The sun did a curious thing on the approach to the May bank holiday weekend in Dublin. It stuck around. The sky was clear and the temperature high but it slowly diminished as the weekend approached dipping in and out between clouds. But as the temperatures dwindled, excitement grew. Dublin was gearing up for the second Meteor Camden Crawl, a festival which began life in Camden, England and now boasted an Irish leg showcasing the very best of rising Irish talent as well as some international acts. With fifteen venues playing host to over 100 bands and comedy acts, it is the unofficial beginning of the Irish festival circuit.
Saturday night began in earnest with Dublin two piece Kid Karate unleashing their monstrous sound on the audience of JJ Smythʼs. Lead singer Kevin Breen crouched among the audience, guitar in hand, as the opening sounds played out across the pub. Steven Gannon sat perched behind the drum kit eagerly awaiting the start of play. Then, joined onstage with his musical other half the two boys did what they do best, unleashed music mayhem. With high octane vocals and furious drumming the boys lived up to their hype by delivering a set of pure musical madness. Kevin Breen leaped effortlessly from stage to bar stool strumming his guitar as the audience sat bewildered head banging on the spot. Steven Gannon removed more and more clothing, sweat pouring from his body as the kids played their signature songʼs ʻThis Cityʼ and ʻTwo Timesʼ briefly being joined on-stage by guest bassist Ian McFarlane. The gig eventually ended with KK destroying the set like unruly kids. One thing was sure from the evening, the confines of a pub will not control Kid Karate, they refuse to be tamed.
Temple Bar music venue The Button Factory played host to post punk Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen. An absolutely wedged audience hung on every lyric and chord that dripped from Ian McCulloch and companyʼs musical catalogue. The audience was notably more mature than the other venues as children of the 80ʼs were clearly reliving their youth. Dressed in a long black jacket and jeans, Ian stood centre stage lit elegantly by a single spotlight, shades sitting on his face, oozing laid back cool. Flanked by his band he performed their hits from their highly regarded album ʻOcean Rainʼ as well as songs from their impressive back catalogue.The audience in buoyant mood sang every lyric back to them and basked in the collective love and appreciation of a generation reliving their hedonistic, younger, care-free days.
If the Button Factory was wedged for Echo and the Bunnymen then ʻThe Globeʼ was positively puking as alternative rock band Fight Like Apes took centre stage. A huge queue outside the venue hinted at the popularity of this band as the venue exercised a one in one out policy due to demand. Photographers, journalists and media were all ushered inside but had to fight their way through the sweaty, rocking crowd to get anywhere close to the front. Mary Kate Geraghty, lead singer, synth player and all round shit stirrer peered out from behind long black hair, a huge triangle emblazoned on her top. Being confined to the corner of the room certainly did not dent the impact their music had on the adoring audience. With boundless energy and sipping from an Innocent orange juice bottle, May Kay as she is known whipped everyone into a frenzy at one point leaving the makeshift stage to walk among the crowd. Disappearing into a sea of saturated music fans the whole place erupted threatening to bring down the four walls of the venue and spill over into the street. Judging from the reaction of the fans the band should have no problem reaching their target of their Fund-It campaign for album number 3.
As Daithiʼs stage sat ready and waiting anyone who had not seen the Clare native live before really did not know what to expect. Endless amounts of wires criss – crossed the stage linking a computer with loopstations, synthesisers, drum machines, kaoss pads and a fiddle. Yes a fiddle. Just who exactly was Daithi O Dronai and what did he sound like? The young, blond haired inconspicuous chap slid onstage and stood over his motherboard which stood lit up in neon greens, blue and reds. Introducing himself with a flick of the hair and a “hello, Iʼm Daithi” to the audience he picked up his fiddle and did what only he does. Feeding the chords of the strings into his desk endlessly looping and feeding the music around until it reaches a frenzy of sound as he shimmies and shakes to his own tunes even using the head of his fiddle to push buttons as he just does not have enough hands! It is impossible to listen to him perform without tapping either your feet or your hands such is the addictive nature of his tracks. Playing new tunes from his upcoming album including new single ʻChamelion Lifeʼ (set to be a Summer hit) the audience watched in wonder and bewilderment at the sight before them. His music has been described as post traditional but whatever you can ill itʼs infectious and impossible to ignore.
There are very few bands in the world that, when you walk into a room and they are already on-stage you are immediately and completely captivated by them. Prince Rama, the new age psyche dance Brooklyn based band are exactly that. Comprised of sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson and joined by two musicians for their shows, Prince Rama is a strange mix of performance art, music, psychedelia and pure, boundless energy. They donʼt sit when they play drums, they stand. They wear glitter. They donʼt wear shoes. They have face paint on. They wear strange leotard dresses. They emit an energy and an aura that washes over the audience and you cannot help but smile for the duration. And the music you ask? It matters little. Its psychedelic. Itʼs dancey, new age. You donʼt really know what they are saying but it doesn’t really matter. This is very much a show, a work of art. This is not just music, this is a performance. And what a performance! And for their final trick you ask? The two sisters leave the stage, usher the audience back and perform a fully coordinated dance routine in the middle of everyone to the shock, awe and joy of everyone lucky enough to see it. They literally bend over backwards during the routine. They dance up beside people. They use all the floor. And then in an instant itʼs over and you leave wondering what the hell you just saw, and run home to Google them.
If one phrase could describe Gavin James it would be “one man and his guitar”. He stands on-stage in ʻThe Workmanʼsʼ guitar in hand, mic in front. And that is it. The stage is the epitome of minimalism. There are no posters, no drum kit, no nothing. It lies completely bare. Lit from the front by a single spotlight and to the side by a row of lights this is as intimate as you can get. The crowd is small and with that comes pure love and adoration. This Dublin based singer-songwriter’s fan-base may be tiny but boy do they appreciate him. They clap and cheer for every word he ushers. The end of every song is met with enthusiastic applause. This is all without an album! With only an E.P. ʻSay Helloʼ to his name Gavin has built his reputation through showcases and live performances. During his set he somehow manages to take Daft Punkʼs new single ʻGet Luckyʼ and turn it into an intimate, somber love song which has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands. His camaraderie with the fans and confident performance style ultimately suggest that should success and fame come a knocking when his debut album is released, he shouldn’t have a problem with it.
American rock band The Black Lips had the honour of closing Sunday night in The Button Factory. The crowd was noticeably down from the previous evening which could both be a reflection of the now quieter Sunday nights of a bank holiday in general, but also of The Black Lips not offering anything new or unique from their live shows that differs from when they played the same venue in 2011. Strange in itself is given the bands reputation for theatrics. But over the years they have obviously mellowed out or been warned to tone it down. They look relaxed and at ease on-stage as lead singer Cole Alexander sips from a beer in between songs dressed in a plain black t shirt and jeans. Toned and tanned they have the laid back charisma of a rock band but at times the show is too laid back, not offering any real fan interaction or any high points. The crowd enjoys the show but the band never do anything to elevate the show above a standard band playing their hits run. They reeled off songs from their back catalogue including hits from their album ʻGood Bad Not Evilʼ. They seem like a band tamed but they still have enough charisma and likeability to please the fans. One wonders though what they might have gotten up to if left to their own devices.