Putting 2019 to bed with a bang: The best end-of-year rock and pop gigs

Pillow Queens, Blizzards, Walking on Cars, Gavin James, Lankum and Christy Moore

Pillow Queens will sing in the New Year at Dublin’s Workman’s Club

Pillow Queens will sing in the New Year at Dublin’s Workman’s Club


Saturday December 28

Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co Louth; also Sunday 29, Dolan’s, Limerick

Newry brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy aren’t the most prolific of songwriters, but quality should always best quantity, and so it proves. Besides, while record sales for the two of them clearly aren’t what they used to be, it is as a live proposition that the brothers continue to make ends meet. There is, of course, a degree of ’90s nostalgia with tracks such as Mary, Drag My Bad Name Down, She Hits Me and One More Shot, but their most recent album, Sugar Island (released three years ago) still proves they can write a bunch of superior pop/folk songs. Age shall not wither them etc. TCL

Jam Park, Dublin

This is the tricky part of December, where you’ve got one hand in the 10th tin of Roses and one eye on the door. Cabin fever is in full swing but, instead of becoming one with the couch, use this gig as your escape. Join Mano Le Tough and John Talabot as they go back-to-back in Jam Park with Avalon Emerson, New Jackson and Sara Miller at this tasty electronic feast, and put some pep back into your step. LB

Spirit Store, Dundalk, Co Louth

Back pounding the pavement (as one of their recent songs would have it) after a long enough hiatus, The Blizzards still deliver the kind of music that fans of Sum 41 and Blink-182 could get into. They are an acquired taste for some (the band’s new record, The Last Great Algorithm, received a one-star review in this paper – “lyrical depth and musical imagination were given little consideration on their first album in 11 years”) yet, in the main, their brand of guitar-driven pumped-up pogo shtick is received well. End-of-year punk/pop party vibes alert? Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. TCL

Cyprus Avenue, Cork ; also Monday 30, Róisín Dubh, Galway; Tuesday 31, Whelan’s, Dublin

It’s always good when a music act has the sense to pay tribute to the small venues where they cut their teeth and made mistakes, and which assisted their growth. Northern Ireland’s And So I Watch You From Afar performed their self-titled debut album at such venues, and so 10 years later they have decided to bring it back home, so to speak. For fans of this fine (mostly) instrumental unit, these dates will be, so the band say, the only and last chance to see/hear the debut being played in full. Expect, also, tracks from their most recent albums, 2015’s Heirs and 2017’s The Endless Shimmering. Word of caution: strong footwear and earplugs advised. TCL

Monday, December 30

Royal Theatre, Castlebar, Co Mayo; also Tuesday 31, INEC, Killarney, Co Kerry

One of Ireland’s most successful songwriters rounds off the year with some provincial shows that will no doubt give audience members cherished memories and warm hearts. If there is one thing that Gavin James does well it is drawing a zig-zag line from the top of your heart to the bottom of it. In other words, the man’s modus operandi is fractured relationships and binding emotions. He is also a dab hand at attaching these to sweet pop melodies, so if you are suitably inclined then be prepared to swoon. TCL

Sound House, Dublin

Open Ear was one of the best Irish music festivals this summer, and while the mostly techno festival won’t be returning to Sherkin Island until 2021, they’re bringing their wares to Dublin. To make their trip up from Cork worthwhile, they’ve got a rake of delectable performers for all. They’ve got live sets from Rising Damp, AGENESIS by Robert Curgenven and Kat McDowall and Ngoni Egan, and DJ sets from Rian Ryan, Capricorn, DJ Egg, Natalia Beylis and Glenn O’Brien. Tickets are €12/€15. LB

Tuesday December 31

Custom House Quay, Dublin

This is the capital’s biggie, the one the organisers hope will attract the crowds, not just for the music but also the fireworks. Headlining the event – and following a highly successful year – is Kerry band Walking On Cars. They will be joined by two up-and-coming singers, Aimee and Lisa McHugh, both of whom have 2020 in their sights. Second on the bill are Northern Ireland’s Ash, a band that continue to deliver superlative punk/pop crackers. But enough about crackers – all you want is fireworks, right? Ticketholders will be pleased to know that they can enjoy the “Liffey Lights Midnight Moment” (that is, gazillions of fireworks) from the safety of Custom House Quay. Also worth noting is that on January 1st, there is a free family-friendly music event at Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square at 3pm, featuring Kila, Wyvern Lingo, Brian Deady and Luz. TCL

The Bernard Shaw, Dublin

New Year’s Eve can either be the stuff of dreams or a real nightmare, but if you plan it right, you can hit the sweet spot. Avoiding the crush that is town, the Bodytonic and Bernard Shaw crew are throwing a party with Club Comfort. With the alternative club night’s founders Roo Honeychild, DJ Selky and Baliboc leading the charge on the decks and other guest appearances, they’ll give you the low-key and high-tempo party that you deserve. LB

Róisín Dubh, Galway

While special guests have yet to be confirmed, you can predict that this Galway-based gig has enough appeal with its already-announced co-headliners to satisfy the paying customer. It has been a really solid year for both Lankum and Junior Brother, with each music act releasing albums that smoothly found their way onto those fiddly end-of-year lists. The latter’s Pull the Right Rope (“wide-eyed wonders and keen observations,” noted this paper) and the former’s The Livelong Day (“Nothing less than a thorough exploration and devastation of folk’s most conventional tropes is Lankum’s impressive game,” praised the Guardian) each recalibrated folk music in ways few had thought possible. In short, what a night-into-day this will be. TCL

Dali, Cork

Although David Kitt has regularly played down in Dali, he has never done a live New Jackson set there. So, ending one year with a bang and starting another one with even more gusto, he will certainly be making up for lost time. Switching between the electronic world of New Jackson and the more acoustic side of things under his own name, Kitt is an essential part of the live scene in Ireland, so this will be a damn fine way to say goodbye to 2019. LB

Workman’s Club, Dublin

A good year for Pillow Queens concludes on its final day. Indeed, you could say with some level of certainty that it has been a good three years for the Dublin group – they formed in late 2016 and quickly established themselves as a unit to be reckoned with via a sequence of EPs (Calm Girls, State of the State) and single tracks such as their latest emotive, instrumentally crisp single, Brothers. Tonight’s gig will feature special guests, layers of glitter/confetti, and end-of-year celebrations. That’s the party vibe; the music, however, will be, effectively, a preview of their highly anticipated forthcoming album. TCL

The Sound House, Dublin

Celebrating the fact that they reached their fundraising target to set up a studio in their new home in the Complex, and raising a glass to the end of the decade, Dublin Digital Radio are calling on some of their finest music selectors to kick 2020 off with some craic, donk and everything in between. R Kitt, OBQ and Faro P are confirmed as headliners so come and celebrate some of the best people in Irish music and Irish nightlife. LB

Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast

A week after his 71st birthday, legendary Belfast mover, shaker, former record shop and company owner Terri Hooley will play his last-ever New Year’s Eve DJ gig. “I’d rather go out with a bit of a bang than just fade,” the man says, but in case you get the wrong impression, be aware that next year will see Hooley bid farewell to the Irish music scene with 20 DJ nights throughout the year in locations dotted around north, south, east and west. We don’t mind drifting into cliche here: good vibrations are guaranteed from the guy who took the words from the Beach Boys and made them his own. TCL

Killyon Manor, Co Meath

Another Love Story are throwing a BYOB New Year’s Party to start 2020 off with the magic and beauty that they do so well, with music filling the Shift Shack, the ballroom, the front room and the lawn of Killyon Manor. This is a bus-only event, with buses leaving Dublin 8 at 7.15pm and dropping people back at 3.30am, and glass is not permitted on site. Put your trust in ALS to take care of you from start to finish. LB

Thursday January 2

Vicar Street, Dublin; also Friday 3, same venue

What songs he hasn’t performed and what venues he hasn’t played in could be documented on a fingernail – truly, Christy Moore is Ireland’s greatest living folk chronicler, and he continues on his considered way with more gigs at perhaps the venue he has performed in the most. Ostensibly plugging his latest album, Magic Nights, a live double record featuring almost 30 tracks of mostly treasured favourites, Moore will no doubt flit from decade to decade in search of a fitting song that will fill the room with warmth and recognition. TCL

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