Brewing Up A Storm: An Ode to Independent Music in Ireland
Recently I’ve been asking myself what makes me consume so much Irish music. There are reasons beyond “It’s good”. I thought about why it was important to me and wrote my thoughts down in a single flow of consciousness. Here it all is, unedited. I apologise in advance.
Part 1: YouMe
A moment of change for me came last year when I finally got to see Adebisi Shank live. I had been listening to them for about a year previous to that and I waited patiently for them to finally come to Cork. FMC graciously satiated my thirst. The line-up included Heathers and O Emperor. Both of whom were very good on the night but I had eyes for only one. They came out to set up their equipment and I stared intently at their faces, noticing the absence of one particular red mask. ”Oh! That’s what Vin looks like.” After a while, it began. Lar let a few chords ring out before muting them and allowing Mick to begin International Dreambeat. I believe it was the first night of that tour so they were ready to give it socks, not that they ever don’t. International Dreambeat stuttered it’s way toward that cathartic explosion of guitars. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for anything in my entire life. Here I was, about to hear Adebisi Shank live. “Oh eh eh oh eh he ee ah eh”, International Dreambeat gained momentum. Mick hit his drum and an eternity passed before we were flanked on all sides by an explosion of sound. There was no escaping it. You couldn’t sit idly by sipping your whiskey and discussing the subtle genius of Naked Lunch. This demanded your attention. My excitement disappeared and was replaced, for a moment, by a feeling that I’ll never be able to describe again, it was closer to fear than anything else, and then replaced by absolute joy. This feeling held for the rest of the night. When all was said and done I walked up to Lar and talked to him for a bit. I told him how much I enjoyed the set and a smile broke across his face. That’s a great moment. I’ve never really been starstruck but standing in-front of Vin all I could blurt out was some nonsense about Cork and Adebisi Shank and how they should come together more often. He endured 20 minutes of this while also replying with words. Words that I do not remember but at the time they made perfect sense and made me deliriously happy. This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank might as well have grown limbs, patted me on the head and acknowledged my existence. I bought 4 freddos, walked back to my girlfriend’s house and fell asleep 10 minutes into 10 Things I Hate About You. I’ll never forget that night.
A month earlier something similar happened when I went to see ASIYWFA, I spoke to Tony for 10 minutes. At all the gigs I went to in the Quad or any of the gigs I go to now if I enjoyed it I always try to tell someone from the band. In those seconds or minutes where you exchange a few words you get to connect to the artist on another level, a more human level. This person whose entire being is composed of bleeps and bloops in your mind is having a drink and enjoying themselves. Personally, I love this aspect of local music. After years of “You guys mean a lot to us! All 50,000 of you who stand here” being the only one-way dialogue I could have with the artists I liked, it was rewarding to be able to tell someone what their music meant to me and see them appreciate it. It’s definitely something that draw me back and draws me in deeper every time.
Part 2: A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes a Long Way
When the Richter Collective announced it was closing, all corners of Ireland belatedly wished them the best. On the surface all that happened is a label closed. None of the bands broke up so we still get enjoy them. Mick and Barry will still be involved in music. The roof that was over the artists on RC had collapsed but they’ll move to a different home. However, RC was always imbued with a unshakable sense of community. The Richter Collective wasn’t just the bands and the people directly involved. It was everyone. Everyone who ever thrashed around sweatily at one their gigs, bought their releases or shook their hand after a gig. RC helped people create some of their fondest memories and soundtracked them with some of their favourite music. Needless to say I have my ticket for Nov. 24 and I’ll up there right at front. When the final dissonant chord rings out at that final gig it’ll never end because the relationships that RC inspired won’t end. Irish music has a brilliant community spirit and, while I won’t attribute that directly to RC, they certainly drove it forward.
You can be as involved in or a detached from the community as you want. There’s a place for everyone, writers, photographers, artists, pumpkin carvers, musicians, promoters and people who just want to make friends. It’s great to see people bond over a love of good music. One particular part of Ireland that really benefits from and contributes to the sense of community are the independent record stores all over Ireland. Plug’d, Elastic Witch , Wing Nut Records (Ray WingNut is going to take over the world, lads) and a load more. I go into Plug’d fairly regularly, if I want an album I’ll always buy it there. Even if it’s a euro or two dearer than HMV or wherever. It’s not just a place where you buy a product and leave, you invest in an important establishment. You help Albert and Jim pay their bills while they tell you what new releases they like or why Spurs are the fucking bee knees. Most of the time when I go in I just want to chat. I stand there for ages browsing the same shelves over and over just so I can stay a bit longer, I’ll put an album behind the counter and pretend I have to get money just so I have a reason to come back again later. Plug’d is probably my favourite place on earth.
I’m sure it’s that same sense of community that has incited Nay over at Harmless Noise or Nialler9 or countless other Irish music blogs to write great articles on great bands. It inspires artists to work creatively with each other and that’s pretty fantastic. It makes people contribute with whatever skill it is that they have. Everyone can be involved if they want to. That’s another thing that makes me come back.
Part 3: Heavy Lighting
I think my two points feed each other. Irish music is more than an scene of musicians. It’s a community, a collective of people. It goes beyond being merely about music to being about connections, collaborations and relationships. The music is fantastic but I think the people are more so. Remember, without you it doesn’t exist and without it you lose a slice of meaning and direction. It reminds us that we are good people and it helps us acknowledge that we are only as good as what we do. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Those ideas you have for a gig, podcast, band or blog can come to fruition in the fertile soil of Ireland. Storm your local record store. Storm your local venue. Connect, collaborate, create. Get involved.