BIMM – Showcase Review

It would be foolish to assume that a college dedicated to the relentless pursuit of musical stardom would put on a bad show, wouldn’t it? Yes, yes it would. But I did. Foolishly. 

I would guess my formative years spent attending amateur college gigs is where such foolishness and general apathy towards Irish bands began to manifest.I was so damn disillusioned with the state of Irish music I had totally forgotten that real ‘I say real’ (existential debate aside) musicians still existed in Dublin.Plural noun ‘The’ bands and shrill mic feedback had coloured my perception of what live music in Dublin had become. I would see a youthful face with dilated star-shaped pupils like a strange anamorphic Elton John, holding a sticker covered telecaster and reach for my most deafening earmuffs.The kind that provided much needed audio asphyxiation. Disorientating yes, but still preferable to a hearing a vaguely out of tune Arctic Monkeys cover. It seems however that I had kept the earmuffs on for too long. How sweet it is to hear again.


BIMM’s musical showcase night was a variety display of its best bands, only a few had made it to the intimate stage of the Button Factory and as the beer-sticky floor began to fill I was, in ignorance, expecting the worst.


BIMM EOT3 Steven McCann and Little Rose


With military style efficiency the first band arrived on stage – Talking Legs with a version of Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’.Trashing around the stage in a pair of aviation googles (possibly to avert the blistering strobe lights), their frontman was somewhere between brazenly enthusiastic and manically odd.As it ended I thought, ‘Well that was great’, and so it continued throughout the night, band after band restoring my faith in amateur music.




What struck me most was the array of genres on show, from radio-friendly jams to death metal growls I pictured myself traveling between epochs, a musical ‘Phileas Fogg’ dropping my balloon whenever my ears picked up a virtuoso tune.A cover of Purple Rain here, a catchy soul original there; it was as though I had been given Gabrielle’s iPod and had spent a blissful purgatory on shuffle.


One such memorable cover was performed by Give it to Mammas – a note-for-note rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Green Light’.Jordan Onubogu, a man who looked like he was genetically engineered in a lab to become a star, stood patiently behind the MC, sung a few bars not to his liking and then sang again. It was pretty incredible.Considering that the ‘Mamma’s’ had jammed with Beyoncé’s backing band when she played here two weeks ago, it was not a major surprise that they happened to be brilliant.


All that said it was a gig after all, and ‘when the music’s over’ they turn out the lights and we were all sent, leather jackets and hip haircuts, to the Workman’s club.Regressing back into their student-selves the former performers of the evening were drinking and fumbling over conversation as all students do.

How strange they all looked, acting as if they were normal human beings. I suppose stars don’t really lose the run of themselves until you’ve given them a tour bus. BIMM roadshow tour anyone?


A fool pays visit to DIT’s Fine Art Students – Engage Exhibition

Engage – An Exhibition

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Few know about DIT’s Fine Art school in Portland Row, and neither did I until I walked like a lost child into the ‘White Lady Art Gallery” where students of the college had taken over a small space in the back of the room. Invited by Niamh Murphy, an artist whose work was also on display I trundled down to the Gallery along the quays to check out the evening’s proceedings. It would be important to note at this point that I am no Art expert, I very much appreciate, but only in the same way that a child appreciates the stars. I lack any ability to understand the cosmos, but I have a fantastic time looking at them.
‘Engage’ was, if you can imagine such a thing a large Andromeda of concepts displayed on six white walls. Some had worked in the medium of paint, others with visual media and watercolour. Leonard Traynor’s was the first piece which wrangled my gaze, most notably because it didn’t look (to me at least) to be a piece of art. A small screen with headphones attached displayed a grainy YouTube clip of four Russian teenagers playing the Beatles classic She loves You. Halfway through listening to the clip I realised the lyrics had been changed from ‘She loves you’ to ‘Ruptured Gas Main’. Following a ponderous few minutes, wondering if there was something I had missed I asked the artist, bearded and wandering with a glass of the free wine, to explain to me the concept, as it had surely been lost on me.
Leonard explained how he was attempting to show the brevity of news stories compared with the longevity of pop culture, all too familiar territory for a journalist to appreciate, “Popular songs live on forever whereas news stories are forgotten about and fade away. By combining the two we draw a conversation between the importance of news compared to pop culture”. I admired his attempt to open this dialogue but couldn’t help feeling the conversation had already been had. Joe Soap would rather hear the lovely Liverpool lads tell them that ‘She loves him’ than listen to on repeat the significant structural problems of our energy crisis, unless of course Gas mains happened to be the raison d’étre of his intended audience. Maybe the news story had not been significant enough? Maybe I’m a philistine, in Art it’s always hard to tell.
Squirming my way through the now packed room I slipped amongst deafening chatter, and came to a second piece which again had me baffled. Placards were mounted to the wall, GO HOME, FATHERS PROVIDE NURTURE TOO, GAY MARRIAGE EQUALITY NOW’ all in black bold covering an entire wall. Gay marriage equality I could understand, being somewhat aware of student liberal politics I understood the point quite clearly, but the others, ‘GO HOME’ especially had me stroking my chin in ignorance. Again I went in search of the artist. ‘I am a medium through which other people express their views’, explained Maria Quigley. For almost a year Maria had been asking people to write down anything they felt, so long as it was true to them and picket outside places she thought the message might be relevant. “‘GO HOME’ was one of the trickiest pieces I had done”, standing outside an immigration centre Maria had stayed true to her word and had, against all her own held beliefs become the medium through which people could have their say. “I am trying to normalise the idea of picketing”. Maria had turned herself into a piece of moving, unbiased art. It was in my opinion, one of the cleverest pieces I had ever seen. Beyond respecting the concept I respected more the sheer cajones she had displayed, not only giving people she did not agree with a voice, but she physically had ‘stood’ for whatever messages she displayed.
Gemma Fitzpatrick’s piece was by far the most visually stunning, a symmetrical collage of triangular shapes interlocking with dazzling colour. Each colour had been coded with a message of normality and domesticity beside it. An Avant Guard pie chart separating the differing aspects of her life, each triangle chaotically placed on top of another with paradoxically careful symmetry. I had no need to call the artist for help on this display, not because I believed I had wholly understood the piece but rather because my own interpretation had satisfied me enough. The eye thirsts for symmetry and colour, adding another layer of complexity to the piece might have drowned me.
The rest of the pieces were just as eye catching but I didn’t believe they had been executed with the same clarity or attention to detail as the previous. Thomas Tully’s typographical display was rugged but full of aggression, an inverted message, “You greedy Cunt” was striking, but the execution did not live up to the delicacy of the other pieces. Maybe that was point, again I remind you I am but a baby in this universe.
Niamh Walsh’s two paintings were pastel-like imitations of domestic life, two images displayed the double expectations of the female role at home. One, a women changing for bed, the other a cup being washed, both painted with dull greys, a commentary on the mundanites of domestic life? I asked Niamh about the display which stood in front of her paintings, large basins for washing hair which were filled with beautiful ‘Pot Pourri’. “Does it signify the beauty of feminine domesticity, are you trying to contrast the dull occasions of normal life with the beauty of others?”. “No, they were always in the gallery, we couldn’t move them”. And in those lines I fully accepted my ignorance.
I had only caught glimpses of the other artist’s work, Paul McGrane and Ronan O Reilly. Their pieces, geometrically brilliant metaphors for life and death and silk like tentacles etched onto black paper were unluckily smaller than the rest. Given the cram of bodies which had gathered round each it was a miracle I had managed to spot them at all.
The most interesting sight of the evening was the crowd, an eclectic mix of young and old, artists and posers, personalities so large that they consumed the air of the room and made it impossible to look beyond their padded shoulders and velvet suits jackets. I wrote only three notes during my hour and a half glimpse into their world, the final being, “These people are more stunning than paintings…the art would be nothing without them”.


Beards – A New Masculinity?

If I had a beard I could win respect. If I had a beard I could stoke it wisely. If I had a beard I could fashion its end into a point and raise it skyward in triumphant style; a sceptre, a shield that I could weave and groom and stand before the bare faced plebs and shout “I am a man with a beard. The word ‘man’ is but a synonym for beard…” Without my beard I am nothing, without me my beard is nothing! And so the thought trailed on as I shaved my teenage whiskers, waiting in pensive anticipation of the day I could finally grow one.
My life had been dominated by heroic bearded figures; my father, various historical intellectuals, even our postman sported a bristled coat of grey weary fibers, and at 16 I was consumed with the notion of wearing my testosterone on my chin. Imagine my surprise when here and now, in 2014 I stand bearded amidst a brier-patch of hairy twenty-somethings. These thoughts were not the lone passions of a teenage fantasist, but rather the collective consciousness of a generation who, so full of hope and defiance in the face of economic destitution and general national apathy grew their badges of masculinity as if to say; “This world will notice me as I past swiftly through it. We will make itchy the skin of time between those two great infinities, and give it a rash it will not so hastily forget!”
More likely is the fact that they have been made fashionable by various rock and rollers, actors and ‘youtube’ stars. Beards are ‘á la mode’, part of our generation’s fashionable stamp on time. The sixties had beards, the seventies had beards, in the eighties people discovered cocaine and as a result decided to shave constantly. Who would have believed that now in the age of drones and superfast fibre-optic broadband we would revisit the age old rite of passage, first worn by the cavemen as they finger painted elephants to cave walls? One could explain the hairy phenomenon in context of our current masculinity crisis. Before a man’s masculinity could be measured in feats of heroism, misogyny or acts of violence. Basically how close you fell on the spectrum to being ‘James Bond’ was an accurate gauge of your masculinity, and he never wore a beard.
Now in the great future of the 21st century we have slowly begin to ebb out those traits as gauges of a man’s musicality while yet figuring out how else to display it. Before it had been so simple, shoot the ethnically exotic boss, save the blond dame, dismiss her until she was clawing at your leg and round off the evening by drinking hard liquor after having thrown the last ‘badguy’ off a train. At some stage however we began to realise that this particular version of masculinity wasn’t exactly feasible, given the harmful effect it has on women, on children, little puppies and I’m not wholly certain but it could have something to do with widening the hole in the ozone layer. Beards have become this generation’s innocuous answer to this crisis. We are once again hunter gatherers, well actually more like bar hoppers navigating the earth with Google maps, but at least we have adopted their style, without the implied violence or the sexism.
That said it would be very naïve to believe we have totally escaped our long held notions of what it means to be a man. Dan Blizerian, a modern day playboy poker playing multi-millionaire and former navy seal, has managed to keep the torch lit for all things questionable about being a man. Blizerian’s Instagram account has some million plus followers where he flaunts his wealth, ‘his’ women and his beard, but is such an archaic version of ‘manliness’ more insidious than his fans would let on? His beard, while glorious in style (this I must concede) is stealing away from men the idea that having a beard is a safe way of asserting ones masculinity without having to fly a jet crammed with breast and stacks of dollars. It is of course impossible to understand a passing stranger’s hopes and dreams, but would it not be better to believe they are attempting to emulate the intellectual endeavours of Karl Marx, or Einstein, or even Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time) rather than feebly scrambling their whiskers together in the uncertain hope of becoming a ‘Blizerian’? Just as women and girls everywhere are constantly bludgeoned with idealistic images of flawless skin tones and inhumane perfection, so too are men with fantasies of violence and sexual conquest. A fantasy which most of us ‘bottom feeders’ (I include myself in this analogy) can never hope to fulfill.
Beards are the great leveler. There is no need to attach to them the falsehoods of the Blizerian lifestyle, they are in and of themselves, and have always been the most basic physical embodiment of one’s masculinity. They should be worn with a sense of pride which stems from the basic human need to define oneself as a citizen of our gender, not in the futile and ultimately damaging belief that a beard will get you money, women or success.
For those men who have yet the ability to grow a beard, wait patiently. The day will soon come.