Sunday 24 November 2013

Thursday 21 November 2013

11 out of 11

The intrepid few (if any) among you who follow my blog or what I post on Facebook or 

what I contribute to will be aware that I am in the midst of something of a 

gig-going frenzy. It wasn't premeditated, but it looks as though, by Sunday night, I may

 have attended eleven gigs in eleven consecutive evenings. 

  To recap: Pere Ubu last Thursday, Cian Nugent last Friday, Willie Nile last Saturday, 

Queens of the Stone Age last Sunday, Pixies on Monday, Julia Holter on Tuesday, Shellac 

on Wednesday (last night). Tonight it's Television, tomorrow a toss up between Dan Baird 

and Homemade Sin in Whelan's or Elaine Conway doing some jazz singing in the Wild 

Goose Grill, on Saturday it's White Denim, and then just because I'm on a roll, on Sunday I 

might head down to the Dublin Blues Cartel in Whelan's front bar.

  So, what's the record in the Guinness Book of Records? I think this is my personal record, 

as long as it's fulfilled. Should I start a Fund It campaign togo for the record, when I find 

out what it is? Happily, I don't have to pay for all of these gigs, although I did have to pay 

for a fair few that I wasn't reviewing. 

  Also, to preempt any accusations of self-indulgence or downright hedonism: you think this

 lifestyle is easy? It requires gut, energy, passion, commitment. And a love of music…

  Wish me luck.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Shellac at Whelan's - Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

And so tonight it was Shellac: aggressively humorous and humorously aggressive. (What's the name of that rhetorical device, anyone?)

Julia Holter at Whelan's, Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

And so last night it was the beautiful and talented Julia Holter and her band at Whelan's. Very enjoyable show. The nearest reference point I can think of is Julie Cruise, but with more a more contemporary classical bent, verging at times into free jazz. Can you imagine a cross between Joni Mitchell and Laurie Anderson? Come back soon. x

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Willie Nile at Whelan's

Willie Nile 


Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Desmond Traynor

Willie Nile is a New York institution. He came out of the Big Apple’s New Wave/CBGB’s

scene, making his debut album in 1980. Varieties of bad luck (a year recovering from

pneumonia accounted for the delay in the release of that first record; protracted legal and

contractual problems with Geffen Records put his career on hold for much of the ’80s)

have conspired to account for the fact that he is hardly a household name. Yet he shares

stages with household names (check out the YouTube video of him and Springsteen doing

one of Nile’s signature tunes, ‘One Guitar’). He may never have hit the big time, but he has

the respect of his peers.

    At the raucous Whelan’s Saturday night show, on a gig-heavy night, it’s easy to see why. 

An unreconstructed roots rocker, the now 64-year-old turns in a performance of such 

power, energy and commitment that it would put pretenders half his age to shame. 

Inevitably, much material is drawn from recent release American Ride, but all corners of 

his back catalogue are visited. He travels with a cracking backing band, consisting of the 

effortlessly adept Matt Hogan on guitar (he makes it look easy), and the rhythm section of 

Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums. They are joined on the night, in what 

turns out to be a bit of a hooley, by a dapper Steve Wickham on fiddle, and various 

members of The Riptide Movement on backing vocals. An uptempo cover of ‘Sweet Jane’, 

in tribute to the recently dearly departed, is prefaced with the remarks, “Some people say 

Lou was unfriendly, but the last time I met him (at some awards function) he put his arms 

around me and hugged me.”

  In his head, the diminutive Willie Nile is bigger than he actually is, both in terms of 

physical stature and reputation. He plays Whelan’s like he’s playing the O2 (and it probably 

isn’t too far-fetched to speculate that he’d play the O2 as though it was as intimate as 

Whelan’s). He’s been at it long enough that to him, it’s all the same gig. There is a risk of 

potential ridicule in this attitude, but Nile and his band can front it. After all, as Lucinda 

Williams has said of him, “Willie Nile is a great artist. If there was any justice in this world, 

I’d be opening up for him instead of him for me.” He is his own man.

This should show up on in the next day or two.

Queens Of The Stone Age at The O2, Sunday, November 17th, 2013

And so it was QOTSA at The O2 last Sunday night. Thanks George.

Pixies at The Olympia, November 18th, 2013

Pixies at The Olympia last night. What was brought home to me this time was the importance elf the two guitars to their sound. Oftentimes with bands, you can't hear a rhythm guitar because the lead overpowers it. With Pixies, Frank Black's guitar is the droning growl that underpins Joey Santiago's bursts of distorted noise coloration. Great shift put in by Dave Lettering on drums, and the new Kim is certainly the real deal (sorry!)

Some blurry pictures:

Monday 18 November 2013

Cian Nugent and The Cosmos at The Grand Social

Cian Nugent and The Cosmos

The Grand Social

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Desmond Traynor

This gig was a launch party for Cian Nugent and The Cosmos’ new album, Born With The Caul, although the set kicked off with the bright whirlwind of last August’s single ‘Hire Purchase’, in place of album opener ‘Grass Above My Head’. Cian then swapped his Fender Strat for a Guild acoustic, and went into the raga-like ‘Double Horse’, the record’s second track. Back on the electric, the show culminated in the epic ‘The Houses Of Parliament’, a composition of over 23 minutes in length, which takes up he entire second side of Born, and showcases the richness of the guitar maestro’s palate and the variety of his influences. In this endeavour it veers from Fairport Convention-style folk rock to garage 13th Floor Elevators’ psychedelia to Thin Lizzy straight ahead boogie to pulsing rave-up finale. There’s a nice bit of elongated distortion somewhere in the middle, and Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh’s strummed viola near the end is reassuringly reminiscent of some of John Cale’s work with the Velvet Underground.
  No one would dispute that Cian Nugent is a virtuoso guitarist. He probably spent his unwasted youth ensconced in his bedroom with only his acoustic guitar and the collected works of John Fahey for company. Since he moved away from the Takoma purity of his early recordings, an orbit of lineage with obvious debts to Fahey, and before him, Davey Graham/Bert Jansch/Sandy Bull, going electric has made him more eclectic. Tom Verlaine of Television’s clean but aggressive modal playing is as much an obvious reference point as Richard Thompson’s more precise stylings, but there’s a bit of Yes’ Steve Howe’s complex modals in there too, along with a healthy dose of Roger McGuinn and Jerry Garcia. Of contemporary practitioners, his explorations bear comparison with the guitar albums of Jim O’Rourke, Ben Chasny of Six Organs Of Admittance, and Chris Forsyth. Crucially, his dexterity never feels like just showing off, and this is very much a band project.
 Support on the night was ably provided by Katie Kim, who brought her two Boss Loop Station pedals and her beautiful, ethereal voice. Pitched halfway between predecessors like Kate Bush and Enya, but with a little of the indie quirkiness of CocoRosie and bluesy drone of Mazzy Star thrown in, this is the second time your correspondent has caught Ms. Kim in a supporting role (she did the honours for Low back in August), and she really is something special. Unlikely as it may seem, she again plays solo when opening for guitar heroes Television next Thursday at Vicar Street. Ticketholders would be well-advised to get there early.


Friday 15 November 2013

Pere Ubu at The Village

Pere Ubu at The Village last night. Surprisingly good, considering they are not playing the old stuff. New stuff stands up well. In fact, it's great live.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Omar Souleyman at The Button Factory

Omar Souleyman

The Button Factory

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Desmond Traynor

This was a very short gig. It was characterised by its shortness. If I had to choose the salient feature of this gig, it would be that it was short. Its essence resides in its lack of length. I doubt I’ve ever been to a show where the headliner played for less time. Forty-two minutes, to be exact – and no encore.
  Prior to the evening, I had not heard Mr. Souleyman’s latest album, the Kieran Hebden (of Four Tet) produced Wenu Wenu, but catching the track ‘Yagbuni’ on a monthly compilation had piqued my interest. Its mix of driving electronic techno beats overlaid with sinuous Middle-Eastern lead lines, topped off with an outrageous synth solo at the coda courtesy of keyboardist Rizan Sa’id, really hit the spot. Alas, the ingredients in this recipe fail to rise in the live context, despite Souleyman’s much-publicised years as a wedding entertainer in his native Syria.
  Perhaps if a few more real live musicians were added to the mix, the keyboard accompaniment might sound less pre-packaged, and the results might be groovier. There is something inherently unsettling about hearing kettle drum fills resounding from a pre-recorded backing track. By no stretch of the imagination could this be called a riveting live draw. Besides which, if there is a Syrian equivalent of the stage Irishman, Omar is it. With his dark shades, red and white dishcloth headdress and long black soutane, he looks like Middle America’s idea of a card-carrying Taliban member.
  Not that you couldn’t dance to it, but it was just starting to take off when he decided to quit. Was this a brief showcase gig, and nobody told me? What about those audience members who’d forked out for a babysitter, Omar? Or the ones who’d travelled in from Drogheda, or Dundalk? Did they think they’d got value for money? The most remarkable aspect of Souleyman’s early exit was the lack of dissent among the punters at realising it was all over before 10.30.

  And so, to indulge in a spot of imitative form, this short review of this gig which was notable mainly for its brevity, will terminate here.   

Also available at:

The Threepenny Opera at The Gate

I seem to have let slip recording that we attended The Threepenny Opera at The Gate on November 4th. Fantastic!

Sunday 10 November 2013


The Gravity Bar, Guinness Hop Store. Are they sure those arrows are facing the right way?