Busking in Dublin’s Temple Bar, is as old a tradition as the wet cobble stones which line its alley ways. There’s a constant hum vibrating in the wet grey streets, filling the otherwise false Irish landmark with sincerity and ballads. People pause and listen and comment and join in. They dance and sing, and drop a few shekels for the bard. There’s a nod, a truly appreciative smile. All the worlds a stage and in Temple Bar there are few players who disappoint a crowd.
For myself, busking in Temple Bar gave a soundtrack to my strolls though its thoroughfare; it opens the space up, it fills the otherwise trite courtyard with a sincerity that’s chased all over the world, and which only really finds a home among the drunken revelers and shady dealers. There’s a gritty steel to the street performers who play in the often debaucherous world of Temple Bar, but there’s also a sense of community. Buskers are often seen as solitary creatures, their bags and hats are their shop fronts, inviting passers by to stop and listen, and to choose their fee. But there is also a warm sense of community, a sense of fraternity among them.
Earlier this week that sense of community, those romantic bardic notions were put in jeopardy when Dublin City Councilors put to a vote a ban on this tradition. In retaliation, and with warm and sincere concern, buskers from all over Dublin gathered to save their right to perform on the cobbled stage. Other proposed by laws, including the introduction of a permit, were met with more devise opinion. The proposed permits for buskers would cost €30, while the use of an amplifier would see the permit priced at €60. There were mixed feelings about the permit, some claimed it would regulate and thus improve the experience of buskers, others simply laughed at the idea, citing the transient nature of the art as the reason it could never be regulated.
A small stage was set outside the steps of City Hall; just a mic, a Cajon drum and an amplifier. Here buskers from all over Dublin took to the small stage to show the city, and the councilors debating within, the importance of their role in the maintaining the vibrating hum of culture that plays through the city’s veins. Following the rally, city councilors voted to withdraw the proposed ban on busking in Temple Bar.
We spoke to some of these buskers to understand, what they believed could be achieved by protesting, and the impact their disappearance from Temple Bar would have on the city.
Intimate gigs, are a rare and special thing. Being able to feel the vibrations of a foot-tap, and hearing the sighs and laughs of a band, adds a dimension to a show that can’t be easily found in Dublin. Celebrating Odessa’s 10th anniversary on a late Thursday evening, Little Matador did exactly t3hat; playing a mesmerizing acoustic set to a thoroughly captivated audience. Paring down their usually electric live set, the band played an off-the-cuff collection of their hits, telling stories and joking between each tune. The room was packed to the gills as friends, family and Little Matador fans nodded and tapped feet, restraining themselves from hypnotically dancing, for fear of stepping on toes, or spilling a drink. The twang of the acoustic guitars, against softened drums and ‘smooth as funk’ bass lines pasted smiles on faces all over the room.
Shatter, with its cowboy style riffs and repeated falsetto chorus was as warm and satisfying as the whiskey, one audience member announced they were waiting on. Having supported rock legends such as Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age it was difficult to ignore the obvious strains of influence in each song. Similar in tone, and possibly in hair-cut, Little Matador exuded all the signs their famous counterparts, while still maintaining a sound unmistakably their own.
Liar Liar, a minute and a half punk-esque track off their new self-titled album was softened, elongated, varnished and polished into a mesmeric desert rock ballad. Drummer Paul Brennan, the only member without a mic, crashed around on the pared down kit giving the set a rhythmic jab with every pause and start. Reasons, the latest single off the album again had been put through the ‘acoustic blender’ and had come out the other side possibly even catchier than its electric original. The soft tones of the bass and guitars allowed singer Nathan Connelly’s voice to take on a more central role, and helped the chorus to crawl into the audience’s ears and make a nest. This Crooked Wood, a song never before played acoustically, should be, from now on. Injecting pace and urgency into the set, it allowed bass player Gavin Fox run the length and breath of his instrument, fills and sly little licks were thrown in as he bobbed up and down to the song’s speed. The eerie lyrics set against the driving rhythm added to the excitement. And you know what? It actually looked like the band were enjoying playing it.
In the end that’s what made this show so good; the marriage announcements, the side stories, the dedication of the gig to Paul Rudd (the AC/DC drummer acquitted of murder allegations: Rock and Roll right?!). It felt as though I had stumbled into a rock and roll, post-christening party where the priest had arrived to say a few words, instead deciding to jam for a good half hour. The band enjoyed themselves, so the crowd were enjoying themselves; and in essence that’s what made this short gig so good. While being dubbed a ‘side project’ for the Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connelly, Little Matador played like it was an impromptu Led Zeppelin reunion concert, and to be honest, you can’t ask much more of a band then that.
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.
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?
If two trains carrying vastly differing genres and cultures are traveling at a 160 beats per minute collide on the banks of the Shannon, how good will it sound? Pretty damn good, it would seem. That is if Graeme S + MynameisjOhn ft God Knows’ three track EP ‘The Struggle’, is anything to go by.
An exercise in cross genre, cross culture and cross musical pollination, the EP is sewn together with careful fingers, pulling the rhythmically charged lyrics of rapper God Knows through a net of pared back drums and floating samples.
The short EP’s first track, Save our Souls employs a ‘slowfast’ style. Jumping from deep bass to relentless snare it slows and speeds your heartbeat like you were about to have some sort of blissful stroke. God Know’s lyrics are dripping with racial consciousness and tongue and cheek self-deprecation, shot like a Gatling gun over some incredibly clean and polished sampling.
As a song for the marginalised, “Kids without fathers, girls who will never be models”, it’s clear that it is God Knows own cultural integration into Irish life gives him a deep pool of angst to draw from. It is however the speed and precision of his lyrics which gives the EP its ‘cajones’.
While what would seem to be a fairly amateur fade out of the song’s title lyric “save our souls” sits incongruously into the otherwise unblemished track, the EP’s trio of tracks flow like a single song. The deep bass returns in STRUGGLE only differing slightly in tempo and again begins hammering at the heartbeat.
Classical samples are torn into little pieces and dotted throughout. In keeping with the contrasting genres, it mimics the racial and cultural bridges that the lyrics try to gap. Lyrics like “racists got me feeling like a parasite” are savage enough to make you pause and wonder about the culture of asylum seekers in Ireland; a culture most outside it wouldn’t usually spare a thought for.
The EP’s finale Shambala is a strange lyricless hybrid of African drum rhythms and vocal samples split open with gritty western samples. It gives both producers, Graeme S and MynameisjOhn a chance to showcase their ability to weave the two musical genres together. The vocal samples and bass of each track all run in the same key, creating the type of seamless transition which runs throughout the album; like an eerie soundtrack to the Lion King.
It’s an EP that deserves a serious listen, a rapper that deserves serious attention and producers who are more than capable at what they do. If it could be said that the EP is a window into a musically and culturally integrated Ireland, it should be played to those who God Knows mentions – those who are controlled by their prejudices – so that they can hear just how good a culturally diverse Ireland would sound.
Dr. Who walks into a club, marches to the bar and orders a drink for himself. The drink is strong, he feels light-headed but decides to dance. The ‘Dalek’ DJ throws on Black Devil Disco Club’s new album, ‘White Moon White Sun’, and he loses his mind. Lasers and hugs are being thrown around the room and everyone feels good.
An odd daydream, yes but exactly the sort of fantasy that you fall into when this album begins, bongos beating and synth soaring it’s a feel good throwback to an age when electronica reigned supreme. Sun Dance Totem kicks off the journey, infectious bongo samples with strict marching drums leave the listener in a quasi-religious state of musical prayer, taking them out of their comfy chairs and marches them over hot coals.
For better or for worse the album continues in the same vein, making use of an almost comical vocal sample, and lays on sheets of synth as it runs into Bee Boop and then into T.Hoo. T. Hoo does manage to give a slightly ominous air as its bass synth is stifled and, to paraphrase Peep Shows Super Hans, contains the perfect level of dread.
A slightly light-hearted vocal sample, which sounds like a politician who has just accidentally touched a homeless person, takes the song out of the realm of ‘serious music’ (different to music which should be taken seriously) and in classic disco fashion puts a smile on your face.
This isn’t an album which takes itself too seriously, but then again neither did the entire genre of disco. Both Maymellow and Stardotcom follow down the same track, ascending riffs, extra-terrestrial tones and relentless snare bring you back to the first time you heard New Order’s Blue Monday, unconsciously head bopping and toe tapping. The Kid In Me begins with the same tone and sample usage but masks the blatant repetition with a some brilliantly cheesy lines like “I wanna’ see you naked till the end of time.”
While incredibly enjoyable, and frankly mood enhancing, the album begins to lose its lustre as it reaches Three Notes. Variety, while not wholly necessary, is totally lacking. With that being said it does allow the album to run seamlessly into itself and, by the time we reach the albums final tune Mexo Mambo, it probably doesn’t even matter.
By that stage we would have accepted our disco daydream fate and would be more than happy to get lost in it until someone explains to us that world hunger still exists. At least with this album we can forget about it for a while.
Black Devil Disco Club’s album doesn’t seem to have attempted to reinvent the wheel, but rather keep the wheel just as it had been in 1978 with the ‘Disco Club EP’. A wheel which just rolls without a care across a desert, down a waterfall and into your listening machines.