Archive for the 'Music Review' Category

Feb 10 2009

Oscar Focus: Best Original Song

Published by under Blog,Movies,Music,Music Review

Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film – all major categories at the Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, but I always look forward to hearing who wins the Best Original Song. Last year, seeing Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová win for Falling Slowly was probably one of my favourite Oscar moments of all time. I was so proud and I had no idea why.


Glen Hansard and Marketa IrglovaBut that’s the joy of the Oscars – we become invested. People watch the red carpet’s catwalk, gawp at the clothes they could never possibly afford, laugh at the fashion faux pas, ogle Scarlett Johannson, await the arrival of TomKat and Branjelina, and then cheer on their favourite film, actor, star. The glitz and OTT Hollywood glamour are pivotal to the show’s success. And it is a show – it’s a long time since it’s been seen as a simple awards night. The comic host, the special guests, the gushing speeches and, of course, the music acts all combine to make it one of the most spectacular nights of the year.




It was the 7th Academy Awards before they introduced the Best Original Song category. In 1934, three songs were nominated: The Continental from The Gay Divorcee (innocent times) beat off competition from Carioca (Flying Down to Rio) and Love in Bloom (She Loves Me Not). The original requirement was that the nominated song appears in a motion picture during the previous year, regardless of when the song was written or whether it was written specifically for the film. The rule was changed after the 1941 Academy Awards to ensure that the song nominated must have been written for the film and not been recorded elsewhere prior to appearing in the film. It was this rule that brought into question the eligibility of Falling Slowly in last year’s Awards. Satisfied that the song was a pivotal element in the movie Once and that previous recordings of the song were not significant enough to break the rule, the judges allowed it through.


— Falling Slowly —




The 1930’s saw some now classic songs take the gong. Lullaby of Broadway (Gold Diggers of 1935), Over the Rainbow (Wizard of Oz) and When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio) are still heard today and in 1938 Thanks for the Memories (The Big Broadcast) beat Jeepers Creepers (Going Places) for the Oscar.


— When You Wish Upon a Star —




The 1940’s stand out simply because of the sheer number of songs nominated each year. The first half of the 40’s saw an average of 10 songs a year up for the Award. Some significant losers include Baby Mine (Dumbo), Chattanooga Choo Choo (Sun Valley Serenade), That Old Black Magic (Star Spangled Rhythm) and Bibbidy-Bobbidi-Boo (Cinderella) while White Christmas (Holiday Inn), Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (Song of the South), Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Neptune’s Daughter) and the fantastic and heavily covered Swinging On A Star (Going My Way) picked up the Oscars.


— Swinging on a Star —




The 1950’s were keeping a firm hold on old Hollywood. Show tunes, classic themes and love ballads were still all the rage. The Ballad of High Noon (High Noon), Secret Love (Calamity Jane) and Three Coins in a Fountain (Three Coins in a Fountain) were the best in the early 50’s while the latter half of the decade honoured Gigi (Gigi), the brilliant Que Sera Sera from The Man Who Knew Too Much and High Hopes from A Hole in the Head, made famous by Sinatra. High Hopes would be a strong contender for my favourite of all Oscar winning songs. 1955 saw a nomination but not a win for Unchained Melody from the film Unchained. Needless to say, this went on to be one of the most covered songs of the 20th century (all hail Robson and Jerome). 🙂 Incidentally, it lost out to the very twee Love is a Many Splendored Thing from the film of the same name.

— High Hopes —


— On to Page 2 of 3

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9 responses so far

Dec 16 2008

One Day International – Blackbird

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review,Politics,TV

One Day International InterviewA couple of weeks ago, Darragh interviewed One Day International in Le Cirk. I took a few photos and managed to purloin a copy of their album, Blackbird.


I threw it onto my iPod last week and listened to it on the way home on the DART. The first track, Closed Doors, was nice. It was simple and sounded like a lot of middle-of-the-road pop songs out today. Though not overwhelmed, I enjoyed it and looked forward to an album I could right a pleasant review about.


One Day InternationalThen I heard the second track, Little Death, and my opinion completely changed. Quirky, with an upbeat melody fused with a melancholy lyric, I was excited to hear what would come next.


I wasn’t disappointed. Track after track of great tunes makes Blackbird one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.


Lead Balloon is a theatrical number, reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright‘s prime, while Sleeping on Trains is a dark and moody track, like a lullaby for a very bad child. Like many of the tracks on the album, it has a slow, wistful beginning which escalates to a damning crescendo. Maybe not unique, but certainly ahead of the game.


One Day International InterviewMiss Your Mouth, one of the most marketable singles on the album, is another beautiful tale of lost love. It’s a delicate with a memorable melody, without being a repetitive pop tune.


Shiver begins as an instrumental piece showing the perfect collaboration between Cormac Curran on piano, Eimear O’Grady on cello and bassist Danny Snow. It makes you think that this entire album could be a great movie soundtrack; this piece would be a flawless score even without the introduction of the simple and glorious vocals of Matt Lunson.


Not Over You has some of the finest lyrics on the album. Like much of the album, it speaks of loves lost but not forgotten.


Do you remember the moment we met?
I can remember we spoke about shortness of breath.
Do you remember not showing for work
And sleeping together late on in the afternoon?


Black is the Bird is the title track and deservedly so. It captures all that is great about the band. Beautiful piano sounds, haunting melodies, memorable tunes and gorgeous vocals.


One Day International InterviewAs I listened to the first half of the album, I began to draw comparisons between One Day International and acts such as Duke Special, Cathy Davey, Lisa Hannigan and Divine Comedy in particular. I was then pleasantly surprised to reach track 9, Aliens, which I already knew from Neil Hannon‘s version on The Cake Sale. I actually thought it was a Hannon penned track and I was delighted to discover that Lunson is the writer. A tiny bit of research told me that the Cake Sale’s producer, Brian Crosby, also had a hand in Blackbird.


Big Surprise and Darken Your Door close out the album on a downbeat and sad note. Further evidence of the theatrical nature of this album are in the lyrics of Big Surprises.


If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise.
They’ve taken all of the trees away, right before our eyes


Darken Your Doors continues the melancholic lost love theme and as it ends I find myself clicking the buttons that bring me back to start all over again.


One Day International are playing The Button Factory on 18th December and tickets are available here. The album, Blackbird, was released in October and is available on iTunes here. For more information on the band, check out their blog.


6 responses so far

Dec 05 2008

The Swell Season In The Olympia

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review,Night Out

Glen HansardI think, more than anyone else, my Oxegen experience this year was nothing short of perfect. We had one of the best camping sites; I escaped every possible queue; I didn’t get attacked by drunks nor mauled by drug addled oddballs. The food was good and the rain didn’t even bother me. Most of all, I got to see all the acts I was hoping to see and was introduced to some great new performers. On the final night, we had a varied choice of final performances – The Swell Season, Rage Against the Machine, Ian Brown and Chemical Brothers. We decided to see The Swell Season, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova‘s band, in the Pet Sounds tent and it rounded off the festival for us. Their first performance on stage since winning the Oscar for Falling Slowly from the film Once was serene, simple and superb.

On Tuesday night, The Swell Season hit the Olympia. Anthony McG sorted out the tickets for Lottie and I and, after some fine dining in Eddie Rockets, we arrived just before the support act came on stage.



The Hare’s Corner is Colm Mac Con Iomaire‘s trad band, but they are a hell of a lot more than just the diddly-eye. The 8 piece all instrumental group, led by Mac Con Iomaire on the fiddle, played an energetic and modern set that would have whipped the crowd up better with some volume. It was the only downfall. They were exciting, fresh and while they didn’t have the heavier beats of Kíla (who are playing Vicar Street on the 21st December by the way), they are a band I’d love to see again.


Glen HansardThere was a bit too long of a delay between Hare’s Corner departing and Swell Season taking to the stage, which quietened the crowd a little. Hansard et al didn’t get the rapturous greeting they deserved. Indeed, the first few songs, which were sweet and melodic, were met with applause and some polite whoops. But when they played their Oscar winning song, Falling Slowly, the mood turned and it became a night to remember. Falling Slowly was delivered with such passion and gusto that it was hard not to be drawn into the performance. From that point on, we they had us in the palms of their hands.


Kevin and Mark


Kevin and MarkOne of the greatest spontaneous moments from a gig that I have ever witnessed – Hansard began to tell the story of two young guys they met over dinner earlier in the day, who were going to be at the concert that evening. He fluffed his way through telling us, mixed up the lads names and eventually blurted out that the two lads, Kevin & Mark, played a bit of music. One sings and the other takes to the guitar. Half joking, he called Kevin and Mark up on stage and with some cheers and cajoling from the audience, the pair finally make it up. Hansard and the band leave the stage and the two lads are left wondering what song they should do as we all look on, slightly embarrassed for them, praying they wouldn’t make fools of themselves. We need not have worried. They belted out a brilliant version of Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere. Half way through the song the band slowly emerged back on stage to join in. It must have been such a special moment for Kevin and Mark. They got the first standing ovation of the night went and deservedly so. Fair play to them for having the courage and confidence to pull it off.

I asked Kevin what it was like playing with Hansard and the band and were they expecting to be asked up on stage:

Meeting Glen before the show itself was brilliant. He was really sound and actually had an interest in our music. But when he said during the gig to come up and play with him, on his stage, to his audience and with his guitar, my heart plummeted. The spontaneity of it all was just so much! –

Kevin and Mark


If You’ve Gotta Go, Go With Happiness


When I first heard Happiness at Oxegen, I wasn’t over-awed. It was a quiet song and felt too raw and simple. Hearing it again on Tuesday night and I wonder is it the same tune. This time it has a haunting feel to it. Played it total darkness, except for the heavy drumming moments where the stage lit up with the drum beats like cracks of lightning, this was one of the finest moments of the night – a great spectacle.


Marketa IrglovaIntroducing the song Once, we find out that John Carney is hiding in the wings. Too shy to play bass on stage, Swell Season play on without him and the crowd love it. Hansard’s banter throughout added so much to the night. It helped create a sense of intimacy that a venue like the Olympia struggles to provide. The tight seating, the high stage and the formality of the old theatre prevent the closeness that other venues, such as Vicar Street, The Academy, Whelan’s and even our own Greystones Theatre, can provide.

And yet, Hansard managed to bridge the divide somewhat. Introducing the song Lies, he says it is the story of “the guy who tells the truth about things that didn’t happen”.


Marketa IrglovaIt would be easy to dismiss The Swell Season as just being Glen Hansard’s band. He does all the talking and most of the singing. But there is so much more to the band than that. Marketa Irglova’s incredible piano skills aside, her voice takes the harsh edge from his and provides perfect and hypnotic harmonies to compliment Hansard. It is only when she is left alone on stage though, that we discover how truly beautiful her voice is. A stillness came across the Olympia as she sang. You begin to think that we are getting two acts for the price of one in Hansard and Irglova. His voice is about passion, her’s sounds lovelorn and heartbroken. Gorgeous.


The Swell Season


The Swell Season



7 responses so far

Dec 02 2008

Cathy Davey Singing For Her Supper

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Advantage of having a theatre on your doorstep #236: When it comes to 8 o’clock on a Sunday evening and you’ve been lounging about on the couch watching movies all day, a snap decision to pop out can lead to a great night of music. Last night we got to see Cathy Davey, supported by two great acts – Molly Jenson and The Raglans.


Molly JensonWe arrived in the middle of Jenson‘s set and she was doing a great job of warming up the crowd. Engaging in conversation and having a joke with the audience, then delivering some beautiful songs, she really made her mark. Having toured extensively in the US and with an impressive MySpace following, Jenson will surely be huge when her album, Maybe Tomorrow, goes on full release in March 2009.

The RaglansThe Raglans are a three piece band who, as Cathy Davey says, are far too young to be this good. Although they are local lads, Stephen Kelly, Luke Carrig and David Hayes have spend a lot of time touring Ireland and spreading the good music. I look forward to hearing a headline set from these three guys in the near future.  It was nice to see so many people showing up just to hear them. For these people Cathy Davey was merely a bonus. I missed out on getting one of their EP’s (they sold out) but there are a few tracks on their website.


Davey describes her Bare Bones Tour as..

…a chance to play intimate venues without being too noisy for sensitive ears. Rearranged songs to better suit candlelight. Three of us playing as many instruments as we can fit in our suitcases and the chance for me to babble nonsense if I so choose as the bigger venues tend to echo unpleasantly, and I do so hate the sound of my own voice.. don’t we all. That’s the Bare Bones Tour. It’s nice. And slightly special.

Cathy DaveyIt is nice and it is very special. Her beautiful voice suits the more stripped down versions of her own tracks. This is how they were meant to be heard. A relaxed crowd at first finally broke out of their shells when she played her hit Reuben. From then on, it was a magical night.

A song I hadn’t heard before, Rowing Your Own Heart Away (I stand to be corrected on the song’s title), really stopped me in my tracks. Beginning with a gorgeous, soothing melody, the latter half of the song broke into haunting and near disturbing harmonies. It was fantastic. Just three voices on stage and it sounded like an evil choir. Brilliant.

Cathy Davey's BandProving her ridiculous amount of talent, she put aside her mandolin and guitar for a while to take to the drums, singing Can’t Lose It from the drum kit. She then nervously introduced The Nameless, but I’m not sure why she was so tentative about it – it was one of her best tracks.

Showing her relaxed professionalism, she had to stop the performance midway through Wild Rum, a song about alcoholics, because she forgot to plug in her mandolin. With ease, she laughed it off and picked right up where she left off. Just one of many lighthearted moments in a fun evening that ran until midnight in the intimate venue.

Cathy DaveyShe closed her set with the 1920’s George Gershwin song, Do It Again. It was beautiful and relevent and closed her set perfectly. She returned to the stage for a crowd pleasing sing-along, Cole Porter‘s You Do Something to Me, where she dragged the very perplexed Raglans back on stage to do backing. With the whole crowd singing along, it was a very satisfying finish to an exciting night.



Keep an eye on Greystones Theatre’s website to see what acts are coming up next. This week sees Director (plus very special guests) take over on Wednesday night and Brian Kennedy on Thursday, playing tracks from his new album of covers, Interpretations.


Cathy Davey's Band

Cathy Davey's Band

Cathy Davey


Cathy Davey and The Raglans


9 responses so far

Nov 17 2008

Blog Catchup – Dirty Pretty Things

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Dirty Pretty Things

I was in two minds about going to the gig. I was still feeling unwell and my couch looked very inviting. But it was Dirty Pretty Things second last gig in Ireland ever (as they are disbanding at the end of their current tour), so I wanted to make an effort to see them.


Once again, proving to be a great drawing power, on Thursday November 6th, Greystones Theatre played host to Dirty Pretty Things and three support acts.


Local boys, More Tiny Giants kicked things off with an excellent heavy rock set, but it was Apollo Sunshine who really got the night started. Their last couple of tracks, where they practiced group percussion, were particularly exciting to watch and the crowd returned the energy tenfold.


A short while later, Dirty Pretty Things took to the stage and a crowd of mostly younger people (younger than me, at least) went berserk. The band attracts a strong fan base and there was definitely a few fanatics in the crowd.


The first four tracks had me gripped. Frenetic, fun and bigger than the stage itself, these tracks showed the band at their best, better than The Libertines, better than Babyshambles. Following up with a couple of tracks that sounded like they could have been covers of songs by the Sex Pistols and The Clash respectively (I say this as a compliment), the band seemed to have great flow.



Then it seemed to die off somewhat. With the exception of the scary drummer, the energy dissipated and it started to feel like they were just going through the motions. When the lead singer of a supposedly bad-ass punk band asks, “Can you please move back a few steps”, you know they’ve lost their mojo.


For the last few songs I retired to the bar and for all the good the band were doing, I may as well be have been listening to the album on my iPod. The music was decent, but there was no energy or charisma in the live performance at this stage. Catching the last couple of tracks as I sipped a Lemsip in the bar, I wondered if the now tired band would have liked to join me.


Their music is good and they play well together. When their energy is high, they sound fantastic live, but if they can’t sustain that energy for one full set, then maybe it’s best they go their separate ways.




Greystones TheatreThere is a lot of great gigs and events coming up in Greystones over the next couple of months including Cathy Davey, Director, Jack L, Brian Kennedy, The Dublin Comedy Improv and a lot more. I’ll follow this up with a full listing and give you some idea of the shows I plan on seeing. If anyone wants to join me, let me know.

7 responses so far

Oct 16 2008

“Duke, I Am Your Father”

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review,Night Out

Neil HannonIt annoys me that I wasn’t in the best frame of mind going in to see the Duke Special and Divine Comedy gig. I had just had a bad few days and, if I’m honest, if someone had told me that the gig was cancelled, I wouldn’t have been particularly upset.

But it was not cancelled and I had bought 12 tickets, all of which were in my inside jacket pocket, so there was no possibility of skipping off home. I lifted my head up, grinned a grin and went for it.



At first, I was afraid,

I was petrified,

Dave Couse was on piano

And we nearly cried,

But then he wasn’t all that bad

Depending on the drinks you’d had

And we grew strong

We learned to ignore his songs……


Ahem, yes, we survive the support act Dave Couse (formerly of A-House), which began with promise but ended up delivering to us an irritating man on a piano with two underused band members at either side of the stage. Still, we weren’t waiting long for the main event.



Neil HannonDivine Comedy is one of the first bands I was truly fanatical about. Neil Hannon‘s quirky powerhouse vocals hypnotised me and his mixture of incredible melodies, colossal orchestral pieces and very funny, clever lyrics showed me that there was far more to modern music than boyband pop, sampled dance tracks and heavy metal head banging, all of which I saw too much of in the early nineties. His was a fresh, intelligent sound and I lapped it up.

Neil Hannon & Duke SpecialJump forward to the early noughties (or is it naughties?) and we were in the bar in the Olympia Theatre waiting for Juliet Turner to kick off. We were skipping the support act, as we were expecting Juno Falls (Lottie is NOT a fan), but then heard a frenetic vaudevillian sound emanating from the venue beside us. I poked my head in and was instantly transfixed by Duke‘s look, the music and the energy that was bounding off the stage. Beer in hand, we cheered and clapped like devoted fans. And from that moment on, we were exactly that.



So, when I first heard that the pair would do a joint concert, as part of the Amnesty International Small Places Tour I made sure to have good seats. On Tuesday night, our group took up one front row table and two second row tables in Vicar Street, and I think it’s fair to say that none of us were disappointed (no Maxi, you cannot have a refund).

Duke Special and Divine Comedy

It was billed as a duel between Duke and Hannon, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Both artists are known for being theatrical, so it was unlikely to be dull, at least.

The evening alternated between duets and solo tunes, interspersed with a lot of fun light banter between the duo. Beginning with Duke’s song Everybody Wants a Little Something, it was great to hear their voices complement each other so beautifully. Neil Hannon & Duke SpecialThe set up of two grand pianos placed opposite each other was reminiscent of the ‘duel’ between Daffy Duck and Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Okay, Neil Hannon didn’t fire a cannon ball at Duke, but both did try to outdo each other, first through music, then through arm wrestling. The swashbuckling was a disaster but their lightsaber fight was nothing short of brilliant.

They challenged each other to do one another’s songs. Duke Special did a fine rendition of Mastermind, while Hannon’s No Cover Up actually added to Duke’s already sublime tune. But it was two cover versions that stole the night. A dazzling version of What Becomes of the Broken Hearted was charming and sweet, while You’re So Vain was performed so uproariously and skilfully that I don’t want to know hear any other version again.


Duke Special vs Divine Comedy from darraghdoyle on Vimeo.


Neil HannonThroughout, Duke on piano far outplayed Hannon. While Hannon’s mistakes were endearing and very funny, there were too many to allow them go without comment. After a disastrous Festive Road (a Divine Comedy song) he said it wasn’t about accuracy but about feeling. Funny and full of feeling as they may have been, Hannon could only show his brilliance when allowing Duke to take the lion’s share of the piano work. Then he could concentrate on his singing and worry less about the technicalities of chords and hitting the right notes. Songs like Our Mutual Friend and Everybody Wants to Be A Cat really let him shine.



And now he’s back

From outer space

He just walked on

With that big stupid ugly grin upon his face

We should have all got locked

We surely dropped the ball

But how were we to know he would come back on stage at all……


Yes, they actually allowed Dave Couse back on stage. Strangely, it wasn’t awful. In fact, they all combined to deliver a fantastic version of Couse’s Endless Art. The song’s theme is something that means a lot to both Hannon and Duke. Artists first and foremost, putting the music before fame and fortune, both will have far reaching legacies for some time to come.

They finished the night with the duet they recorded together last year Our Love Goes Deeper Than This, and Hannon’s Songs of Love from his Short Album About Love – he also reminded Duke that it was from Father Ted. 🙂

Duke Special

It was a superb gig – innovative, witty and full of joy. The showmanship and differing but collaborative style made it so much fun. I am already looking forward to seeing Duke play again in November when his tour kicks off. Maybe he’ll bring Neil along for the ride. We live in hope.

Neil Hannon

Duke Special

Neil Hannon

7 responses so far

Oct 10 2008

The Songs That Go Like This

Phantom of the OperaI‘ve mentioned once or twice (or three times or four times) before that I like musicals. I’m a huge fan and am already looking forward to New York in January when we will get to see Wicked and Avenue Q on Broadway. So, I was very excited to hear that my local theatre in Greystones (just 32 seconds walk from my apartment) was putting on a night of music from Broadway and the West End.

Music of the Night, featuring some of the best songs from the biggest shows, was performed by Paul McGowan, Ben Morris, Aisling Sullivan, Niall Morris and Róisín Sullivan. Each of them brought something different to the table, whether it be Niall’s quirky tenor or Róisín’s sweet and flawless vocals. In the packed theatre, all the patrons both young and old, had a great time.


The first half of Act One was nice. That’s as far as I can go – it was some nice singing of some nice perennials. It opened with a selection of old style Hollywood classics such as Oh What a Beautiful Morning, The Street Where You Live and Over the Rainbow. Then it changed pace a bit with the crowd-pleasing Grease numbers, Hopelessly Devoted and You’re the One That I Want, along with Any Dream Will Do from Joseph. But it was Ben Morris’s rendition of Gethsemane that really got the evening started for me. He was truly fantastic. Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my all time favourite musicals and Gethsemane is in the running for my favourite song from a musical. I have heard countless different versions of it over the years, some had me transfixed (particularly when it last played in the Point) and some had me reaching for the sick bucket, but Morris nailed it. It was the perfect combination of great singing and a fine acting performance. That marked the start of a spellbinding run of songs.

I Know Him So Well from Chess was beautiful, the Sullivan sisters’ voices complimenting each other perfectly, and the three songs from Les Mis, On My Own, Bring Him Home and One Day More, brought the first act to a triumphant close. One Day More sounded like there was an entire chorus on stage rather than just the five singers. Wonderful.


A light refreshment later (the Guinness in the Theatre is of good stock :)) and we were back for some excellent Phantom numbers, followed by a song a song that was new to me – Princess from A Man of No Importance about a girl from Roscommon destined for the lights of the big city. It was a great surprise and I look forward to hearing more from that musical.

It was a shame that they did only one song from Wicked, For Good, because the voices were great for the roles and I was shocked but thrilled to hear them do a fantastically hammed up The Song That Goes Like This from Spamalot and then an Avenue Q song (a musical known for its puppets), Purpose.

The only shadow on the evening, for me at least, was the finale. It’s understandable that they would do a couple of tracks from Mamma Mia! but it is a musical that I really don’t like. Still, a pleasantly silly encore of Any Dream Will Do left me leaving with a smile on my face.


Overall, it was a fun night. Though not groundbreaking, there were a few moments of perfection throughout. I look forward to their return around Christmas and I hope to drag a few more people along with me next time.


2 responses so far

Sep 22 2008

A Night To Remember John Brogan

John Brogan at the OlympiaLast night was a special event and I am lucky to have been in attendance. John Brogan, stage manager of the Olympia Theatre for over 30 years, celebrated his retirement with an amazing night of music.

Over the years, whether loved or hated by the thousands of acts he told “don’t put that there”, it’s clear that he left an indelible impression on everyone he met, helping bring their performances to life on stage. Many of those performers were delighted to return to the stage last night in his honour.


PantiI‘ll admit to being somewhat concerned when the larger than life drag queen, Panti, catwalked onto the stage to MC the proceedings, but I needn’t have worried. Her cynical charm and no bullshit commentary provided the balance the otherwise congratulatory evening required. Flirting with a collection of non responsive performers, she was very much in control of the night.


The first act brought on was the Coronas, an unusual but very welcome set. Unusual because they have not had a full performance at the Olympia yet and welcome because I’m a fan and my appetite is now whetted for their night in Greystones Theatre on October 5th. I found myself wondering if they set the tone for the night. I doubted it – and what came next proved it.


The Coronas


Twink and John BroganPerhaps the only thing more camp than Panti came on next – Twink. Thankfully, she didn’t sing. However, mad as the woman may be, she does give good theatre and her very heartfelt and genuine reminiscence of John Brogan was a note perfectly struck. Funny and warm, she was the ideal person to introduce the man of the hour, John Brogan, to a standing ovation.

Dustin the TurkeyUnfortunately, John was not given the opportunity to regale us with ancient anecdotes, as he was interrupted by a turkey. No, Pat Kenny did not show up, Dustin did. Slight but fun banter swiftly gave way for the return of Panti to introduce one of the beauties of the evening.


Francis Black has an Irish angel’s voice and she used it to its fullest performing two of her classics, Christy Hennessy’s All the Lies That You Told Me and the heartbreaking Wall of Tears. Perhaps it did bring a mushy element to the proceedings, but I loved it. Truly beautiful.


Brian KennedyNext we saw Brian Kennedy, AKA Mr. Cringe, so much so that I welcomed the distraction of the loud skangers behind me being kicked out of the theatre. He performed You Raise Me Up that brought tears to a lot fo people’s eyes. I was in tears because he seemed to go on forever. He pranced round the stage worse than Daniel O’Donnell. He was Eoin McLove without the humour. The man has a voice, but why he needs to girate his hips while using it is beyond me.


Declan O’Rourke may have been a little off form singing Gallileo, but his words about Brogan came from the heart. Brief and poignant, he simply said, “I‘m going to miss him“.


The Dubliners


This was the first time the remaining members of The Dubliners have come together for a public performance since the passing of Ronnie Drew. Indeed, yesterday was Ronnie’s month’s mind mass. It brought a sombre but respectful note to the evening Barney from The Dublinersand John Sheahan‘s poem to Ronnie made up for in pure emotion what it maybe lacked in eloquence.

The tiny leprechan on a banjo, Bernard ‘Barney‘ McKenna too was a treat. His rendition of The Dubliners classic I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me was one of the highlights of the evening. Overall the four members of The Dubliners (including just two original members) were wondeful, warm, funny and enthusiastic. Having whipped the crowd up, it was a shame the evening took a break after their set.


Though Tom Dunne looked surprisingly uncomfortable up on stage, Something Happens got the whole of the Olympia going again. Loud, abrasive and very tight, the eighties/early nineties Irish pop act proved they still have it. The now classic Parachute sounded fresher than ever.


Something Happens


One surprise of the evening was how fantastic Mary Coughlin was. Looking great and sounding rough and ready, but better than ever she teased us with I Wanna Be Seduced, before bowling me over with a fabulous I Would Rather Go Blind. Ireland’s original cabaret belle is back.


Mary Coughlin

One wonders if Declan O’Rourke, Barney McKenna and Sharon Shannon are drinking from the same water supply. Shannon’s diminutive frame came out on stage and we all got our binoculars ready. Her set was more an exercise in showing the band’s prowess than her own. The Penguin was flawless and though not as well received by the audience as some of the Dubliner’s songs, it was, for me, proof that Traditional Irish music isn’t going anywhere.


Camille O'SulivanThe ever wonderful, always spectacular, painfully sexy Camille O’Sullivan performed just three tracks, but stole the show as far as I’m concerned. In These Shoes, her perennial signature tune, introduced the band and set the tone. Here was the reason John Brogan did this job for as long as he did – to see truly great performers make the fullest use of his stage, to witness spectacles and to fall in love with the show.

For John, she dedicated Nick Cave’s The Ship Song:



Brian Whitehead, current manager of the Olympia and just one of the many John has worked with over almost 40 years, brought along Maureen Grant, the bar manager, to present John with a photograph of all the current staff and a Waterford Crystal commemorative bowl. A man of few words, John Brogan was clearly moved as he thanked everyone for making his time in the Olympia great. He begins his speech with “I‘d like to tell Brian Whitehead, I’m not leaving.” Laughter all around, but there was a slight hint of apprehension – afterall, he’s threatened retirement before.


John Brogan, Brian Whitehead, Maureen Grant


The Fleadh Cowboys, a band who were regulars in the early days of Midnight at the Olympia, finished the night. Their final song, Bob Dylan’s May You Stay Forever Young, was a nice sentiment, but judging by the respect and reverence everyone holds for this great man, I think John Brogan will forever be remembered, fondly and respectfully, as the old man of the Olympia. Have a good and long retirement, John.



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Aug 05 2008

Tom Waits, The Rat Cellar, Friday August 1st 2008

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Tom WaitsBefore Friday night, I can’t think of a time I was truly starstruck. I was a bit tongue-tied when I met Gay Byrne last year, but apart from that, I don’t think I’ve ever come close to being starstruck.

When Tom Waits stepped out on stage, he looked ten feet tall. A combination of the rapturous cheers, the perfectly targeted spotlights and Waits’ natural charisma made him the most alluring man on the planet at that moment. I was in awe. I’m not sure if I cheered – I may have just stared. Of course, I was not as overcome as the American guy behind me who screamed uncontrollably and looked close to tears. Understandable!

All this, before the man sang a single note.

Tom WaitsBut that’s the thing about Tom Waits. I’m not sure anyone can really claim to be there purely for his singing ability. His croaking growl and haphazard disregard for his own melodies is trademark. If the pop divas of yesteryear made you soar high above the clouds with their voices, then Tom Waits grabs you by the throat and drags you through the muddy swamp with his.

It’s fair to say he’s unique. His sound is unmistakable. It’s his and only his and 3,000 people have gathered in a suitably theatrical circus tent, The Rat Cellar, in Phoenix Park to witness the spectacle.

And so, the show began. Lucinda began the set and Tom’s rhythmic stomp on the white powdered stage was further evidence that this night was going to be special both musically and visually. This weather-worn giant in his dirty hat and haggard suit took mere seconds to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Whoops and cheers ascended to the stage and within a few songs it was clear that Waits was enjoying this as much as we were. There was the briefest of moments when he was introducing one of the songs where he lost track of his story and just looked out across the adoring crowd. The man smiled. He was happy to be in Ireland. He was happy to be in Dublin. And at that moment, he was happy to be right there.

The tour is called Glitter and Doom. If the closing part of the show (including encore) is the ‘Glitter‘ section, then the first part must be ‘Doom‘. He played some of his darker, hell-born songs in this section. Raindogs, Falling Down, I’ll Shoot the Moon and one of my all time favourite Tom Waits tracks, God’s Away on Business would be depressing if they weren’t so feverishly frightening. Lottie captured a brilliant video of Gods Away on Business, for which I’ll be eternally grateful:

But it was the middle section, the piano set, that allowed Waits’ genius to shine. Incredible renditions of The House Where Nobody Lives and Innocent When You Dream followed a beautiful version of Tom Traubert’s Blues, a song that Waits seemed to sing purely for his own enjoyment. It was wonderful to see him enjoy a song so much that he has been performing since 1976. The track is still fresh today, as Lottie’s video shows:

Hoist That Rag, probably the closest thing that Tom has to a dance tune, was responsible for dragging people into the aisles. As the people left their seats, the samba rhythms and growling repetitive chorus provided one of the highlights of a night filled with highs.

And one of the greatest of these moments used the simplest of props to unparalleled effect. The creepy and funny tale of the Eyeball Kid was punctuated by Tom’s mirrorball hat, which sent shards of light around the tent. Spectacular in the truest sense of the word.

Tom Waits

We were six rows from the front, dead centre, the best seats in the house. I doubt I’m alone now in saying that the high ticket price was completely worth every cent. As we milled out of the tent after the nearly 2 1/2 hour set, I realised that I would happily pay the price again to re-live the show.

Tom Waits

In a year of musical highs, where I met the wonderful Juliet Turner, where I attended my first festival, where I got to dance with Duke Special and where I watched Bono’s image rile a JayZ crowd, at the Tom Waits gig in Phoenix Park on 1st August 2008, I was witness to an event, a moment that I will be talking about for decades. This was, and I say this without hesitation, the greatest gig I have ever seen.

Thank you, Lottie, for getting me the tickets for my birthday, and thank you, Tom Waits, for being a marvel, a giant, a presence, something I will never forget.

Outside the Rat Cellar in Phoenix Park

More photos of the night here.

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Jul 19 2008

Juliet Turner In Greystones Theatre

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Darren and a BumpRushing down to catch the DART this morning to head into the City Centre for something that ended up being canceled anyway, I was distracted by a neighbour and in our chatter I didn’t notice the lamppost right in my path. WHAM! I knocked myself to the ground and produced a lump the size of an orange on the side of my head. The neighbour brought me in to her house and gave me tea (the Irish cure for anything) and an ice pack. So, now that I’ve recovered from the bump on my head, I feel up to writing a bit about last night.

Greystones Theatre

Greystones Theatre is open a matter of weeks and last night was our first time setting foot inside, despite the fact that we live exactly 32 seconds from the front door. The venue is beautiful, the acoustics are perfect (the best of any venue I’ve been in and that really surprised me). It is a new venue and, as such, isn’t well known yet. So, sadly, Juliet Turner did not get the turnout she deserved. The half empty/half full theatre still managed to make her feel very welcome as our small group were strong on whoops and applause.

Greystones Theatre

Gentry Morris

Gentry MorrisLottie talks about the supporting act here so I won’t write much about him, except to say he was yet another excellent choice of support for Juliet. In the past we have been lucky enough to hear a number of great support acts, not least of which was Duke Special a good number of years ago. Last night Gentry Morris played and was brilliant. Slightly nervous and sporting a chest infection, none of it showed as he played a few beautiful songs and a couple of songs that I already find myself singing along to. Check out his MySpace page or his own website.

Juliet Turner

When Lottie first introduced me to the music of Juliet Turner eight years ago, I gave it a swift listen and dismissed it as the audio equivalent of chick-lit. It was not until I was dragged to one of her gigs that I truly learned to appreciate what an amazing artist she is.

Her music is hard to define. To describe it as folk is to do it a sincere disservice. To call it jazz or soft rock is pigeonholing it because it is so much more than this. Alternative Irish probably means nothing to most people. Juliet Turner is all of this and more. Her songs are imbued with personality and emotion that seem to tell the story of her life. From her early Pizza and Wine (see Lottie’s video below) to her more recent offering Invisible to the Eye, she reveals so much of herself. Not that she is a particularly guarded or circumspect person. In between each track she is happy to chat and joke with the audience, telling us stories of her tours, her experiences and her inspiration for the songs she writes. And her voice is a thing of beauty. Her Northern Irish twang permeates through her songs and it is a joy to listen to her chat away. If she didn’t sing a note, she could still keep the crowd captivated for hours.

Pizza and Wine is one of my favourite Juliet tracks and it hails from her first album, Let’s Hear it For Pizza. Juliet TurnerThough the song is a number of years old now, she still sings it with the same joyful reflection that she did when I first heard it eight years ago. The first Juliet album I was heavily exposed to was Burn the Black Suit which has some wonderful tracks such as Belfast Central, Rough Lion’s Tongue and the ultimate Tom Waits cover, I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You (which I haven’t heard live since she dueted with Brian Kennedy at the Point Theatre and Kennedy fell over onstage – how we laughed 😆 ).

We seemed to be waiting decades for her follow up album, Season Of The Hurricane (2004), which did not disappoint. The brilliant track Everything Beautiful is Burning got a lot of radio play and the extremely sexy Vampire is one of my favourites. She also overjoyed fans by putting the crowd pleasing Sugartown on disc for the first time.

People Have Names

Her current tour is promoting her new album, People Have Names (iTunes link), and last night she mixed a number of new tracks in with her older established set. They fit in seamlessly and add a new vigour to the performance with tracks like Girl With a Smile and Tuesday Night Ladies wowing the crowd. She also played a wonderful rendition of Joy (also from the new album) which she claims is sung without cynicism – I don’t believe her for a second.

One of the excellent things about Greystones Theatre’s new website is their GTTV section where they have uploaded a number of performances from shows and gigs that have been on at the venue. The following is a recording of Joy from last night’s show:

The also whipped the crowd into a frenzy with the title track from her third album, Burn the Black Suit:

Juliet will be playing in Whelan’s on the 25th where I expect she will get a bigger crown than last night. We hope to be there and if you want tickets they are available from Ticketmaster. They are a mere €22.50 and it will be a great night.

Lottie, Darren and Juliet Tunrer

Also, if you know any Radio DJ’s (ahem!) please beg, pester and threaten them until they play Juliet’s new single Trickster, which can also be heard here.

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Jul 17 2008

Oxegen 2008 – A Guide For Festival Virgins (Part Three)

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Be Prepared to Run the Gauntlet

GladiatorsAs the Sunday sun beat down upon our milk-bottle white frames and we lay by the tents praying that the inevitable redness that would colour our skin would metamorphose into something resembling a light healthy brown, we watched the campers a few tents down engage in something that resembled the Gauntlet from Gladiators. They had a big blow-up armchair and were standing in the main thoroughfare challenging anyone who dared to pass. A few people scoffed and walked around, but there was many a brave soul who took on the challenge. How no one broke a bone is beyond me, as everyone from a 20 stone rugby player (clarification: he looked like he may play rugby. This might be a stereotype but I really doubt he pirouettes down the local ballet hall in his spare time) to a frail but nippy teenager, smashed through and lept over the two-man one-armchair blockade.

Bring Some Wellies, Yes, But Also Bring Comfortable Shoes Too

I tried my best to find some wellies for the weekend but those shops that weren’t sold out had sizes that wouldn’t fit me. I am a size 11 but size 11 boots were too big and size 10 were too tight. I gave up and settled on an old pair of hard wearing runners. It ended up being the best thing I could have done. They had a strong grip, were reasonably water-tight and they weren’t too warm. So, while everyone else was cooking their feet, I was in complete comfort. See if you can spot my feet in a photo from Mr Rick‘s N95:

Bring Money, Not Bank Cards

I will direct you to this post as a perfect reason to bring enough cash with you.

Be Prepared for Rain, Mud, Cold Weather But Also…

Bring light clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses and light shoes. Sunday’s incredible weather took us completely by surprise. Waking at 6am on Sunday morning I was drenched in sweat, it was like someone had moved us out of our tent during the night and placed us in a kiln. Tired and uncomfortable, needing to use the toilet, I attempted to unzip my sleeping bag. I squirmed and became exasperated but finally located the zip. I tugged too hard. It got caught up in the fabric. I wriggled and pulled and ripped and kicked, but to no avail. I was stuck. It was no use. I closed my eyes and suffered through it.

Me at OxegenI must have passed out because I awoke again at 11 with a renewed yearning to escape my prison. I tried to open my eyes but they were glued shut, it seemed. I located the zip again and took some deep (warm) breaths while I tried to calmly undo the zip. It came loose. I was free. Now I just had to put on some clothes and get out of the tent.

A half an hour later I found freedom. The cool air, the fresh air was manna. I looked up and saw not a single cloud in the sky. Apparently we hadn’t been transported to kiln at all, but to the South of Spain. I was first sad that I would be missing the rest of the festival, but then resigned myself to the thought that Spain was the next best thing. I think the heat had gone to my head.

I returned from the toilet to deckchairs, crisps and a beer. Ah, heaven! We talked for hours about the possibility of going into the festival arena to catch some early acts, but it was just talk. Instead we sunbathed. I can’t remember the last time I just lay out in the sun for the sake of it. Luckily, both Lottie and T had brought sun cream (it wouldn’t have crossed my mind) and we didn’t get too sizzled. Still, Lottie is quite red, even today, and my rudolph-like nose has looked better.

Save Some Batteries for the Last Day

No, I’m not referring to Nickel Cadmium cells for your torch or walkman. Make sure you keep enough in your own system to make it through the final day. When we finally emerged from the sunbathing, we staggered to the arena. It was not a drunken stagger. We were just wrecked tired from the previous night’s dancing (less dancing, more aimless jumping) and our legs and feet were in pain.

Mick PyroIt did not stop us from getting right back into festival mode, however, thanks to Delorentos. Sunday was to be a day of Irish acts for Lottie and myself. Beginning with the incredible Delorentos, who seemed more overwhelmed by the gig than us, it was to be a brilliant day of quality music. As the bassist departed the Pet Sounds stage he looked across the crowd and gave us a wave of sincere appreciation. It’s great to see a band enjoy a gig just as much as the fans.

One of the most anticipated gigs of the weekend, for us at least, was the Republic of Loose gig up on the O2 Stage. Lottie and I, Lady Anon, RP, and others gathered a good distance back from the stage and were still close enough to experience the energy and charisma of the bigger-than-life Mick Pyro. They played a set with more power and intensity than anyone else at the festival. Pyro wanted to be remembered and went all out, pushing the crowd, demanding as much from them as they wanted from him. As an exercise in audience participation, it was a masterclass. Singing, screaming, swaying, clapping, jumping and hanging on every word of the powerhouse lead singer, the crowd loved every minute of it.

Bring Water

Darren and AndrewAnd don’t forget to drink the water you brought. Seriously, we brought bottles and bottles of water and yet I only drank occasionally from them. For this reason I was beginning to lag midway through Sunday evening. I was getting a headache and needed to buy more water. The headache was not helped by the quandry of the next gig choice. The Raconteurs were playing at the same time as Róisin Murphy. In the end we headed towards the Pet Sounds Stage for Murphy. We had seen so many live bands over the weekend, we thought a change (in the form of Murphy‘s pop-dance act) would be good.

Roisin MurphyShe was more than good – she put on a show where she had no less than 6 outfit changes, where she wildly flirted with her backing singers, where she toyed with the other band members, beating up the lead guitarist, and all of this before we even think about her powerful voice. We caught Róisin at the Choice Music Prize in Vicar Street earlier this year where she performed a couple of less energetic tracks. Utilising her voice instead of the theatrics and big band, it was clear that she had an amazing voice. But seeing her at Oxegen, it was brilliant to see the full package: great voice, great songs and an unbelievable performance – a show worth catching. Again, it was a shame that the gig was so short.

Choose Your Last Gig Wisely

It will be the one that leaves you with lasting memories. Finish on a high. We chose to go to the Swell Season in Pet Sounds. Who? It was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s first performance as a group since the Oscars and they did not disappoint. It was probably the happiest gig of the entire weekend. Lottie managed to get some great footage on her camera here.

Bring Deodorant

Nah – don’t bother!

Bring Pills

No, not those – I refer to hayfever tablets, Imodium, diorylyte. Even if you don’t end up using them, someone else will be happy you are well stocked. I actually suffered really badly with hayfever on Sunday. It didn’t ruin the day or anything, but it definitely took something from it.

Be Prepared for the Impossible

You may be ready for everything – you may have enough food and drink, you may be prepared with a first aid kit, you may have a variety of clothes and footwear, you may have ear plugs, you may have a blow up mattress, you may be ready for rain, hail or snow, you may be ready for almost any eventuality……and then a tornado rips through the campsite and takes your tent a fe hundred feet in the air and miles away. This is what happened to two or three tents on Sunday afternoon. Two twisters zipped through the red campsite and left chaos, disruption and rubbish in their wake. So, what else could we do only applaud and cheer.


The Aftermath

After the dust has settled and I open my eyes to greet the real world anew, I truly feel as though I’ve been through a ‘rites of passage’, one I perhaps should have braved 10 years earlier. I trudged through mud, I basked in the rain, I ran between gigs and endured sanitary conditions that make the term ‘sanitary conditions’ a misnomer. I have no regrets, not one. I will return, I will definitely go to more festivals, but I somehow doubt anything will compare to the incredible experience I have had at Oxegen 2008.

Previous Posts:

Oxegen 2008 – A Guide For Festival Virgins (Part Two)

Oxegen 2008 – A Guide For Festival Virgins (Part One)

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Jul 16 2008

Oxegen 2008 – A Guide For Festival Virgins (Part 2)

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Don’t Rely on Your Mobile Phone

Have pre-arranged meeting points because even though you may have full signal, you may still have difficulty getting through due to 80,000 other people attempting to do the same. I left the Winehouse to meet with my brother but we kept missing each other due to the inability to get a mobile connection. This also meant that text messages sent, were received up to an hour or more late. This did afford me the opportunity to hear Panic at the Disco, the pop punk group from Las Vegas. I knew a couple of their songs (Nine in the Afternoon is brilliant) but was delighted to hear more. They were a great energetic act which acted as a contrast to Miss Amy‘s lacklustre performance at the opposite end of the arena, down on the Mainstage.

Don’t Hang Around With a Bunch of 16 Year Olds

One: you will feel very very old. Two: People will stare at you oddly because you are hanging around with a bunch of 16 year olds.

I did finally catch up with my sibling and his mates and ingratiated myself into their favours with packs of Mini Smarties. My hopeful attempt to seem cool and hip in front of them was grounded at the first hurdle. I looked like this:

Once I clambered over that obstacle things went further down hill when I insulted one (and probably more than one) of them accidentally. But, they were a forgiving bunch and allowed me to tag along with them to watch REM. Further showing my age, I was able to sing along with most of the earlier REM tracks while struggling with tracks from the recent Accelerate album (their best in many years).

Get Up Front As Early As Possible

After REM on the Mainstage, we bounded through the admittedly light layer of mud to see Manic Street Preachers in the Green Room. We arrived with time to spare so we could get some decent positioning for the gig. We were pretty much right up front and if you want to be anywhere near the front at a gig as popular as this, you need to get their early.

Alternatively send a bunch of people ahead of you. The Teens and I held onto a good spot while Lottie, Andy and T, RP, Lady Anon and others made their way through the masses to join us. The great show put on by the Manics was only improved by our brood of bouncing buddies. The Manics did not disappoint and gave us hit after hit – we loved it and the band seemed to really enjoy their set too, which can only enhance the performance. Dancing, singing, waving and jumping we were all on a high when they finished the set, but were immediately thrust into depression. It was too short. There was no encore. We screamed for more, but it did not come. It’s a shame, but such are the ways of the festival. The Manics were probably my top band of the entire weekend both for the music they played and the feeling of longing for more they left us with. The gig encapsulated all that Oxegen was for me. It was fun; I was surrounded by great friends and strangers who I clicked with; the music was unrivaled; the show was electric; I was left wanting, needing, crying out for more. Awesome!

Plan Your Weekend


No Matter How You Plan It, You Will Inevitably Miss Some Gigs

It’s going to happen. It’s the nature of festivals. Some gigs will clash with others. Some gigs will be on early and you may still be sleeping. Some gigs you may not even hear about until after the event. This is why it is vitally important to plan out your gig-guide before you go. Thanks to the ever-efficient Cormac Moylan I had a readymade Excel sheet which I could adapt for my own nefarious plans (mwahaha). Okay, so nefarious they may not be, but plans they are. For the most part I got to see what I wanted and my guide actually managed to stay in one piece for the whole weekend despite being rained on, handled by many and moving from muddied pocket to muddied pocket repeatedly.

But true to form, the well laid plans of mice did not allow for a number of gigs. I would love to have caught the Aphex Twin (especially having heard some of the reviews in the past two days). Paddy Casey would have been fun and I wanted to hear Counting Crows (although Andy and T were hugely disappointed by their mish-mash of a concert). The Hoosiers, Vampire Weekend, Declan O’Rourke and Alabama 3 were on my secondary list, but alas went unheard by me. The choice between The Raconteurs and Róisin Murphy on Sunday was very tough. We ultimately went with Róisin to add a greater variety to the weekend and I’m glad we did, because she was remarkable. I stepped into MGMT in Pet Sounds before the gig had started and was all set to watch them. I rushed out to summon Lottie, but by the time I returned, mere minutes later, the entire tent was surrounded by hoards of people and there was no hope of getting in. By all accounts it was a fantastic session – well, once it restarted after the idiots climbed down from the rafters.


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Jul 15 2008

Oxegen 2008 – A Guide For Festival Virgins (Part One)

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

As the scouts say, be prepared. Thank you to everyone who replied to my pleas for help and advice for my first ever festival. There is so much we would have forgotten had it not been for your guidance. The weekend ended up being one of the greatest times I’ve ever had. 2008, a year of so many highs, some I thought could never be topped, seems to have peaked this weekend. For the three days there was a buzz and an atmosphere I’d never really witnessed before. And to make it even better, I was with some truly fantastic people, new friends and old, who gave me a festival I could never have hoped for – one of fun, laughter and epic nights. Thank you all so much.

In an effort to relay my experiences, I thought it fitting that I also give other festival newbs a guide to what they can expect and maybe they can be as prepared as I was to take on the big bad world of festival life.

Arrange to Arrive Late

Okay, this may not seem to be the best bit of advice to begin my festival guide, so allow me to clarify. If you have a girlfriend and she has a friend who is very practical, and furthermore if you yourself are as practical as a back pocket in a vest, it is advisable to arrive late and allow them to completely set up the two tents and have a beer ready for you on your arrival. Both Andy and I were working on Friday and finished work around 1.30 (Thank you very much, Mr. Bossman – I will endeavour to make up for it). Together we traversed the Wicklow Way to reach the campsite in Punchestown for around 3pm. The two wonderful women, Lottie and T, had the tents up (kudos go to T on this) and beers ready for us to enjoy. We were men of leisure for the weekend and, I’m sorry Ladies, there is only the slightest hint of guilt. Also, hot pants high five!!!

Be Open to New Music

Bags were searched, wristbands were granted, umbrella hats (these are now exempt from my annoyances as previously illustrated in this post) were obtained and we finally entered the concert arena. I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was immense. It was people as far as the eye Whatever about people, it seemed to be stages as far as the eye could see. The first stage as we walked through the (red campsite) entrance was the O2 stage, the second biggest outdoor stage. Deus were playing as we entered and, while I had never heard of them before, I am now eager to buy their album. I realised that this weekend was going to be more about just catching the bands I know and like – I had to open my mind (and ears) to something new, something different. I forged ahead anxious for more.

Buy Irish

I’m unsure without doing the research, but someone might be able to correct me if I’m wrong: this year seemed to have a lot more Irish bands than ever before. Moreover, these Irish bands were gracing the main stages in triumph more than ever before. On Friday evening we caught Mundy and Bell X1, two of the greatest acts of the weekend. Mundy‘s July may have set the stage on fire, but his Galway Girl set fire to the night. It was electric – the crowd (bursting out of the Green Room tent) was chanting – more than that – they were erupting with Day-I-Ay-I-Ay’s. It was one of the many, many highlights of the weekend.

Bell X1, too, are a band I have wanted to catch for quite a while and I was not disappointed. A great Irish pop act with an edge (not The Edge, an edge).

The rest of the weekend saw us catch a number of other Irish acts including the sensual Camille, Delorentos, the Loose and Róisin Murphy to name a few. This was a festival that really promoted the ‘Boys in Green’ and it was far from a publicity exercise – this country is on top form at the moment when it comes to musical talent.

Bring Beer

Okay, as festival advice goes, this may seem a little redundant, but it was the best segue I could come up with to talk about our first night back at the tent, when Lottie, T, Andy and I shared drinks and chatted away into the cold night. Apparently I fell asleep in the tent with Andrew draped across me. I have no recollection of this. I think I’m happy about that.

I was thrilled to have two people I love to bits along to help us lose our festival virginity. They helped us out so much and were fantastic friends all the way. How on earth they put up with my irritating prattle for hours on end is beyond me. I can only assume they (like Lottie) have learned to tune me out.

It was also wonderful to share our time with the great Mr Rick, the delicious RP, the ravishing Lady Anonymous (I’ll stick with this name until she advises another). Thank you all for a great time and I look forward to many more. Btw, Rick, did you ever locate the doughnut picture?

Bring Ear Plugs

This is a damned important piece of festival advice. Much of my festival advice is just a neat way to tie my weekend together with snappy titles, but this one is a must. I know you may come to these festivals for music, but JayZ‘s 99 Problems on your neighbour’s Ghettoblaster at 6am after getting to bed (I use the term ‘bed’ loosely) only a couple of hours earlier will make you despise music forever. Cue the ear plugs. They may not drown out everything and if you’re a very light sleeper they are unlikely to do much good at all, but if you’re like me, they’ll allow you to sleep on through the morning, as the racket fades away into the background.

Forget About the Luxuries of Home and Embrace Festival Culture

You have to – you truly need to drop all your niceties and pleasantries and misguided gentilities. When you awake on your first morning, Saturday for us, and your teeth are furry, your body is dripping with sweat, there is a smell emanating from somewhere (the Gods only know where), there is a foot in your face and something unusual crawling across your chest, a strange sticky substance that you vaguely recall touching last night seems to have stained your leg a shade of green, there are noises that resemble an orchestra of monkeys that have no instruments, only spare car parts, tuning up, noises which you are sure should never greet a person in the morning – when you awake to this, you realise that this is to be a weekend like no other you have known. Thus, we have the festival culture. Embrace it, love it, make it your friend. Otherwise you’ll annoy yourself with talk of lost toothpaste, the lamented loss of deodorant, the departure of civilisation and, of course, sanitation.

When it Comes to Toilets, Don’t Expect the Ritz

I was prepared! I was told by so so many people, I had heard so many stories over the years about the disgusting, unhygienic, foul, putrid, stench-pits that were festival toilets, that I was not it the slightest bit phased when I saw my first faeces stained toilet seat. Nor was I bothered by the vomit covered walls. But, in truth, I seem to have a very lucky weekend when it came to toiletry facilities. Maybe it was luck or maybe Crapeus, the God of Toilets, was shining down upon me, because I seemed to pick the cleanest, most well stocked of all the portaloos all weekend. I also made use of the very pleasant indoor toilets at the VIP section of the Bacardi Dance Tent. Fine, I didn’t shower for the entire weekend, but I was expecting that. All in all, my experience was a good one. I think Lottie and the others may have different views to me on this though, so again I say, be prepared for the worst and you won’t be disappointed.

Bring Food

Your festival weekend is unlikely to be one of gourmet foods unless you are headed to Henley Festival and even then I wouldn’t hold my breath. Oxegen did have an elaborate array of food stalls, varying from the dodgy Taste of India, to the tasty (but perhaps equally dodgy) Fat Pig. There were vegetarian options and smoothie bars, there were traditional Fish and Chips and suitably modern Bagel Bars. Certainly, there was a great selection, but the prices were high and the standards were varied. It was good that we (I say we but I mean our saviour T) had food, drink and gas stoves up at the cars. It made for a pleasant lunch before catching our first music act on Saturday.

One act I had marked as a definite and was really looking forward to was Camille O’Sullivan. The burlesque temptress has a voice to rival any of the Mainstage acts and puts on a show that thrills. Her too-short set in the Pet Sounds tent began with a small crowd but attracted enough people to fill the tent by the time she had finished her show. And what a show! Beginning in a skimpy dress, she gradually undressed until she was in her very fetching underwear singing ‘In These Shoes, I Don’t Think So’. I think she had only a mere 7 or 8 songs in her allotted time but she, along with the audience, were ready for a lot more. Two of my favourite Oxegen moments come from this gig – her performance of the Tom Waits song ‘Misery’s the River of the World‘ and her unforgettable rendition of the aforementioned ‘In These Shoes‘.

Be Prepared for Rain, Mud and Cold Weather

As we ran from Camille‘s gig in Pet Sounds across the full length of the arena, the rain caught us off guard and, while the previous evening’s heavy downpours saw us ready with umbrella hats and rain macks, the quick burst of rain on Saturday afternoon saw us soaked by the time we reached the Green Room for the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

This was another band I had only vaguely heard of but couldn’t have named any of their songs. And, although I enjoyed their set, I am still none the wiser. They seem to have a great sound, a solid sound that works for one or two songs, but then it quickly wears thin as each song seems like a slightly different variation on the last. I liked them, even if each song did sound alike, but I won’t be rushing out to buy an album.

We were really in the Green Room to catch the proceeding band, The Ting Tings. They were pop-tastic. A great performance mixed with an enthusiastic crowd made it one of the best gigs of the weekend. I think ‘That’s Not My Name‘ will go down as one of the anthems of Oxegen 2008.

The Mainstage May Not Always Be the Best Stage


Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Hype

Much of Saturday heard murmurs of Amy Winehouse‘s cancellation. Some said she had died, some said she had just fallen into a catatonic state. But they were all wrong (well, she may have been slightly catatonic).

Only a few minutes late, she arrived out onto the main stage to eruptions of cheers and applause. Still too thin but at least she was upright, she looked reasonable well (translated that means ‘not strung out’) and sober (-ish). As the music started, however, it’s clear she’s been through the mill. She’s good, but not great. The excellent songs lack something as she blithely croons through her catalogue. Her lethargy and apathy are made all the more apparent by the hyperactive energy of her male backing singers and dancers. Their life seems to highlight her lack of it. It’s a shame to see it because the girl clearly has so much talent. Of all the drugged up divas in recent years, she is the only one I really hope gets her act together. I will continue to listen to her on my iPod but I wont be typing ‘Amy Winehouse Oxegen’ into my YouTube search bar any time soon.


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May 24 2008

Scarlett Johansson’s Anywhere I Lay My Head

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

It is perhaps fitting that I begin listening to Scarlett Johansson‘s album of Tom Waits’ songs on the day Waits announces details of his first Irish gigs in 21 years.

Scarlett JohanssonOver the years I had heard many Waits’ tracks, often sung by others, some by the artist himself, but it was his 2004 album, Blood Money, that grabbed my attention and made me a real fan. God’s Away On Business was a track I watched late one night on telly – it was a dark, twisted track with amazing lyrics matched by the gravelly voice of Tom Waits. I ran out the next day to buy the album (how much easier life is with the advent of music downloading).

Anyone, let alone a young Hollywood starlet, taking on the feat of doing an album entirely of his work, was always going to ruffle a few feathers among the Waitsian fan base, a devout following. Johansson has the advantage of cult status however, having been so perfect in the incredible Sophia Coppola movie, Lost in Translation, with Bill Murray. This was a movie that showed her to have the beauty and innocence of youth coupled with her wise eyes and a maturity that made the films’ pivotal relationship so wonderful to watch. But does that allow her the audacity to borrow from Waits’ catalogue? Each fan will have to make up their own mind.

Track by Track

The opening track, Fawn (from 2002’s Alice), is an instrumental piece and feels a little pointless, as if they are taunting us slightly. I was waiting for it to cut into the meat of the dish. Fawn is a cute intro though, that serves more to introduce us to the album’s producer, Dave Sitek, than to Ms Johansson. It’s clear that we are not going to get any of Waits’ creepy, haunting, beats that seem to hunt you while you sleep. Instead we are presented with a misty, southern states, drunken jazz atmosphere that fits very well with Waits’ pseudo-melodies and intelligent lyrics. The inclusion of Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and David Bowie on some tracks can only help the situation.

The Town With No Cheer, from Swordfish Trombones (1983), is one of the best tracks on the album and it is understandable that this song is chosen to introduce us to Scarlett’s smoky bass tones and masculine pronunciations of the lyrics. Quickly we learn that Scarlett’s vocal range is somewhat limited – she struggles with higher notes and her pitch is shaky at times. But, when we consider the gruff nature of Waits’ original vocals, we can look past this, as long as there is enough quality in what we hear throughout the rest of the album.

There is truth to the old adage, put your best foot forward. This is clearly what Sitek and Johansson have chosen to do here. Tracks 3 and 4, Falling Down and Anywhere I Lay My Head are truly remarkable.

Falling Down (from 1988’s Big Time) has a wonderfully strong start with near-synthetic piano overlaying a repetitive accordion piece. The lyrics are inspired and delivered beautifully by Johansson, but it is the inclusion of David Bowie’s backing vocals that truly lift this track and make it an immediate classic. Bowie’s backing vocals begin lightly and gently rise to a wonderful finish which has his voice match Scarlett’s in the lead, without taking over at any point. Apparently, Bowie, Johansson and Sitek are good friends, having worked together on previous projects – both Bowie and Johansson were in The Prestige with Christian Bale, while Sitek and Bowie worked together on TV on the Radio.

Anywhere I Lay My Head (from 1985’s Rain Dogs) is probably my favourite track on the album. You sway along to the tune and the chorus seems to sweep you into the music. Johansson’s multi-layered contralto voice is at its best here. It is followed by Fannin Street (2006’s Orphans) which is a song of regret, looking back over life’s mistakes and her voice is so perfect at selling the imagery that you forget she is only 24 years old. I can see a smoky bar and an aging band, led by a femme fatale and her glass of single malt whiskey, dreamily remembering her past.

Song For Jo is the only original track on the album and is written by Johansson and Sitek. This track is perhaps a hint that Johansson’s foray into the limelight of the music charts is not a one-off event. This is a strong track and although it lacks the punch of some of the other tracks on the album, it does have some dreamy qualities that shows the potential for something grander.

Green Grass is a track from the excellent Real Gone album from 2004 and I was destined to be critical of this track. It is from one of my first Tom Waits albums and an album I was particularly fond of. Green Grass is one of the poorer tracks on the Real Gone album and I am surprised to see Johansson choose it. She handles it admirably, but adds very little new. On future listens, I will skip forward to the next track.

I Wish I Was in New Orleans (1976’s Small Change) is perhaps the last great track on the album. Painting a picture of the streets of bourbon street, late at night as the music man plays his old wooden music box, clanging out a tune that sounds more like a demonic lullaby than any tune that would whisk a child off to sleep. The album’s general atmosphere is best summed up in this track which is a mixture of sadness and hope.

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up (1992’s Bone Machine) is immediately recognisable as a hit from the Ramones, so there is definitely additional pressure on Johansson and Sitek to pull out something special. Sadly, for me, this is the flattest track on the album. It is lifeless and feels like they knew they couldn’t make it better than either the original or the Ramones hit version, so they just threw something together. It’s a shame that this recognisable track should be the one to bring the album to a screeching halt.

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up is followed by No One Knows I’m Gone (from 2002’s Alice) and Who Are You (from 1992’s Bone Machine) and while both are better than their predecessors, neither reach the heights of quality attained earlier in the album.

Overall, this is more than a simple piece of curio – it is an album of great songs, preformed very well and arranged cleverly, and while I can’t see it hitting the bargain bins anytime soon, I certainly don’t see it reaching chart-topping heights.

But, of course, there’s no doubt that Johansson knew this early on. She chose to do an album of Tom Waits songs. She did not follow in the pop-princess heels of Lohan, Miley Cyrus or that other silly poppy ‘actress’/’singer’. The album was never likely to be a mainstream draw and if all we ultimately take from listening to it is that it is a fan’s tribute to an artist she really likes, then that’s not too bad.

I suspect this album will perform one service though – to introduce a number of new people to the incredible talents of Tom Waits. If that is this album’s legacy, then Johansson has plenty to be proud about.

Sidenote: How hot is Johansson? Does anyone want to see pics of Sitek, Bowie, Kinner? I doubt it!

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Apr 18 2008

Portishead’s Third

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

PortisheadI was first introduced to Portishead by accident about 9 years ago, by a friend of mine at the time, Peter. It was via an unlikely artist, Tom Jones. Knowing that I was (am) a big Divine Comedy fan, Peter pointed me at Tom Jones’ album, Reload, which included a track with Neil Hannon, a cover of Portishead’s All Mine. The album also included a cover of Motherless Child with Portishead. I immediately ran out to buy Portishead’s two albums, Dummy and Portishead (it’s possible my memory is a little iffy on this – I think it more likely that I copied the albums from my friend, but let’s not dwell on that).

On the 25th of April, the band, consisting of Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrows and Adrian Utley, will release their third album, ingeniously titled Third. Ten years after the release of their self-titled second album, this is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in recent years.

So, I sit here, excitedly listening to the new album and I am not disappointed. Often, a build up and an elevated air of anticipation can lead to a monumental let down (see Damien Rice’s 9), but Third is a wonderful piece of musical engineering.

From the word go, we are sucked back into a musical landscape which only this band can create. The first track, Silence, is an epic adventure that begins so slight and builds to a cheeky finish that had me checking my iPod batteries. This track gives us a mere tease of Gibbons’ vocals which are as stark as ever.

There are maybe only two tracks that feel as though they were written minutes after the release of their second album, but this is not wholy a bad thing – Machine Gun is an excellent tune but it seems to contrast with the rich freshness and modern edge of Third. (On third and fourth listening, this ‘negative’ point fizzles away – I cannot find fault with this album).

Hunter is a track that paints a picture. It feels like listening to two tracks at once. Perhaps we are, through the music, hearing the points of view of the hunted and the hunter. Superb! Equally, The Rip is a ripping track (sorry!). It’s shows some growth in Gibbons’ vocals, where we hear a more romantic, slight sound (don’t worry – the edge is still very evident). A slow starter, the synth sound hypnotises and pulls us along to a sleepy ending. Portishead’s version of a lullaby maybe?

Plastic and We Carry On show the band’s love of percussion. The helicopter blades of the drum beat in Plastic are just as important to the track as the seething vocals, while the rhythm of We Carry On makes me want to march (but I’m very tired, so I don’t think I will).Portishead Third

The biggest surprise on the album comes in the form of the ukelele led Deep Water. I wonder if this was a track they made to amuse themselves, but was too good to be left off the album? The harmonies are silly, the melody unoriginal, but somehow this sounds great. It’s a bit of light relief after the heavy We Carry On.

Machine Gun is old style Portishead. Explosive drum and bass beats, almost metalic, mixed with Gibbons’ piercing vocals. Did they head down to the local steelworks to record this one? Perhaps, but the result is brilliant.

Small is a truly beautiful track, just beautiful. It’s looking to be my favourite track on the album. The sensual sound of Gibbons’ voice carries this song through the first minute or so before being joined by a long, deep organ sound. The synthesised, almost 70’s sound, makes me wonder if this is what The Doors might sound like had Morrison stuck around a while longer. This track quickly becomes as anthemic as the second album’s All Mine.

Magic Doors is a hectic mix of vocals and drum beats in disarray. It’s a tough listen, more suited to a late night and a few beers. There’s a rawness to it that sounds like it may have been lifted from Dummy, their debut album. The closing track, Threads, too sounds like vintage Portishead, though it is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Sweeping synthesised sounds, almost whale-like, help this tune crescendo into a big foghorn finish, perfectly closing the album.

I’ve listened to it in full four times now and a few tracks more than that. As much as I enjoyed their debut, Dummy, and adored the follow up, Portishead, Third is likely to be my favourite Portishead album. Haunting, moody, intelligent and modern, this will be big and rightly so.


The Official Website of Portishead

Third’s MySpace Page

Beth Gibbons’ MySpace Page

Geoff Barrow’s MySpace Page

Portishead on Wikipedia

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