip and I'd like to dedicate a good bit of space to them below for what was easily one of the best experiences I had in 2017.

The Spirit Store
Photo: Aoife King

Elephant Shane Clarke

Third Smoke

Just Mustard

Video: Ray Kennerney

Classified Records Dundalk
@ Classified Records


Classified Records Dundalk
Photo: David Noonan

Later on in the month a trip to The Bello Bar was on the cards to catch a headline show by retro-electro-pop trio Exiles, with support from Hvmmingbyrd and VIDEO BLUE. A night of synths and snappy beats was had and I also got one of my favourite snaps of the year of Hvmmingbyrd's Suzette Das, which could not have happened were it not for her incredible silver jacket! I have to say The Bello Bar is without doubt one of my favourite Dublin venues, and the staff involved in organising and promoting the gigs, in particular Ciara Coyne, do a sterling job of sourcing great line-ups, it's somewhere I want to visit more in 2018 and I'm very keen to catch an international act there next year.

Hvmmingbyrd


EXILES

VIDEO BLUE

You should never meet your idols, cos a restraining order is sure to follow

I was back suas staighre in Whelan's a few nights later to catch the King of Falsetto Mr. Billy Fitzgerald just over a week after reviewing his immense debut EP, An Introduction which, when I first heard it, knew it would be one of my favourite Irish EP's of 2017. Soul, funk, pop and ultra-rhythmic acoustic guitar along with his vocal prowess were, well, music to my ears. Support on the night came from Laura Ryder who would go on to release her enchanting debut album Vestigial later in the year. 


Mr Billy Fitzgerald

Laura Ryder



Wow wow wee wow! In May I had the petrifying experience of going to a secret gig, something that fills me with both excitement and trepidation in equal measure. The line up was solid as fuck, THUMPER, Chinese Newspaper and Just Mustard. I left work and wandered over to Custom House Quay and waited, there were a lot of buses, which one was the bus? Has it left already? Thankfully it hadn't and I boarded with a merry band of revellers with our destination being a warehouse down along the docks at East Wall. We got out, our guide banged on a metal door, it opened, we entered, I thought fleetingly about making one last phonecall to my parents. When we entered I asked our guide where the smoking section was, he replied; 'You're in it man'. Cool. 

After a quick chat with the homies from Just Mustard I was all set for my first ever THUMPER gig, how had it taken so long? All in all it was an immense night of my kind of music, moody experimental shoegaze, anarchic rock and a healthy dash of punk stylings. Another happy coincidence was meeting photographer Alan McCarthy who was, at that time, smack bang in the middle of following Fangclub on tour in the lead up to their debut album release, and capturing some amazing moments while he was at it. I had seen some of Alan's photos before this show and he continues to wow me, the man gets deep down and dirty into the action of live shows he shoots at and as far as I'm concerned is one of the most cutting edge live photographers in the country right now.


Just Mustard

Chinese Newspaper

THUMPER

Just Mustard


THUMPER - Kelly Levacher

(There I am, on my phone, trying to Shazam live music)

It wasn't until the end of May that I went to see my first international act of the year, Canadian Jenn Grant who I had the pleasure of interviewing here a month or so before the gig, which was held in Whelan's. It was very intimate, and the first and only time I've seen a tables and chairs set up upstairs in the venue. Grant performed duets with fellow Canadian Hannah Georgas, who made a massive impression on me, her performance in support was an amazing surprise and I had to pick up a copy of her latest LP For Evelyn on vinyl after the show.

Hannah Georgas and Jenn Grant



You're still here?! Good on you! And so the final month of Part 1 of this diary draws to a close with Forbidden Fruit Festival in June. It was my first time attending the festival in Kilmainham , and there were many highlights over the three days, but I have to say, without being parochial, most came from the Bulmers Live Irish stage. 

Highlights included Jafaris, NAO, Talos, Lisa Hannigan and The Staves. Long lasting impressions however were left by BARQ, Soulé, BAD BONES, Le BoomRusangano Family, Gordi and BonzaiI was a little underwhelmed by some of the main stage acts, Aphex Twin, and one of my favourite electronic acts Nicolas Jaar for example weren't very inspiring, and at the Outcider stage, Tycho, who I adore as a recording artist felt a bit flat and going through the motions, and yes, I know that's the vibe of his music. Overall though I really enjoyed my first FF, there was beyond torrential rain on the final night, and by the time Bon Iver came on to wrap things up, I was good to head home, and giddy up for the second half of 2017.


BAD BONES

BAD BONES


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