The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Key Notes


As followers of Key Notes will know, Hard Working Class Heroes (HWCH) returns for the seventh consecutive year in October (Friday October 16 to Sunday October 18 2009).  Taking place, once more, in Dublin's Temple Bar, HWCH is a great opportunity for bands and music fans alike to experience festival-like conditions without any fear of someone setting fire to your tent.

Yesterday, the first 99 Irish bands were announced and, well, it's a pretty impressive list.  Stand-out acts for me are The Ambience Affair, Dark Room Notes and R.S.A.G.  That being said, there are a huge number of acts on the list that I've heard a great deal about but have yet to see live and that, if previous years are anything to go by, will provide the greatest enjoyment.

Ticket prices for Hard Working Class Heroes 2009 remain the same as last year, costing €40 (that's 49 cent per band!- Recessiontastic) for a weekend pass while nightly tickets are €18.50.  Tickets are available from

The 99 Irish bands announced yesterday were as follows:

A Plastic Rose
Adebisi Shank
Airstrip One
Albert Penguin
Ali & the DTs
Alright Chief
Armoured Bear
Autumn Owls
Biggles Flys Again
Black Robots
Blood Bottler
Briana Corrigan
Carpool Conversation
Cheap Freaks
City of Angels
Dark Room Notes
Deaf Animal Orchestra
Deaf Joe
Disconnect 4
Doug Sheridan
Escape Act
Exit the Street
Fiona Melady
Funeral Suits
Go Panda Go
Gran Casino
Ham Sandwich
Hassle Merchants
Heritage Centre
Here Comes The Landed Gentry
Hired Hands
I Love Monster Hero
Ian Whitty And The Exchange
Identity Parade
Killer Chloe
Kill Krinkle Club
Land Lovers
Liz Is Evil
Mail Order Messiahs
Miracle Bell
More Tiny Giants
Not Squares
O Emperor
Oliver Cole
Only Fumes & Corpses
Pearse McGloughlin
Planet Parade
Pocket Promise
Rory Grubb
Sergeant Megaphone
Sounds of System Breakdown
Super Extra Bonus Party
Sweet Jane
Talulah Does The Hula
The Ambience Affair
The Angel Pier
The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra
The Brothers Movement
The Dead Flags
The Dying Seconds
The Holy Roman Army
The Kinetiks
The Poormouth
The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock
The Star Department
The Vals
Theme Tune Boy
Tidal District
Tiny Magnetic Pets
Ultan Conlon
Valerie Francis
Verona Riots
Vox Populi
We Cut Corners
Yes Cadets

So, who are you looking forward to seeing?

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The way people listen to music has changed, with the advent of the download the emphasis has reverted to single tracks. It hasn't helped that most people have forgotten how to make a decent album. I'm constantly disappointed with records I buy. - Tim Wheeler - Ash

None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again - Thom Yorke - Radiohead

I think a lot. It comes with the territory when you spend the majority of your days with just a dog with a personality disorder for company.  Recently I've been thinking a lot about the album as a format and, inspired by Aidan's thread on the subject earlier this week, I decided it was about time I blogged about it. 

To understand why I feel the way I do about the album it is important to understand that I see music the same way I see art or literature and it is my contention that the realisation of an idea - as opposed to greed or, worse still, a hunger for fame - should be the main driving force behind the creation of art. It is for this reason that I would hate to see the death of the album as a format.  Singles might well be the lifeblood of music, but long players are its soul. 

Maybe it's just me but you build relationships with an album in a way you can't with singles.  To put it in very earthy terms, singles might well be worth a quickie every now and then on her mates couch but something in the back of your mind tells you that an album is probably worth getting to know a little better first.  As I write this blog I'm listening to one of my favourite ever albums, Elliot Smith's eponymous sophomore album.  It took me many listens to fall in love with this record, it certainly wasn't love at first listen, but there were enough individual songs on it that I liked to keep me coming back for more and now there isn't a song on it I don't like or, more importantly, feel the album would be better off without.  Elliott Smith is just one of many albums that I feel this way about.

It's not just about the music of course.  I love the feeling of buying a new album.  I love getting it home and struggling to take it out of its plastic packaging.  I love trying to peel off the price sticker without leaving any residue on the case.  I love checking out the artwork and reading the lyrics.  I love studying the sleeve notes and discovering that someone I know 'in real life' was involved in someway or was thanked by the band.  I love reorganising my entire CD/Record collection to some new filing system I've thought of in the pub (alpha-geographical is still my favourite).  I love the whole multi-sensory experience you get from owning an album on CD or Vinyl Record.  Compare that to 'right click, play'.  It's just not the same.

Of course, not every album makes me feel this way, but that's a matter of taste isn't it? I'm absolutely sure that there isn't an album on the market today that someone, somewhere, doesn't feel the same way as I do about Elliott Smith, Clouds Taste Metallic or Deserter's Songs.  I know I'm being terribly idealistic, but shouldn't great music, like all great art, be idealistic.  Is it too much to ask for bands to put more emphasis on making music than making profit?  Don't kill the album for the sake of keeping Steve Jobs in black polo necks.  There is a place for singles, there always has been and there always will be.  The prominence of downloads has altered our perspective but, as blogs haven't killed novels or Banksy hasn't stopped people attending art galleries, their place should be alongside the physical album, not instead of it.

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Cois Fharraige, Ireland's number one music and water sports festival, returns to Kilkee, Co. Clare this September.  The 3 day event will take place between Friday September 11 and Sunday September 13.

Previous incarnations of the festival has seen performances from the likes of Seasick Steve, Supergrass, Travis and The Futureheads.  So far only a few acts for the 2009 edition have been announced but include the likes of Noah & The Whale, Doves, The Hold Steady and The Zutons.

Tickets went on sale this morning (Tuesday August 11) from the usual outlets and are available at an early bird price of 89euro (inc. booking fee) until September 1.  After that, the price becomes 99euro (also inc. booking fee).

Unlike other festivals, there is no on-site camping available but punters can check out the Discover Ireland website to see what accommodation is available in the surrounding areas. 

Doves: Kingdom of Rust

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An excerpt from the Kevin Smith movie, Dogma:

Bethany:  What exactly brought you to Illinois?
Jay:  Some fuck called John Hughes.
Sixteen Candles John Hughes?
Jay: You know that guy, too? See, all these movies take place in a small town called Shermer, in Illinois, where all the honies are top-shelf, but all the dudes are whiny pussies - except for Judd Nelson, he was fuckin' harsh - but best of all, there was no one dealin', man; then, it hits me: we could live like phat rats if we were the blunt connection in Shermer, Illinois. So we collected some money we were owed, and we caught a bus. You know what the fuck we found out when we got there? There is no Shermer in Illinois. Movies are fuckin' bullshit.

Outside of my family and friends, there are few people whose death would stop me in my tracks and make me reflect upon their life and work.  John Hughes was one such person though.  It was with a mixture of shock and sadness that I heard of his passing this morning.  You see, as a child of the eighties, Key Notes grew up with movies like Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Of course, this blog was a bit too young to see them first time around but, as a teenager in the early '90's the movies seemed to fit perfectly with my own teenage angst.

Hughes was great at writing outsiders and showing, ultimately, that they're not so different from the rest of us.  There was a Ferris Bueller, Wyatt Donnelly or Samantha Baker in all of us during our teenage years.  It's not often as a teenager that you feel that someone 'gets' you, but when watching a Hughes movie you really felt like he did.  Such a pity then that he moved away from teen movies so as not to be considered a one trick pony. 

Pop songs always played a huge part in a John Hughes movie. Sixteen Candles had Paul Young's Love of the Common People and True by Spandau Ballet, Ferris Bueller had Twist & Shout and an instrumental cover of The Smiths' Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want and The Breakfast Club had, of course, Simple Minds' Don't You.

However, my own personal favourite was Tesla Girls by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark from Weird Science and that's the song I'm going to finish this blog off with today. 

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it - Ferris Bueller.  I, for one, will be having a John Hughes marathon this weekend.

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This is supposed to be a series of blogs that look at the individuals who populate Irish indie gigs and yet, in this particular entry, Key Notes will be profiling the type of person who would never be seen alone.

scenesters are far too cool for capital letters.  The time you and I waste searching for the shift key (or, worse still, caps lock) is time they can spend getting their fringe just right.  Indeed, such is their dedication to this, they only purchase products beginning with lower case letters, such as iPhones, iPods and, well, you get the idea.  It is one of nature's great mysteries that scenesters are very self-aware and yet, almost always unaware of their status as scenesters.  As such, they are amongst the most deluded of the Irish indie gig goers.

How to spot one:
For a start, you won't spot just one as scenesters are the cattle of the Irish indie scene, roaming, as they do, in herds.  The male of the species tend to speak at a higher pitch than the average Irish male.  This may have something to do with the fact he appears to be wearing his 15 year old sister's jeans.  Beneath these ill-fitting jeans you're likely to find pointy shoes or white canvas trainers, depending on the scenesters mood before he left home.  The torso tends to be covered with an equally tight fitting t-shirt adorned with the logo of a band the scenester may never have actually listened to.   The very worst scenester ends up looking like a Jonas Brother!

The female of the species loves Urban Outfitters, indeed, in a survey carried out by this blog recently, 82% of female scenesters listed Urban Outfitters as their favourite shop.  The remaining 18% pretended I didn't exist.  The female scenester will, therefore, often be seen without a drink in hand, having spent 85 euro on leggings that look exactly like those her older sister threw away before the start of Italia '90.  Female scenesters often bald quicker than non-scenesters due, in part, to their penchant for wearing hats indoors.

Behavioural Characteristics:
scenesters will spend 90% of every gig talking amongst themselves, about themselves.  They will spend the remaining 10% attempting to cheer and 'whoop' louder than anyone else at the end of songs while shouting for the band to play the one song they know from that album the NME said was the best thing since last week's album of the week.

It should also be noted that almost every scenester appears to be in a band though, strangely, you won't have heard of them as they've never actually played a gig or recorded any material.  They do have a 'really cool' name though, probably beginning with 'the.'

What they are likely to say:
'What was that support band wearing; it should have been my band up there.'

What you are likely to say:
'Look love, they have a set-list that they're going to stick to, no matter how much you shout.'

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Having been nominated for 'Best European Festival' in the UK Festival Awards 2008; Castlepalooza is back and will take place over the course of the August Bank Holiday Weekend (Saturday August 1 & Sunday August 2) in the gorgeous surroundings of Charleville Castle, Tullamore.

The line up is as follows:

Were it not for a stupid knee injury picked up while training for the Marathon (Grade II MCL and Medial Meniscus tear, if you're asking) Key Notes would be going himself.  However, this blog would still recommend that those of you going do your very best to check out the following 5 bands; Dark Room Notes, Le Galaxie, Rarely Seen Above Ground, Angel Pier and The Ambience Affair.

Of course, as with all the best boutique festivals, there is much more than just music going on at Castlepalooza.  This year the festival will also include lots of other entertainment, from the live Rocky Horror Picture show to Crafternoon Tea and dance workshops to the infamous Party Bus.  Castlepalooza also has hot showers and flushing loos which differentiates it from most festivals Key Notes has ever attended.

A limited number of tickets are still available from the Castlepalooza website and from usual outlets.  Also, be sure to check out Anna Murray's reviews of Castlepalooza 2009 over the weekend.

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In this, the 10th edition of Key Note Speaker, Key Notes' speaks to Anna, Pearse, and Jamie of Charm Offensive, the Kildare based band who take their influences from many bands but who manage to sound distinctly unlike anyone else (including themselves).  Charm Offensive play Upstairs in Whelan's today (July 22) at 8pm.  Declaration of interest: The Anna involved is Anna Murray of CLUAS fame, proving what a multi-talented writing team we've assembled here!

Favourite Songs from the Past Year
Is it too late to count Portishead’s Threads? Also, Grand Pocket Orchestra’s Little Messy
Dog Days
by Florence and the Machine and 22 by Lily Allen
Call It A Ritual, Wolf Parade but I’m not actually sure it was in the last year

Favourite Song Ever
No idea. I tend to remember albums not songs
Glosoli by Sigur Ros is up there, with some Radiohead, maybe Reckoner, and a lot of Blondie
Everything In It’s Right Place - Radiohead, He Poos Clouds - Final Fantasy, I Want You [She’s So Heavy] - The Beatles but it’ll change by next week

Favourite Charm Offensive Song
Sugar Rush
, it's very moody, and wild, but very controlled. It's top
We haven’t played it live yet, but it should be satisfyingly loud
July’s Child. The most complete thing I think we’ve done

Favourite New Band/Artist
Sounds of System Breakdown, The Stoney Brokes, Grand Pocket Orchestra
I'm loving Florence right now. Are Nirvana new?
Wolf Parade but, again, not really new

Favourite Band/Artist Ever
Tujiko Noriko or Final Fantasy
Pearse & Jamie

Favourite Gig This Year
Anna & Jamie 
Final Fantasy in Whelan's
Lilly Allen at wherever it was

Favourite Gig Ever
Final Fantasy in Whelan's, but two years ago
Definitely Arcade Fire on Oct 23rd last year. Blew my socks off
Radiohead in wherever they played in Dublin in 2003

Favourite Charm Offensive Gig Ever
Definitely today's! Best gig ever!
We had a very nice gig at Eamonn Doran's last year, it was the first time we'd played live for a while, so it was great to get back on stage

Favourite Venue
I’d love to do a silent gig in Crawdaddy – everything through headphones
Well it's always been my dream to play on the roof of the tennis club in Castlebar, maybe some day I can make that happen
Vicar Street

Favourite Piece of Musical/Recording Equipment
Macbook, with Logic Pro, Cubase, Soundforge, Soundhack…
My lovely pedal, a Boss GT8
A Korg, but only because I’ve never used one and can’t afford one

Download or CD/Cassette/Record
Anna, Pearse & Jamie 

Favourite TV Show at the Moment
Bones! And Green Wing
Pushing Daises

Favourite Movie
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Pan's Labyrinth
Back To The Future I & II

Favourite Book
Anna & Jamie 
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
The His Dark Materials trilogy

Most Listened to Radio Show
Anna, Pearse & Jamie 

What's in Store for Charm Offensive Next
Well we're playing Upstairs at Whelan's this Wednesday at 8pm, with the talented Defex
Some recording, which should be on our MySpace soon
Wembley, drug shame, triumphant comeback

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On April 8 2008, not only did I lose my father-in-law to cancer but I also lost one of my best friends.  Alan Smyth was in the prime of his life when he first got sick and during his illness often joked that he would be 'the healthiest man in the graveyard.'  The dignity with which he fought his cancer and the strength and sense of humour he showed even when he knew it was a fight he could not win shows just what type of person he was. 

During Alan's illness I saw first hand how tragically under funded cancer care is in Ireland.  The Irish Cancer Society is dedicated to changing this and so I swore when Alan died that I would do my bit to try and raise funds for them.  Therefore, on October 26 I will be running the Lifestyle Sports/Adidas Dublin City Marathon to raise funds for The Irish Cancer Society.  In the build up to the Marathon I will be running the Adidas Race Series, starting tomorrow (Saturday July 18) with the Irish Runner 5 Mile Challenge in The Phoenix Park.  This race series will also include The Frank Duffy 10 Mile Challenge (August 15) and The Dublin City Half Marathon (September 26).

Now, this is where you come in!  I have set up a charity page called Steve's Year of Running Dangerously.  Initially, I had hoped to raise 500 euro for the Irish Cancer Society but as I have already raised that amount I have raised my fundraising total to 750 euro.  Should I exceed that amount I will raise the amount to 1,000 euro and so on.  Ideally, I will raise as much money as possible.  Any donation, no matter how big or small, will be equally appreciated by me and, more importantly, by The Irish Cancer Society.  It will also be possible to sponsor me for up to one month after the Marathon is finished (for the cynical amongst you who don't believe I can complete it!) so, as Alan would say, let there be no panic.

I can't think of a better way to finish this blog than with a song that always reminds me of Alan and one that I will definitely be listening to as I make my way around The Phoenix Park tomorrow for the first of the Adidas Races Series.

Prefab Sprout: Cars & Girls

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The Good

Magnetic North
The type of Northern Irish music that usually makes headlines around the 12th of July is not the sort we would typically report on here at CLUAS.  However, over the course of last weekend's Oxegen festival there were four Northern acts that stood head and shoulders above most of their Southern peers.  While both Duke Special and Iain Archer reaffirmed their undoubted talent, General Fiasco and, especially, And So I Watch You From Afar blasted their way on to my musical radar.  Seeing General Fiasco was a happy accident but, after their performance at the launch of Hard Working Class Heroes, And So I Watch Your From Afar were a band I was never going to miss. Both were beyond brilliant and (with a little help from my Belfast born friend) I will be paying much more attention to the Northern Irish indie scene in future.

Stage Managed
I know from experience that musicians are not the most punctual of people.  Indeed, I can count on one hand the amount of times a band/musician has turned up for an interview on time.  However, over the course of Oxegen 2009 almost every single performance started on time. There were one or two notable exceptions (there always is) but kudos must go to the Stage Managers for harassing the bands into punctuality.  It certainly made my job as a reviewer much easier.

The Gig's The Thing
Say what you want about the quality of their music but there are certain bands that sound 100 times better in the live arena than they do on record.  In this case I'm thinking specifically of Republic of Loose.  I've never been convinced about their songs and yet, every time I see them live I find myself singing/dancing along.  They are the great showmen (and women) of the Irish indie scene and, indeed, only Roisin Murphy's stage show comes anywhere close to matching The Loose in terms of entertainment value.  I wish someone would upload their cover of Wanna Be Startin' Somthin' to YouTube soon though!

Ride On
I've reviewed Oxegen for CLUAS for the past two years and generally make use of the VIP parking that us 'media types' (snigger) get to avail of.  However, given the weather conditions on Saturday I decided to make use of the free 'Park 'n' Ride' facilities at Goff's on the Sunday of Oxegen 2009.  Should I get to review it again for CLUAS next year this is the only way I'll be travelling.  It's quick, it's free and it's much more convenient than trying to make your way out of a muddy field in the middle of Naas.  Why anyone would drive when this facility is available is beyond me.

The Bad

Rain, Rain, Go Away
Of course, there is nothing that MCD can do about the weather but it's such a shame that Oxegen always seems to take place in the rain.  It would be a much nicer festival if it took place during the summer!

Muddy Waters
Whilst MCD can't control the weather; they could certainly expect it and have planned slightly better for it.  The conditions on Sunday, in the IMRO tent especially, were little short of shocking.  This tent is located at the bottom of two slopes and so suffers more than most of the tents in bad weather.  However, it's nothing that some of the sawdust that was laid out on the entrances to the festival site could have fixed.  As funny as it was seeing people lose their wellies in mud, it felt as if it could be easily stopped.

This Must Be, Pop
As bizarre as it is that I've used an N'Sync lyric in the heading, it's even more unusual how, erm, popular, pop music was at this year's Oxegen.  Lady Gaga, The Blizzards, The Script, Katy Perry; all pop, all popular.  As Jim Carroll pointed out in his blog on Oxegen, perhaps this is the direction the festival is going.  It's certainly what the kids seem to want from their music festival experience.  While I can see the attraction for MCD in doing this, I wouldn't like to see Oxegen lose all its indie bands.

The Ugg Boots

(VIP) Very Important (I Get) Pissed
There is nothing more frustrating, when you're covered in mud and soaked through by rain, than wandering back to the media area to find people in the VIP bar looking spotlessly clean and bone dry, doing their best to be noticed by anyone with a media pass and a camera.  It's a music festival, get out and see some bands!  You probably didn't pay for your tickets so at least support the bands by standing out in the rain for a few minutes.

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Oxegen09Last year, CLUAS was the first publication in the world to provide reviews of Oxegen, Electric Picnic, Cois Fharraige and Hard Working Class Heroes.  Some publications would sit back and think 'job well done.'  Not here on CLUAS however, as this year we aim to bring you the most up-to-date and in-depth coverage of Oxegen 2009.

As with last year, CLUAS will be publishing a review of each day of Oxegen 2009 within 12 hours of the day ending, i.e. a review of Friday will be up by Noon on Saturday.  These reviews will continue to be interactive so, if you were there, feel free to let us know what you think.  Key Notes will also be providing CLUAS readers with an Oxegen overview which will go live on July 15.

For those of you who can't wait for a whole 12 hours, well, for the first time ever, CLUAS will be providing live reviews via Twitter.  Now, obviously these reviews are limited to 140 characters but their aim is to provide you with a flavour of the music before the full review.  Key Notes will also be using Twitter to provide you with backstage gossip, line-up changes and weather updates.  To follow Key Notes visit his Twitter page: cluaskeynotes

This year will also see the publication of a number of festival diaries.  These will give you a complete feel of the festival from the point of view of a band, a fan and from someone who spends their weekend working while you play.  Key Notes can't tell you who the band are just yet, but they've recently been in the news for all the right reasons and this blog will have more details on the working diary over the course of the weekend. 

The fan diary, well, the fan diary could be written by you.  If you are going to Oxegen, please feel free email keynotesatcluasdotcom and Key Notes will provide you with details of what is required.  This is your chance to be involved in CLUAS' most in-depth coverage of a music festival ever. 

So, now you know where to find the definitive Oxegen coverage, Key Notes hopes too see you checking it out over the course of the weekend.  For those of you travelling to Punchestown, feel free to say hello.  Key Notes will be the one listening to the music.

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Nuggets from our archive

1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.