I make no secret of the fact that I think a lot of Irish music doing the rounds nowadays is very mediocre. Therefore, when Connected assigned me to stand in the middle of a Dublin shipping dock on a Saturday night in the middle of November, the only thing that was tearing me away from the warmth of my sitting room and Jedward (now there’s quality…) was the draw of a certain Jeremy Hickey and his wonderful drumstick-wielding ways. Hickey, who is better known by his ironic moniker, Rarely Seen Above Ground (RSAG), was on just before headliners New Young Pony Club, though, so whilst waiting I hung around and took advantage of the free Coors Light and ate chips to keep warm. Oh, and I checked out a couple of bands too…
The Dublin indie quartet played songs from their debut album, Trees Dream in Algebra, to get the crowd warmed up. Phantom FM playlist stalwarts such as ‘You Are Here’ and ‘This is Goodbye’ provided plenty of fodder for the mass of indie fans that had amalgamated at the foot of the stage. In fairness to the band, ‘This is Goodbye’ is a catchy, melodic number that suits the singer’s androgynous voice but, on a whole, Codes are a poor man’s Keane who probably aspire to be more like Muse, yet haven’t quite got the balls to pull it off (although Muse are the most overrated band of our generation, so it’s much of a muchness). They seemed to placate the crowd – each to their own – but at this point I was still wishing I had stayed in and watched X-Factor.
Tiny Magnetic Pets
With nods to Kraftwerk, Stereolab and David Bowie, Tiny Magnetic Pets emulate some of electronica’s greatest innovators with an admirable aptitude for their chosen field. They seem to have grasped the concept of ‘less is more’ on a lot of tracks (‘See What I See’, ‘Spinning’); letting sparsity speak volumes whilst dually avoiding the messy synth-orgy that so many Irish electro-pop outfits get drawn into due to over eagerness and inexperience. Saying this, tracks like ‘Control Me’ prove that the Psychonavigation-signed duo can still hold their own in the dancefloor-filling stakes. Ok, so they’re not breaking any moulds with singer Paula Glimmer’s Allison Goldfrapp-esque vocals, but their understanding and usage of analogue instrumentation is usually spot on. Their cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Love is a Stranger’ was particularly noteworthy and there were more than a few heads mouthing the words to their biggest hit to date, ‘Girl in a White Dress’.
After some time spent admiring industrial paraphernalia that had been transformed to fit the scene – 40ft shipping containers used as projection screens – RSAG was announced as the next act and the crowd started to heave en masse towards the stage. As the only artist to have been booked to play all five Coors Light Peak gigs (in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Limerick), the Kilkenny man was undoubtedly one of the main draws for many ticketholders.
His debut album Organic Sampler is one of the best Irish records to have been released in recent years and his live sets never fail to disappoint. With his trademark ‘graphic band’ visuals especially striking thanks to the industrialised backdrop, things were off to a good start. Whoring through tracks from the aforementioned Organic Sampler, RSAG’s short set surged through the crowd like a combustible burst of live energy. Live, his deadpan, Ian Curtis-like voice is certainly less-than-comprehensible but I guess it’s a matter of personal taste as to whether that takes away from the songs or not.
Personally, I think it’s neither here nor there and, in fact, may even add to his renowned reputation as a great live performer. Flawless vocals can often be strangely unsatisfying at a live gig but, again, it’s down to personal opinion on that front. It’s hard to pick out any one highlight of the set; ‘Talk Back, Crawl Back’, ‘The Climb’, ‘Days Go By’… the list goes on. I would strongly urge you to check out RSAG before the rest of the world cotton on to one of our most exciting musical assets.
Ok, sycophantic fawning out of the way… let’s move on.
Drag Queen Bingo / Extreme Rhythm
Filling the set up time that was going on over at the main stage, regular Twisted Pepper DJ duo Drag Queen Bingo teamed up with Wexford-based percussion ensemble, Extreme Rhythm, on the smaller stage to inject some vigour into the frost-stiffened limbs of the crowd. Energetic drum pounding fused with favourite club classics such as Paul Van Dyk’s ‘For an Angel’ were definite crowd pleasers.
New Young Pony Club
Considering that New Young Pony Club (NYPC) haven’t released any new material since their 2007 Mercury-nominated debut, Fantastic Playroom, the band’s headliner status felt more like a last minute panic by the booking agents than a carefully planned move. That fact is compounded further by looking at the quality of Coors Light Peak’s previous Irish headliners: Reverend & The Makers, The Charlatans, Fight Like Apes and Jape.
Call me ungrateful, but I felt a little hard done by on behalf of us Dubliners. Nonetheless, onetime super-hyped singles such as ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘The Bomb’ persuaded me to drop the cynicism for a nano-second and give NYPC a chance. Result? Meh. The crowd bopped away regardless in the ever-increasing cold, thanks to a steady stream of Coors Light and an admirably energetic set from a so-so band. They did play some new material but in my humble opinion there was nothing earth-shattering going on.
Overall, the gig was visually impactive and well organised. Feeder busses ferried punters to and from the city centre with no obvious hiccups and security seemed to be extra vigilant; perhaps due to the somewhat perilous setting. Just give us a bit of sunshine to go with our ice cold beers next time and we’ll be happy.
Review: Sheena Madden
Photography: Sara Devine