Knockanstockan 2015 Review

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Given that I’m over 9,000 miles away, there ain’t much chance of me making an appearance at any Irish festivals but in my absence, my mate and intrepid gig goer, Johnny Feeney was at this year’s Knockanstockan. As always, his makes for interesting and thoroughly enjoyable reading. Thanks as always to Johnny and I’ll leave you in his very capable hands. 

While many festivals continue to expand year on year, Knockanstockan have deliberately gone the other direction, scaling back the size of the main arena and removing the main stage for the second successive year. Live music is now concentrated into three main medium-size stages with a further dedicated dance tent, a performance stage displaying varied entertainment such as debate, spoken word and cabaret and a kids area.

The main arena’s compact but not overcrowded. The camp site is close by so everything is a short walk away – a very important fact considering it’s BYOB. However there are bars scattered around the place also. The crowd are boisterous and friendly and there was no sign or reports of any aggression or trouble over the course of the weekend. Due to work commitments, Friday was unfortunately missed but Saturday proved to be a treat. Helpfully, the weather was also kinder on the Saturday with the sun making the occasional, welcome appearance through the overcast sky. And so to the music.

Dublin four-piece rockers Pretty Beast were first up in the Dimestore Tent (it was marked down as the Circus Tent on the timetable). They played a high-octane set of pulsating rock that fizzed along noisily. As the show progressed the tunes became noticeably more danceable with their heavy riffs underpinned by grooving basslines and synths. The charismatic frontman Donie Keaveney owned the stage and worked up quite a sweat, culminating in him perilously climbing to the top of the scaffolding at the side of the stage towards the end.

Sinead White was next up in the intimate amphitheatre, the Faerie Field. It’s a beautiful setting for the Dublin-based singer-songwriter and a nice way to ease into the day. White plays acoustic guitar throughout but is ably accompanied by lead guitar, bass and drums to flesh out her sound. For her closing song, White hands out 50 plastic kazoos into the crowd in an attempt to get the crowd to join in on the chorus. By the time people have figured out how to play the kazoos White has left the stage so all that’s left is the sound of kazoos all over the place. A cue to exit if ever I’ve heard one.

Upon entering the Burrow, White Chalk have already kicked off their set and are in full flight. They’re a seven–piece band with a penchant for anthemic songs and big, singalong choruses –lots of woahs and doo-doos that you can pick up after a listen or two. Think a strange Arcade Fire/Maccabees/trad hybrid with guitars, percussion, cello, keyboards, mandolins and more. Main vocalist Conor Quinn’s country-tinged voice is unique and not what you’d expect and he’s backed by soaring harmonies. They’re armed with very catchy tunes and certainly get the crowd moving. It would be very interesting to see these guys under a roof in a dark room.

Having known nothing about them before Saturday, Hot Cops were easily the find of the day for me. The Belfast three-piece play brilliantly dark, melodic indie-rock reminiscent of Pavement or Surfer Blood. Vocalist and frontman Carl Eccles comes alive with guitar in hand but just as quickly becomes soft-spoken and mild-mannered with barely a hint of a Belfast accent – so much so in fact that while speaking between songs, when one of the crowd suggests he doesn’t sound like he’s from Belfast he apologises! Drummer Conor Ellison is an absolute powerhouse on the drums. Superb.

Fresh on the trails of Hot Cops, Tramore native Rebecca Collins delivers another stunning performance in the Dimestore Tent. You can see why she’s been compared to the likes of PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi – particularly the former. This is theatrical alternative-rock that’s slightly morbid but utterly mesmerising. Collins is a captivating presence throughout and it’s difficult to take your eyes off her.

Having been impressive the weekend before in Longitude, Otherkin produced another storming set on the Burrow stage on Saturday evening. This Dublin-based four-piece play infectious, upbeat grunge/indie-rock with fuzzy guitars and a real swagger. The band clearly look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage and it’s hard not to get carried away with their enthusiasm. Nothing ground-breaking but very enjoyable all the same.

Festival highlight Elastic Sleep are a bit special. The Cork five-piece specialise in dream-pop/shoegaze along the lines of the quieter side of My Bloody Valentine. Muireann Levis provides breathy, haunting vocals around which the rest of the band create bruising, meandering soundscapes. Music to get well and truly immersed in, these are one of the best live bands around today. The Dimestore Tent didn’t ease off in quality all day. No Spill Blood were next on and the Dublin band produced a scintillating, no-holds-barred barrage of heavy synth-rock. A pummeling, chaotic, high-intensity set has the crowd going absolutely mental, the energy in the tent is electric and a fair amount of sweat is shed. Quality.

As night falls on Knockanstockan, various other attractions come into their own. Apart from more heavy-hitting music on the main stages, the Caravan Club Extravaganza (the dance tent) comes alive and various campfires pop up throughout the main arena where one can engage in various levels of entertaining conversation depending on who you end up beside. A great day, a very fine little festival.

The BarryGruff Fortnightly Vancouver Gig Guide (April 29th – May 11th)

A fortnightly list of recommended events taking place in Vancouver. Here’s what’s caught my eye over the next 14 days! 

Feel free to let me know if I missed anything of interest in the comments or you can always shoot me an email about upcoming shows.

Thursday, April 30th

Wishyunu @ Hindenburg, 23 West Cordova, Gastown, Vancouver (9pm, $10)

  • [Alt-Pop] Portland drum/synth du, Wishyunu (wish-u-new) have a penchant for weird and wonderful atmospheric electronic pop. Support from Redrick Sultan, The Wandering Halls & Cave Girl.

Young Fathers @ Fortune Sound Club, 147 E Pender St, Vancouver, (9pm, $15+Fees)

  • [Hip-Hop] Scotish Hip-Hop trio & Mecury Prize winners, Young Fathers, tour in support of their new LP ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’. Suppport from Mas Ysa.

Saturday, May 2nd 

Waxahatchee @ Biltmore Cabaret 2755 Prince Edward St, Vancouver (8pm, $14+Fees)

  • [Indie/Lo-Fi] Katie Crutchfield brings her lo-fi indie project to Vancouver to support her latest LP ‘Ivy Trip​p​’. With guests GIRLPOOL (utterly raw, infectious and supremely brilliant poppy-punk – more here) and Knife Pleats.

Tough Age @ The Astoria, 769 E. Hastings St, Vancouver (9pm, $8)

  • [Garage/Indie] Hometown fuzzed-up garage rock maestros return to Vancouver ahead of their new LP. W/ guests Energy Slime, Fountain, Milk & Needles//Pins.

Ponderosa 2015 Lineup Launch Party @ ANZA Club, Australia New Zealand Association, 3 W. 8th, Vancouver  (9pm, Entry by Donation)

  • Ponderosa Arts & Music Festival 2015 lineup launch w/ music from Colleen Rennison of No Sinner, DJ Joshua Oldsoul & more.

Nowhere Fast @ The Morrissey, 1227 Granville Street, Vancouver (9pm – 3am, Free)

  • [DJ] Regular night of post-punk, indie, garage rock & pop-dance tunes  w/ Bryce Dunn

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The BarryGruff Fortnightly Vancouver Gig Guide (April 16th – 30th)

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Like any city, there’s quite a lot of stuff goes on in Vancouver week on week. So with that in mind, the plan is to try and compile a list of recommended events taking place every fortnight.

In time, hopefully the lists will grow and become more and more comprehensive, and serve as something of a catalyst to go to more shows and unearth more interesting stuff that’s going on. Here’s what’s caught my eye over the next 14 days! 

Feel free to let me know if I missed anything of interest in the comments or you can always shoot me an email about upcoming shows.

Thursday, April 16th

Erol Alkan @ M.i.a., 350 Water Street, Vancouver (10pm)

  • [Dance/Electro] Reputable London DJ, remixer, label founder, club promoter, radio host hits up new venue. [Cancelled]

 Friday, April 17th

Co-op Radio’s 40th Anniversary @ WISE Hall, 1882 Adanac, Vancouver (7pm, $10-15)

  • Celebrating 40 years of community operated & innovate radio, featuring The Creaking Planks and Purple Soul.

Discorder Fundraiser + Launch Party @ The Astoria, 769, East Hastings St. Vancouver (8pm, $5/$10)

  • Fundraiser for Vancouver music, arts & culture mag w/ music from Stefana Fratila, Wetface, The Crowbots, Still Creek Murder, Energy Slime, bb.yu [dj set], Andy Resto [dj set]

Saturday, April 18th

Record Store Day @ Neptoon Records,  3561 Main, Vancouver (10am – 10pm, Free)

  • Performances from local acts No Sinner, Tough Age, Poor Form & more, plus a meet ‘n’ greet with Eric Burdon. Yes, that Eric Burdon.

Record Store Day @ Vinyl Records, 319 W. Hastings (11am – 7pm, Free)

  • In store performances from K’Immortal, Dawn Pemberton, Tonye Aganaba & more.

Record Store Day @ Red Cat Records, 4332 Main Street, Vancouver (3pm – 9pm, Free)

  • In store performances from The Backhomes, Frog Eyes, Hello Blue Roses & more.

Record Store Day @ Horse Records, 2447 E. Hastings, Vancouver (10am, Free)

  • In store performances from Peace, Flyin’, SP Davis, Mecca Normal & more.

Record Store Day @ Beat Street Records,  439 W. Hastings St. Vancouver,

  • Live DJs in store all day.

Nowhere Fast @ The Morrissey, 1227 Granville Street, Vancouver (9pm – 3am, Free)

  • Regular night of post-punk, indie, garage rock & pop-dance tunes  w/ Bryce Dunn

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Competition: Win Tickets to SALES at The Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver :: March 5th

SALES - Artwork by Niklas Åkerblad

Florida duo SALES will be in Vancouver this week to play the Biltmore Cabaret, on Thursday (March 5th), with support from Mesa Luna & Noble Oak.

A collaboration between long-time friends, Lauren Morgan (guitar/vocals) and Jordan Shih (guitar/programming), their splendiferous self-titled debut EP is a marvellous musical feast of inviting, warm and rather charming, quirky indie-pop. Done with a mesmerizing ease and breeze, their songs are simultaneously languid, nonchalant and passionate, somehow uncovering a place where all three can co-exist in perfect harmony. Utterly beautiful, their debut was one of last year’s most loveable records.

SALES, being the kind-hearted souls that they are, have offered readers of the blog a chance to go to the show on Thursday night. There’s a pair of tickets up for grabs and to be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is simply email your ‘name’ with ‘SALES’ as the subject title to barrygruff[at]gmail[dot]com, before 14:00 (PST) Wednesday, March 4th.

If you need any further convincing? There are a few choice cuts from SALES’ sublime debut record below, or you can check out the EP here.

Roll on Thursday night!

Artwork by Niklas Åkerblad.

Best of 2014: w/ Padraig McCauley of Disconcerting P

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As has become tradition for this time year, I’ve asked bands and artists who’ve played a BarryGruff show during the year, to put their own list making skills to the test in picking their ‘favourite album of 2014′, ‘favourite song/remix of 2014′ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’. I’ve really enjoyed these over the past few years so why break with tradition?

Right, that is enough waffling from me, it’s over to the Padraig McCauley of Disconcerting P to share his picks from 2014.

Favourite Album of 2014: Angel Olsen – ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’/ Mac DeMarco – ‘Salad Days’

Angel Olsen‘s album drew my attention for two reasons: Her flawless vocals (Her vibrato is scary perfect) and her unusual song forms. All the tracks on the album have this steady flow which only seems to break when the melody changes around them, making the overall experience hypnotic and effortless to listen to. The production only adds to this sense of haze with drowning reversed guitars and tremolo’d guitars that wash around each other in the middle ground whilst Angel vocal flourishes in the fore. Its subject matter is heavy – loss and loneliness – but the experience is so beautiful it can be easy to find the merit in these experiences when music so raw and passionate can come from them. The stand-out tracks for me are ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Enemy’. Whats truly refreshing about the album is that Angel feels genuine – everything about the album feels real and authentic.

Salad Days is on par with Angels album for its honesty and genuine nature. Its seems that he really is pouring his heart out, but under the guise of this cartoon character. The effect works and I find him to be quite loveable. Mac is a smart guy – you can hear it in his song harmony, his melodies and his effortless rhyming schemes and what makes him even more loveable is that he seems determined to not let you know it – coming off as a unbeknown genius rather than obnoxious. The subject matter of the album is relatable – the constant struggle between youth and maturity. I suppose what can be take from Mac DeMarco as a character is that both don’t be exclusive. There is enlightenment to be found in the album – even if it is being delivered by a gap toothed jester – making it all the more exciting.

Favourite track of 2014: TOPS – ‘Way to be Loved’

Oh man that groove. I love how easily this songs moves! The feel shifts so seamlessly, only adding to this shimmering glitteriness the track has. The lyrics are great too. The track is delivered with a coyness from Jane Penny that makes it so alluring. It has glimpses of other bands in it but feels unique within itself. Oh man… that groove.

Favourite Irish track of 2014: The Gloaming – ‘Allistrum’s March’

While this may be a traditional tune – The Gloaming’s version is breathtaking. The whole album is unbelievably. Go see these guys. This really is musicianship at its highest and most pure.

Win Tickets to Springtime Carnivore @ Biltmore Cabaret , Vancouver :: November 17

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Springtime Carnivore, the creation of LA musician Greta Morgan, will play the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, this Monday (November 17), with Generationals.

Morgan has bewitched us with several lush indie-pop gems this year and is out on tour in support of her marvellous eponymous debut album. Co-produced by Richard Swift (Foxygen, The Shins, The Black Keys), it is a wonderful collection of warm, slightly fuzzy, ebullient indie pop gems, with a soft psychedelic undercurrent that crackles, glows and swells amid off-kilter grooves. These tracks, mostly upbeat with big hooks and sun-kissed, are built around Morgan’s dazzlingly beautiful vocals that transfix you in all its gloriously smooth prowess. You can stream it here and see what all the fuss is about.

Springtime Carnivore have kindly offered readers of the blog a chance to go to the show on Monday night, with a pair of tickets up for grabs. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is answer the following question: ‘What is the name of Springtime Carnivore’s recently released debut album?’ Email your answer, along with your ‘name’ and ‘Springtime Carnivore’ as the subject title to barrygruff[at]gmail[dot]com, before 12:00 (UTC) Sunday, November 16th.

If you need any further convincing? Here are a few choice cuts from Springtime Carnivore’s sublime debut record. It should be a sumptuous show.

 

Review: Hard Working Class Heroes 2014

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Obviously unable to attend Hard Working Class Heroes this year, having relocated to Vancouver. In my absence there was a more than capable replacement in Johnny Feeney, who was there to sample the sights and sounds (along with the wind and rain) of HWCH 14, now in it’s very respectable 12th year. Thanks to Johnny as always for his time and insight, with that I leave you in his ever capable hands. 

Now in its 12th year, Hard Working Class Heroes shows no signs of slowing down and is deservedly recognised as a top-rate music festival showcasing a mixture of the best established and emerging bands plying their trade in the country today. Spread out over seven separate venues in and around Temple Bar in Dublin, there is certainly a wide variety of quality music on offer.

Weather conditions on Friday night were miserable. Constant, torrential rain and a cold evening meant getting from venue to venue was treacherous, leaving Meeting House Square feeling under attended as the crowds aimed for the warmth of indoors. Dublin five-piece Cfit played a rousing set on the Meeting House Square stage early on Friday evening. They carve out long, epic, grandiose indie-rock with further layers of violin and electronics added on top. Vocalist Noël Duplaa has a deep tone similar to Paul Banks of Interpol but the music surrounding him is a much more uplifting affair. Their closing song tonight, Plausible Deniability, is staggeringly beautiful and euphoric live.

Next up in Meeting House Square are VANN MUSIC – a band well established on the festival scene now having performed at the likes of Electric Picnic, Castlepalooza and Forbidden Fruit. The Dublin synth-rockers perform with a confident swagger and have highly danceable tunes, while front man Aaron Smyth is a magnetic presence on stage as he busts out serious dance moves. These feel like a band destined for bigger things.

Cork shoegaze/post-rockers Elastic Sleep deliver a blistering set in the Mercantile. Bruising, chaotic rock surrounds the minute Muireann Levis whose dreamy, otherworldly vocals are in stark contrast with what’s going on around her. Dreamy and captivating, these were the standout act of Friday night despite having some technical difficulties meaning they had to cut their set short.

Later on Friday in Bad Bob’s, Dott were a very interesting new discovery for me. The Dublin four-piece play dreamy garage-pop which reminded me somewhat of Veronica Falls. Bad Bob’s didn’t feel like the best venue to be seeing live music as there were restricted views and a layout not designed for this kind of event. This became even more apparent as a bigger crowd filtered in for Ghost Estates, the last act to perform on Friday across the seven venues. The four-piece Dublin indie-rockers delivered an accomplished set as usual and tried, with some success, to get some of the crowd out towards the back to fill out the front. Not at all the band’s fault, the issue with the venue made this feel more muted than it might have been.

London-based, Galway band HAWK were the first band I caught on Saturday evening in the Button Factory. The four-piece are a very interesting mixture. On one hand you have a pretty standard alternative-rock set up playing loud, pounding rock while on the other hand front woman Julie Hawk is a more eccentric, mysterious character with her acoustic guitar and haunting vocals.

Cloud Castle Lake were up next in the Button Factory. Playing with the lights way down, the Dublin trio play understated electronic rock. It all feels a bit low key and I can see lead singer Daniel McAuley’s falsetto vocals being tough going for people. With just a single EP to their name to date this may be a band still trying to find their feet.

A delay in the schedule meant Carried by Waves came on half an hour late on to the Workman’s Club stage as Metlybrains? were due to be on. This came as a lucky break to catch these guys playing a lovely brand of breezy, tuneful electro-pop, reminding me in parts of a stripped down Hot Chip. Lovely stuff and a band worth exploring further.

The aptly named Meltybrains? have been on my radar for a while as news of their explosive live shows piqued my interest but I’d never managed to catch them live. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed with their pulsating live show – what I envisage And So I Watch You From Afar might sound like if they made electronica. Frantic, pounding beats with the band going wild on stage. Trademark freaky Meltybrains? masks are thrown into the crowd for revellers to cover their faces and join them in wild abandon. So exhilarating, so exciting. The perfect finish to a very enjoyable weekend.