Last week, I went to a flurry of gigs that I'll proceed to yap away about. The first was Jeff Mangnum in Vicar Street on Wednesday. And, well, to use the parlance of our times, imho, it was...brutal. Now, admittedly, I'd only given the one Neutral Milk Hotel album I have a couple of listens before the gig. I was hanging out with my cousin, hadn't seen him in way too long, and he had a spare ticket. Anyway...
This gig just didn't grab me. But I was definitely in the minority. The masses standing rapt in front of Mangnum at this sold-out(!) show were going daft. Roars of applause followed every ramshackle number, and the crowd sang the tunes they knew with gusto. It struck me that the crowd were just cheering for the songs they recognised from records they revered - not the performance itself. But music is such a subjective thing...maybe this show just wasn't for me.
The following night I went to the Choice Music Prize in the Olympia. The point about music being subjective is brought into sharp focus here - the Choice judges pick Irish 10 albums they feel defined the previous year. The Script have been previous nominees; Fred have not. Like any other awards show, sometimes I heartily agree, sometimes I'm baffled. But, hey, at least it gets people talking. It gets a lot of media exposure in Ireland, which the likes of Bell X1 and Lisa Hannigan may be well used to, but a band like the overlooked Pugwash are not.
All ten nominees performed at this year's event, and the show was opened by Tieranniesaur. For now, I'll just think that I caught them on an off night and yammer away about the performances I enjoyed. (Patrick Kelleher & His Cold Dead Hands - cool name aside - didn't really knock me out either).
We Cut Corners were the second band on stage at this year's Choice and, man, were they impressive. A two-piece of guitar and drums, they were a flurry of noise and catchy tunes. Can't wait to see them do a full show.
And So I Watch You From Afar were another assault of noise, but they don't opt for anything as rudimentary as singing. Instead, the instrumental quartet bound around the stage and almost rip the roof off the Olympia. The drummer's quiff stayed in place for all of 20 seconds.
Cashier No.9 put on a polished show - if a lot of the bands you love hit their peak in the seventies, then you'll like this Belfast six-piece. They were among the favourites to win, but it turned out not to be. Also pipped to the prize were Dublin's Pugwash, whose Answers On A Postcard is a real gem.
Bell X1 were slick, but out of the big acts it was Lisa Hannigan who got the biggest response. If there was a straw poll taken in the Olympia, then Passenger would get the nod for album of 2011. But the judges were in a hotel down the road, and when their verdict was announced even the winner was surprised.
Jape frontman Richie Egan doesn't quite know what to say. He manages 'holy shit!' before giving some quick thank-yous. He also said he expected Hannigan to win, but the Choice seems to live to surprise. Yet Jape's Ocean Of Frequency is a peach, and while people may quibble over who should've won or even been nominated, at least the Choice gets the debate going about something that often gets overlooked : homegrown music.
So, that's it for now. And I haven't even finished my Jimi Mc-flurry...Delorentos, last Friday in the Róisín Dubh, oh man! (Although this was shot in Spain!)