U2 1978-1981: Photographs by Patrick Brocklebank at the Little Museum of Dublin

Long before the tinted sunglasses, and when playing arenas was nothing more than a distant dream, U2 were just like every other struggling band – barely filling small venues and playing support slots for an audience that wasn’t interested.

Patrick Brocklebank’s U2 1978-1981 photography exhibition in the Little Museum of Dublin shows early photos he took of u2 before they hit super-stardom, one of them featured the band play in a small half-filled venue and another shows the band doing their best poses for press shots taken in the Arts Block of Dublin’s Trinity College.

The determination and perseverance of the band is what shines through in these photos. When you look at the earlier shots, in particular one of Bono onstage as support to The Stranglers when they played in Dun Laoghaire, you don’t look at the photo and instantly think “U2!”, because by that stage they weren’t recognisable as U2, they looked the same as every other band valiantly trying to make this ‘music thing’ work.

The vast majority of the photos are in black and white, and they capture a band trying to find their way musically and, in one photo where Adam Clayton’s wearing a questionable woolly jumper seemingly to try out a new look, stylistically too.

In these photos they merely look like naive but confident lads from Glasnevin trying to be the next big thing. The only photo in the room where the exhibition is housed which suggests the phenomenal success U2 went on to achieve is just by the door, conveniently placed so you only notice it just as you leave the exhibition. In contrast to the other photos, this one is in colour and shows Bono talking to a line of U2 fans who are on the other side of a wire fence at Slane. When you glance back at a photo of them playing a half empty venue on the other side of the room it’s hard to believe how far they’ve come.

It’s rare to see anything related to U2 that genuinely focuses solely on them when they were unencumbered by fame. The photography in this exhibition captures the beginning of U2’s road to success, and only the beginning, because we all know how the story unfolds after that.


Phantom First Friday Gig Review

Venue:  The Academy, Dublin.
Date: Friday, 5th August 2011.

Givers: the band of the night

Amidst all the red and green lights emerged Tieranniesaur, a Dublin six piece with a Warpaint-like sound mixed with synthesisers. For the first few songs their combination of dreamy and shouty music was interesting, until it became swiftly apparent that all the songs seemed to be melding into one. There were no definable features, apart from the Bez-like creature who danced on the stage behind the band for a few songs, impressively dancing even to the slow parts.

So memorable was their performance that when Louisiana natives Givers took to the stage that they couldn’t remember the band’s name when they were giving them a shout out. The award for the most enthusiastic and energetic performance of the night goes to Givers. Having told the crowd to move to the previously empty front of stage because they travelled all the way over to Ireland, so the least we could do was walk a few steps nearer to them, gave the previously lacking atmosphere the kick it needed.

They powered through every song jumping around on stage and crashing drums like children who’d been let loose in a sweet shop, brimming with enthusiasm while interacting with the crowd. And, judging by the amount of times they mentioned how happy and thankful they were to be in Ireland, savouring every moment.

Headliners Cashier No. 9

Shortly afterwards came the time for the headliners, Cashier No. 9. Having received regular air play on Phantom has significantly raised the Belfast band’s profile, the night after this gig they were support to Bell X1 and Editors in Marlay Park. Sounding not dissimilar to Portugal the Man, the mellow but inviting tones of the band seemed to flow seamlessly from the stage.

In addition to the attention-grabbing music Cashier No. 9 also have the most dapper percussionist I have ever seen, wearing a bowler hat and waistcoat with pride. This is clearly a band to be taken seriously, and with each song gained more and more attention from the crowd and got better and better. Their catchy songs and engaging stage presence aren’t to be ignored.

But by the end of the night it was the pulsating drum beats and rhythmic sounds of Givers that were most memorable and impressive, and that seemed to be reverberating throughout the streets on the way home. Their eagerness and enthusiasm was astounding, and when a band are so confident and so into the music they’re playing it’s impossible not to feel the same way.

The Listening Post: Kristeen Young

“She frightens me,” I overheard the brunette in the front row quietly say between songs. To receive this kind of reaction is no mean feat, and when Kristeen Young took to the stage as the support act for Morrissey’s recent gigs in Dublin’s Vicar Street she definitely grabbed the attention, confusion, and fear, of the audience members. Thrashing out songs on her ceramically designed keyboard and wailing into the microphone with a look of both anger and determination on her face made her hard to ignore.

During her set you could hear mutterings of “PJ Harvey” and “Kate Bush”, and while the similarities are undeniable there’s also something very endearing and unique about Kristeen Young. Maybe it’s her catchy lyrics, maybe it’s her quirky fashion sense, maybe it’s her knack for hitting perfect notes when she sings. Whatever it is, it’s hard to put my finger on. But that’s one of the qualities of Kristeen Young, it’s difficult to adequately describe her music and on-stage presence, she seems like an anomaly that’ll be forever hard to grasp, and that’s perhaps one of the best things about her.

Blink 182 – Up All Night Review

In 2009, to the joy of Blink 182 fans all over the world, Tom DeLonge unfound God and realised that the dulcet tones of Angels and Airwaves could never match Blink’s aggressive, raw and unmistakably American sound. So the Californian cockney wonder returned and three years later Blink 182 have released their first official single since their 2005 hiatus.

Blink 182’s long-awaited new release Up All Night treats fans to a barrage of chugging riffs, drum fills and a more mature lyrical direction. With Hoppus and DeLonge sharing vocals as per usual, singing lyrics about how “everyone lives to tell the tale of how we die alone someday” and “all these demons/they keep me up all night” marks a change to the usually juvenile and audacious songs associated with Blink 182. They’re not singing about being called immature or falling in love with girls at rock shows. This is a world-weary song about despair and being a ‘grown-up’, but when it’s underpinned with Blink 182’s brand of pop punk it somehow makes it okay. The enemas of the state are back, but this time they’re not taking any shit.

Radio Bam Review

Radio Show: Radio Bam, Sirius XM Faction Radio

Episode: Show #248

Original Broadcast: 16th May 2011

Everyone needs a jackass in their life, and Bam Margera is probably one of the best. His longstanding and sometimes erratic radio show always seems to be an off-the-cuff affair, lacking any structure or prepared features.

In this show Margera is in Quebec City, disucussing his newfound Twitter addiction and regaling his listeners with bizarre anecdotes, such as a prom that he’s contractually obliged to go to with an 18 year old girl from Calgary and encouraging his Twitter followers (‘twits’) to bombard his mam with Happy Mother’s Day texts and calls after posting her phone number on the site.

Margera makes some surprisingly indie song choices (Ladyhawke, who’d have thunk it?) interspersed with the likes of Pennsylvanian natives Hail Social. For all of the show’s disorganised content there’s something appealing about their “I don’t give a fuck, I’m not Howard-fucking-Stern” approach. It’s not polished, it’s not organised and a lot of the time it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what makes the show so listenable. Switch off your brain and switch on Radio Bam.

Paul Weller Gig Review

Venue: The Olympia, Dublin.
Date: Wednesday, 17th November 2010.

From the minute the lights went down and the meticulously styled Modfather Paul Weller strolled on stage it was clear the audience was already in the palm of his hand. No banter was needed, no cringey and overwrought “DUBLIN IS THE BEST CITY I’VE EVER PLAYED IN!” proclamations; once the familiar chords of ‘From the Floorboards Up’ rang out he’d already won the crowd over.

Playing a set that consisted mainly of songs from his most recent album ‘Wake up the Nation’, with raucous renditions of ‘Start!’ and ‘Shout to the Top’ thrown in for good measure, the Modfather proved that he still knows how to play to a crowd. He approached every song with unwavering enthusiasm and energy, switching between piano and guitar with amazing proficiency.

Amidst all of the fervent guitar playing and pulsating drum beats the atmosphere changed from electric to emotive when Weller went over to the piano to do a cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’.

The versatility that has been displayed in countless Style Council, The Jam and Paul Weller’s own solo albums can translate to the stage equally as successfully as they did in his records.  All eyes were on Weller, and with a back catalogue as relevant to the present day as it was in the 80s, it seems he’ll still attract the same fandom and dedication for years to come.

Other Voices TV Review

TV Show: Other Voices, RTE, South Wind Blows Production

Episode: Season 9, Episode 5.

Original Broadcast: 11:25pm, 6th March 2011, RTE 2

Usually when musicians are in the rural countryside it’s for one of two reasons; they’re in rehab there or they got lost on the way to the pub. Luckily for any disorientated musicians who may find themselves in either of these categories there is a chance that they may find BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac walking down one of the meandering streets of Dingle enthusing about the latest indie bands.

Other Voices, the brainchild of producer Philip King, brings indie and alternative musicians to the small coastal town of Dingle in Co. Kerry to perform in unique venues around the town, such as the St. James’ Cathedral and, in some instances, the homes of bemused locals. This week sees Illinois native Lissie bring her unique brand of soft rock to the Dingle Peninsula.

St. James’ Church is a surprisingly fitting venue for her to play in, bounding around the makeshift stage all messy blond hair and energetic shuffling. The narrow, silent streets of Dingle seem a world away from what touring musicians are used to, perhaps quieter and not as exciting as the usual city jaunts. “I saw some goats, and some sheep,” Lissie tells Annie Mac in her American drawl.

It seems an odd formula, maybe one that shouldn’t work, but somehow does. The stunning scenery and the quaint, original locations in which the bands perform compliment the music. During the month of the December many musicians, some more well-known than others, descend on the little village usually greeted with enthusiastic locals.

This week also featured an appearance from the English blues duo The Smoke Fairies, who played a stripped back version of their song ‘Storm Song’, aided with only acoustic guitars and their swirling vocals. This was all done to a backdrop of the Dingle landscape, which could be seen through the large floor-to-ceiling windows that surrounded the band.

It’s rare to see musicians playing outside of typical gig venues, and rarer still to see them playing gigs in rural areas. But this appears to be what Other Voices does – it takes musicians away from the environment they’re used to, and makes it all about the music. There’s no need for massive orchestral arrangements or a large crew, all that’s needed is a voice, a guitar, perhaps a drum and the video camera to capture it. It’s a simple format, but one that works beautifully.

He’s a Real Nowhere Boy

I went to see Sam Taylor-Wood’s highly anticipated directorial debut in ‘Nowhere Boy’, a film depicting the teenage years of John Lennon..

In my infinite wisdom I overestimated the time the trailers would be on, and so I missed the first minute of the film much to my annoyance. Set in Liverpool in the late 50s Lennon (Aaron Johnson) is torn between two very influential women in his life – his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), who he lived with since childhood and his mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who lived around the corner with her other children. His Aunt Mimi is a staunch, strict middle-class woman with upper-class aspirations. It’s noticeable that while Scouse accents are of course prevalent in the film Lennon’s Aunt Mimi never speaks with one. His mother Julia is a fun loving, creative and vivacious woman.

Having already read various books about Lennon’s life from many different angles I found it hard at times to not think “that never happened!” and “that character wasn’t really like that!” In which case I found it hard to judge it on the merits of a film of its own, and to not compare it to factual accounts of certain events. But about 20 minutes into the film all of that was forgotten.

The scenes were mesmerising, at times it felt like I was actually in Liverpool in the 50s. I was expecting ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ to start playing at any given moment, even though it wasn’t released til the mid 60s! The acting was flawless, never did it feel like the emotion was slipping and everything was very believable, it was a brilliant performance by everyone involved. The only issue I have is, again, the creepy way Lennon’s relationship with his mother was portrayed.

The film ends just before Lennon sets off for Hamburg with the Beatles, and, well, we all know what happened after that. I’ve seen many films concerning the Beatles and John Lennon, some terrible (Chapter 27 comes to mind) and some brilliant. And Nowhere Boy is definitely at the top of the list for brilliance. In short, Nowhere Boy is a film you’ll regret not seeing, especially if you’re a John Lennon fan.