I’m a new man! I’ve let the Mo go, lost the lady-tickler and shaved the soup strainer. Students at work have been telling me I should have left it alone… not sure if they enjoyed the piss taking ammo of it all, tricky bunch those young-folk ;-P I was supposed to go to an ofeeeshall Movember night last Wednesday to have the offending article removed, but something a little bit more attractive popped up on the radar and my plans are always fluid i.e. hard to get a grip on, transparent and generally (but not always!) odorless. When I’m not out on the road, I sometimes make noise with some like minded ne’er do wells, and it turned out that a video for one of this crew of miscreant’s tracks, was nominated for an Irish Music Television Award. ‘The Do’ was in The Sugar Club in Dublin on Wednesday night. Free beer or getting my face scraped publicly with a sharp implement… hmmmm?? Was out side The Sugar Club before the doors opened! Okay, I hear ya! Not really a festival, but it’s an annual event and it fits my definition of a festival (which is looser than Jim Corr’s grasp on reality (was going to go with ‘looser than Paris Hilton’s moral sphincter’, not sure which simile worked best. Wotd’ufink?)). Check the “What is this thing called festival” post to suss which way the wind blows for the particular brand of festival sailing on these waters. Turns out the Guinness Book of Records weren’t buyin’ that definition neither! They reckon that Irish people are likely to gather together on a street corner, look for funding, a drinks sponsor, and bang pots and pans together and call it a festival. They have a point, but I’m still heading for a record breaking attempt before the effort to attend 3 festivals every week for a year is done, I’ll keep ya posted yo!
There was also the melodious matter of Other Voices in Dingle to be dealt with this week; although trying to get tickets for this thing was like trying to find a virgin in Clonmel! I decided that even with the prospect of getting into the main event being about a likely as Van Morrison changing career to become a CBeebies presenter, a dangle in Dingle is always fun and there was music all around the town all weekend. There was also another festival (The Festival of Light) happening in Dingle over the same weekend. So did we manage to get into one of the Other Voices gigs? Did we win the award in Dublin?? Is this condescending attempt at building suspense annoying??? Just like one of those bold stripper pens that you bought on your 6th class school tour, and held upside down all the way home… All shall be revealed!
About a year ago now, a few of us who used to play in a band together a looong time ago, started rehearsing and playing again. It was decided that a track would be recorded and released on Youtube every month, until there was a year’s worth of material completed. The sum total of my involvement with King Kong Company to date is ringing people to tell them I can’t make rehearsal/recording/videoing this week because I’m going to a festival! The year is nearly up, and in fairness to the lads, to Lofty (the Director) and to Trish (choreographer and video star), they’ve put some work into this for Tom Gaul monetary return. I s’pose that they just enjoy it, either that or they’re just not that into collecting butterflies, which is surprising, as you’d swear a couple of them were right lepidopterists altogether (yes, I did have to look that up).
I managed to make it into one video and what did they do? Put a box on my head!?
So the King Kong Massive made their way to Dublin for the IMTV awards to see how the glitterati of Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll (ahem!) get their kicks. Waterford people are way ahead of the biotechnical futurism that the likes of Star Trek have been banging out for years. The Borg might be the pinnacle cybernetic organism evolution, but in Waterford, we’ve had chips on our shoulders for years boy! It was this chip that was telling me that I wasn’t going to enjoy the night in Dublin, I was on high alert to expect pretension and wankology on a level not witnessed since Kajagoogoo took to the pantomime business. My chip was annoyed to discover it was wrong, well mostly wrong. It was a good night, shower of decent heads, few free bottles and a clatter of good bands (Rip Tide Movement, Ham Sandwich and The Hot Sprockets impressing most). My chip was just about to format it’s self, when I walked into the jaxx to witness the most hip of hipsters fixing his hair; this lad’s jeans were so skinny they were subcutaneous! Now when I say fixing his hair, I actually mean the exact opposite of that, he was making it messier, which I hadn’t realised is such a delicate procedure that requires a certain stance and angle of the elbows. There’s an unspoken rule among males in the herd that I was reared in: it’s fine to fix your hair in the mirror of the little boy’s room, but you stop and pretend that you weren’t doing it as soon as another member of the herd enter. This lad had obviously been suckled in a different flock altogether, cos he kept throwing shapes that Adam Ant would have found excessive, even when yet another fella came in! My chip went into overdrive, sending out an array of signals that caused me discomfort and confusion; it was making up for lost time. It turned out that I was wrong to have been judging him, he had lost his ID and was only checking to see if it was in the nest atop his bulb. Poor young fella, very hard to find anything when the thick rimmed glasses you’re wearing were actually prescribed for your Gran-Da.
Podge McNamee (Hang Sang) told the crowd at the awards Do, that it was “Like playing at the All-Ireland final for Trendies”. He then told a girl that her dress made her look like a Loop-The-Loop. Priceless! Podge is deadly. Of course the sweet irony was that his jacket was more than a little Tutti-Frutti, but one of the first rules of confrontation states that you should never slag a fella with a microphone and a bottle of Bucky. There were many long haired and even longer leg-ged girlies along with some well turned out fellas on hand to present the awards; I recognised the one who dresses up like a traveller and shouts a lot, and the camp fella from the clothes program, but the rest of them had me at a loss. I should really watch more Expose. In the heel of the hunt, the announcement for “Viewers Choice” award came around and the lad with d’envelope kinda half read out something that sounded vaguely like ‘King Kong Company’ and some of us got excited, but Aley reckoned he said something else (such was our level of expectation). No, he definitely said it that time. Oh shit! I was driving! My chances of getting the lads out of here at a reasonable hour, rode off into the sunset like the Lone Ranger on a promise. Ha… Ha… said my chip.
To say that we were all surprised and excited to win is an understatement akin to saying that Fred West liked to do a spot of gardening. If there had been a prize for the most enthusiastic and excited winners, we would have won that too. There was dignified and reserved blast of “Cham-pio-nays” at one point as the hipster with the subcutaneous jeans and ID in his mop-top looked on in disgust. 00I00 said my chip (which I believe is the 5 bit binary code for flipping the bird).
Calm, collected, and reserved King Kong Company (We play The Forum Waterford on Feb 4th)
Elsewhere on this island of ours on Wednesday night, The Frames and Lisa Hannigan were kicking off the Other Voices festival in McCarhty’s bar Dingle. It was the only event on the whole Other Voices program that you could actually buy a ticket for, except you couldn’t really, cos they sold out faster than Johnny Rotten in a butter ad. During the week I shook a few trees to see it any tickets might fall out, but there was nothing doing. I didn’t panic, cos I kinda have this philosophy about tickets. I reckon that there are always ways to get into things, you may not actually find the way to get into the thing, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; ’bout as ecumenical as this shit gets! Perseverance and a neck like a jocky’s undercarriage are the key. It was about 8ish Friday night when Wanderly Wagon rolled into an extremely quiet Dingle and I had a whole bag of bullshit ready to dip in to, to try and get inside St. James’s church for Cold Specks and Lisa Hannigan. “Ah go on in there lads and stand down the back, ye’ll be grand” said the security man at the door. Is that it!? No plámásing, no ducking and diving, no hinting at vague assurances that weren’t given by people I didn’t know!? I felt cheated. Hang on, there’s a fella pointing at us, right, game face on! “Lads come down here, there’s a couple of seats nearer the front”. Ah this was too feckin’ easy. Happy Days! Once inside it’s easy to see why it’s so hard to ticket this event. About 150 max can squeeze inside the venue; when you consider performer guest lists, sponsors, politicians, press, industry types and hangers on, it doesn’t leave much room for me and you. But competitions were run , raffle tickets were drawn from buckets and get in we did. In fairness they don’t have to open this gig up to the public. Other Voices is a television program and this weekend is when the whole series gets filmed, so whether or not members of the public are able to get into the audience could be deemed irrelevant by the producers of a series that gets broadcast in 12 countries. To say the atmosphere inside the church on the night was special is an understatement, it was reverential.
Fear an Ti – Philip King. Musician, Producer of Other Voices and host of South Wind Blows (Yes, I’ve been harassing more people outside gigs, to take their picture, but look how happy he is about it!).
The first band we saw were Cold Specks, a band I knew nothing about and how wonderful it is to be surprised by something new. A rich and complex vocal, with an engaging and warm timbre; but it was the band that really brought things to the realms of the spiritual inside the church.
Cold Specks, warm reception (Image courtesy of Other Voices on Facebook)
Their combined sound was considered and cohesive, with a control of dynamic that allowed them to switch from barely floating underneath the vocal, keeping it bouyed up, to a force and power that washed over you like the waves we saw crashing against the rocks at Ceann Trá the following day. The place and atmosphere suited this crowd’s wonderfully blended harmonies and melodies, that always sounded like they belonged together and never sounded strained. By a head, the best band performance that I was lucky enough to see over the weekend, but not the best vocal… have I told you that Lisa Hannigan has a crush on me?
Lisa Hannigan – the voice, demeanor and poise of an Angel (and wonderful teeth according to Fred!)
It is quite likely that I will never get into one of these gigs again and not because Lisa Hannigan thinks that I’m stalking her (although this is more than probable), but because you weren’t meant to take pictures at the gig, but some of you who’ve been on here before, know that I have all the literary skills of Wayne Rooney hitting a keyboard with a leg of ham, so how in the name of all that’s holy would I go about trying to describe that picture!? Or this one…
It looks good, doesn’t it? Well it sounded even better!!
I remember the first time I heard Lisa singing with Damien Rice, and how I was captivated by the quality and control of tone that she has. The slight variations and nuances that she is able to bring to a vocal are mesmerising and I can’t help but get sucked in by them everytime. When I got to listen to her own songs it was even better. The feeling and emotion she can convey not just through her lyric, but through the melodic journey that she takes each syllable, each phoneme on, are the threads that weave the blanky that you had as a small child, the one your parents eventually hid on you. As you can probably tell, I can take her or leave her really I ended up standing beside her at Electric Picnic one year and held my breath when I realised that it was her. What the hell would you do!? I turned around an said “Hi Lisa, I think you’re great”. Shit! I have no idea what she said afterwards because there was a ringing in my ears from the rush off blood that needed to get to my bulb in time to cater for the blushes and embarrassment I had just subjected myself to. I’m sure that she smiled, thanked me and was very gracious about the whole thing. Know why I’m sure? Because I did it all again and worse this weekend. Word of advice… never talk to people with whom you’d prefer to make a good impression on at 3AM in the residents bar of a hotel. If you want the whole horrible car crash account, you’re going to have to ask me in person, I’m not committing it to print. Saturday’s hangover wasn’t helped by a particularly bad dose of the “Oh no’s!”.
Although Lisa was in wonderful voice on Friday night and her performance was stunning, the band lacked that same cohesion and fluidity of dynamic that was evident and helped make Cold Specks so enjoyable. It was interesting to experience the filming of a television program and how it differs from a live gig. On three occasions the band restarted different pieces and at times when there was call to lay down something loud and really hammer into a groove, it didn’t hold the same weight or blend that quieter passages did, the headroom didn’t seem to be there. But it was some night and some way to start the weekend, any weekend, anywhere! The link below isn’t one of her best performances, but she does ‘fun’ really well too (enjoyed “Safe travels, Don’t Die” on Friday, it’s now an anthem for Wanderly Wagon) and this video was shot in Dick Mac’s pub in Dingle, the scene of the crime for some of this weekend’s fun and games.
Took a spin out around the ring on Saturday before the Other Voices afternoon sessions started in the pubs. Stopped off in Páidí Ó Sé’s for a gander and a cure; you’d be surprised at how unfriendly Kerry men can be when you express the opinion that football is a game for those who don’t have the skill and sharpness required for playing hurling. Just as well the engine was still running. The weather wasn’t great, but the scenery was still spectacular and meself and the bowld Markie W decided we’d risk a swim at Inch strand to blow out the cobwebs. I assured him that the water was only a couple of degrees off what it was in August, which is technically true, but it’s that feckin breeze and the fact that the tide was out that was the killer. People were stopping to take photos of us! Certainly livened us up though for the rest of the days proceedings.
Nice day for a dip in the Atlantic. Beware of Dangerous Currents and Savage Raisins!
Every afternoon there was live music in the pubs around Dingle, as part of the “Other Voices Pub Trail”, which is a great idea; if you can’t get into the church at least there was something for you to go and listen to. There were also big screens in pubs around the town that had the events from St. James’s streamed live in HD, but it felt a bit odd being in the pub and watching the proceedings on the telly (I think we were spoiled after our initial success). There’s a real effort afoot to try to turn this into a full-on weekend festival, not the easiest thing in the world to do when the bulk of the people in the town for the weekend aren’t going to get into the main event, but it didn’t seem to stop the majority of the people present for the proceedings enjoying themselves, and let’s face it, Dingle is an easy place to enjoy yourself, sure hasn’t the dolphin hung around there now for years!? There was a pair of tickets for each night’s gig in St. James’s, raffled at the last pub trail gig every evening, so at least there was a glimmer of hope. Mick Flennery’s gig on the pub trail on Saturday night was choc-a-bloc. People outside standing on kegs looking in windows, they weren’t all there just for the raffle either. You had to get to the pubs earlyish if you wanted to catch the gig, they were scheduled to run, 4 hour long gigs, one after the other from 3:30 to 7:30. On Saturday and Sunday the quality of the gig got progressively better as the day went on, so it got harder and harder to get in to the later gigs and they were invariably packed. Swung by the church on Saturday night and there was more chance of watching The Premiership in Páidí’s on All Ireland Sunday then there was of getting in. Saw Pat Rabitte heading in for the night’s music, but heard he left at the interval. Hey Pat buddy, I’ll take your ticket if you’re not using it next year!?
Tom Crean’s pub in Annascaul, where they sell Tom Crean’s Lager. Sure it’d be a sin not to try it!?
Took a spin down to Annascaul on Sunday morning to visit the pub that was once owned by the most manly of Irish men, Arctic explorer and sailor Tom Crean. I got one of Michael Smith’s books for Christmas many years ago and was fascinated to read about the adventures that Crean had with Shackleton and Scott. There was a great story taken from one of Scott’s diaries where he recounted how refreshing it was to have two Irish men on the expedition, as they brought much needed humour to the tough conditions. Scott overheard Shackleton and Crean as they sat by the fire on watch duty one night; they were discussing which member of the party would be best to eat first if they ran out of food. Scott reckoned they were joking, but I picked up some of the legendary Annascaul black pudding while we were in the village, had it for breakfast this mornig and in fairness, it wouldn’t be a huge step up from it, to becoming a cannibal
Podge and Niamh from Hang Sang on the Other Voices Pub Trail on Sunday
It was back into town for more tunes on Sunday afternoon where the highlights from the Pub Trail were Ham Sandwich and Fred. Saw Ham Sandwich twice this week and was lucky enough to write about them on this blog before, after what was a storming performance at Indiependence in Mitchelstown. Tough call for some of the bands out on the beat over the weekend, to scale down the performances for the spaces that they were playing in. I haven’t seen them match that Mitchelstown performance yet and from their reaction after that gig during the summer, they were pretty impressed with it too. You can read about this band in full flow and rocking thousands of buzzed up festival goers here – Indiependence (it’s this band in their natural environment really).
There were signs up all around the place for the “Festival of Light”, but I’d been quizzing a few people about what it was and where it was, but not a flicker. Then, low and behold, didn’t we end up in the middle of it as we left the Hang Sang gig early to get a spot at the next gig. There was a parade heading up the road the same way we were going and they were carrying lanterns and implements of shinyness. It was either the Festival of Light or we’d got caught up in a Co. Kerry version of The Wickerman.
Dingle Fife and Drum lead out the Festival of Light Parade
The craic is that there was a market laid on for the festival earlier in the day (had been at it, searching to feed my addiction to mixed olive tapenade, but hadn’t realised the significance of it) and in the build up to the parade, the populace of Dingle had been making lanterns and torches to bring with them on the jaunt through the town. They all marched up through the Main Street, as far as the hospital where the large Christmas tree is then lit up. It has a lovely family vibe to it and nice to see that it wasn’t just the interlopers who were enjoying the weekend. I was told that something similar happens in the town on NewYears Eve. There are fire works earlier in the evening and then a parade down to the bridge where the Dinglers ring in the New Year. The parade of lanterns seems like an apt way to signify the start of the festive season. The Wren on Stephen’s Day in Dingle is famous and I’ll be back in town for that.
It was another tight fit in McCarthy’s for Cork heroes Fred. Watching and listening to Fred was like putting on your favourite pair of runners. There was quality here, comfort, things were as they should be and it all went together so well. They sounded like a band, they looked like a band, we were so close to them that we found out that they actually smelled nicer than a band should probably smell, but it was early. Fred are consistently solid performers and it would have been surprising if it had been otherwise on this occasion. Nice bright, clever, rhythmic riffs providing the drive for the vocal harmonies, the whole thing adds up to a pair of runners that are always going to keep your feet happy and the bottom of your pants looking well.
Fred in flight. It’s just the light, these lads are far from green.
Spiritualised were playing in the church on Sunday night and that was something that I really wanted to see, so I was willing to go down real early and hang around on the off chance that we might get in. Get it again we did, which I’ve been told is pretty good going, but Spiritualised were on in the second half, and chances were that we were riding our luck getting in for the first half, getting in for the second half too might be pushing it. Ben Howard was first up and he definitely has the voice, but I tell you what, the young fella can play that guitar too! This is going to make for good viewing when the show is aired later this year. His album is doing well at the moment, so the Howard zeitgeist will be in full effect when he turns up on the telly. I’m guessing he’ll be popping up in festivals near you all summer long. Lazing in a summer field, with a flagon and some sunshine, listening to Mr. Howard is something to look forward to.
That’s a hot whiskey on stage beside Ben. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was suffering from drink envy from the whaft of it.
Wild Beasts were up next and had a pretty ropy start that wasn’t helped by sound issues that led to what seemed to be a total lack of lead vocal in the first few tracks; there was even a heckle for the sound man. The heckler got shushed, obviously not the done thing in this environment, but the sound did seem to improve after that. I enjoyed the last two songs and it seemed that just as they were getting warmed up, their turn was over and we were being shepherded away from the Wild Beasts. We tried to stowaway for the second half, but it wasn’t happening. Probably just as well, the next bands weren’t on until 10 and we had a 4 hour drive home. So it was time to bid slán go fóill to Daingean Uí Chúis.
That was a quality weekend. The IMTV thing was bound to be a buzz, but the quality of what was on offer down in Dingle was something else and not just the music. Met some really nice people down there over the weekend and the atmosphere couldn’t have been more chilled. I mentioned at the beginning that the gig on Wednesday in Dingle was the only one that had tickets for sale, everything else was free. You’re talking about a whole mini music festival run over four days, for nuffink! Pubs were jammers for the pub-trail gigs, if the weekend starts to pull more people, maybe they’ll have to run a few different types of gigs at the same to take the pressure off. The chip on my shoulder is telling me it’s past shutdown time, pity he wasn’t as keen to go to bed on Saturday night, might have saved me some embarrassment. It’s not exactly clear what you can do with an IMTV award. Suggestions have ranged from mantlepieces to paper weights, but I reckon if you got enough of them, you could tile a bathroom. Better get busy Lofty