Browsing articles in "Entertainment"
Nov 5, 2013

Lumiere – Sweet Sound of Home

Sunday evening is the new Saturday night! Well, for me and the Bloke anyway. All I had to do was turn up and be fed. Himself had cooked up a Mexican bonanza of Quorn chilli, refried beans, rice and tacos. Bung on guacamole, cheese, jalapenos, Greek yogurt (great alternative to sour cream), salsa and salad and you’ve got a belly full of yum. Dessert was Lumiere at the Workmans Club. And how sweet it was.

Lumiere are Pauline Scanlon and Eilish Kennedy, two trad singers from Dingle, Co. Kerry. Together, their voices form a beautiful union, earthy and ethereal at the same time. What I love about the Workmans Club, is that it’s the perfect venue for plain good entertainment. A stage, some higgledy piggledy chairs and a few simple lights. They have mirror balls on the ceiling, but Lumiere need no fuss.

We missed The Damien O’Kane Trio, due to our pie eating contest, but there would be more from them later. Pauline and Eilish shared the stage with musician Gerry O’Beirne on the acoustic. I hadn’t seen Lumiere live before, and I must admit I was instantly uplifted by their singing. The whole room was captivated. There’s something about the Gaeilge that, as an Irish person, touches your very soul.

Pauline and Eilish, like two strings on the same instrument gave a rousing rendition of “Oro se de Bheatha Abhaile”. And what haunting ballads from their new album “My Dearest Dear”. Joking and quipping all the while, Lumiere connected with their audience on many levels. It was like we were all down in the snug of a wee pub in Dingle. Such fun! Gerry O’Beirne, a pure character himself, sang too.

If every gig Lumiere do is like this, then I can see why they are so loved. “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” was another stunning number (Sinead O’Connor sings on the album) and “Samhradh” was a fave of mine. The girls were joined on stage by The Dermot O’Kane Trio. A jangle of guitars and a ukelele were married with their twin voices, with plenty of banter in between. A real down home vibe.

Chatting to Pauline and Eilish afterwards, they told me next stop was Kerry. That night. Touring the country is hard work, but the glamour is in their exquisite sound. Pauline added that the joy is in seeing the audience reaction. Lumiere are looking forward to a happy Christmas with their upcoming US tour. Me and the Bloke then hit the Garage Bar for a spot of moonstomping. Variety is the spice of life!

www.lumieremusic.net / The Workmans Club, 10 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2

Oct 17, 2013

Very Extremely Memphis – Rock’n’Roll Roots

Having another of our Sunday-like Mondays, me and the Bloke rocked along to the Grand Social that night for Very Extremely Memphis. Free gig, we parked ourselves upstairs in the Loft and ordered a pair of Guinness. The set up was a Q&A with film director Paul Duane and MC Pat McCabe about Duane’s latest release, Very Extremely Dangerous. A documentary on the life of the mad, bad Jerry McGill.

Opening tomorrow at the IFI, Duane’s film charts McGill’s musical beginnings in 1960s Memphis, through his odyssey of crime and jail to his present day ex-con lifestyle. No less wild than his younger days, he brings Duane on the road to recording a follow up to his 1959 single, Lovestruck. Off the rails, McGill isn’t a regular dude. Gruesome too, it deals with his terminal cancer. McGill passed away since.

It’s clear that music and it’s history are Duane’s passion. He spoke animatedly through a number of clips from hazy Memphis days. Really cool, rare stuff. Pure rock’n’roll. Alex Chilton and Jim Dickinson were two memorable features, anti-establishment figures with real rebel blood in their veins. It really gave Himself a thrill. A little slice of New Orleans in Dublin! Duane and McCabe were equally enthralled.

Time for a bit of music. First up were The Problem Blob (ex-Female Hercules), with singer and guitarist Conzo giving it socks. I loved the punky ‘tude of these guys. Using their instruments as weapons of intent. The Slick Hicks were a different kettle of fish. A polished rockabilly outfit, these cats sailed through a blinding set. We shuffled happily to the double bass rhythm. Then home to bed. Rock’n’roll.

Very Extremely Dangerous – Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin / www.ifi.ie

Oct 16, 2013

The Threepenny Opera – Jazz Hands!

So it was that I met a friend at the theatre on Saturday afternoon. Matinees are such a pleasant way to while away the weekend. I’d had a busy morning, whisking Dad and the Bruv around town in search of a birthday present for Mother. I know, I’m a saint. We ducked in and out all over the Creative Quarter (South William Street & Co), Powerscourt Townhouse and eventually up to Wexford Street. Phew!

We struck gold, or should I say an opal and silver ring, at Djinn Jewellery. Gorgeous contemporary pieces. Designer and maker Simon Phelan advised us with his expert knowledge on gems and wrapped the dainty ring in a cool wooden box. Job done. Back down town and into the belly of Temple Bar, it was Mexico To Rome with the lads for a lunch deal. Burrito and chips with a bottle of Peroni for a tenner. Can’t go wrong!

Off they went, for more shopping (crafty pints), and I made the final stretch up to Parnell Square to The Gate Theatre. A small but smart space, The Gate features a low, open stage. You can catch all of the action, no matter where you’re sitting. Me and my mate were here for The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s the high octane story of lusty criminal Mac The Knife.

The production opened in style with the Street Singer (David Shannon), a sort of musical narrator, belting out signature tune ” Mac The Knife”. A tale of petty crime, street urchins, silly girls and crooked police, The Threepenny Opera unfolds first in the back street shop of Mr. Peachum (Mark O’Regan) and his formidable wife (Jackie Marks). This pair and their charge, the hapless beggar Filch (Laurence Kinlan) set the tone.

The Threepenny Opera is bawdy, in your face and actually does jazz hands. Brilliant. This version is directed by Wayne Jordan, with musical direction by Cathal Synnott. The cast, both young and vintage, are fresh and full of energy and there is some great voices in the mix. Set in Victorian London, though there’s Dublin accents at The Gate, Brecht and Weill offered a socialist critique of a capitalist world.

And so we are introduced to a cast of scoundrels, drop outs and hopeless romantics. Main protagonist Macheath (David Ganly) is a charming thief who steals the heart of not so innocent Polly Peachum (Charlotte McCurry). Their marriage causes ructions and we are treated to much hilarious to-ing and fro-ing, with Mac dodging the cops and Polly answering to her parents. His cronies add to the mirth.

We learn that Mac has friends in places high and low. His friendship with Tiger Brown (Stephen Brennan), Chief of Police, has kept him out of trouble. But he can’t resist Low-Dive Jenny (Hilda Fay) and her ladies of the night. Mac will never go straight and when Polly discovers a love rival in his other “wife” Lucy Brown (Ruth McGill), all hell breaks loose. The tussle for Mac’s affections land him in jail.

Ganly gives a big and bold performance as the incarcerated Mac The Knife, but it’s his women who steal the show. A scene with McCurry and McGill is great fun with the two gangster’s molls finally bonding over their plight. Hilda Fay shines as the tart with a heart, looking steely and sad all in one go. Mac is to be hanged. Alas, a comical reversal means that Mac is freed and a musical romp ensues.

I suppose the message is, life ain’t all that bad. We’re all in it together. That’s Mac The Knife, Tiger Brown and the Peachums. The beggars and the whores remain in the gutter. The Threepenny Opera, almost a hundred years old, is relevant in any society. The good and the bad triumph over the ordinary, as ever. This production at The Gate is action packed from beginning to end, a feel good take for sure.

The Gate Theatre, Cavendish Row, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 / www.gatetheatre.ie

Oct 6, 2013

Keith Cullen – With Eyes Open EP Launch

Last Friday night saw your fave reporter all snuggled up in the Odessa Club for the launch of Keith Cullen’s new EP, “With Eyes Open”. The intimate venue was packed, but me and my fizzy water found a nice spot stage-side. Odessa Club is all leather sofas, glossy walls and sexy lighting – the perfect setting for Keith Cullen. An Irish singer / songwriter, Cullen is known for his heartfelt live performance.

The crowd was immediately animated when Cullen came on stage. Good looking and groomed, he was slick in a black leather panelled jacket and matching top teamed with black skinny jeans. Understated cool. Opening with “Flashing Lights”, Cullen was on his game, backed up by two female singers and a great band. His voice conveyed great feeling and it was shaping up to a be a top gig. A talented guy!

Next up was “Superhero”, a sweeping ballad, atmospheric and damn catchy. I wasn’t familiar with Cullen’s work before, a friend invited me along, but I was really loving his stuff. Big radio-friendly sounds and strong lyrics, Cullen’s style is bold. He was arms out wide for “When I Hear Your Name”. A natural performer, he was in his element as the audience bopped along. Such passion in his deep brown eyes.

An acoustic version of Rihanna’s “Stay” had us all swaying, and Cullen joking “this is the only track you’ll know!”. The song beautifully showcased his vocal range and glam stage presence. Cullen has a clean cut image, with a boy band edge, and I could see him owning Eurovision. He’s got what it takes! Katie Carpenter, one half of Jezzebelle, dueted on “Safe From The World”, one of her own numbers.

A striking combo, Carpenter and Cullen delivered a breathless version, hitting the high notes together to a gentle strumming beat. “Losing My Way” and “The Walls” showed Cullen at his best, voice soaring to marching drums and perfectly choreographed as he moved in rhythm to the music. He really came alive, big songs and a big heart. Announcing his new EP “With Eyes Open”, Cullen closed with the song.

A rollicking tune, catchy with lots of ohh-woahs, Cullen had everyone clapping along to “With Eyes Open”. I can hear this one on the radio, or on the dancefloor, a wave of strong vocals over a powerhouse melody. It was obvious that Cullen’s fans are a loyal bunch as there was such excitement as he bowed out with “let’s have a party!”. He brought a real feel good factor to the room. Now that’s entertainment!

www.kcmusic.ie / Keith Cullen “With Eyes Open” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GY23lMcG_ys

Sep 23, 2013

Culture Night 2013 – Howdy Neighbours!

This is how I played Culture Night. If somebody calls me, I’ll go. If they don’t, I won’t. Just back from my holliers in Barcelona, a loll on the sofa was tempting. Alas, the Bruv announced that he and his chica were venturing out for a a bit’o culture. We didn’t have to go far to find it. The Design Tower on Grand Canal Quay was hosting an interactive tour of its studios. The Tower is home to a dynamic bunch.

Artists, jewellery makers, sculptors, and fashion designers. Glass of Merlot in hand, the lovely people at the Tower also laid on snacks and live music, we made our way up to the artists dens. First stop was silversmith Seamus Gill, whose contemporary collections are housed in glass cabinets front of studio. He gave us a behind the scenes look at his workshop, explaining his craft – materials, tools and skill.

Jewellery maker Breda Haugh talked us through her celtic inspired gold and silver work. She designs heritage pieces for the National Museum of Ireland and told us of the value of the Design Tower to the art community. Indeed, many creative types have passed through its doors over the last thirty years. Fine Art Conservationist Ciara Brennan took us through her fascinating art restoration processes next.

Then it was onto the colourful studio of ceramics sculptor Ayelet Lalor. Specialising in one-of-kind figurative and decorative ceramics, Ayelet’s work is striking and fun. She recently contributed a piece to urban pop-up Granby Park, and collaborated with the Doorway Gallery to make a sculpture from icing for their Edible Art exhibition, for Culture Night. Ayelet also runs classes and special group events.

The Misery Hill Gallery were showing work from their latest exhibition, featuring some exquisite mixed media and painting. Philip Murphy explained their innovative use of plastics and how the warping effect reflects that of the human body in life drawing. Finally we dropped into Da Capo, goldsmith duo Lee Harding & Se O’Donoghue. They told us how the rich history of their studio inspires their beautiful work.

It was such a nice evening and I was showing off my holiday tan (freckles) as we strolled back to Merrion Square. Time to drop into the nabes. We hit no.45, the grandest terraced house on the Square. Now home to the Irish Architectural Archive. We enjoyed a tour and history of the house, including the Raymond McGrath exhibtion which is showing until October 4th. Such an impressive building.

The Irish Manuscripts Commision, which shares the first floor, gave an interesting talk on the importance of documenting history. So much of our identity is tied to the past… Culture Night was coming to a close. The Bruv and Herself went in search of food (and drink!) while I popped into n0.38, The Society of Chartered Surveyors. Another pad with a fine Georgian interior. My place is not so fancy!

An intriguing feature was an old map of Dublin from 17-something. So cool. Merrion Square was just off the radar, but I could see my old gaff in the Blackpitts. Not much has changed, really. Still the best town in Europe! It was time for my good self to retire home, a sort of mini Culture Night under my belt. It’s always a buzz to chat with artists and creative bods, thanks to Culture Night. And now to dream…

The Design Tower, Trinity Centre, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2 / Irish Architechtural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 / Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, 38 Merrion Square, Dublin 2

Sep 6, 2013

Electric Picnic – It’s Not You, It’s Me…

This day last week I landed in Stradbally, Co. Laois, for the 10th Electric Picnic. Not my 10th. I’ve been to the festival four times. I met the Bloke at his gaff, with Simon’s Place sandwiches in my bag. A quick munch and a cup of tea, and were off down George’s Quay to catch the party bus. I didn’t know it then but this was just the start of my journey. An epic time travelling episode that would change my life.

First stop was the pub. Ramsbottoms, for a lovely pair of Guinness. We sat in the beer garden supping and chatting to locals. Just the ticket to kick start the weekend. Here, we liased with our Man in Japan. The Bloke was DJing in Trenchtown and I was Santa’s little helper, so we got our performer passes (swanky!) and jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Serious mileage ahead for my trusty biker boots.

Trenchtown was already abuzz, the crew having been here all week. We were shacked up in our own mini camp site at the back of the stage. If I never hear reggae again… Me and the Bloke managed to get our house built without committing murder. I told him to piss off. He told me to shut up. Still, nobody was hurt in the making of this tent. We even blew up our blow up mattress by mouth. Go team!

Now, the tent was a joke. A nylon condom. I’d found it in Dad’s garage and assumed to be an old tent from festivals of yore. No. I don’t know who owned it or where it came from but it’s been binned now. Sure, it did the job. We squeezed the mattress inside and mashed our bags into the tiny porch. Rain, rain stay away… And so it was out of the rarefied air (ahem) of Trenchtown and off into the main arena.

Walking from our gaff to the security gates, I noticed that Electric Picnic was far more organised than before. The place was like Fort Knox. But that wasn’t the only thing. The punters. “Oh My God. I’m getting Subway tomorrow!” the kid in front of me announced. “They’ve got Subway?” her orange companion gasped, “Like, that’s what so great about Electric Picnic!” Is it? I had a bad feeling…

I realised pretty quickly that the Electric Picnic of my youth is dead. Where were all the cool people? Surrounded by packs of youngsters in Penneys festival uniform – denim cut offs, pleather jackets and faux flower crowns for girls. Hipster lite tee shirts for guys – I suddenly felt old. I thought these kids were supposed to be in Australia? Folk my age were at home in front of the Late Late, obviously.

Everything felt different. Including me. The delicious excitement that anything could happen was no longer mine. It was theirs. I’m not the girl I used to be. Wearing my furry leopard coat, flowery dress and diamante on my eyes I was dressed like my old self but somehow she seemed irrelevant to Electric Picnic mark ten. All around me was fake tan, black tattooed eyebrows and ropey hair extensions.

I was transported back to my college days by the Wu Tang Clan. Well, they were still the same. So many of them, I’ve never known who is who, but they were brilliant. The crowd were loving it. Probably retro cool, these days! The Casa Bacardi was heaving and we got ourselves a couple of mojitos from the Bloke’s mate, who was behind the bar. Now for some food. There was a dizzying array of nosh.

I went for Bombay potatoes and rice from Indian Food and the Bloke picked up a burrito next door. We had a mill about the place to find our bearings – Body & Soul, Electric Arena, The Cosby Stage, Rankin Wood, Trailer Park. Then we ambled back to Trenchtown. Work for the Bloke and a little rest for me. I watched the fireworks, for the Picnic’s birthday from the tent, which was handy for the Main Stage.

Time for round two, I zipped up my body warmer and pulled my trilby down over my nose. A cup of tea was what I wanted. Hardcore! Just me, I dropped into a white marquee right outside Trenchtown. Paradoxology. What do you know? Tea and biscuits. I got chatting to Scott Evans, the guy who was running this little Christian chill out zone. Such a nice chap. We talked books, creativity and God.

I mosied down to the Salty Dog. The stage was a big wooden ship and housed Saint John The Gambler. I caught this lot at a party last summer, so was delighted to chance upon them. Hugh, a young Cork lad, then chanced upon me. He seemed wide eyed and lost. When Hugh asked if he could come to Fatboy Slim with me, I turned from Cougar to Mother Hen and told him to wait there for his pals.

Have I still got it? Ha! I used to love flirting with boys, but now that I’m a woman… The crowd at Fatboy Slim was pure Oxegen. The last time I saw him probably was at Oxegen. Except this time my mates weren’t here. They were in the ‘burbs nursing babies and mortgages. There was a thirty something exodus going on. I bopped around at the back catching the tail end of his set. Right Here, Right Now.

Drifting into Body & Soul I found the amphitheatre of the B&S Stage lined with chilled out bods. Except for those at the front. RSAG was giving it socks. With the flashing lights and manic drumming it was quite magical. I looked up to the black sky. A shooting star! I’ve never seen one before. The spiritual type in me decided it was Granny saying hello. She always encouraged me to do my own thing.

A bit of dancing in the Zen Garden and it was back to Trenchtown, moving through the hordes. I found the Bloke and his chums. A rich aroma all around spurred me to take my first puff of greenery in years. And that was it. One drag. Put away childish things… I went to bed in my freezing tent, wondering what had changed. Me or Electric Picnic? Had we both grown up overnight… I cuddled into Himself.

We woke to sunshine on Saturday. Hurrah! The portaloo was still fresh-ish, thank God. Baby wipe shower, a dusting of glitter (for me!) and we were off to the Salty Dog for brekkie. A Dubliner cheese toastie for me and a bacon sarnie for Himself. And lashings of tea, natch. Blind Yackety were on the ship. The Bloke went off to play his set in Trenchtown Yard and I hit the Electric Arena for The Raglans.

Then it was a spot of Dancergy with Mr. Motivator. Why not? Turns out Mr. M is actually quite the dude. He’s not all ker-azy neon lycra, but a had some top self love tips for us too. Folk were grinning from ear to ear. And I thought he was just the Timmy Mallett of fitness. Respect. Feeling much better than the day before, I slurped on a Purple Haze smoothie and mooched around “the shops”. Any opportunity…

There was lots of crafty gear on offer, novelty thingies, handmade stuff and cool clothes. I picked up a High School Musical cushion for the Bloke, as he’d been using his coat for comfort. Wandering into the Mindfield, I spotted Roisin Ingle and Pauline McLynn chatting to Amy Huberman outside the Arts Council Literary Stage. What luck! Ingle was about to interview the two authors so I took a pew inside.

Hubes was funny in a sassy way and McLynn was funny in a hilarious way. And they both imparted some very savvy writing tips. A great random find. I was forced to think about my own writing. I’m working on my first novel. My laptop was stolen a couple of weeks ago and I lost a fair bit. But the fire has been under me ever since. Listening to two “real” writers was totally inspirational, I’ve gotta say.

Passing the Main Stage I was just in time for the Duckworth Lewis Method. Neil Hannon and the Pugwash crew in fancy dress. They were leading a merry crowd with feel good cricket tunes. Thomas Walsh was in his element, strumming away in a top hat. It was back to Trenchtown via Body & Soul, where I enjoyed a choir all in black and white polka dots. Children danced and played, it was lovely!

After an interlude, reading Scott Evans’ book “Closer Still” in my tent, I met up with the Bloke’s gang. As a bunch of forty something guys, their tribe was more evident at this year’s Picnic than mine. Along with the college crowd, the families and the hippies, forty something types were out in droves. They joked that security hadn’t bothered fleecing them for cans. But the music was certainly up their street.

With Himself working away, I went with the lads to see Robert Plant presents Sensational Space Shifters on the Main Stage. Wow! The Led Zeppelin front man still has it in spades. That unique brand of sexy… Funny how a 65 year old can channel it, but a field full of young ‘uns have no idea. I’ve never seen so much flesh. Cheeks are the new cleavage, but it’s the rare Irish girl has the legs for hot pants.

I got word from a couple of pals who were at Little Green Cars in the Electric Arena, so I multi-gigged and scooched on over. Midway, I encountered two scantily clad girls who asked me to photograph them on their iPhones. As they posed up a storm, and thanked me in faux American accents I thought of my 22 year old self. Vodka, mini skirts and my whole life ahead of me. That was fifteen years ago.

Little Green Cars were ace. Ones to watch, according to my sources. Peckish, we headed to Saba for bites. My chums scoffed Pad Thai noodles and kindly offered me some of their Yellow Curry potato wedges and a round up of their Picnic must-sees. I’m not much good with modrin bands, having stopped buying records when I left school. My music collection is a Britpop graveyard. Back to Robert Plant…

I hooked up with the Bloke, who was free for now, and we went on the hunt for food. I’ve turned vegetarian, after years of being meat-friendly but mostly veggie. It’s so much easier, now I’m 100%. Yummy scran is part of the Electric Picnic experience, whether you want a burger or a gourmet meal. I filled up on paneer and veg curry from Karuna’s Kitchen while Himself enjoyed Dixieland chicken gumbo.

It was hello, goodbye and he was off to Billy Bragg as I went to Bjork. That’s why I love this man. I can be me and he can be him. That simple. It’s something I came to appreciate even more that weekend. I’ve always feared becoming someone’s “other half”. With the Bloke, I’m still a whole person. Me. But now with another whole person to hang around with. Him. Who’s kind, funny and my best friend.

So, Bjork. Due to ridiculous circumstances I missed her last set a couple of years ago. But Saturday night well and truly made up for my past fail. She was stunning. Backed up by a head banging all woman choir, Bjork took the Main Stage by storm in an electric blue bubble dress and sparking headgear. I remember falling in love with the Icelandic singer as a teenager. It’s okay to be a weirdo!

With a giant tesla coil dropping from above, Bjork was electric with energy as she belted out her brilliant new material. Hers is a very special stage presence and the crowd were spellbound. To say she owned Electric Picnic is an understatement. I was on such a high after her show. I celebrated with a mojito from the Casa Bacardi and nipped into the Electric Arena to catch the last choon from Billy Bragg.

Another artist in fine form, Bragg rallied us at the top of his voice. I admire his passion, as fresh as the day he started. These people really gave me something to think about. About myself. The world around me. I’d been a little bit scared at the start of the Picnic, with all the change in the air. But I felt like I was evolving into somebody I truly want to be. Bigger and better. More mature. And I like it very much.

After all of this heavy musing, I was in need of some light entertainment and I found it in the Trailer Park. A good old fashioned hoe down, courtesy of Prison Love. Fronted by the honey voiced Mark O’Mahony, these guys are nothing but great fun, taking unlikely numbers and putting a bluegrass twist on them. I found the lads here too, what luck. Off to the Rankin Wood tent for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

All rocked out, I headed back to Trenchtown for a sup of Heineken backstage. Another cold night in our nylon cell, a few laughs with Himself warmed me up. Ear plugs were an essential piece of kit, with Trenchtown partying ’til the wee hours. My ability to stay up late has dwindled as much as my capacity for drink. Heh heh… But seriously, a hangover in that tent? Would ya stop. I’d rather get up early!

And that I did, on Sunday morning. The portaloo was fairly grim at this stage. I love being a woman, and would hate to be a man. But the one time a willy would come in handy… I did see one girl stop and go as she pleased, and it wasn’t pretty. Breakfast was tea and biscuits at Paradoxology. Scott was doing a service, which was just him sitting on a stool talking about God. This fella is such a good speaker.

The thing about God, is that it’s not very fashionable to like him any more. Most folk my age have ditched religion. Catholicism at least. Buddhism and stuff is socially acceptable. A lot of my friends are atheist, and fair play. Some aren’t believers, but get married in church and have their kids christened anyway. And laugh at me for going to mass. But I don’t care. I’ve questioned my faith, of course.

Is God simply something I grew up with? Maybe. I appreciate science and spirituality. I don’t feel black and white about it. What Scott is saying makes total sense to me, so it felt great to meet someone who gets it. There was angelic hymn singing with acoustic guitar and breaking of bread. Pamela, a beautiful artist I got chatting to, told me all about her time working in India and we exchanged some ideas.

I wasn’t expecting that at Electric Picnic. That’s what’s so great about it. Not Subway! Off I went to Body & Soul, only to bump into some old muckers. They were down for the Sunday, leaving the kids at home. It was nice to see them. Seems like a life time now, but we would have been those 20 something kids back in the day. I remember one wild Summer at Wittness, after I came back from London.

Pizza for Trees provided my lunch from their wood fired oven. Fresh dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella. Delish! Washed down with Wispa hot chocolate. I cashed in my Electric Picnic birthday cake voucher for a giant iced fairy cake, given to me by Rev. Olive Donohoe, the Rector of Stradbally. Next stop was Green Crafts and the Global Green. This was an organic cornucopia of cooking and craft.

More food for thought. Watching people basket weaving, wood carving, sewing and painting I wondered what it would be like to be a total hippy. No mortgage, no car, no boss. Out of the rat race. So many of my generation have been made wage slaves due to the property bubble, career ladder and wedding debt. Not to mention childcare. Some of my friends have chosen to be stay at home mothers.

I’ve chosen none of the above. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the pressure. Owning a house and driving a car aren’t things I want in life. Getting married or having kids wasn’t something I thought about much. But I like the idea. I’m open to an alternative lifestyle more than the norm. Or what’s expected. Living in town for the last few years has suited me perfectly, but I see my future near water.

At last, Electric Picnic became the place I wanted it to be. A place to dream and just be. Green Crafts was so close to nature, far away from the commercial aspect. I finally realised why the Picnic needs both. It will never be the boutique affair it once was, but it hasn’t lost it’s ability to inspire. I could feel some of John Reynolds’ original vision in the air on Sunday. I hope it doesn’t go changing too much…

After a trip back to Trenchtown to meet Himself for a cuppa (more mild than wild) I tucked him into the tent for a rest while I went off to Johnny Marr. Now, this I was looking forward to. Marr didn’t disappoint. In fact he blew me away. A full house at the Electric Arena, his infamous jangly guitar washed in gorgeous waves over the audience. And he can sing too. His own material and some Electronica.

And of course, The Smiths. I just closed my eyes and danced. Bigmouth Strikes Again, How Soon Is Now and There Is A Light. Amazing. A time machine back to the bedroom of my youth. Now there’s a girl I once was. It was such an emotional moment. I smiled through tears. Although I wished the Bloke could have experienced Marr too, I embraced the music as mine. And I let go of my past in that tent.

Dazed, delighted, I went out into the sunshine. There was the Bloke and his posse. Eels at the Main Stage was next on the agenda. A load of geezers with beards in tracksuits. There was something novelty about Eels that I didn’t get. I mean I got it. But I didn’t like it. So I went off and got Pieminister for Sunday dinner. Heidi pie (goat’s cheese, sweet potato and spinach) with peas, mash and gravy.

David Byrne & St Vincent in the Electric Arena was a spectacle with all of the players lined up marching band style. Excellent stuff. Me and the Bloke slipped into Body & Soul for some chai and a wander about. We just sat and soaked up the atmosphere, happy together. Off he went back to Trenchtown, while I made my way to Mindfield to see what I could see. Crow Black Chicken rocking The Word.

A little munchy I was won over by the smell from Kinara Kitchen, doing Pakistani street food. Fresh naan bread and mango lassi did the trick. I chomped while watching the Arctic Monkeys. Now there’s a band I know nothing about. The turn out was massive and I was really impressed by them. Front man, Alex Turner, was on top of his game. I only know their songs from the radio, I must confess…

Back in Trenchtown, I was ready to party. By that I mean I had a nip of gin and juice from my hip flask, while chatting to the Bloke and various band heads backstage. I’ll start rebelling against myself if I’m not careful. Wasn’t too bad a night in the tent in the end. Living on one of the busiest roads in Dublin city centre, meant all night reggae was a cinch to sleep through. We slept late on Monday morning.

The portaloo was a disgrace. All you can do is laugh! I was chuffed when Himself came back from the camps with tea and sambos. He’d queued for twenty minutes to get me a vegetarian sandwich. With no onions. Awh… Forget diamond rings and Paris in the spring – that’s real romance in my eyes. The time came to pack our things and say goodbye to Electric Picnic. Tired, sticky and hurting all over.

We’d missed the bus, but luckily a mate was driving to Dublin so we bunged our gear into the back of the van and off we went, leaving the crew to dismantle Trenchtown. They were a good bunch. Back at the Bloke’s place in Temple Bar, he crashed out while I fetched dinner. Fish and chips from Leo Burdock’s on buttered batch bread. And tea. Only the best! A fitting end to an unforgettable weekend.

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Sep 5, 2013

Cats – The Greatest Musical Ever

It’s no secret that Herbstreet is my fave restaurant in Grand Canal Dock. So that’s exactly where I went for a pre-theatre supper last week. Me & Dad sat by the window, twas a mild night & the water was rippling gently. The last of that summer feeling… We got our munch on with lemon and lime marinated chicken, Irish oak smoked salmon and fish tacos, made with local plaice, and sweet potato wedges.

Fine food in our bellies, we were ready for Cats at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. A quick dash into Fresh for sweeties, a cup of tea in the foyer and we were soon seated close to the action. The last time I saw Cats was in London fifteen years ago. We used to go up the West End together whenever Dad visited, for London was my home, and it was him who introduced me to the joys of musical theatre.

Cats, of course, is legendary. One of the longest running shows in West End and Broadway history, Cats is a wonderful blend of music, song and dance. I still remember the magic! Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and directed by Trevor Nunn, with tour direction and choreography by Chrissie Cartwright. This time Susan McFadden plays the role of Grizabella the Glamour Cat. Let the Jellicle Ball begin…

Based on T.S Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, this is the story of the Jellicle Cats, a motley crew of street cats who attend the annual Jellicle Ball with the hope of being reborn to the Heaviside Layer. Top cat, Old Deuteronomy presides while the cats sing and dance their way through each character’s personal story. The cats are a sight to behold with their tiger stripes and painted faces.

Set in a junk yard, the stage remains the same and it’s the choreography that sets the scene. The cast were amazing to watch as they flipped, pranced and crawled through high tempo numbers, opening with “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”, then “The Rum Tum Tugger”, “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer”, “Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat” and “Magical Mr. Mistoffilees”. I had a huge grin on my chops!

Admiring the beautiful acrobatic cats, I wished I could sing and dance. I was sent to Irish dancing when I was five. Two left feet… The drama played out as the cats ran up and down the aisles, delighting the audience. More melancholy moments were the appearance of Grizabella the Glamour Cat and Gus the Theatre Cat, played by Paul F. Monaghan. In the background was menacing Mystery Cat Macavity.

The scene stealer was Susan McFadden, as Grizabella, with a jaw dropping version of “Memory”. McFadden made it her own, like original Elaine Paige had. A truly enjoyable show, Cats kept us on the edge of our seats from beginning to end. Enchanting and breathtaking it transported me to a child-like awe, like only Lloyd Webber can do. If you want to forget the world for a couple of hours, then go see!

www.catsthemusical.com / www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie / Herbstreet, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 / www.herbstreet.ie

Sep 4, 2013

Decibelles – Molloy & Dowling

A Friday evening with friends, what could be nicer? The addition of pizza, that’s what. I met the gang after work (well, for them. My office is casual. Ahem) in Chaplins on Hawkins Street. What a lovely pub. Unassuming. Traditional in a non Paddy-whackery way. Purveyors of a fine ten euro pizza and pint deal too. I went for a scoop of O’Hara’s and a margarita. Down the hatch! The rest of them munched away.

It was a flying meet up before my next engagement, but good to see my chums for a bit o’ banter. I was off to Molloy & Dowling on Kildare Street for a party in an opticians. A what in a where, you ask? That’s right. Funky eye wear dispensers, Mssrs Molloy & Dowling host regular events in their Aladin’s cave of a shop. The two gentlemen share a wonderfully eclectic taste, with their own art on display throughout.

Decibelles, featuring live music from some super cool bands, was in aid of the Women’s Therapy Centre Ireland. A counselling and psychotherapy service for women, the centre enjoyed a successful fundraiser at Molloy & Dowling on the night. WTC Office and Fundraising Manager, Claire de Jong told me that she was delighted with the turnout and thanked the bands involved for volunteering their services for free.

My 15 euro ticket price got me some vino, a couple of Kit Kats and plenty of top sounds. First up was Revelry for Beginners, a one woman show and debut performance for the enigmatic Grainne. Interspersing her act with poetic vocals, self deprecating one liners and lots of la la la, Revelry for Beginners was original and surprising. I liked. Cave Ghosts were next with a melodic rock pop vibe.

Three edgy girls and a guy, they tried out new song ” All My Life”, a little slice of summery guitar choon. Little xs for Eyes filled up the stage with six players on myriad instruments. Theirs was a rich tapestry of jangly sounds all melded together with wistful vocals. Very nice. We swayed along, all smiles and rainbows. The final act of the night was the less winsome, more femme punk five piece September Girls.

I had spotted these chicks kicking back, earlier in the night, looking hot and being cool. They were no different on stage, turning out fuzzy garage rock with spiky charm. All eyeliner, back combing and plectrums these girls have a good thing going on. Their drummer was a powerhouse with sticks, with the front line strumming away in rhythm. Watch out for their debut album, coming out early next year.

With the music over, the fun kept on coming with Tina Maguire, Counselling Psychologist with WTC, opening the hat for their raffle. Prizes included books, DVDs, wine and vintage glasses. Yours truly didn’t win, but I was like a child with the excitement. Molloy & Dowling is such a brilliant venue. Quirky and intimate, I love what they’ve created. WTC were thrilled to announce they raised 936.59 euro.

www.womenstherapycentre.ie / Molloy & Dowling, 18b Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Aug 28, 2013

The Marble City – Kilkenny Steam Train

Choo Choo! I was up and at ’em early on Sunday morning for my steam train adventure. Me, Dad and the Bloke were off to Kilkenny for the day. The Marble City trip was organised by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. Dad, being a train buff, had booked us seats on the beautifully restored locomotive. We met up at Connolly Station and joined an excited crowd. Big kids and little kids!

The No. 461 was a beauty. Inside and out. Restored to her former glory in a coat of CIE green with black and red trimmings, she was very impressive. Run on coal and man power, No.461 took us a return journey of seven hours in total. Fair play to the lads! The Railway Preservation Society has been restoring steam locomotives and rolling stock since 1964 and is instrumental in Ireland’s rail heritage.

We settled into our carriage, all wood panelling, metal luggage racks, plush check upholstery and granite effect tables. Trundling up through North County Dublin, we snaked around Croke Park and were soon out onto the open track, chugging away. Our view was something else. The rolling green of Kildare, Carlow and Kilkenny. Horses, cows and sheep at pasture. A welcome break from city life.

After a pit stop in Athy to take on water, we rocked into Kilkenny Station. We hadn’t far to go, just down the hill to Billy Byrne’s, an old skool pub and guesthouse. My men didn’t need encouragement and ordered two full Irish breakfasts. I went for the veggie version. Lashings of tea all round, naturellement. Billy Byrne’s serves breakfast all day, as well as a lunch menu. I was told about the Bula Bus out back, so out I went.

Very funky and with a great ever-changing menu to boot, the Bula Bus cranks up in the evenings and puts on a good party, including movie nights and hangover Sundays. Gotta get me in there! We finished our meal with lovely homemade apple tart and cream and a nice stroll through Kilkenny. There was hen party chicks everywhere. It might explain Kilkenny’s glut of quirky girl shops? Not to mention bars! Last time I was here was for a girlfriend’s send off, actually…

Back on board for the return leg, we soon found ourselves parked at the bar in the buffet car. Great craic altogether with trad musicians on the go and a gang of old boys bantering on high. The Guinness was the best I’ve tasted in years. No kidding! Supping, laughing and watching the world whizz by, resting my pint on the window rail in between. Bliss. Train journeys were something to savour in days gone by.

The No.461 had been all over the country in her time and it was a joy to experience such a train in action. Watching the thick black smoke billowing. The sound of the steam chimney whistling. Men with sooty faces shovelling away. Magic. Tired but happy we were transported back to Dublin. Into the Brew Dock for a settler. The Railway Preservation Society runs regular jaunts all over Ireland. Book one!

www.steamtrainsireland.com /Billy Byrne’s, 39 John Street Lower, Kilkenny / www.billybyrnes.com

Jul 31, 2013

Blur 21 – Teenage Kicks

I remember the very first time I clapped eyes on Damon Albarn. He was staring out from a poster, all big blue eyes, in the first issue of Select magazine. It was summer 1990 and Blur’s first single “She’s So High” had hit the airwaves. That poster ended up on my bedroom wall next to the Manics, Oasis and Pulp. The birth of Britpop had marked the start of my musical teenage years. I still have those records.

Blur 21, a photographic exhibition spanning the band’s history, is on show at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham. I felt like I’d got into a time machine. There are some really great photos and album artwork. I was reminded of days spent poring through the NME and Melody Maker, my homework left lonely in the corner. A time when Thursday was Top of the Pops and Saturday night was the Tivoli.

The exhibition chronicles the band’s rise from fresh faced pop tarts to accomplished musicians. The pics, lots by Kevin Cummins and Paul Postle, are snapshots of a pre-bling time before celebrity culture. When London was cool. When Tony Blair was cool. The reason I left for the bright lights, straight outta school. Blur’s music still stands up today. Britpop, like grunge, was one of the last great musical eras.

Blur 21. IMMA, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 / www.imma.ie

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