Review: Whelan’s “Ones To Watch” 2012 – Saturday
Though slightly terrified of the “weekend warriors” I knew I would encounter on an uncustomary (for me) Saturday night out, it was back down to Whelan’s for the fourth and final installment of the One’s to Watch series of bands. Proceedings kicked off at what seemed to be the ungodly hour of 8:15, ahem, yes, PM, on Whelans’ main stage (yes, I know it seems completely reasonable really, but remember, we’re four days deep here at this stage) and it was a really nice collection of bands that finished off a great festival.
This folky, Galway-based five-piece opened the night in Whelan’s on Saturday, to an all-too-small crowd of early revelers. Their music was, however, the perfect antidote and opener to the night. The strong strains of a finger plucked guitar mixed nicely with three- or often four-part harmonies, which at times made me think of the California Raisins commercials I used to see as a kid – eh, that’s Marvin Gaye covers by raisins, for anyone who doesn’t get my point of reference there. The set was a collection of the bands almost 5 year back catalogue, which were all written and performed really well, though possibly slightly lacking a distinctive cohesion of ‘sound’ between it all. The last song they did, entitled ‘Last Wave’ was one of my favourites, but it’s apparently a fairly distant release for the band, possibly in an album’s time, which is a shame because I think it really exhibited them finding “their sound”. ‘Last Wave’ also really gave the very talented drummer Mosey Byrne a chance to show of his rhythmic prowess, which is impressive.
An instant point of reference for the Redwoods is undeniably the Kooks – most probably because of singer Elliot’s fluffy, curly hair, though their sound is probably more akin to the Delorentos. Their music is guitar driven and has really nice breakdowns in the songs and the inclusion of the odd harmonica line or two for good measure. It’s all super radio friendly and they are adorable on stage so I can see them going places with the release of their Nowhere to Hide EP that is going to be launched very soon. You can find ‘em on Facebook and some of their demos on Myspace, but I’ve already gotten in there as their first twitter follower… Hi Guys!
These guys… Hot damn. Every time I see them they get better and better. They have a on stage confidence and ease that belies their years, and the narratives in their lyric driven rock are seriously impressive. The show on Saturday was another notch on the proverbial bedpost for the boys, and they were, as ever, arresting. The audience got a chance to hear a new guitar-driven song, provisionally called ‘Our Love Is A Statue’, despite singer Michael Broderick quipping that there seemed to be bit of an internal squabble about the name due to its “cheese”-factor, but the song itself is very nice. It’s full of low, distorted guitars, an interesting bass line and the vocal narrative that is quintessential Spies. They finished the night with the title track from their EP, Barricade, which you can grab on the Spies Bandcamp site. I’d wager their jeans will get tighter with time, but these lads are on their way to big things.
It was back to the Village to catch the Gypsies on the Autobahn on Saturday night, one of only four bands to play there on the night, which I thought was a bit of a shame as it’s one of the better stages, but the Dublin four piece were worth the (yes, ok, 100m) walk. They have a really big sound, with great, pitch perfect often three part harmonies, fronted by lead vocalist James Smith, who has a very unique voice. Their music is multi-layered indie pop, and each instrument in each song has a very distinct part to play in creating textured and dynamic melodies, backed by drum rhythms that move from double-time to half beats skilfully. ‘Swallow Your Tongue’ is a cracker of a song, with a Foo Fighters-ish guitar line introduction that certainly catches attention. You can catch another one of their songs ‘Hidden’ on their Soundcloud, if you’ve not heard of them yet – with radio friendly tunes like that, you will soon.
So, that was it. My first, of what will be many I’m sure, Whelan’s Ones to Watch experience. It was a weekend of great music and a serious laugh. The highest of praise must go out to the good people at Whelan’s for setting up (and pulling off) such a well organized, on the musical ball affair. Though I am utterly terrified of another four day weekend, I am really looking forward to next year’s already. Well played guys, well played.
Review: Whelan’s “Ones To Watch” 2012 – Friday
Now I know the “Ones to Watch” festival at Whelan’s over the weekend was sponsored by Heineken and Music Maker, but hot damn, with all the Apple paraphernalia scattered around the place on Friday night, Steve Jobs sure would have been proud. The over-riding theme of the night was all things electronica, and that suited me just fine, given that this was the third night on the trot – I needed the boost. “What an absolute trooper”, I can hear you whisper… I know, right?
So the name got me to the room (despite an unfortunate timetable clash with Bantum, dammit), but the impressive electronica out of this Dublin based two-piece ensured I stayed put in Whelan’s upper room. Hunched over (inexplicably) low tables, the two lads, Gavin White and Mark Cummins, laid a variety of electronic beats over each other with growing levels of intensity, both in energy and frantic layered synth and vocal melodies. About halfway through the set, a young girl by the name of Jemma Dunlovely took to the stage with the two-some to perform a song called ‘Capslock’, and for me, this is when the show came into its own. Her voice is soft and has an understated, gravelly quality that melds well with her male counterparts and sets off the layered electronic mayhem beautifully. The song is available for free download from the White Collar Boy Soundcloud, and by all accounts there will be a video being released at the end of the week to accompany it . Nice.
Tenaka’s music is deep, bassy and all enveloping electro, that wraps around you whilst traversing a myriad of influences. At times I could hear strains of The Prodigy or old school funk, but always with a very modern electronic edge. The show on the night was a bit of a variety show of sorts and saw Tenaka encompass guest spots from a few of the other performers, including Bantum, Sorcha Brennan (Sleep Thieves) and Sacred Animals’ Darragh Nolan, amongst his electronic set. This made the overall gig really eclectic and varied in sound and tone, but unfortunately also added an extra headache (and delay) dealing with sound issues between each song, which you could see was irritating the hell out of Ronan Carroll. Nevertheless, the combination of the live vocals and intricate beat patterns were really great to hear live; it’s enchanting stuff.
Again, the three stage overlap issue came into force here and, much to my dismay, I only got a chance to catch a short snippet of the Last Days set, which, by all accounts, was awesome in its entirety. They belted out two songs before I had to make a sharpish exit to catch Sleep Thieves over in the Village, but they were great. For some reason (despite having seen the boys before) I didn’t actually realize (here you can read REMEMBER if you are inclined to be more cynical about my drinking habits) that the band was made up of only two lads – Darren Moloney and Brian Rice. Point being, that if you listen to a song, for example, such as ‘River’s Edge’, it sounds a hell of a lot fuller than you would expect just two people to be able to create. A great mix of melody and creative synth beats, mixed with a serious electro buzz, the lads have a truly symbiotic relationship on stage that makes me sort of jealous. You can see them visibly reading each other and buzzing off the process of recreating their music live. It’s a serious trip. Next time, I’m in for the whole show.
My first gig of the weekend in the Village , and it must be said, its quite the venue. Great stage, a serious lighting set up and obligatory oversized glitter balls made it the perfect place to catch one of my favorite bands of the festival. The threesome belted out a number of songs off their recently released Heart Waves album, before (almost relievedly) launching into a new song, dubbed ‘Islands’. I thought it was great that they took the opportunity to air some new material, and it was great to hear where the band are going with their music, which was a progression on their earlier releases, but with a more distorted rock edge, and sounds (even) more accomplished. They finished the night on ‘Magnetic Heart’, a cracking tune, that garnered a serious amount of praise from the appreciative audience. Another winner.
Ghost Estates were the last band to take to the stage on the Village on Friday night, and they played a blinder. The large stage suits them down to a tee and they were tighter than I have ever seen them before. The boys have been practicing, I reckon, for what was their first show of the year and their rocking, soundscape-y set got an amazing response from a crowd that gathered rapidly as they took over the stage. Consummate businessmen that they are, the band did not miss a trick in plugging their upcoming Grand Social single launch gig that is happening on the 17th of February, to see in their new song ‘Pop Song’ off their soon-to-be-launched album… the 17th, the 17th, the 17th, the 17th… (you all got that right? The 17th of February, The Grand Social, the 17th, ‘Pop Song’ single launch, ahem…) Based on their rendition of said song on the night (they closed with it), it’ll be one to catch. That’s, eh, the Grand Social, on the 17th, in case I forgot to mention.