Monthly Archives: May 2008

Got up late, no room to breathe (Monday, pt. 2)


So The Mae Shi at Crawdaddy on Monday was really good. But the real reason I left the house on Monday was to go to Times New Viking. Whose new album I really like.

Long story short, there was a mix-up with times. We assumed the Mae Shi would be done early because they were a support act in a Pod venue where curfew is king.

And we assumed Times New Viking would start late. Because it was in Andrew’s Lane, which has a theatre licence. And because of an anonymous tip-off (probably not anonymous, I just don’t know who it was).

We left the Mae Shi at about 10.20, before they were finished. Thinking Times New Viking couldn’t have started earlier than 10, and more than likely would be a little late.

Plus, promoters were pretty accommodating about Sunset Rubdown/No Age and Liars/Thurston Moore. And The Mae Shi and Times New Viking seem like they would have a fairly big crossover. So it would be okay.

Not so.

It was raining. We ran all the way down Harcourt St.

We got there.

“SHIT! Is it over?!”

“Yeah dude, you guys missed it”, quoth the drummer from Times New Viking, smoking outside.

Fuck.

God gave me very specific instructions. (Monday pt. 1)


The Mae Shi are a band I hadn’t heard before last Monday. For most of the gigs I review on this blog, I have about six months of fanboy excitement brewing up inside me hyping it up. Not this time.

Technically I was there courtesy of Crayonsmith via their manager Dave via Bobby. But I don’t think much of Crayonsmith. I might have mentioned that before, because they do support 70% of all bands. If not though, I’m putting it out there now, I don’t like their music. Most of it is begging for melody, and the ones that have decent tunes at the core are generally pushing a bit towards 2005 NME territory. I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning that I don’t like them, except that they’re physically impossible to avoid, either live or in Irish music writing. Even us Analogue boys having been covering them. But it’s not for me.

Mae Shi were on second, behind Noah and the Whale, who I have no interest in whatsoever. I was asking stupid questions (“Are they post-rock or what?”) and making stupid claims (“They look like I won’t like them.”) for the whole of their lengthy set-up. They opened with I Get Almost Everything, from the crowd. They spent lots and lots of their time in the crowd.

Most of their stuff was really good. “Twee hardcore” was the label State luminary and aforementioned guestlist fixer Bobby gave them. Not too far wrong. It was as if that sort of ultra-serious flavourless US punk-hardcore had been squirted with gunge or something. Run To Your Grave is one I remember as standing out, even though I didn’t get the album until after (maybe “get” in inverted commas would be more appropriate).

For a record that seems to be some sort of concept album about biblical judgment, executed over glitchy keyboards, incredibly catchy singalong choruses and bursts of hardcore, it’s surprisingly cohesive and excellent. HLLLYH, it’s called. It’s infused with a punk-like communalist vibe, except with all the accessibility of someone like Danielson.

They engulfed the whole crowd in a sheet at one point. Everyone was pushing it up, singing along even if they didn’t know the words. The energy was thick enough to bottle and sell. And they were (technically) a support band. Basically, as their press stuff says, The Mae Shi want you to love life as much as they do. A nice thing to experience.

Photo from Fuchsia’s Flickr, more there.

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Within the fruit there are worms.


In my life, I’ve e-mailed Jamie Stewart a total of maybe four or five times, trying to impress on him how incredibly important it is that he come to Ireland to play. He’s e-mailed back a few times too, but it was all polite, meaningless words mostly. Or at least no commitments. Not that I expected him to just jump into a helicopter because I e-mailed him or anything.

The point is that I was happy when Xiu Xiu announced. After three days of an exam-study-gig-(or Champion’s League final)-sleep schedule, I was getting tired, but it was Xiu Xiu. Come on, like. I noted to my friend Goo that when we were at Why? in Andrew’s Lane, which is a shed, it was packed out with enthusiastic people with angular haircuts, but that Whelans was only half full for Xiu Xiu? First time they’ve been here ever, and no-one turns up? For shame Dublin.

It was way louder than I was expected. Certain quarters have complained about Xiu Xiu being sort of self-aware drama, or “music as nightmare” – it’s not something I necessarily agree with, in terms of their recorded output, but the gig was definitely down that aisle.

Most of the time they weren’t playing melody, Jamie and Caralee were hitting something very hard, whether cymbal, bell or snare. Ches Smith was hitting things hards all the time he wasn’t being silent. Devin Hoff’s electric double-bass made everything that much more ominous in person than it comes across on record.

There were whispers and there were screams. There was no banter whatsoever, except for a couple of muted thank yous and a “this is our first time in Dublin” at the end. There was no encore. It was just an hour and a bit of blasting through Women As Lovers and choice cuts from earlier albums. Even poor Clowne Towne was at the receiving end of a no-nonsense belting, in the absence of Caralee’s arpeggiating Mini-Moog thing on this tour.

It’s hard to pick highlights, because it was more like a rehearsed art show than a rock gig. Everything is integral, and it works as a whole set, not as a list of songs. It’s stupid to pick stuff out. BUT. I’m going to anyway. Clover off La Foret, with gamelan bells and pin-drop silences was really mesmeric. No Friend Oh! is just a good song. Master Of The Bump had a bizarre boudoir vibe. There weren’t bad songs.

The complaint I could make is this: I know they were at the end of a tour, and they’re not the most populist band in the world anyway, but a little personality could have gone a long way. I know Dublin orgasms any time someone pretends to like it more than elsewhere, and I’m not saying that, but some sort of acknowledgment that they were playing a real-life place and not just a date on a tour might have been nice.

Also, in case they ever come back:

Do not sing along to the hurried, whispered lines about rape and self-loathing.

Just a tip, take it or leave it.

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The child in a grown man’s beard

Sunset Rubdown for me is a freezing winter’s morning, walking from Docklands to Trinity. It’s about 8.40, I’ve missed the train I should’ve been on, and taken a gamble on going to Docklands. By the time I get to college I’m late for my class, I can’t find it anyway, and I have nothing else until 3 or 4. I walk up Grafton St. and have a muffin in Stephen’s Green near the James Joyce statue. The soundtrack to the whole thing is Random Spirit Lover.

It’s hard for gigs to compete with that sort of subjective, impressionistic association. Random Spirit Lover will always remind me of that day, even though it’s not particularly notable. Any live show is going to have to work really hard to replace it.

Spencer is a big ball of some weird energy in person. He sweats ridiculously. Sometimes, when the music is getting to a climax, he stands up with one leg on the stool behind him while he bangs out the keyboard line and yelps. He’s not the best communicator between songs, but there’s no point in real-life talk when you can say what you need to say through animal metaphors and overwhelming wordy brilliance in-song.

I was surprised that some people weren’t crazily impressed by this gig. To me, every song was like a set-closer. The Shut Up I Am Dreaming Stadiums and Shrines was the second song they played. It could’ve been an encore. The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life was a good example of a song that is great on the album, but really, fully comes alive when that weird Spencer Krug energy is imbued live.

The rest of the band are on the same frequency too. Camilla Wynn Ingr’s keyboards and vocals are about 5% of what makes Sunset Rubdown 400 times better than Wolf Parade.

OH SHIT!

Fuck, I said it. Fuck my 2005/6 self. Sunset Rubdown is a completely different level of band. They not only do what they do better, they just work on a different level altogether. The Mending Of The Gown is the best song of 2007 and possibly of the decade so far, despite what I said (or neglected to say) in December, and they ended the set with it. Then, solemn-faced, The Angry Threats Of Little Lord came out for the encore.

Why it wasn’t the perfect gig
One or two songs were not very good.
Support band Speck Mountain said Dublin was in the UK.
Drunken Lout, shut up.

Apart from that, I can’t fault it.

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A genie made me out of the earth’s skin

Gig’s off. Sitting underground in the library in college on a beautiful summer’s day because there were no free seats anywhere else, I got four texts to tell me. Something to do with a missed ferry. Disaster.

Eight hours later, I’m standing outside Whelans in a queue that goes around the corner, eating free chips (thank you Foggy Notions) and getting jittery for a gig that seemed semi-destined to go down in the great tradition of Dublin gig folklore. It couldn’t be anything but brilliant. That was just the energy around the place.

Seeing Animal Collective in Whelans is the kind of thing that can only happen by chance. They’re way too big under normal circumstances. Oxegen 2006 was good, but it was Oxegen. Tripod was only alright, the sound was dodgy and the singer couldn’t sing.

This time, Avey could sing. It absolutely made all the difference. It unlocks the (in my opinion) best of their back catalogue, though new stuff is Panda-heavy. But it also means that the two-vocal attack kicks in, like it should. And that’s central. It happens in new stuff like Walking Around With You and in old stuff everywhere. Avey sings, and Panda chimes in, or Panda sings and Avey murmurs under it. The layering is a big part of the charm.

Adrenaline had me trying to jump around a bit like a spa at the start, but when I stopped fucking around, it really did start being profound. It’s not a rock show, and it’s taking me a while to beat that mindset, but I’m getting there. Peacebone appeared, and it was good, but the extended Fireworks-Essplode-Fireworks-Essplode-Slowed Down Fireworks spree was one of the greatest things I have seen, full stop.

Being close enough to actually pull out plugs if you wanted to makes the experience so much more personal. You feel in the mix. It swirls around, you can see where each sound is coming from and feel the chemistry of the whole experience. No-one else could’ve almost completely ignored their two best albums and still played the best gig New Whelans has seen. The new stuff, particularly Song For Ariel and the new new one, is up there with the best stuff they’ve got.

So at 1.45, I ran for the last Nitelink to get home in time to get up for an exam. But as my friend Coady kept reminding me when I moaned to everyone I saw about it, I would have regretted it more than anything in my life if I hadn’t gone.

Picture stolen from Bobby, who also gets credit for sending the text that has already been subsumed into Temple-Bar-to-South-Circular lore: EVERYBODY TO WHELANS, I’M NOT BULLSHITTING.

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Death-Week Review Preview

Here are my two schedules for this week:

Gigs:

  • Monday, Animal Collective
  • Tuesday, Sunset Rubdown
  • Wednesday, Champion’s League Final
  • Thursday, Xiu Xiu

Exams:

  • Monday 9.30am, History
  • Tuesday 9.30am, English (in the fucking RDS! [I live in Blanchardstown] What the fuck!)
  • Wednesday 2.00pm, English (same)
  • Thursday, no exam
  • Friday 9.30am, English
  • Saturday 9.30am, History

It is a week of little free time, where the men are the separated from the boys. The men are the ones who suck it up and sell their tickets on so they do well in their exams. The boys (i.e. me) are the ones who have to run for the 2 o’clock Nitelink to be in bed for 3am to get up at 7.30am to do a exam in leafy Ballsbridge.

Animal Collective and Sunset Rubdown were great. Manchester United and Xiu Xiu have a lot to live up to. Proper walkthroughs when I don’t have A MILLION FUCKING EXAMS! See you then.