We learned a couple of things this weekend, one being that it’s not advisable to subject your ears to the sheer ferocity of Queens of the Stone Age and Bitch Falcon in a 48hr period without the assistance of earplugs. In fact it’s a scientific formula for tinnitus, folks. But damn it, we just couldn’t resist the one-two of guitar goodness. And while it would be wholly unfair to compare these two performances – two bands in vastly different venues at vastly different stages of their careers – it must be noted that there is something infinitely more pleasurable in seeing a bone-shaking rock’n’roll band in an intimate venue where you are never more than spitting distance away from the action than in a vast, cavernous mega dome.
Despite what you may be led to believe by Irish commercial radio beige lists and RTE’s chat show guests, there is much more to Irish music than four white guys with perfect hair and broken hearts. Beyond these interchangeable acts there is a wealth of hip-hop and exciting rock acts. While Rusangano Family are the crème de la crème of Irish hip-hop, the quality of the Dublin scene is such that it now rivals London as the epicentre of European R’N’B culture, so much so that you could even call it Hip-lin.
But there is also another revolution at hand in the Irish music scene which is the total antithesis of the beige rock scene that Ireland has spearheaded to global success in recent years. A group of blistering rock acts such as Oh Boland and Thumper have emerged, with Bitch Falcon as the undeniable champions of this rock’n’roll revival.
Two of those bands are on display tonight. Hypersonic four-piece Thumper are joined by Girl Band’s Daniel Fox on bass – Fox is currently putting the finishing production touches to Thumper’s next release. Led by Oisin Leahy Furlong, Thumper snarl through frantic swirls of trashy yet melodic rock such as The Loser which at times echoes the carefree malaise of early Super Furry Animals, with perky vibes arm-wrestling against a barrage of feedback and angular guitar solos.
When Leahy Furlong leaps into the crowd repeatedly smashing his guitar against Whelan’s floor before throwing it through the crowd into the drum kit, injuring himself in the process. He barrel rolls onto the stage and continues the song with gusto before limping off to rapturous applause. You can’t help but feel that this is exactly what the world needs now. Thumper will leave most bands feeling inadequate and nobody will want to go on after them.
But, Thumper are the perfect warm-up act for Bitch Falcon’s brand of molten rock’n’roll. Where most bands would run away, Bitch Falcon relish the challenge of following that earthquake. And they do, once the drums have been re-assembled correctly.
Arguably the finest guitarist of her generation, Lizzie Fitzpatrick is also fast becoming one of the most captivating front people in the Irish music scene as a whole. Fitzpatrick headbangs and crowd surfs and crowd solos her way through the set. Her raw impassioned vocal can at times suffer from frantic nature of Bitch Falcon’s live performance but these imperfections only seem to add to the authenticity of Bitch falcon. Fitzpatrick also has an impressive vocal weapon – a sustain technique – which allows her to utilise her voice as if it was a synthesizer. All of these things combine to make Fitzpatrick a formidable presence on (and off) stage.
Where some bands struggle with line-up changes Bitch Falcon seem to go from strength to strength, having previously gone from a four-piece to a three-piece. More recently, their original bassist left to be replaced by Cork’s finest son Barry O’Sullivan – like a duck to the proverbial, O’Sullivan has somehow managed to make Bitch Falcon even heavier thanks to the way he attacks the bass. His rock-solid performances allow for Fitzpatrick to push herself further and further onstage, as evidenced by the crowd surfing guitar solo during the animalistic Syncope.
Other highlights include what’s probably the Irish rock track of 2017, Of Heart, which makes use of the Black Sabbath patented equation that slow is heavier than fast, and rifftastic 2016 single TMJ, which highlights Fitzpatrick’s aforementioned guitar chops.
With bands like Bitch Falcon and Thumper the future of Irish rock is in safe hands. And of course we didn’t need a drum solo because QOTSA did two the night before. How considerate of them.