The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Gig Reviews

11

Day One of Oxegen 2009

Review Snapshot: There must have been something in the air in Punchestown as at least 3 bands invited members of the crowd on stage during the first day of Oxegen 2009. There might have been an overwhelming feeling that there were less people here than in previous years but that didn’t stop the bands from putting in some great performances.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
 

Snow Patrol OxegenFull Review:
When you wake up on the first morning of a festival and hear nothing on the radio but people forecasting 6 day traffic jams and rain, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Noah worked for Harland and Wolff, you have to wonder if it is worth making the effort at all.  However, the first piece of good news was that the traffic was almost non-existent, perhaps helped by the fact that, being relatively local, I know some alternative routes into Punchestown.  Also, the rain, which began as I parked the car, was gone in little over an hour.  Maybe this would be a good weekend after all.

Jape (Red Bull Music Academy)
I’ve been very lucky with Oxegen as this is the second year in a row that the first band I’ve seen has put in a brilliant performance. Choice Music Prize winner and possibly the busiest man in Irish music, Richie Egan, operating as Jape this weekend, wowed a very mixed crowd with an energetic set showcasing his critically acclaimed Ritual.  During Streetwise, Egan became the first act of the weekend to invite a member of the audience on stage to sing the chorus. It didn’t work very well at first and the girl was booed off before being replaced by a much more competent audience member. Egan finished his set with a rousing rendition of I Was A Man.  

 

Fight like Apes (Heineken Green Spheres)
Despite their much hyped debut album and recent Glastonbury performance, when Fight Like Apes launched into Something Global, the tent can’t have been more than one third full. Despite this (and, in fairness, the place did fill as the gig went on) Fight like Apes tried very hard to impress their audience. When they concentrated on making music the band were a joy to behold, Two news songs they played sounded excellent, as did a brilliant version of Jake Summers. However, a Fight like Apes gig is never just about the music.  Try as they might to be 'random', you can't help but feel that their gimmicks are a bit, well, gimmicky. Climbing speaker towers and beating chairs against railings (professional wrestling style) felt more petulant and childish than daring an edgy. A great band when they remember that they are supposed to be making music.

Duke Special (The O2 Stage)
Having to walk from one side of the Oxegen campus to the other meant that I missed the start of Duke Special's performance.  When I arrived there again seemed to be far less people than I would expect for an artist of Peter Wilson's calibre.  Initially, The Duke's set seemed disjointed and meandering, not helped by the fact that Wilson and band took up less than 10% of The O2 Stage. However, things soon picked up and Wilson ended on a high with Our Love Goes Deeper Than This, Last Night I Nearly Died (But I Woke Up Just In Time) and the gorgeous Freewheel.  It's a pity more people weren't there to see/hear it.  It was beauty personified.

Iain Archer (Red Bull Music Academy)
At this stage I was starting to wonder if there was actually anyone at Oxegen.  This was Iain Archer, the bloke that used to be in Snow Patrol and, with Flood The Tanks, responsible for one of Northern Irish music's true masterpieces, and yet, here he was playing to a tent that was no more than 20% full.  Not everyone could have been watching The Script could they?  Archer seemed unperturbed by the small audience and produced a lively set consisting mostly of tracks from his new record, To The Pine Roots.  While I was disappointed not to hear Mirrorball Moon, my favourite Archer song, highlights of the set included Canal SongStreamer On A Kite and Archer finishing his set with his parents on backing vocals.  

Heathers (IMRO New Sound Stage)
I only managed to catch 5 songs as the IMRO Stage seemed to be running off schedule (same problem as last year) but I'm still not convinced by these two.  Sure they are young and can still go some way to prove me wrong, but I can't help but think that they could do with listening to a few more records before writing their own songs.  Having influences is fine, so is wearing them on your sleeve, but having such a small range of influences just makes you sound like a tribute band. 

Republic of Loose (Heineken Green Spheres)
After a wasted trip over to the Red Bull Music Academy to see Ladyhawke (still no explanation for her non appearance at time of going to print) I found myself worshiping at the alter of Republic of Loose. I wasn’t the only one either as the Green Spheres tent was packed. As I posted on Twitter, there was lots of dancing here, the likes of which was never seen in Billy Brennan’s barn. Shame, Comeback Girl, The Steady Song and a brilliant rendition of Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ were the standout tracks in a set full of energy and audience interaction. There are few bands who entertain more than Republic of Loose.

Blur (Main Stage)
Initially, I was very excited about seeing Blur live for the first time. However, after the exuberance of Republic of Loose, this performance felt flat. Opening with the slow burning She’s so High was never going to be the best way to get the crowd enthused. Girls and Boys, the second song, would have been enough to spark the set into life had it not been so tuneless and followed by the awful Tracy Jacks. There’s no doubting that Damon Albarn is a consummate showman, but he’s not the world’s best singer.  Dedicating The Universal to the late Joe Dolan was a nice touch but, despite my initial excitement, I left Day One of Oxegen 2009 feeling quite cynical as to the reasons for Blur’s comeback and wishing I’d gone to see 2 Many DJ’s instead.

Steve O'Rourke

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27

Neil Young (live in The O2, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: Neil Young and Co. pulled no punches during their June 21 show at Dublin’s O2. Now 63 years old, Neil Young still puts on an exciting and visceral show. Ripping through crushing riff laden classics such as Cinnamon Girl and Hey Hey, My My, Young made no effort whatsoever to show his age. Even in the quieter moments of the show, Young was still all blood and guts, singing every line like he still means it.  Once upon a time, Young sang that “rock ‘n’ roll can never die”. It certainly won’t as long as he’s around.

The Cluas Verdict? 9.5 out of 10

Full Review:
The opening act on the night was Villagers, who set up in the cramped space between stage front and Neil Young's mammoth set-up of amps, pianos, organs and various other noise making devices. They seemed comfortable in front of such a massive crowd, Conor O'Brien howling and crooning with a passion that was soon to be echoed by Ol' Shakey himself.  The crowd themselves were appreciative, which only fed the band’s enthusiasm.

Young and his band pulled no punches, opening up with the crushing Hey Hey, My My. Rock 'n' roll will never die indeed. I envied those who were standing up front getting the full force of Neil's sonic maelstrom, especially from the gigantic Baldwin Exterminator amp (an 8 foot tall monstrosity, surely a Health and Safety nightmare). 

The band showed themselves to be multi-talented, with all but the drummer and bass player shifting around to various instruments and vocal duties. 

The two hour set consisted mostly of older material, with just one nod to his more recent work. Neil is clearly in his element on stage, stomping around firing off screeching, rumbling guitar solos with a ferocity you rarely see in bands forty years younger than him. Age is clearly not an issue for Young. 

When he wasn’t beating the living hell out of his trusty electric guitar, Ol’ Black, he gave tender and fragile renditions of his acoustic material. The classic Harvest Moon was particularly beautiful, with Young’s band capturing all the sweetness of the original. 

The highlights of the show were Rockin' In The Free World (he must have played it for about 20 minutes), the beautiful and slightly bizarre Neil and organ solo Mother Earth and his raucous cover of The Beatles' A Day In The Life, which ended in him tearing the strings off his guitar and making the most unholy noises you've ever heard in your life. 

A Day In The Life seemed to me to be a realisation of John Lennon’s original idea, totally bombastic without being ridiculous. Young’s guitar more than made up for the lack of the orchestra in The Beatles' cut. 

Having been to Bob Dylan in The O2 earlier in the year, I was a little apprehensive about the gig, but Neil was as passionate and fiery as he has ever been. Think about THAT Bob!

Nick Appleby


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18

DM Stith and The Acorn (live in La Maroquinerie, Paris)

Review Snapshot: A cracking double bill of cinematic, romantic North American folk-rock to warm this cold Paris cellar. DM Stith is the quiet small-town Everyman with an otherworldly voice; The Acorn are your ideal college roommates. In their own ways, the two acts win over the crowd with their invention, sincerity and vision – though most punters will go home talking about Stith.

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
DM StithThe average rock fan, on heading out on a Friday night, probably worries about catching things other than pneumonia or the common cold. But here we are in La Maroquinerie, a popular Paris venue, on a May evening and it actually feels chilly down here when normally these cellar walls are running with punter perspiration.

You see, the place isn’t even half full – and whenever the door opens, a draught sweeps round the room. It’s odd that more people haven’t come out to see such an attractive double bill of two buzz names on the transatlantic indie music wires.

But those here tonight are the curious and genuinely interested: fortunately for both acts, most people stand right up at the stage instead of leaving a crescent of indifferent floorspace to greet the performers. There are no ‘SHH!’-ers here nor need of them. And tonight’s committed crowd is rewarded by two engaging and enjoyable shows. These two acts go well together.

Both DM Stith and The Acorn (support and headline acts respectively) play a blend of indie- and folk-rock flavoured by more exotic influences, though the American evokes the bookish teenager and the Canadian band are more like your joint-smoking college roommates. (Keyboardist Mike Dubue actually enquires mid-set whether it’s easy to procure marijuana in Paris. For the record, the wisdom of tonight’s crowd holds that it isn’t.)

Where Stith’s recordings are swathed in swirling wisps of ether, on stage with his band those songs are concrete and robust – the man himself (above right) goes about his business in a workmanlike way, chiselling out chords like an apprentice carpenter and grinning boyishly between songs. (He looks like a teenage Donald Sutherland.) To strum the rhythm of ‘Pigs’ he mutes his guitar by folding a piece of cloth through the strings – but then still takes the trouble of making the chord shapes. And as he launches into the next song he forgets to take the cloth out of the strings. His air of affability makes him quite likeable. (After the show he chats amiably with fans at the merchandise table.)

But that voice, piercing and melancholic like a train whistle across a prairie, still conjures up romance and escape and a sort of bruised yearning. This is captured in his music by exotic scales and chord progressions such as in songs like ‘Fire Of Birds’ and ‘Pity Dance’. Adding to the pleasing sense of oddness, the violinist and cellist produce a Theremin-type sound by swinging red plastic outflow pipes over their heads.

Dare we say that Stith steals the show? Well, we can’t remember ever seeing a support act coming back out for an encore, as Stith does tonight after heartfelt calls from the crowd.

This isn’t to suggest that The Acorn are any less enjoyable; they rock. Their songs fall into two camps: lumberjack-shirt folk-rock (‘Crooked Legs’, ‘Fallen Leaves’) and Vampire Weekend-style college world-pop (‘Low Gravity’, ‘Flood Pt 1’). They do both well. The apparent extravagance of having two drummers is justified by the band’s dependence on strong, inventive rhythms: while DM Stith requires attentive listening, The Acorn are for dancing and most of the crowd bop along to their set. That said, in their own way The Acorn are just as poetic and escapist as Stith – those world rhythms, of course, but also singer Rolf Klausener’s rich, warm voice and songs about his mother's youth in Honduras.

The only downer of the night is that this band’s best song, the joyous tribal hymn ‘Flood Pt 1’, is drowned in a murky sound mix that has too much bass: the track’s glorious guitar line is almost completely lost. Many people here tonight have come to see The Acorn on the basis of loving that song, so it’s a pity to hear it slightly botched.

There’s something in the North American experience that constantly inspires books and music and art which are cinematic and sincere and aspirational compared to the self-conscious cynicism and irony of many European artists. Whether it comes from the vast widescreen landscape or immigrant heritage or maybe some last trace of the frontier spirit, both The Acorn and DM Stith exemplify this. They deserve to be playing packed furnaces of venues from now on, and we suspect that Stith’s support-slot days will soon be behind him.

Aidan Curran


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11

Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert - WARP 20 (live in Cité de la Musique, Paris)

Review Snapshot: To honour one of electronic music's best-loved labels, a birthday bash featuring two cult figures from different points on the spectrum of that genre. Vibert's DJ set is cool and seductive; Aphex Twin sets your head and entrails to spin-cycle. Two different live experiences but each great in their own way.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
Aphex Twin liveGouging the mind’s ear for two decades now, Warp Records are currently celebrating their twentieth birthday by putting on shows in major cities around the world. The Paris leg at the Cité de la Musique comprises two nights: last night Pivot, !!! and Jarvis Cocker were among those getting the party started (Nightmares On Wax apparently pulled out at the last minute) and tonight Aphex Twin (right), Luke Vibert, Hudson Mohawke, Leila and Plaid are blowing out the candles.

Luke Vibert is here doing a DJ set in what’s normally an installation space at this venue, a combination of museum, exhibition centre and concert hall for all genres of music. Apparently there’s some international turntable code decreeing that artists can’t play their own music during DJ sets, so we don’t hear Vibert’s gorgeous ‘Sharp AZ’.

But no matter: his DJ set is fantastic. He starts out soulfully with the eclecticism, sensitivity and funkiness of Mo’Wax and the boy Shadow in particular. At just the right moments he knows when to up the beats and build excitement before pulling it down into cooler, more cerebral sounds again. Thus he plays with the crowd all during his set, and it’s impossible not to get swept up in it.

Only once does Vibert drop the ball, by working in the vocals from ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The effect is to make the crowd self-consciously aware that they’re dancing to some ‘80s naffness, like when a film actor gives a corny line straight to camera with a wink. But that’s just a minor blip. Luke Vibert is probably the best DJ we’ve ever danced to, though in fairness we only have as a comparison DJ Wreck-The-Buzz at our local hop.

Dashing into the main concert hall so as to grab a space for Aphex Twin, we caught the end of Plaid’s set. Earlier we had seen some of Leila’s turn. Both seemed impressive enough from the brief glimpse we got of each, so we must check them out in detail sometime. (We didn’t get to see Hudson Mohawke. Sorry.)

As for tonight’s marquee name, Aphex Twin live is an impressive experience. Richard D. James (born in Limerick!) looks less diabolic in person than the distorted face from his videos: in fact, he exudes a kind of Jamie Oliver mate-iness. His alter-ego, though, is gleefully malevolent – those squelchy, distorted sounds trouble your mind and shudder your entrails.

On which point, his visuals feature a gruesomely clinical mortuary sequence that’s not for the squeamish; some punters briefly stepped outside to recall their lunch. In a shout out to the home crowd, we also got a slide show of the sicker images from controversial ‘60s French satirical magazine Hara Kiri.

As for the music, there are times when James coasts along by letting the bare beats drag on for a minute or two, as if he’s filling time while rooting in his bag for another trick. Anyone who came just to hear ‘Windowlicker’ or ‘Come To Daddy’ will have been disappointed; the pretty piano melody of 'Flim' is the only one of Aphex Twin’s more familiar, accessible or ambient tracks to get a (brief) run-out tonight.

But overall it’s a great show. For pop kids like your reviewer, not a regular at live electronica or techno, the sensory blitzkrieg of Aphex Twin was an overwhelming thrill. This is one new customer who’ll be shopping here again, then.

Aidan Curran


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09

Morrissey (live in Leisureland, Galway)

Review Snapshot: Great set, shame about the venue . . .

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10 

Full Review: Morrissey

I am in ‘the coastal town that they forgot to shut down,’ trudging along a drizzly Salthill Promenade.  Welcoming lights beckon a few feet ahead.  They belong to Leisureland: swimming pool, fitness centre, off-season funfair park, and the venue for tonight’s Morrissey concert.  As I enter the grounds, I pass a heap of dismantled funfair ride equipment being rained on; perfect material for Morrissey.  Perhaps he’ll see it and write a song about it.  Heaven Knows These Waltzers Are RustyNow, or some such.  The entrance has an A4 sheet of paper tacked to it that reads, ‘Morrissy’.  Someone - a disgruntled fan perhaps - has used a biro to helpfully add the ‘e’. 

Inside, I am greeted by the welcoming aroma of chlorine.  I make my way past the ‘bar’, which is roughly the size of a hotel mini bar (a badly stocked one).  I find a good spot; close enough to the front to get a good view, but far enough away to avoid being trampled by Morrissey’s more hysterical fan boys.  The gig is yet to start, so I survey the empty stage.  The backdrop is a huge black and white image of a sailor, proudly brandishing his muscles, as he smokes a cigar that dangles from the corner of his mouth.  Great.  There is a giant gong on stage.  Brilliant.  I can see a shelf offstage, lined with a row of those enormous silver exercise balls.  Erm?  It begins to feel like the audience is part of some leisure centre Morrissey flash mob.  I look down, expecting to see a disgruntled pilates class squashed under our feet.  

Thankfully, when Morrissey appears on stage, he more than distracts us from our shoddy surroundings.  Nobody brandishes a tambourine quite like Morrissey and the way he manipulates a microphone flex is an art form in and of itself.  He trails it casually, intermittently whipping it behind him like a charismatic ring master.  He performs with a youthful vigour that convinces me there must be an ageing picture of Steven Patrick Morrissey hidden in some dusty attic.

Smiths fans are in their element as they are treated to several classics, including Ask, Some Girls AreBigger Than Others, and This Charming Man.  ‘For a Wednesday night, I suppose it’s not bad,’ drolls Morrissey, as the crowd cheers in a slightly manic fashion.  As he launches into How Soon Is Now? I begin to wonder if Morrissey gets bored, singing his hit songs from the 80’s night after night.  After a while, wouldn’t it start to feel like karaoke?  How does he keep it interesting for himself?  My question is answered by an incredible red strobe light sequence at the end of the song, which accompanies some frantic gong playing by one of Morrissey’s band members.  It is these details that add a whole new dimension to these familiar songs, elevating the show into a brave new audio-visual world.

The lights are worth singling out in particular.  (I haven’t seen such effective use of stage lighting since I saw MC Supernatural supporting Jurassic 5 back in 2001.)  The aforementioned sailor backdrop is intermittently drenched in yellow, green, red and blue light; or silhouettes of the band are cast onto it.  The lighting cues are timed perfectly to the music; many songs ending in a pleasingly dramatic fashion with an abrupt black out.  The one incidence of overkill occurs during Ask, when piercing yellow searchlights scan the crowd, as though trying to unearth the ‘buck-toothed girl’ from Luxemburg.  I have to cover my eyes with my hand until the song is over.  Shyness may be nice, but blindness is not. 

Songs from ‘You Are The Quarry’ are well received, among them, Irish Blood, English Heart, How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?, and First Of The Gang To Die.  The highlight is a particularly emotive rendition of Let Me Kiss You, with Morrissey ripping off his sweaty shirt and throwing it into the crowd during the line:

But then you look in my eyes

And you see someone

That you physically despise. 

But my heart is open,

My heart is open to you . . .

Before playing his new single, he addresses us politely: ‘May I lodge a complaint?  HMV in Galway refused to stock my new single.’  This is greeted with a chorus of pantomime boos and shouts of ‘Wankers!’ from the audience.  I can only presume the decision by HMV isn’t due to any particular anti-Morrissey sentiment – it’s certainly the catchiest song about anti-depressants I’ve ever heard - but rather a general decline in sales of singles. 

It is still raining as the crowd exits Leisureland, but nobody seems to care.  The sound of excited chatter fills the air; a sound generally reserved for contented concert-goers.  Not bad for a Wednesday night.  Not bad at all.              

Máire T. Robinson


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06

MSTRKRFT (live in The Academy, Dublin)

mstrkrftReview Snapshot: Toronto’s electro remixers blast out the tunes to an adoring, dancing, day-glo crowd. Subtext? Not for the over-25s. 

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:
‘Isn’t that just Mr. Scruff spelt wrong?’ I was asked when heading to see Toronto duo MSTRKRFT at the Academy. No, it’s Mastercraft (also spelt wrong). The moustachioed men have remixed all your favourites: Buck 65, Death From Above 1979, Bloc Party, Metric, Justice. Due to arrive on at 12.30, the masters were supported during the wait by LA Riots, a DJ who decidedly kept quite serious but popped out some tech-house tunes for the filling crowd to bop to.

Somehow we garnered a spot in the VIP lounge, which was ironically equipped with opposites in excess - a large wooden Buddha and several bottles of Cristal. Looking down onto the crowd I noticed many neon T-shirts and indoor sunglasses and began to feel a bit removed from it all.

Resembling a pair of cowboys (with a bottle of JD on the decks to back up that point), ALP and JFK aka MSTRKRFT bounced onto stage eventually at 1.15am. With alien sounding beats on their build-ups and inspiring a blonde guy to stage dive, they moved the crowd to a level of insanity not far off the emotional outbursts of hysteria at festivals. Strobe lights, purple lights, flashing lights; the venue did its best to raise the level of the show far above simply two guys on decks. It worked.

Men posed at the barriers while MSTRKRFT knocked out heavy remixes of Spiller, Justice’s DVNO, Simian Mobile Disco, and more Daft Punk era floor-fillers. It was about this time that the crowd began to jump and the DJs did too. This inspired a vast number of crowd-surfs, another stage dive (see above) and people trying to get across the barriers while the bouncers quickly made little of them in their massive arms.

Two years ago I would have been right there, until the very last tune, dancing without purpose or care. But I’ve started to believe that maybe nights like this are not designed for the over-25s.

This one left me with a brain melt, as well as the vision of a hairy white bum that was exposed as one man tripped down the Academy staircase.

Pint of Guinness in Doyle’s anyone?

Niamh Madden


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04
R.S.A.G. (live in Dublin)
R.S.A.G. (live in Whelans, Dublin) Review Snapshot: Big fan of drum solos? Nah, me neither. Fortunately Jeremy Hickey, spotted above ground on a drum stool last weekend, kept the solos t...

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27

Oliver Cole, Alphastates & Others (live in Radio City, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: There's something different about Oliver Cole these days, and not just the use of his full forename.  A happier Cole headlined a Revolver night with a multiude of new songs and was ably supported by a number of old and new faces. 

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
This was a strange gig for me.  I'm normally the bloke that stands towards the back, arms crossed, doing my best to look non-plussed about the whole thing.  Not tonight, as I'm forced up the front by over anxious friends, one of whom is a work colleague of one of the acts (consider that my declaration of interest).  It did have it's benefits though, as you can see in Key Notes Set List Special.

Opening tonight was Gillian Verrachia.  She easily overcame an inauspicious start (the stool she was supposed to sit on was set way too high for someone of her height) to produce a set full of, if not exactly groundbreaking, melodic and catchy alt-folk songs.  She did, as did every act, have to face the challenge of being heard over a very noisy crowd, but is in possesion of a voice so powerful that it betrayed her diminutive frame.  It would be interesting to hear Verrachia with the backing of a full band but it was an enjoyable start to night nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Square Revolution.  Perhaps I'm looking for too much, but I like my songs to have some sort of structure or, at the very least, a hint of melody.  This Radiohead lite schtick does nothing for me and when a band has to resort to a t-shirt (albeit a very cool t-shirt) to get its biggest applause of the evening, you know you're in trouble.

Thankfully, things picked up quite quickly when The Gandhis took the stage and launched straight into an ode to Mr. Data (yes, him from Star Trek).  I hadn't seen this band before but their blend of rock funk (and I mean funk in the positive, Howard Moon, sense of the word) is so insanely catchy that I found myself singing along to songs I didn't really know the lyrics of.  I wasn't alone either as most of the audience seemed enraptured by this bands definite charms (think The Strokes merging with The Blizzards....but in a good way). Highlights of the set were new single Guy Like Me and Zaza.

Alphastates, complete with a visibly pregnant Catherine Dowling, were next on stage.  Now, I'm a big fan of Alphastates debut, Made from Sand, but, it's been so long since I've seen the band live, I was worried they might not be able to blend their old songs with their new sound.  I needn't have worried.  Opening with Top of the World and Indian Sky the band then moved seamlessly into a new track, You Talked.  As always, Alphastates are defined tonight by Dowling's distinctive vocals and the wall of sound created by the rest of the band.  It is an impressive aural experience and one that manages to drown out the inane chatter coming from the back of the room.  It might have been my imagination but it's quite possible that even Dowling's unborn child was rocking out.

The final act of the night is Oliver Cole, complete with full band.  Cole's in his usual talkative mode but there's something else tonight, something I haven't seen in the Kells native since the halcyon days of TURN; he seems happy to be on stage. That being said, Cole apologises early on for the fact that we might not know a great deal of the songs he will be playing tonight.  While that turns out to be true it is clear that Cole's long running muses of time (particularly an apparent loathing of wasting it) and love will dominate his forthcoming debut solo LP. 

The last time I saw Cole, it was just him and his guitar, but tonight he has a full band in tow and the songs benefit from it, particularly the gorgeous Moth's Wing.  The biggest cheer of the night comes when Cole and band launch into In Position and, for just a fleeting moment, the collective consciousness of the crowd recalls just how good a band TURN were and what a shame it is that they are no more.  However, in Oliver Cole's new project, we have a more mature, reflective offering and, based on tonight's evidence, that's far from a consolation prize.

Steve O'Rourke


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26

Ellen Allien (live in The Twisted Pepper, Dublin)

ellen allienReview Snapshot: Reductionist beats. Minimum melody. This is minimal techno. And this, is dull.   

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
'You Are Here,' the barman's T-shirt helpfully offered. 'Here' was the Twisted Pepper, but with its faux fur lampshades, dicks drawn on tables and scabby carpets, 'Here' felt very much like a surreal 'There.'

'Why do I feel like I'm in the middle of a 90s Tarantino movie?' my gig partner quizzically spoke aloud. And I wondered the same thing. There was a tall man in an Indiana Jones hat walking around and a hyperactive guy in a pink top and a Pogo sign was stuck up with cable ties and a couple of couples sat, waiting.

The odd smells didn't offer any more coherence: The bar smelt of chocolate and cinnamon candles, the toilet's odour resembled boiled spuds and, eventually, the venue filled up with the scent of sweat.

Ellen, Ellen, Ellen. Are You Here? Ellen's set began late in the evening – at 12.30 she took to the stage with reductionist beats and a heavy bassline. This, I thought, will build up. This, I thought, will get better. Being used to the ambient electronica tones of Ellen's work with fellow German DJ Apparat, her minimal techno set surprised me. But then, I should have known better, seeing as her website bio explicitly states that 'techno and I have developed together.'

And it seems that techno has regressed in its development: Ellen's solo work did not get better for me. Her stripped down beats attracted a huge crowd though, all of who were clearly there to dance to the German techno DJ's sounds. People were sweating, dancing on the benches at the side, getting into it.

The splurgey audio samples and constellation visuals evoked an otherworldly Big Brother feel, where only minimum expression in art would be tolerated. Was I missing something? The crowd's participation, enjoyment and bopping made me feel I may not have understood the music. The climaxes were absent, the crescendos, the thuds and blips; instead one constant beat thundered and hammered its way into the next tune without letting up. But still, Ellen gave her all to the set and the crowd gave its all to Ellen.

Perhaps I should have listened to Allien's solo work before attending the gig. Perhaps I should have been on what the crowd was. Or perhaps minimal techno is a brand for the melodically inept, those satisfied with anti-climaxes. Could this be the apathetic monotonous hum that reflects postmodern life? Or is it just lazy music-making?

The evening left me baffled, tired and dry-mouthed. But the crowd's eagerness seemed to tell a different story. Any further insights?

Niamh Madden


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26

Funeral Suits, Angel Pier & Others (live in Andrew’s Lane Theatre)

heathersReview Snapshot: From post-punk posse to girl in a fur hat on synths, this IMRO gig proved that Dublin’s musicians are coming out with as much variety as a pick ‘n’ mix bag. 

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Feedback and static. This was the splice of Funeral Suits that hit me when walking into Andrew’s Lane Theatre, where a thin crowd quietly sipped drinks at tables. The three-piece band began with a Bloc Party style track, and rolled into other influences with the ease and enthusiasm of youths covering their favourite bands: Stone Roses, Maximo Park, The Cure. With blurred pixilated visuals onscreen behind him, the drummer looked like he was wearing Philip K. Dicks’ scramble suit. The band’s full sound was impressive, but nothing that has not been done before.

When the yellow and pink rays of light streamed onto us, there was a calm after Funeral Suits’ noisy set. This peace continued when Kill Krinkle Klub took to the stage, their intro a dramatic dusky piece of composure under blue lights. The synth and keyboard player wore a furry hat and a geisha mask while she looped vocal samples. The rest of the band knocked out complicated and constantly changing time signatures. Each track was different, unusual and unique: Pirate songs, traditional Irish melodies, delicate music. The lead singer’s voice grated on me at times with its faux-high notes, but otherwise the band showcased a new style that has potential.

Heathers were up next. The crowd began to pack themselves into the front spaces of the venue to listen to the two girls onstage. Consisting simply of their rich and melodious harmonies and an acoustic guitar, Heathers talents lie not just in their tight singing. The girls also write songs that would appeal to a mass audience with catchy choruses and novel hooks (one song is half in English, half in Irish). These girls just need a backing band to capture a large international market. Partly though, I liked the raw acoustics and hoped that a backing band wouldn’t take away from their intimate stage presence.

Finally on the IMRO list was Angel Pier, a Franz Ferdinand style outfit, whose polished sound gave them the feel of a band that has practised a lot to get this far. There are however several rock bands out there already who are producing their brand of music. NME touted them as ‘classic indie pop,’ which may certainly appeal to a young audience. The band will also play the ‘Best of’ gig taking place on 2nd May.

Niamh Madden


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