Review of their gig in Whelan's, 13th March 2002
These are worrying times for Irish music. We are shown the setting up of 6ix (or whatever way they write it) every Sunday night for what feels like a year, and are lead to believe that this is the right way, and that the Reverend Louis Walsh will show us the one true way to the light, and the path of righteousness. We forget that there are bands that are starting to find their feet, without prostituting themselves. They are spending their time rehearsing, getting to feel comfortable playing together on stage. Wallmark are such a band. After playing support slots around the city on his own for the likes of Damien Rice (who was in attendance tonight, along with members of Label - evidence of the interest being generated by the band within the music scene), Padraig Dignan has tonight brought his bandmates together for their first full Whelan's debut.
Entering onto the stage dressed in suits the band launched straight into a song later introduced as Question for You. The first thing that sprung to mind was the decibel level. Whelan's is notorious for it's barside talkers, there was no way they were going to be able to hear themselves tonight. With Padraig's distinctive voice, which is a great asset to the band, and the amps turned up all the way to what felt like 11, the audience had no choice but to listen.
They were willing to wrangle noises from their instruments that had no right to be done on stage, tricks that should be kept for the studio. For example, during Hey Girl the bass player whipped out a bow and started playing his instrument. This flaunting of accepted convention is always a good sign in a new band that they're willing to push the boundaries and explore new avenues. It would be unfair to Wallmark to classify them as a certain type of band. To be perfectly honest, I don't know how I'd classify them. They were a good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll band at the heart of it all, and that's all that matters.
Before going on, I'd like to run through what disturbed me, Firstly, the gaps between songs spent tuning the guitars. I almost feel I'm complaining on behalf of the band here - if they go to the bother of employing a roadie for the gig, they shouldn't have to spend their stage time re-tuning what should be done already. Secondly, the rhythm guitarist had backing vocal duties on a few tracks. This was practically pointless as they were buried way down in the mix. Also, I felt that until the last couple of songs the band weren't totally comfortable on stage. They were completely competent, yes, but there was no? magic.
However this changed with the last four numbers. These included a Jam cover and - my personal highlight of the night - a song called Starlight. Mesmerising, it was largely instrumental number which almost strayed into post-rock territory. It was almost as if the band had kicked up two gears in order to leave everyone with a good impression. The last song (title escapes me) featured the refrain "you've got a smile that can bring me up". Leaving the packed Whelan's humming this tune, I was left in no doubt that Wallmark are definitely going somewhere, but we'd better let them do it in their own time, so they can give us a product they're happy with. After all,Damien Rice took two and a half years to bring out "O"?
Check out a review of Wallmark live in July 2002