Browsing articles in "Music"
Jun 16, 2016

Joyce & Rebellion – Dublin on Bloomsday

ReadingIt was a day of threatening rain, that didn’t quite bucket down as expected. But the gloomy clouds above did nothing to dampen the city spirit below. Wandering around were all sorts of wonderful characters. Bowler hatted gents, straw boatered chaps, flapper girls, meringue hatted ladies and modern day Molly Blooms. I’ve been mingling with these types around Town all week, but today we joined in the fun!

Bloomsday Festival guide in hand, our first stop was St Andrews on Westland Row. My church. A holy place neither breath taking nor dull, but imposing if only on the inside. Most folk scurry past this impressive building every day on their journey home via Pearse Street Station. St Andrews is not an intimate church, so its size lent itself perfectly to the concert Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey.

St Andrews is one of the many Dublin landmarks immortalised in Joyce’s Ulysses. The programme evoked times gone by with a beautiful mix of song, music, poetry and story. And of course history. St Andrews’ association with the 1916 Rising is celebrated by an exhibition at the church, well worth a visit. Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey reminded us of the heart and courage of local men and women.

Hosted by Elizabeth Watson and Jean Monahan, the pews were filled by plenty of well dressed Joyce enthusiasts. None under 40… Opened with a reading of Thomas Moore’s The Minstrel Boy, by Carmel Heapes, then Moore again, Silent O’Moyle, read by Connie Murray, both accompanied by Carole O’Connor at the ivories. Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile was performed by Greenore Community Choir.

JoyceIt really took me back to a time (the 1980s!) with my Granny and Grandad O’Shea. Being in their tiny kitchen singing old songs. The fire blazing, the wireless humming in the background. A big pot of stew brewing on the stove. Tea for the adults, lemonade for us. Grandad with the toasting fork (hot buttered toast…) in one hand and a billowing Woodbine in the other. Granny standing, stirring, chatting.

Down by the Glenside sung by Jean Monahan, followed by George Smith and Simon Heapes’ performance of The Rising of the Moon and The Wearing of the Green. Catherine Byrne read W.B. Yeats September 1913. More memories! School, this time. Too young we were to appreciate anything at all… Of course I remember these poetic rhymes, learned by heart, but how they really speak to me now.

Simon Heapes took to the stage (or altar) once again with Love’s Old Sweet Song. We helped him, nowhere near his tenor, but enjoying it all the same. He was joined by George Smith, belting out A Nation Once Again, with all of us on hand once again. Catherine Byrne brought us more Yeats with The Song of Wandering Aengus. Historical tales of our 1916 heroes knitted together the songs and prose.

George Smith sang Grace, Carmel Heapes read Pearse’s The Mother and Connie Moore sang The Last Rose of Summer. It truly was an escape from the commercial, digital world we live in today. In fact, my iPhone had run out of juice, I didn’t even have to worry about capturing shots. Just being free of technological distraction for a few hours… It’s so relaxing! How art did thrive before Twitter tyranny.

AltarTo My Daughter Betty by Thomas Kettle was told heartfelt by Carmel Heapes, Oft in the Stilly Night performed by Simon Heapes. The final curtain at St Andrews; all three, Simon Heapes, George Smith and Connie Murray with Carole O’Connor on piano, as throughout, in a roof-raising rendition of The Holy City. We were invited up to encore, us fellow Joyceans, and linked arms with Love’s Old Sweet Song.

The concert was free. It was absolutely excellent. Thanks to the St. Andrews Church Choir and St. Andrews Church Heritage Working Group. And, of course, the hugely talented performers. Nobody my age really goes inside a church these days, unless for a wedding, christening, communion or funeral. Not a regular Mass goer, I pop in for solace from the city. And music. And exhibitions. And fun!

Back out into the light of day, dark as it was, we sailed past Kennedy’s, spying the Bloomsday brethren within. We popped in last time, for a wicked performance by the bold Rose Lawless, doing Molly Bloom to only the flawed perfection she can. This time we were in want of tea, not ale, (’twas only midday!) so we tucked ourselves in at cosy café Tri Via, on Lincoln’s Place. A great people watching spot.

Indeed, as we put away delicious homemade muffins, brownies and croissants, did we see a certain Senator, dressed to the nines cane and all, approach Sweny’s next door. David Norris is a familiar face to all Bloomsday patrons and a huge supporter of the Irish arts. Cameras clicked as he swept in and out of another fabled Ullyses stop. Sweny’s Pharmacy is now an olde worlde bookshop and Joyce museum.

Tri ViaIn we went, events sure to unfold. There was a stall outside doing lemonade and madeleines and plenty of vintage fillies and gents milling about. And the scent of lemon soap filled the air. But an impromptu reading from the Dubliners meant we were in luck with perfect timing. A Scottish man, whose name I do not know, gave a swaggering version of a chapter’s events. It was really very, very cool.

A bar of brown paper wrapped lemon soap in the bag we made our way up into Temple Bar, my neighbourhood. This culture vulture lark is hard work, so we broke off to the Porterhouse for a bit of footie action. England v Wales. It’s a top spot for pub grub. We polished off Scampi, Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich and Mixed Veggies all with lovely fluffy chips and a pint each. Oyster Stout for me. Very nice!

Meeting House Square was next on the agenda, for Bloomsday Readings with Keelin Shanley. The journalist and broadcaster was joined by various Irish actors, writers and musicians for another gratis gig. I’ve been known to listen from my bedroom, which looks onto Meeting House Square, in the past. I can catch bands at the Olympia from here too! The square was filled with Joyceans, old and young.

Roisin Ingle, of the Irish Times, was on the stage as we approached. There were hearty performances from Colm O’Gorman, Domini Kemp and, you guessed it, Senator David Norris. We segwayed into the National Photographic Archive to mix up our rebels with our rascals once again. The exhibition, Rising, is free entry (can you see a theme here?) and documents the events in and around the day.

Davy ByrnesBlack and white images of the destruction done to Dublin, the bravery of young Irish men and the effect on the everyday lives of locals are just fascinating. It’s hard to believe it was only 100 years ago… A walking tour of the exhibition is available, but we were happy to take it all in ourselves. I’ll be back with Himself, who’s a big history buff. And we do live next door! Mama and Papa certainly enjoyed it, too.

We were done by now. Off they went, Mother and Father, to Grafton Street, and up to Davy Byrne’s for one last nod to James Joyce. Bloomday is fast becoming one of the city’s most celebrated events, with Bloomsday Festival running events throughout the week. It’s great craic and I always find Townie friends out and about. Next year, Madre and me have promised to dress up! Or don a hat at least…

www.bloomsdayfestival.ie

Apr 6, 2014

Rat Neck – Chainsaw Punk!

Rat Neck. Who the hell are they? A post-Punk apocalypse some might say. Four blokes in a Dublin band, others would venture. All I do know is that they’re fast & furious. Rat Neck formed in 2010 & have been steadily taking over the world since their first release on Breaking Tunes “In The Way”. Youtube their rather strange videos, featuring cartoon crazies Barry & Tommo, sketched by drummer Ollie.

So, back to the music. I caught them recently at a private gig, to launch their EP, at The Natural Cut on Wicklow Street. Fuck-off loud guitars, free whiskey & a nice little crowd. What’s not to love? Rat Neck’s set was tight. I saw them again, a couple of weeks later at Fibber Magees. Yup, that old rock spot that I haven’t been in since the Millennium. Ah, the days… And they royally rocked that joint too.

Rat Neck channel a chainsaw energy that just forces you to head bang. Rude not to with my hair. Lead singer Vinny leads the way with his oily undercut swinging to the speeding rhythm of his guitar. Flanked by ice cool bassist Pa & old skool rock guitarist Peter, he lets loose in not quite a Henry Rollins way, but close. Filthy language, of course! Rat Neck’s sound is heavy but the songs are well catchy.

The motley crew at Fibbers tapped a toe, or stomped a bovver boot, to “S.O.M.C” & “No Way Back”. My fave tune “Rohypnol” went down a storm. Rat Neck are a great live band. While making big waves online, I won’t be surprised to see them popping up at venues all over Dublin this summer. If you like Killing Joke, Black Flag or Faith No More, you’ll dig these guys. Old skool noise & then some more.

ratneck.bandcamp.com / www.ratneck.com / www.fibbermagees.ie

Mar 17, 2014

Busyfeet & Coco – Cosy & Cool

Wandering across town from A to B last week I bumped into an old pal. The beauty of Dublin. We both looked at our watches & scheduled in some urgent tea & cake. Since we were on Stephen Street, Busyfeet & Coco came under my radar. An old haunt of mine at the top of South William Street, near Peter’s Pub. Used to be a fave pitstop between the office & college back when I was earning & learning.

Of course, I went for the usual. Apple berry crumble, served warm with cream, & a hot chocolate. My mate ordered a nice wedge of carrot cake & a pot of tea. Busyfeet & Coco has a Continental feel. Couples huddled in corners, arty types reading the paper, students buried in notebooks. I always feel at home here, whether alone or in company. Small tables are dotted around, with seating outside too.

Homely cake is inviting in trays at the counter. The apple berry crumble is still as good as ever! If you’re looking for more, Busyfeet & Coco is open all day with excellent breakfast, lunch & dinner menus. Try out their cheese & bacon burger, classic BLT, grilled goat’s cheese salad or Mexican chicken wrap. Casual deliciousness! Or go sophisticated on Saturday night with a cheese board, wine & live music.

Busyfeet & Coco, 41-42 South William Street, Dublin 2

Feb 11, 2014

Evita – Powerful Romance

It was off to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, a hop, skip & a jump from ILS HQ, last night for Evita. Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s all-singing, all-dancing tale of Argentina’s legendary “spirit of the nation”, Eva Peron. First stop for us, me & Dad, was Herbstreet on Hanover Quay. Where else? Always a full house during sell out shows, we enjoyed a warm welcome & a bustling atmosphere. The perfect place for pre-theatre chow.

The menu at Herbstreet changes with the seasons, but one thing that remains the same is their scrummy sweet potato wedges. Big chunks of foodie love served with chipotle & lemon feta dips. So we shared those, alongside baked Cooleeney with sourdough bread & quinoa salad for me & a special of grilled halloumi with fruity cous cous & apricot chutney for Dad. All totes delish, needless to say!

Dessert followed at the Upper Circle bar, where we paired our drinkies with a box of Cocoa Atelier chocolates. Ambassador… Well, it is my birthday! The view of Grand Canal Docks from here, is one of the best features of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. A magical slice of modern Dublin. Yes, Sir. We soon took our seats, for the performance. The Gods. I must say, I do like watching from the Upper Circle.

Is it wrong to fancy Marti Pellow? Starring as narrator Che (channelling Che Guevara, but not quite him), Pellow looks swashbuckling swarthy in his combats and bovver boots. Of course, I remember him from his Wet Wet Wet days, when as a ten year old I was a little bit in love with him. Pellow is now an accomplished Wet End player, as well as a successful solo artist. And still quite handsome too…

A deep throat opener from Che, brings us to Evita’s state funeral where her passing is mourned by the nation. Then we go back in time to 1940s Argentina, where small town girl Eva Peron lets her larger than life personality do the talking, or singing in this case. In search of the big time, she persuades tango singer Agustin Magaldi to take her to Buenos Aires. Eva is ready for her first bite of the Big Apple.

With bright lights in her eyes Eva climbs the society ladder, forging a career as an actress & model. Following a devastating earthquake, Eva meets Juan Peron at a charity ball. Together they rise to power, during a time of political turmoil, to become President & First Lady of Argentina. Under Peron’s wing, Evita transcends her humble beginnings to national sweetheart. Theirs is a tale of enduring love.

Evita sweeps us up in a heady cocktail of romance & power as Eva, played superbly by Madelena Alberto, & Juan Peron, played by stage veteran Mark Heenehan, fuse together to make an unforgettable alliance. From the start of their affair, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” to the height of their reign, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” the stage is a hotbed of emotion. Pure Rice & Lloyd Webber magic.

Alberto’s mighty voice takes us through the highs & lows of Evita’s political opus & into the bosom of her marriage. The love between her & Peron is reflected onto the raging streets of Argentina. This production highlights Evita’s magnificent wealth against a backdrop of Argentina’s desperate “shirtless”, represented by Che throughout. Her heart must outshine her diamonds, as far as they are concerned.

A captivating “High Flying Adored” between Eva & Che, leads us into her infamous Rainbow Tour of Europe. Evita puts on the performance of her life, while at the same time fighting a losing battle with her failing health. She rallies behind Peron, but he must watch his beloved burgeon in spirit & wither in strength. She clings to him, all she has left. “You Must Love Me” brought a tear to my eye.

Evita really captures the heat of Buenos Aires at the time, with the Perons cast against a lively ensemble of good time girls, military men & ordinary folk. I enjoyed the costumes in particular, from flirty tea dresses to dapper uniform, they conveyed times past when both men & women held their own brands of allure. Evita’s glamour to Peron’s steady presence. A winning combo in any day & age.

The final scenes see out the tragedy of Evita’s untimely death with Peron pledging “She Is A Diamond” to her & “Eva’s Final Broadcast” as her heart wrenching last stand. We’re back in black for her funeral, Che to the fore once again lamenting her death with all of Argentina. Evita is an icon for women & Madelena Alberto’s invigorating turn is a triumph of passion & self realisation. A spectacular show!

Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2 / www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie / Herbstreet, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 /www.herbstreet.ie

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 10, 2013

Mexico To Rome – Mojitos and Burritos

When the Bloke suggested dinner last Sunday, I put word out to my Facebook peeps. Where to go? With Himself living in Temple Bar, we have the world at our feet and I wanted to try somewhere I hadn’t been before. Mexico To Rome piqued my interest. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a restaurant that serves Mexican and Italian food. And Asian. And Irish. There’s something for everybody in the audience!

Genius for a couple, or a party, in different food moods. Both of us were channelling Mexican, as it happens. Off we went down the cobbles, to East Essex Street. Temple Bar was alive with a brilliant band busking outside the door. I love this town! We settled in with a beer and a mojito (quite a good one for a fiver) and shared toasted tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. Enough to whet our appetite…

I munched on a veggie burrito while the Bloke tucked into a beef taco. Mine was a soft tortilla with crunchy edges (how do they do that?) packed with mixed veg and re-fried beans in a spicy tomato sauce. Covered in sour cream and salsa, with Mexican rice on the side. It was seriously yumsters! Himself enjoyed the chilli beef but would have liked more heat. Jalapeno peppers would add extra kick.

Mexico To Rome is homely, a nice place to chillax of an evening. We found the service just the right side of easygoing, which helped us to wind down. With such a reasonable and unpretentious menu, this is the sort of place you can pop into off the cuff. Just what you want in Temple Bar. For dessert it was whiskey and rum at The Globe, where we bopped along to top rockabilly boys The Pavement Kings.

Mexico To Rome, 23 East Essex Street, Dublin 2 / www.mexicotorome.com

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 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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