One Saturday night in Dublin city
Who said there was a recession in live music? On Saturday night in the capital, it seemed from text messages and tweets as if every venue was bringing its A game in terms of bookings and audiences responded at the …
Who said there was a recession in live music? On Saturday night in the capital, it seemed from text messages and tweets as if every venue was bringing its A game in terms of bookings and audiences responded at the door. You had Andy Irvine & Paul Brady doing it for the folkies in Vicar Street, Wiz Khalifa at large in the Olympia, Maverick Sabre rocking the Village, Ane Brun keeping it sweet in Whelan’s, Twin Sister wowing the indiesomethings in the Grand Social, a rake of pop acts giving it up for charity at Childline in the O2 and black metal lads Gorgogoth at the Button Factory. That’s a fierce rake of gigs for one night in a city at a time when money is too tight to mention. If Saturday night wasn’t enough to be going on with, you had St Vincent at the Button Factory, The Naked & Famous at the Olympia and the Fountains of Wayne at the Academy last night. And the assistant business editor of The Irish Times can’t be the only old goth bleating on about the Sisters Of Mercy at the Olympia on Friday night.
That’s an impressive list of acts for any weekend of the year. Hell, you’d probably buy a ticket for a festival if you’d all of them on the same bill (especially if there was a chance of a duet between Gorgogoth and Westlife). There are times when promoters get it bang on. It didn’t seem as if any of the acts had been put in a venue which was too big for them and clangers were not dropped.
I had plans for some binge-gigging on Saturday night but, an hour into the first show on my list, I just couldn’t drag myself away because the Robert Glasper Experiement at large in the Workman’s Club was quite an occasion. This was two hours deep inside the groove, a wonderful excursion into those space-age lines where jazz vibrations and post-Dilla hip-hop intersect and you’re transported away to another dimension. This ain’t your Daddy’s jazz, bud, this is something else entirely. It swung, it swayed, it went left, it went right and then it roared through the roof. By the time the band took “Smells Like Teen Spirit” apart, gave it a thorough rebooting and re-arranged it again, the audience was well and truly hooked.
The three musicians onstage have the kind of form you know makes for a feast. Glasper was last in Dublin 2 playing with Q-Tip, but he’s also worked with Mos Def, Kanye West J Dilla, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Common and other hip-hop and r’n'b bold print names as well as helming a bunch of albums in his own right. You’ll find bassist Derrick Hodge on a bunch of records from some of the above as well as jazz luminaries like Clark Terry and Terence Blanchard plus a bunch film scores as musician and composer. Chris Dave is usually on drums, but it was Mark Colenburg this time around, a St Louis drummer with another heady pedigree. No sign of saxaphonist Casey Benjamin on this occasion.
Glasper and co are at an interesting juncture in their trip. A new album “Black Radio” comes out in early 2012 and it’s a whopper, with Badu, Bilal, Mos Def, Meshell Ndegeocello, Lupe Fiasco, Lalah Hathaway and others on the microphone. It’s an all-star jam where the tracks just hit their stride with no fuss or drama and pull you into their stream. It’s also an album which will be interesting to tour because you’re just not going to get those vocalists together on the same stage for an entire run of dates.
As things stand, Glasper will be due an upgrade next time out when he hits Dublin because there will be considerable positive post-match word-of-mouth about this show. An interesting hip turnout too, with considerably more non-jazzers than purists in the room. Chalk this down to Glasper’s considerable hip-hop cred, but also down to the more promiscuous musical tastes of the music massive in ’11.
Promoters may scratch their heads at how they get crowds these days. The traditional methods don’t quite work as well as they used to do so how do you flip the script and still fill the hall without losing your cash? Some will go gung-ho down the social media road and annoy everyone they come across. Others will simply take out more ads and wonder why these don’t work.
The answer is to choose their act wisely because they’re the ones who cross all the tracks and do all the hard work to begin with. This year, we’ve seen packed rooms gather to see acts like Baths, Gold Panda and Star Slinger, acts where the buzz has happened largely with imported rather than domestic media because potential audiences don’t rely exclusively on homegrown media for pointers any more. Just how much ink and coverage has Glasper received from Irish sources, for instance? The trick is to know when to make a punt on an act who is getting all that traction and to put ‘em on in a venue where the costs and the door-take make sense. Of course, it all changes when it comes to scaling up to bigger venues (and you’re on your own there, pal), but it’s worth remembering that there is enough adverturous, sussed gig-goers out there to make choice punts worth a go.