A Tale of Two Concerts

It was the best of times. It was the drunk of times. It was Snow Patrol. It was Metallica. It was Malahide Castle. It was Slane Castle. It was Heineken. It was more Heineken.

I’ve never been a regular concert-goer. Over the years my friends and peers have gone to acts such as Green Day and Metallica when I wasn’t allowed to go/ had no money for my own ticket! They’ve been to festivals like Oxygen and EP when I’ve been too young, dumb or broke to procure entry. It was a frustrating existence when the summer rolled around as groups would inevitably form to go to gigs and concerts and I’d settle in for another night watching Made In Chelsea.
I make it sound as if I was a recluse and a loner. While that might be somewhat true now it couldn’t have been further from the truth back then. I had many friends and many opportunities to attend events in Dublin or Cork. I couldn’t go either because I was too young or I was too broke.

I don’t have any regrets in this life. I do wish that I had gone to see Metallica in Marlay Park in 2009 when my friends all went up with one of their older brothers. I wish I had gone to see Green Day a few years after when they played in Dublin. I wish I had saved more money when I was that age instead of supporting the BFS in Blarney by buying chicken rolls any chance I got. Alas, these are not regrets. If I ever perfect time travel, and God knows I’ve been trying, I’d go back, ruffle my hair and say, “Eat those chicken rolls Cian. Your metabolism is fast and you’re strong. It won’t be like this in ten years.” And I’d respond, “STRANGER! FAT STRANGER! HEEEEEEEELLLLLPPPPP!!!” And I’d swiftly teleport back to 2040 Cork, where traffic hovers above the city, the river Lee is but a speck in our digital glasses and the Events Centre is still under construction!

I went to a good few concerts in New York and loved ’em all. Vance Joy in Prospect Park was probably my favourite. Although I knew all of the songs from his new album we kept shouting “Play Riptide ya prick.” While I’m confident Vance himself would probably find this funny, the American couples surrounding us obviously didn’t, and we received enough side-eye for another pair of glasses!
A number of us attended a gig in Brooklyn where Florence and the Machine played alongside Muse and AJR for charity. That was really enjoyable. We all got fairly drunk, though, and I apologise to the girl sitting in front of me. I did not mean to spill a whole can of Brooklyn Lager down your back. You were a good sport.

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Gary Lightbody

Snow Patrol were really, really good. I attended with the lovely Katie and we had an absolute ball. Malahide Castle was a cool venue, and it let me feel like I was at some part of a festival for the first time.
I couldn’t get over how smiley Gary Lightbody, the lead singer, was up on stage. Katie told me that the band had taken a break due to his problems with alcohol and he was now completely sober. Despite the fact that I knew perhaps three of their songs and had only listened to their new album about twelve hours previously, I was privileged to attend a concert where the artist was so visibly happy with what they were doing.

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James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

The next day, still drunk from Coppers and whiskey n’ gingers, I made the long trek from the Green Zone Car Park to the entrance to Slane Castle. An hour and a bit later I arrived at my destination, two bottles of water and three cigarettes in, where I was ready to finally see Metallica. I hadn’t listened to their music in years, bar the day before where I scrambled to see would I still like them. And I did. I really did.
I could go into massive detail about the concert itself and the venue and how great it was and how we all let out a massive roar when the main act came on. I could tell you how nobody took their eyes off the stage and the hush before each song followed by a swelling shout will never leave my memory. I could tell you about Whiskey in the Jar and One and Master of Puppets and all the other classics they laid on us. I’d rather just say that the crowd, the fans, the people who attended the concert made it the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. Ever little interaction me and Sarah had was so delightfully wholesome; two lads from Tipp, where one worked in Blackpool, told us of other metal concerts and European cities; two young fellas who gave Sarah a card for his podcast; Jerry from Wisconsin who came all the way from the States to see the band; the rocker from Ennis who really didn’t like where he was from; the Polish lady in the queue for the food who had a Northern Irish twang; and the countless others.

The band was great.
The atmosphere was terrific.
The crowd stole the show.

If you want to take anything from this piece I wrote today it’s this…Eat all the chicken rolls you want.

Ballad of the Rescuer – The Lost Gecko

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Artwork for the band’s latest release

Happy Friday, folks. I hope ye all have a lovely weekend planned and that the sun will shine, or at the very least the rain will stay away. In my last post, a review of Meghan Ali’s new song, Far Off Shores, I waxed lyrical about the talent that Cork has to offer. What I would like to clear up is that that is not a new phenomenon. Cork is the real capital and with legends like Rory Gallagher and travelling troubadours like Clare Sands to talk of, we can be very proud! Emerging talents can be found in any number of pubs, clubs and venues around Cork, plying their trade in the hope of making it big.

The band that I’m talking about today are far beyond the moniker of ’emerging talent’. It would be much fairer to call them an established set-up. Having formed in 2006 in Cork, The Lost Gecko have recorded 9 EPs, released an album and are due to release another later this year. They have performed in festivals in Amsterdam, Finland, and numerous ones in Ireland.

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The Lost Gecko merchandise is available on their Facebook page

If you get a chance to listen to their 2018 album, Solasta, meaning ‘Luminous’ in Scots-Gael, I would recommend Fan Liom as the go-to track. This song stood out to me not just because of the Irish language but because the arrangement before the verse kicks in is uplifiting and magical. Which brings me onto the song we’re hear to read about!

Ballad of the Rescuer was released on Spotify on May 20th. It has over a 1’000 plays on Spotify, and a good 100 of them are from me the last few days since I first heard the track. It is hard to describe the feeling I get when I hear the opening section of the song. The fingerpicking pattern that opens is beautiful and sad, especially when the low notes of the cello accompanies it. Then, an ethereal, mystic voice fills your eardrums and the ballad of the rescuer begins. For a brief minute I thought to myself that this song and sound was Bon Iver-esque. I copped myself on and saw it for what it was: authentic, beautiful sound from a talented trio.
“There’s nothing left inside of me” is a line that sticks out from the first verse, the minor notes picked at just the right time. I became invested in the rescuer’s journey, living every dip and dive in his mission.

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Malcolm, John and Elaine at a gig last year

A cacophony of sound greets us toward the end of our journey as the percussion comes to the fore. The ballad of the rescuer rings out as all three members of the band give their all for the last act; Malcolm Urquhart on guitar and vocals, Elaine McCarthy on cello and John O’Connor on percussion. It lifts you up for the final scene of the song, an image of the rescuer, exhausted and on his knees at the end of the day, played out by the same beautiful guitar playing and cello accompaniment that we heard at the start.

Well, that review got quite a bit more emotional than I ever intended! You will agree with me once you hear the haunting opening of the song. I can guarantee that as I never lie. Honest Cian, they call me.

Look out for The Lost Gecko’s new album, The Ghost That Minds the Crows, due to be released this year at Claycastle Studios in Youghal with John Burke. They are on Spotify and Youtube so give their pages a follow! The Lost Gecko are playing a number of gigs around Cork in the coming days but they are also supposrting Meghan Ali next month in Maureen’s bar in Cork City. June 23rd, pencil it in. Keep an eye on the blog for more music reviews and news of the bands and artists I’ve already reviewed. Have a good one!

Far Off Shores – Meghan Ali

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Cork is full of thriving, talented musicians. From rap to traditional, hip hop to indie-pop, the Rebel County is a hotbed of young, up and coming artists. I am lucky to have played with some, attended the gigs of others, but one of my greatest honours is calling some of them my friends.
Meghan Ali is a singer songwriter and guitar player from Rathpeacon. Technically, she is from just off the Mallow Road/Old Mallow Road, but we’ll claim her here in Rathpeacon when she goes big. She has been making music her whole life, but it has really been the last six or seven years in which she has been most productive. She has released popular single after popular single, receiving generous airtime on Cork radio stations. Her latest release might just be the best of the bunch, and that’s saying something.

Far Off Shores was released earlier this week and with already over a thousand plays on Spotify it is showing how Meghan’s star continues to rise. On first listen to the lyrics it espouses the same message as Meg’s previous releases Coming Home for Christmas, which was later re-released as Coming Home (ft. Clare Sands). Each of these songs tells the story of our generation; always going to far off lands, never knowing when we’ll be home next and hoping that our relatives are doing O.K. without us.

The song starts with the low notes of a flute resonating around us, a faint chime in the background, echoing the sounds of the hit Irish animated feature, Song of the Sea. Meghan’s music is undoubtedly Irish, her accent shining through in songs as well as her use of the violin and acoustic guitar. Each instrument provides a light backing for Meghan’s powerful voice through each verse, rising to a crescendo just before each chorus. Far Off Shores is catchy and the chorus will play again and again in your head after each listen.

Watching the video after listening to the song changes the meaning. This is a tribute to Meghan’s late grandfather, played by his twin brother, John. The video is just like the singer herself, full of love for family close and far. It is truly a Maguire and O’Brien affair!
It would be criminal to mention the video and not bring your attention to the awesome panoramic shot that leaves John looking out at a lake/river/water feature, circle around and then back in to the main man himself.

This is a biased review in that I’ve known Meghan for years and love all of her music. However, it is also a truthful article because we’ve all lost someone. Although the song deals with the loss of a loved one, as I said before it could also be a homage to those closest to us departing these shores for a better life abroad. Therein lies the beauty of Meghan’s songwriting.

Meghan Ali can be followed on all social media platforms. Far Off Shores is available on Spotify now, and the video is on Youtube. I’ll even post the video below here so you don’t have to type anything in. No problem guys! Happy Thursday.

5 absolute bangers you may have forgotten about

Bit of absolute shite pandering ‘journalism’ today! I was carrying out my morning ritual (coffee, cry, poo) and opened YouTube to see Clean Bandit had a new video out for a new song. They are always a good shout for a catchy tune and they always get someone well known or currently trending to sing their tunes. This time, her name was Marina. It struck a memory chord in my head as I reached back to my teenage years to try and place her. The name was so familiar. After much toing and froing I remembered an artist that had a hit or two a while back and then almost disappeared from the mainstream media, or at least my timelines. I’m sure that many people still listened and watched out for new songs. I, however, consigned her to the recent history books. I’m here to refresh your memories with 5 bangers that you might have forgotten about, starting with Marina and the Diamonds.

Marina and the Diamonds – Primadonna
This song is only six years old. What the fuck? I definitely thought that it was at least ten years old. Although, now I think about it, I definitely remember psyching myself up the few months in school before the dreaded Leaving Cert by blasting this full volume in the morning. I gave the bathroom mirror some stellar renditions of “Primadonna Girl” that summer. While the lyrics themselves are completely foreign to me and the song is definitely aimed at the opposite gender, for those four minutes, I really am a Primadonna Girl. And you better believe I gave the bathroom mirror in my current house the same show. Absolute TUNE!


She Hates Me – Puddle of Mudd
I can’t remember the first time I heard this song. I don’t even know if I’ve listened to it more than a handful of times. All I know is that it is a certified banger and any time I hear it I wish I could grow long hair and mosh out. If I grew my hair out I’d look like a young Krusty the Klown, which is ironically my street name in the Bronx.

C’est La Vie – B*Witched
Ah, no one could forget this but it’s an absolute banger and I hadn’t seen the video in ages. Calling this a work of art would be underselling this piece of film. Just look at the matching jean jackets and denim jeans! It is quite possibly the most ’90s thing I’ve ever seen and I also didn’t realize how sexually suggestive some of the lyrics were. God, I love being Irish. Definitely throwing this on the jukebox next time I’m in the Avenue for Thursday Night Football hahaha.

Breathe – Blu Cantrell ft. Sean Paul
I got an iPod nano for Christmas one year off Santa and went out the next week to get some new, hip music. I, a pasty, ginger, freckled twelve year old, walked into Xtra Vision and walked out with the R n’ B Yearbook, 2006. I was a child who knew no bounds when it came to culture and just lived for music. Just kidding, I had no clue what was on the album but thankfully it introduced me to Sean Paul and his wonderful habit of shouting his name every twenty seconds. This song is an absolute CHOON and is the reason why I have a best selling album in Latin America today.

Tragedy – Steps
Ah, this list could have been a compilation of Irish and British girlbands, boybands, mixed bands and so on and so forth. Sugababes almost made it in with Push the Button, and Girls Aloud were close enough too. Just a few decades worth of songs you want to throw on at 2:30 in the morning, absolutely off your face on whiskey-gingers, quickly throwing away your freshly lit cigarette as you hear the opening notes to Keep On Movin’ by Five blast from the DJ’s speakers.
Tragedy made it in because the video is hilarious, you would definitely sing along if it came on the radio and I hope that for humanity’s sake, we forget about it as soon as this post is a week old. Enjoy.

I’ve actually laughed so much writing this. Video after video of pure cheese has just been watched on my laptop. I couldn’t be happier. These bangers just put me in a fantastic mood. To be fair, as much as I might mock them in this post, every person in the videos looked like they were having great craic. Except for Puddle of Mudd. They were thick some girl wasn’t giving them the ride.
Honorable mentions go to Halo, by Beyonce. Everyone should remember every single song of Bey’s, but that one is my personal favourite. Promiscuous by Nellie Furtado and Timbaland was also almost there. Probably more of a banger than Tragedy but this is my blog, and that’s all that matters. Funny anecdote actually, I was in Tijuana, promoting my album and I bumped into Nelly Furtado. She congratulated me on my wonderful blend of Irish folk and Latin energy. I asked her what she was doing in Mexico. She told me she didn’t know where her soul was, or her home. It was a weird interaction but one that I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life.