Pursued by a Bear »

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . . storm the beaches

    June 28, 2012 @ 5:39 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    All at sea: Recently, while travelling the highways and byways of Sligo, I heard of one highlight at this weekend’s Sea Sessions that is well worth keeping an eye out for. Last year, both apparently and allegedly, a gang of lads were hanging around of an evening and amusing themselves by throwing a rope over the roof of a house. They then tied the end of said rope to one of the gang and the other end to a car, which they then drove slowly, thus pulling each other up and down, like a DIY version of Funderland. When this grew dull (after about three gos apiece, apparently), they decided to commander a boat and head for the Sea Sessions across the bay, which was then in full flow. (more…)

  • Reviewed: Body and Soul, day two

    June 25, 2012 @ 3:35 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Day two of Body and Soul brought that most unexpected of festival pleasures – sunshine, and buckets of it. As the ground dried up and tired spirits lifted, the more heavyweight line-up of the festival’s two days got underway under blue skies, and the crowd swapped their ponchos for sunblock.

    The sold-out festival certainly felt a lot busier on Sunday, and Gael Winds got a rousing reception in the Orchard area. Many people took the opportunity to bask in the warmth in the walled gardens of Ballinlough Castle, and got a musical treat to boot, with the group’s orchestral arrangements of familiar tracks, from The Blue Danube to Billie Jean, getting plenty of applause from a sun-blitzed crowd. A really lovely way to gently ease yourself into the festival mood.

    Indeed, it was hard to tear yourself away from simply lazing around for a change, but when the fare on offer on the Main Stage is the mercurial Martin Hayes, you’d be a fool not to. Hayes is simply one of the best musicians this country has produced and here he marshalled and entertained a sizeable crowd with his fluid, almost percussive fiddle playing, skipping and weaving his way with power and poise through a fine set of music, with a piano accompaniment that moved from controlled grace to thunderous, rhythmic bursts. Brilliant as ever, then. (more…)

  • Reviewed: Body and Soul day one

    June 24, 2012 @ 1:25 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The weather was refusing to play ball during the first day of Body and Soul, alternating between intense bursts and a steady drizzle. Not that this had any effect on the fizzling spirits in the Casa Habana tent. Sligo band Tucan were tearing through their instrumental tunes at a rate of knots, mixing covers and riffs lifted from other songs with their own material. A relatively big outfit, with a salvo of brass thrown over the instrumental rock of the lead and acoustic guitars, bass and drums, they provided perfect festival fodder to get the crowd’s day up and running properly.

    Shangaan Electro brought colour and energy to the main stage, shaking up the crowd with their Soweto flavoured Afro beats and wild synchronised dance routines. Musically, it’s rapid, sharp beats, with the MC leading the charge from behind his decks with whoops and hollers while his four frenetic singers – two women in swirling dress only to be outdone by two men resplendent in orange boiler suits – offer fuel to the fire of his beats’ wild and flashy turns. The band urged the crowd to move their feet with repeated calls to dance at “One – Nine – Eight” – apparently dancing at 198bpm is the cure for all ills, be it general aches and pains or persistent rain at a music festival.

    Django Django’s slick, punchy electro pop should suit Irish festivals well and here they pulled out an energetic set that brought the first major crowd of the day to the festival’s main stage. Perhaps a large portion of the crowd were there just to hear hit single Default, but no matter – they held fire with that ace until the end of the set, and won over a lot of new fans with their precise, sharp tunes. The matching maroon and white circled shirts were quite fetching to boot.

    After a reputedly storming set in Dundalk’s Spirit Store recently, the anticipation was high for the set from Conor O’Brien and his Villagers outfit. Their debut might be one of the most played Irish albums of recent years, but the tracks still sound fresh and vital live, and this set was a rock solid mixture of tracks from Becoming a Jackal and newer material. Live, O’Brien matches his crafted songwriting with fire and poise, and makes sure that the crowd are with him every step of the way. Undoubtedly one of the sets of the evening, O’Brien provided a thrilling showcase of his newer material and proved, again, why he’s one of the most interesting and creative acts we have.

    If Jason Pierce has a large extension on his home, it’s fair to say it has probably been paid for by Irish audiences. Perhaps there’s a rule somewhere that at least one Irish festival per year has to pay Spiritualized to play, but every time you see him live, it makes perfect sense. The band build huge walls of sound and noise, propelled on blistering light shows to create a wave of musical hope and ambition that takes no prisoners. As ever, Pierce and the band have little or no interaction with the crowd – beyond, of course, the cathedral-sized riffs and tunes that are shovelled out and upwards into the Ballinlough night. And what more do you need from a festival main stage act?

    Gold Panda has a reputation for taking his minimal electronica and building it into soaring, thumping techno tunes live, and here he didn’t disappoint with a heavyweight set that ticked a lot of thrilling DJ boxes. That could well have been the best DJ set of the night, were it not Daniele Gaudi. Together with a sidekick, Gaudi picked up where Gold Panda left off and delivered a colossal set of huge tunes to close out the first day of Body and Soul on the Upstage.

    The DJs may have had the benefit of an up-for-it crowd who were more than happy to keep things ripping along until after their 3am allotted end time, but this was a cracking, quality set of tunes that had smiles all through the tent and had the pair beaming by its end.

    There was just enough time to squeeze in a rocking set from resident DJs from Dublin club Mother, here transported to a small stage in the woods, before the sun threatened to come up and Body and Soul day one drifted to a close. As day two gets underway, the sun is shining, and the festival is largely incident free, with no trouble on site beyond muddy ground. Par for the course for an Irish festival then. Roll on day two.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … get Body and Souled

    June 21, 2012 @ 6:43 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Body and Soul: The weather might be refusing to play ball, but that won’t dampen the earthy spirits at this year’s Body and Soul festival. In 2011, the Ballinlough Castle fandango in Co Meath went down a storm and had most people calling it the best of last year’s fests. This year, the line-up is pretty delectable too. Choose from M83, Spiritualized, Villagers, St Vincent, Little Dragon, Gold Panda, John Talabot, Hollie Cook, Martin Hayes and many, many more. Take part in a masquerade ball (we’ll be the ones dressed as Mexican wrestlers). Plunge into a hot tub. Get lost in the forest. Or try and sneak into Ballinlough Castle itself to see how the other half lives.


  • I’m only here for the pillaging: ‘Vikings’ open casting

    June 18, 2012 @ 5:38 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Unleash your inner Viking in Dublin city centre tomorrow and you could earn a few quid.

    Vikings, a new 10-part television series co-produced by World 2000 (The Tudors, Camelot) and the History Channel, is looking for thousands of would-be Norsemen to pack out their cast. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . . build a dome of your own

    June 14, 2012 @ 7:24 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Bloomsday: Love it or hate it, just like the Olympics or Euro 2012, you can’t ignore it. And this year, with the copyright expiring on James Joyce’s works, Bloomsday and all its associated paraphernalia is bigger and better than ever. Tomorrow in The Irish Times we have the results of our design a cover for Ulysses competition. The entries were many and of a cracking calibre.

    Event-wise there are heaps to choose from. There’s the world-record reading attempt, Bloomsday breakfast events, street theatrics, a new Ulysses graphic novel, a musical organised by Sweny’s pharmacy, readings, tours, carry-on and shenanigans. Click here for a good overview of events or simply wander into Dublin and follow the people on odd-looking bikes in period dress. They will be everywhere. Dublin isn’t the only city getting in on the act, with events planned for Cork, Limerick and many other locations. Check tomorrow’s Ticket for much more comprehensive listings. (more…)

  • A little video that’s good for the Body and Soul

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:12 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    If you found yourself stumbling around the grounds of Ballinlough Castle at last year’s Body and Soul festival, you probably spent a bit of time wondering at the work of Queens of Neon. Last year, they created the pop-up Beautiful Freaks banquet and in 2010 they stuffed a shed full of teddy bears and called it the Little House of Lost Toys.

    This year, they’ve made a short promo film to give you a flavour of the festival, with music provided by Lowb (or Andy Barlow from Lamb, as he’s known to his friends).

    The video picks up on several themes – shapeshifting, which is the theme of this year’s Masquerade Ball at the festival, and Ouroboros, the dragon that eats it’s own tail. And there was you thinking it was all about banging tunes. Now where’s my dragon outfit?

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … treat yourself royally

    June 7, 2012 @ 6:08 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Music: In order to live up to the hype, the mind boggles as to what Jay-Z and Kanye West are going to have to pull out of the bag at the O2 this weekend. Perhaps they will arrive clad in 20-foot-tall robot suits, fire assorted weapons at each other and destroy the venue around them while never missing a beat? Maybe they’ll go the opposite end of the spectrum and stroll on stage, sit on two high stools and swap wry stories of summer days spent as cheeky scamps, mucking around on the ol’ riverbank, while breaking into occasional song and – gasp – standing up for the odd key change?


  • Review: Forbidden Fruit – Day Three

    June 5, 2012 @ 5:55 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Day three was all change – there was a change in the temper and the tone of the musical line-up, but much more important was the dramatic change in the weather. The sun burst upon Kilmainham, and the muddy stretches and slippery slopes of Sunday night were transformed by Monday afternoon into dusty, solid ground and grassy hills, perfect for passing away a rock-oriented afternoon of musical magic.

    Throughout the festival, those who made it in early were rewarded with some cracking performances, but Chairlift put in an exceptional shift. All eyes were on lead singer Caroline Polachek, who seemed to seduce everyone in the tent with a magnetic performance (and who says leather trousers aren’t cool?), backed by a band firing on all synth-pop-rock cylinders. This was an absolute belter and anyone who wandered into the tent towards the end was left rueing that they may have missed one of the best performances of the entire festival. Come back soon then, yes? (more…)

  • Review: Forbidden Fruit – Day Two

    June 4, 2012 @ 3:08 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The early talk of the second day at Forbidden Fruit was all about one Canadian girl – Grimes took an early slot and charmed a crowd with her dreamy dance pop tunes. Arriving on stage wearing half an army surplus store, as she peeled off layers she unpacked loops, beats and a soaring vocal that had a full tent hanging on her every word. It wasn’t perfect, with some synchs running awry, but it only seemed to add to the charm of the set.

    Once she wound up her performance, it was a mass exodus for the main stage and the polished intricate pop of fellow Canadian band Austra. They’ve already proved they can cut it on festival stages here, following a rocking performance at Electric Picnic, and Katie Stelmanis soon had the main stage crowd bopping and whirling to those slick new wave beats. Her band seemed to spend more time dancing than playing instruments as they spun around the stage to whip up some proper festival fever. Given performances and a stage set up like this, Austra could easily take a slot higher in the billing and do it proper pop justice.

    It was almost a surprise to see and hear Little Green Cars on stage. Their guitar-driven, harmony-rich rock unusually stood out amid the new wave and electro fare on offer at this festival so far – and the contrast was worth savouring. The Irish band have been hotly tipped and it’s easy to see why. Solid, crafted rock hooks, and a straight-up three-vocal delivery around fresh hewn guitars, bass and drums made for a really satisfying festival set, with more than a touch of the Arcade Fires about it. The band are still cutting their teeth on bigger stages, so a bit more stagecraft will develop in time, but this was a strong performance to a beaming crowd. (more…)

  • Review: Forbidden Fruit – Day One

    June 3, 2012 @ 12:49 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Shit Robot was the early pacesetter in the Forbidden Fruit musical marathon on Saturday, setting up a solid, crafted set of strong electronica that also set the tone for the day. Popping up through a small window in a projection screen, which featured sharp visuals and sing-along moments, Marcus Lambkin took an early slot and made it his own. His neon green electric light facemask, clever animations and, not to mention, some serious tunes with cracking groove opened the day in style.

    On the main stage, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – a family of Chicagoans who call Dublin something of an occasional home and who almost seem a prerequisite at Irish festivals – were doing their best to raise spirits as the weather changed. Their big brassy arrangements had arms popping and a core crowd jumping, but it was when they shifted gear and let things take a tougher, more urban rap direction that they got the reaction they were looking for. (more…)

Search Pursued by a Bear