ireland

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In the wake of several other album launches already echoing through the early part of this year, and the many yet still scheduled to come – 2011 is proving to be a year of salivating ears for many local audience members here in the North of Ireland. Yet the one thing that perhaps strikes the strongest chord is that the wealth of talent over here which we savour so much is actually branching its growth out from the roots of the homelands towards much farther flung sets of rapt lugs. You only have to cast a glance across the strong reviews aimed at Mojofury’s début release, garnering accolades that have landed them cover spots with Artrocker and choice picks of their single with iTunes and NME to see that it’s not just us holding up the flags anymore.

After a well received tour of the United Kingdom with stalwart audio warriors And So I Watch You From Afar, Mojofury’s album launch date (little more than a fortnight after ASIWYFA’s own launch, and sandwiched in between the two) is sitting in an interesting well on the gig calendar. One might imagine that with the force to which the crowds took to the Mandela Hall at the end of April that we would be more than a little spent of emotion come their own stroke at the Spring & Airbrake; but none the less, both show and fans were yet another mark for the intensity which has been bred over the last few years and is gathering pace – almost alarmingly.

With much recent aplomb Eatenbybears, competition winner for the slot to open the evening for Maybeshewill and Mojofury, were more than a little shocked (delightfully so) to find themselves on the bill for what could be held up as ‘quite a serious line-up’. Coming into the fray with just a few months of solid gigging behind them, and touted by both local and regional media as the pick of the bunch of the new bands flying high from the beginning of the year – they more than held up to the rather lofty position bestowed upon them last Saturday night.

A mixture of quirky (and in using that I bequest the term in no mere an indie-band context) mathematical-rock substance and a genuine talent for showcasing a knowledge of technical music, having formed on a sonic arts course – they held the attention of the somewhat slight early audience and proved exactly why they may have been chosen ahead of other more established acts. In fact, I’d go as far as to point out the similarities in quite open experimental performance as to what the lads in Mojo themselves foster in my own head when listening to their music. Watching people who know their craft, but can express it eloquently is always fun. When it comes to overt stylistic attempts at pushing the finer edges of music, it can grate with audience members out to follow a melody and little else. Delivery and patience of course play a factor, but with honest announcements of timing signatures backing up their more well known songs such as ‘Vanderhoof‘ their disjointed yet clearly flowing sound is the perfect introduction to a night that will only promise more of the same.

Another band out on the touring circuit constantly, and with a very strong fan base not just in their native England but also too in Germany and IrelandMaybeshewill have created an ethic of instrumental music that homes in on trying to embrace their instrumental peers and yet at the same time pushing for their own sound. It’s a hard sell speaking honestly, as has been quite openly poked into by many others aiming slurs at the instrumental/post-rock genre. I’m in love with it, but then admittedly it can get old if the mood is odd. Sometimes it falls into a well seen structure that is tried, tested and a joy to listen to, but when it does positively pop through to that little bit of a higher plane – such as with their newer, less overladen album material (‘Critical Distance‘ pointing the way) and of course their golden oldies off of début album ‘Not For Want Of Trying‘ – it really flies. Connection with the audience, presentation and admission of emotion is in my opinion key. And as said, with a strong fan base and a will to connect they make a fantastic bridge between the lighter notes of Eatenbybears and what we all know is just minutes over the horizon.

Anticipation is rife, and the crowd has swelled to capacity, oiled up by the previous offerings – at the end of the day many have waited five or more years for this moment. Myself personally, and perhaps just slightly with a bit of a bashful admission only the two – but I wager no less excitement as like most others around me the songs are known off by heart. So when Ciaran McGreevy, Gerry Morgan, James Lyttle and the deliriously eccentric Michael Mormecha finally take to the stage to swing us on our way towards giving them a little piece of their musical sunshine, I imagine they found themselves in a position from which it would be hard to disappoint – though not one of complacency. Fresh from their meanderings the band that we thought we knew is now a tightened animal (further still from previous events). Professional to a tee, and backed up by quite the explicitly tuned light show they fire into single ‘The Mann‘ with considerable force. We’ve seen them good and we know they are assured, confident musicians (craftsmen really) but it’s safe to say that with ASIWYFA performing their new album sequentially in its entirety not long in the past, I like others was honestly expecting much of the same. With a welcome departure of both song order and an effortless addition of non-album tracks to the set-list they didn’t dip once.

As mentioned about audience, it’s interesting to note just the fervour with which not the single, or the populist tracks received but the entire performance. Unprompted mass sing-a-longs throughout ‘Lemon Marine‘ and ‘We Should Just Run Away‘ made the meat of the set a wind of smiles on stage. We know these songs and we know them well – and yet for many it was like an official release of outpouring for an album which has been on the cards now for some time. After a blinding finish there was a special return of the three original members (minus the laudable Gerry Morgan, for whom this was my first time seeing behind the sticks), with Mike resuming the captain’s position not at the front of the stage but back on drums for ‘Deep Fish Tank (Factory Settings)‘. The ego in me would love to think this was something special just for the home crowd – but why hide such a finale from those on the circuit? Hopefully it plays out over their festival run this Summer.

I never would have guessed it to be ‘thee’ song to end on, but in hindsight I can completely see why. With Lyttle and McGreevy careening around the stage, strobe lights jetting off like photons on the starboard bow of the Enterprise, and the meek circle-pit of earlier turning into a massive free for all riot I’m left with perhaps one of the defining memories of the year.

Oh, and there was a pig’s head in the crowd.

If there’s a highlight, it’s a moshing pig’s head.

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Experience

From the mouth of Rory Friers, whose birthday it is today – of the ever inspirational four piece And So I Watch You From Afar.

“We’ve learnt a lot more about doing this on such a full-time level. We’ve really strengthened up individually and as a unit, and we’ve got a really strong group of people around us now who help make sure everything is running the way we need it to be. Having Smalltown on board brought that next level we needed for the album. They’re so good to us, they really give us loads of room to try stuff out and take risks.

We learnt only to jump off speaker stacks when there’s someone there to catch you. We’ve learnt that Ireland as a whole has an amazing music scene which is easy to take for granted. We learnt that some people won’t understand that it can be really difficult being away from home all the time and will become pretty cold-hearted towards you. We’ve learnt that you’ve got to become as thick-skinned as possible to keep pushing towards what you want from life.

We’ve learnt that we have the most amazing, supportive friends and family in the world. We’ve learnt that regardless of having to make peoples’ Christmas presents for the first time in twenty years because you literally don’t own a penny, if you’ve been in Kerrang or played the Mandela Hall, some people will think you’re rich. We also learnt that six Irish guys at their first ever European festival with a free bar the night before they play a main stage isn’t a good idea. We learnt never to try and drive from Leeds to Vienna in one go, even if Faith No More are playing because despite what Google Maps says, it will take twice as long. We learnt that no matter how much you have it serviced your van will break down on the Autobahn.

Chris learnt not to ask the woman on stage in a venue where the sound “man” is because predictably she IS the sound man and will be very offended.”

…full article here.

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Pioneering their wares this weekend over the Irish Sea at the Reading & Leeds Festivals this year amongst others acts from the shores of Ireland such as General Fiasco, The Japanese Popstars and Two Door Cinema Club were the mighty LaFaro.

…fucking awesome.

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As this year’s Glasgowbury Music Festival looms down from the mountains of Ireland – with the recently released news that Fighting With Wire are set to retake their (most welcome) mantle as headlining act – I’d like to take a quick look back at ten of my own favourite moments from documenting last year’s festival.

On reflection at my choice of photos I’ve noticed that they are all black and white. No reason is genuinely implied, although I’m sure subconsciously as I got about halfway through I began to stick to the aesthetic with some vigour.

Paddy Nash & Pizza

Lifting spirits and minds alike, we sat in the Cellar Bar with some pizza and beers – our heads transported forward to the weekend at hand by the tunes of Paddy Nash and Junior Johnson.

A Plastic Rose In The Campsite

The lads from A Plastic Rose made every single attempt possible to promote their slot, including show-boating around the camp site in the hours before they were due to go on, and it worked – the tent was packed out.

LaFaro’s Onstage Antics

It’s hard to think of anyone more suited to a performance on the main stage than LaFaro. Equal parts dirt, sex and spit, they tore the entire place apart aurally.

The Crowd During Skruff

There are crowds, and then there are entire rows of people bouncing along in time to the music at an almost professional level – fucking apt. Skruff are lethal.

Gerry Norman Crowd Surfing

It was almost considered impossible in the minds of some, but due to the crowd that they managed to bring into their tent, A Plastic Rose’s amiable guitarist was able to ditch his weapon and launch himself around the cheering mob during Kids Don’t Behave Like This.

Colenso Parade

In a day highlighted by outright rock and roll and sharper fare – Colenso Parade’s friendly music soared far and wide, punctuating the day with some well natured and delightful sounds.

Paul McCarren’s Big Day Out

The lord of the manor, Dungannon branch, was out in force during the weekend spreading his charm to many a heart. His trusty minions were also never far from the action, in many cases cheering, diving, moshing and generally causing the crowds to rock out.

Jonny Black & Herb Magee

…because…er.

Just look at them. They look like they’ve landed in from planet ‘iRock’.

And So I Watch You From Afar

Knowing the dedicated following that they have entranced with their brand of ‘awesome’, and being one of them, watching And So I Watch You From Afar headlining Glasgowbury was a particularly delicious fruit to digest – for all.

The Stage Invasion

Watching the reaction of the crowd, the bands on stage and in particular Tony Wright of And So I Watch You From Afar, was truly something I hope never to forget. I was awed. Which happens regularly with those eejits from the North of the North.

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It has been some time since the last band takeover here on this blog but Oxford based Stornoway are about to break that run as singer Brian Briggs takes over the keyboard after soundcheck to write a little about their first visit to the emerald isle.

“Hi, Brian here from Stornoway (the band), fresh off the Stranraer ferry to tour in Ireland for the first time, having just played in Stornoway (the town). We have prepared a dark gospel-style Black Box (the band) cover of ‘Ride On Time’ to play in The Black Box (the venue). Another first – we received a pineapple in our rider, which we have been using to do impressions of M People. Shame we don’t have a knife so that we can use it for its usual purpose.

Ciao for now!

Brian”

Make sure and check out Stornoway’s new single ‘I Saw You Blink’.

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