Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Frank Fairfied Live At The Grand Social Dublin 18/01/2014.

The first gig I attended this year was at  Dublin's Grand Social, located on lower Liffey Street to see the great American folk artist Frank Fairfield last month.
I've mentioned this Californian man before on a few occasions on this blog since discovering  his music on an Uncut magazine promo CD over 3 years ago. I was also lucky enough to see his performance at The End Of The Road Festival in Dorset in  2012 which I must add was a bona fida highlight of that weekend.
If you listen to Fairfield's self titled debut album from 2009, you will be hard pushed to find a more stripped back or raw recording from this century . It comes as no surprise that this man is an avid collector of vintage 78rpm records, he seems to live and breathe and play in a style from a bygone era.
His latest release 'Duncan and Brady' is a 7" vinyl available through Jack White's label Third Man Records.
Taking in Kilkenny and Dundalk on a short stopover of a European tour, Frank completed his 3rd Irish date in the capital city upstairs in The Loft venue of The Grand Social.
Something extraordinary happens when this man takes the stage because despite his sometimes conspicuous shyness, he soon becomes enraptured in the music that flows from his guitar, fiddle or banjo.
The crowd tonight were a mix of age groups, some perhaps were just curious to check this guy out without knowing much of his work while many more were well familiar with him.
It was clear that Fairfield was enjoying his time in Ireland, mentioning that he had met 'so many sweet people along the way'. 15 minutes of so into his set tonight  left few punters unable to keep their feet from tapping against the wooden floor. At one point while tuning his fiddle, one of his bow strings broke, he politely excused himself and walked backstage to retrieve a spare one from a box much to his and everyone else's amusement.
There was time too for requests, most notable, 'Old Paint' a beautiful cowboy ballad that someone from the crowd wisely suggested him to play. Holding the fiddle down low to his breast, while singing in that distinctively raspy American voice, Fairfield seemed like a character from an 1800's gold rush era film.
Clearly he had won over an amount of new followers tonight as almost everyone stood up from their seats to applaud loudly as his time on stage came to a close.
Afterwards he kindly waited around to chat with the people there and stand for photos and sign some Cd's.
I got to shake his hand and shyly mumble some words of appreciation on his return to Ireland, I hope he understood that I was so glad to be there tonight.
I was fortunate enough to get him to autograph a copy of 'Turn Me Loose' a CD compilation curated by himself of some of his favourite 78 rpm's, a unique collection of Anglo-American vernacular pieces selected from the gramophone era. You will find this collection on the Tompkins Square record label along with his debut album and his follow up 'Out On The Open West'.

Listen to Frank Fairfield perform and talk on a Western North Carolina radio station here.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Waterboys Live At The INEC Killarney 21-December-2013.

So another new year unfolds and already there are high expectations for the upcoming gigs throughout 2014 across Ireland. The annual marquee concerts in Cork city for example promises to be something special this year with such big names as Robert Plant, Neil Young and The Pixies duly confirmed to play.
No doubt in the coming months , there will be an array of many more gigs announced to satisfy a plenitude of ticket buyers. The festivals too, like The Electric Picnic should no doubt do justice to their tremendous reputation by announcing yet another stellar line up this time around.
Looking back, 2013 was quite a year of exceptional gigs, most of the ones I attended have been mentioned in this blog in one form or other.
Perhaps it feels a little late to mention the last gig I was lucky enough to get to at the close of 2013, but better late than never I guess.
The by now legendary Waterboys did a short tour of Ireland during December to celebrate the 25th anniversary  of the release of the 'Fisherman's Blues' album.  
This coincided with a release of a remarkable 6 CD box set compilation of songs from the 'Fisherman's Blues' sessions aptly titled 'Fisherman's Box'. Surely one of the most expansive celebrations of a single record ,it could be more wisely viewed as a companion piece to that period of where the band were musically during that time.  
Every recording from those sessions are finally available on this fine collection, including remasters and alternative versions of songs, along with covers of influential songs that inspired the creativity of such a record.

December 21st was the Killarney date and despite the awful weather, it was more than a worthwhile trip that night to one of the most picturesque towns in Ireland.
If  there was to be a downside to the night, it has to mentioned that unfortunately due to somewhat unknown reasons the gig was announced as a 'sit down' performance. This news came just hours before the show, despite a number of standing tickets been previously sold.
This certainly became a subject of discussion among long time fans in the adjacent bar as to how the gig would unfold. Many people there had clearly remembered more rousing times at Waterboy's concerts some years earlier without such restrictions as being told to stay seated.
In retrospect, sitting down didn't upset too many in the end as Mike Scott and co dazzled with a most inspiring set. Highlights were aplenty throughout, like their take on the Hank William's penned 'I'm So Lonesome...' or the gorgeous reworking of Bob Dylan's 'Girl From The North Country'.
Steve Wickham's fiddle playing was majestic in moments, confirming his importance to this raggle taggle union that defined The Waterboys sound during the 'Fisherman's Blues' period.
This is a band who have been unafraid to take different directions throughout their long path, but in my opinion 'Fisherman's Blues' was their finest moment. It was an album that incorporated Irish trad with British folk music, a rediscovery of roots combined with  beautiful, mystical songwriting.
25 years later, to hear these songs played live was more than just a great reassurance of a fine album, it was a confirmation that it had stood the test of time.
Mike Scott's presence onstage that night had me transfixed especially, clearly he is a lyrical craftsman first and foremost  but is committed to delivering a faultlessly tight rendition of every song.
At one point while introducing a song with a very heartfelt recollection of how the 'Fisherman's Blues' sessions came about, he was abruptly interrupted by a call from the crowd to play some randomly chosen request. His prompt response was something on the lines of 'shut the fuck up, I am trying to tell a story here', to the hearty amusement of the other 99 per cent looking on. Moments like this can sometimes be boundlessly funny to witness adding to the spontaneity of what a live show has to offer over listening to a recording. By the time the celebrated album's title track was rolled out, there were few people able to sit sensibly in their seats anymore, with many making a rush towards the front of the stage. The band who were by now evidently caught up in the moment, subsequently embraced the enthusiasm played out  before them.
Renditions of  'We Will Not Be Lovers' 'Sweet Thing' 'When Will We Be Married' could not have been performed more beautifully, there were two encores also which included the all too familiar hit 'The Whole Of The Moon'. Without any hurry to leave the stage Mike Scott and his ensemble lined out in appreciated pose, providing plenty of photo opportunities for anyone there. The album cover of 'Fisherman's Blues' came to mind as they sat there in that reconstructed position, this was 25 years later and that music was very much still alive, a magical moment. Of course The Waterboys, have disbanded, regrouped and changed members on several occasions since 1988, however that particular chapter in time was unquestionably there greatest. 
To be in Killarney this night reliving such a memory was something very special, a reminder perhaps that we are a staggering quarter of a century further into time but we are still appreciating that same fine music today.
This was a remarkable gig in many respects, Scott's voice has not altered even slightly, the entire line up have aged gracefully and they have perfected their playing even further.I have dusted off my copy of 'Fisherman's Blues' since that night and it has been spinning on repeat pretty much every day since.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Electric Picnic Festival Sunday 1st Of September 2013.

Johnny Marr at the Electric Picnic 1/09/2013.

It seemed that the most coveted admission  ticket this year was for undoubtedly Ireland's greatest showcase of music and arts,  the Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally County Laois. Cheaper than usual early bird tickets that came available months before were quickly snapped up and later as time went on there became an ever increasing interest. This was the 10th anniversary of the festival  and perhaps that combined with an excellent line up and proper summer weather it was eventually to become a completely sold out event. Luckily I was  fortunate enough to get my hands on a last minute Sunday ticket which I can now safely say became a most memorable day from start to finish.

For years I had waited to see Johnny Marr as a solo performer, so too on today's bill was another hero of mine, David Byrne who would be sharing the stage with St. Vincent. That alone was enough to satisfy any interest in the day for me, but as anyone knows who has made the trip to the Electric Picnic before, there is always so much more going on.
The Mindfield area which incorporates poetry, drama, debate, discussion and music was tastefully dedicated to the very recently deceased Seamus Heaney.
The Comedy Stage, The Hot Press Chatroom, Body and Soul, Trenchtown and numerous merchandise and gourmet food stalls are just some of the fare to be enjoyed each year and there is so much to experience all in just one weekend.


As per usual by tradition on Sunday The Dublin Gospel Choir kicked off proceedings on the main stage in the early afternoon. It was a beautiful autumnal day with a hint of sunshine peering through the clouds. The big crowds had not yet descended in from the campsites, it felt almost like the calm before the storm.
At 12.30 Scottish songstress Nina Nesbitt was playing at the Electric Arena stage, her pleasant pop tunes like 'Stay Out' set the tone for a happy vibe that was to last throughout the day. This girl and her music was certainly news to me but catching some of her performance was all very worthwhile.
Nina Nesbitt

The Strypes
At 4:15 the County Cavan foursome know as The Strypes took the stage, these very young lads (all still just teenagers) are certainly turning heads with their blend of vintage rhythm and blues.
Music magazine NME has already heaped admiration upon The Strypes, so too has the likes of  Paul Weller and Jeff Beck, that is no surprise actually when you see them perform. Complete with mop tops and early 1960's regalia, there is little doubt that behind the perhaps tongue in cheek image, there is a defining commitment to being a great band. Josh McLorey's guitar playing at times was astonishingly impressive on songs like 'Blue Collar Jane' and 'You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover', while singer Ross Farrelly who seems to constantly wear shades carried the front man position with conviction. Not to be written off as another 60's tribute band, these boys would be better described as revivalists of music from that era. Already with plenty of festival playing experience accomplished this summer including a slot at the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury, they seem to be doing everything right. Their debut album 'Snapshot' has just been released this month, this is one of the standout songs you will find on it.

Johnny Marr did play at the Electric Picnic once before, a few years previously along with Modest Mouse. I did see some of that set but unfortunately due to being so far back in the crowd away from the stage it was a less that memorable experience. Today would be different as we had the more fortunate position of being right near the front as the man himself kicked off at 5.30pm. The opening song was 'The Right Thing Right' from his latest album 'The Messenger' released earlier this year to huge acclaim. I don't use the word 'legend' lightly but as any fan of The Smiths would attest to, Johnny Marr does fit the phrase without difficulty. Holding firmly to his signature Fender Jaguar guitar, Marr displayed the presence of a master of his art with this hour long set. Four Smiths songs were rolled out among the song list today 'Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before', 'Bigmouth Strikes Again, 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' and probably the song with the most defining riff he has ever written 'How Soon Is Now'. It's hypnotic jangle hollowed around the packed arena sounding as potent now as it ever did almost 30 years ago. Let's face it, we will never see a reunion of The Smiths but this was a a more than satisfying compensation.  There was also a grinding version of  the Sonny Curtis song 'I Fought The Law'  and 'Getting Away With It' a late '80's single taken from his collaboration project with Bernard Sumner Electronic. Finally seeing Johnny Marr perform was a monumental memory from attending this festival many times, if it ended there I would have gone home more than gratified, but there was more great music to come later in the evening.
Here is an interview Marr did for RTE 2fm  at The Electric Picnic.


Los Angeles all girl indie rockers Warpaint were next to play on the same stage at 7 pm debuting some new material from their forthcoming second album. They had the previous day also performed at the excellent End Of The Road festival in England. Among their set list this evening was the rather excellent 'Undertow' from the 2010 release entitled 'The Fool'. I saw this band play at the Picnic back in 2011 and most memorably because it was the first act I got a glimpse of after arriving and pitching a fairly unsteady tent.
The new songs were perhaps a bit too fresh to the ears to make a full judgement, however they do sound very promising. There was a call from the crowd to play this one which they thankfully obliged to, it can be found on the Exquisite Corpse EP, it's called 'Elephants'.

The ever eccentric David Byrne's latest project involves an unlikely collaboration with Annie Erin Clark, aka St. Vincent, their album released last year called 'Love This Giant' was yet another turning point in his long and varied career. Just as Johnny Marr was, David Byrne had been on my list of must sees for many years and let's face it, his performances in Ireland have been few and far between. Since the days of  fronting the art-rock outfit Talking Heads and later as a solo artist, Byrne has always been creating essentially interesting music.
Onstage tonight, he was a dynamic presence, his craftsmanship as a performer was clearly complemented by St. Vincent and a fine array of enthusiastic brass based musicians. There was some crazy dance moves from all involved on the sometimes crowded stage making this set all the more enthralling to watch.
Among the song list tonight were more than a few unexpected delights, one being  'Lazy', a song  Byrne recorded with British dance duo X Press 2 more than  a dozen years ago.
'Cruel' from St. Vincent's song canon was equally appreciated along with 'Cheerleader' 'Northern Lights' and 'Marrow'.  There was plenty too for Talking Heads aficionados to drool over with a wonderful version of 'This Must Be The Place' with Byrne miming out an hilarious robotic dance routine. Turns were taken between songs with guitar duties from either David or Annie, both clearly enjoying the pace.
This was so great, I did not want it to end, in fact  it was beyond all expectations, getting better with each song, it was a live party with a torrent of beautiful noise. French horns, trumpets and  saxophones provided that something extra to the songs, the perfect backing for example on 'Burning Down The House'.
They were not going to get away tonight without returning for an encore, such was the rapturous demand from the sardine like packed arena. The final song choice was another Talking Heads favourite 'Road To Nowhere', ending what was undoubtedly one of the greatest performances of this festival since it began 10 years ago.

David Byrne and St. Vincent.
Minneapolis based band Polica played at the Cosby Stage at 10 pm, this relatively new group has the unique distinction of having no less than 2 drummers.
About to release their second album next month called 'Shulamith', they have certainly been making a name for themselves Stateside with huge praise from the likes of Bon Iver and National Public Radio.
Mike Noyce from Bon Iver adds guest vocals on two tracks from their album 'Give You The Ghost', released last year.
"Polica makes moody music that will stick to your bones, this band is going to be huge", is what The Huffington Post said of them after they played the SXSW festival in Texas last year.
Channy Leaneagh's vocals sound all the more haunting with the looping effects that run through many of their songs.
Tonight at the Cosby Stage, the turn out was small due to the huge interest in the Arctic Monkeys appearing on the main stage. I didn't mind being here, it felt like the perfect chill out place to be after a very long, fulfilling day. Songs like 'Wandering Star' and 'Amongster' played out like a soothing soundtrack to an increasingly chilled air night. The discovery of new music has always been an important part of the Electric Picnic for me, Polica fulfilled that curiousity this time around.
Channy Leaneagh and Chris Bierdan from Polica.

Finally I did get to see 45 minutes or so of the Artic Monkey's performance on the main stage, it seemed that most revelers had descended down to this spot now for the finale of an unforgettable weekend of music.
Although I appreciate their debut album which was released in 2005, the Arctic Monkeys haven't impressed me much since then. As a live act they have clearly progressed and their ambitious notions have come to fruition as the fan adoration was huge tonight. Frontman Alex Turner at one point made a comment that this was the most exciting crowd that they had played to on their whole tour. The new album 'AM' is currently number 1 in the Irish charts.
The time had come to make the long trek home tonight, another Electric Picnic festival was coming to a close, welcome news was heard this week that this amazing show has been contracted to run for a further 10 years. Who knows what else is in store for this incredible show for the future, besides being the the most impressive music event Ireland or indeed Europe has on offer. I came away with only one regret this time that I didn't have a full weekend ticket. I will not be making the same mistake next year.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Midlake Live In Dolan's Warehouse Limerick 14/08/2013.

Midlake live in Dolan's Warehouse Limerick.

Currently on a tour of the U.K. and Ireland,Texan group Midlake stopped off at Dolan's Warehouse Limerick this week much to my delight. My first knowledge of this band started off back in 2006 when I heard a song called 'Young Bride' on one of the free promo Cd's that goes along with Uncut magazine each month. Subsequently it led me to go out and buy their album 'The Trials Of Van Occupanther' and without much effort I was soon sold on this unexpectedly gem of a record. Their blend of psyche rock and folk is reminiscent of early Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull with a modern twist that could also be compared with  the likes of Fleet Foxes. Incidentally 'Young Bride' was the first song of choice on the set list at Dolan's tonight setting the tone for what was to be an overall very satisfying gig. Lead vocalist Tim Smith who had been with the band since they formed back in 1999 departed a few months ago to form a new project called Harp. Midlake had been in the middle of creating their fourth album when this occurred thus obviously throwing the band's future into disarray. However guitarist Eric Pulido decided to take the reins as front man and if his new found position at this show is anything to go by, he is the perfect choice.The vocal difference is slightly obvious but the commitment to the songs is deep yet humbling, as Pulido delivered a fine performance throughout this 90 minute set. Needless to say reactions to such favourites as 'Roscoe' and 'Van Occupanther' were ecstatic, the appreciation  was clearly approved by all 6 band members.


The new material, seem like quite a departure from the last album, which was released in 2010 called 'The Courage Of Others'. 
 Incidentally  I bought 'The Courage Of Others'  when it came out and after one listen I wasn't very impressed. A year later I gave it another try and slowly became hooked to it's downbeat beauty, it's an album that I would now highly recommend. 

The reaction to the songs from the forthcoming album 'Anthipon' played tonight was very positive as is the feedback from fans commenting on Internet forums.
Midlake have taken direction changes with all the three previous albums to date, this time it's a more upbeat psychedelic fuelled rock sound.
The title track is the sound of a band evolving further again, despite dramatic line up changes. I think this will be a defining turning point to their career and one of the most anticipated album releases of 2013. 


Just a year ago I saw Midlake play at The End Of The Road Festival  in Dorset England, little did I know that they would play in my home city so soon. It was a very satisfying way to spend a mid week evening, afterwards the band signed albums and chatted with anyone who had time to wait around , intimate gigs don't get much better than this.