Echo & The Bunny Men @ Camden Crawl Dublin

One of the most anticipated events of the year, The Dublin Camden Crawl kicked off last night. Team Goldenplec spread themselves across the capital to the best of their ability and the following were their highlights.

Echo and The Bunnymen – The Button Factory

Post punk, indie dinosaurs Echo and The Bunnymen proved they can still deliver the goods on stage with a rousing greatest hits laden set. The opening barrage of Going Up and Rescue from their début album ‘Crocodiles’ (1980) set the tone for the evening; the latter quickly reminding us that Will Sergeant’s place in the annals of British guitar players is assured. Head to toe in black, a milk drinking Ian McCullough’s vocal often resembled a John Cooper Clarke growl throughout tonight’s performance. Now in his fifties he maintains the swagger of his youth and the God-given ability to stand still and look effortlessly cool.

Seven Seas and Villiers Terrace were well received before Bring On The Dancing Horses ignited the crowd into song. Rust from 1999’s ‘What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?’ was an unexpected inclusion and sadly illustrates that the next classic Bunnymen track is a long time overdue.

“This is the greatest song ever written” blasts McCullough introducing The Killing Moon before Echo and The Bunnymen deliver a performance which pushes the acoustic bedrock of the track to the fore.  In doing so it illustrates how much of an influence Echo and The Bunnymen were upon Brit Pop and in particular the likes of Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft.  Despite the sing along atmosphere created by The Killing Moon it is topped by The Cutter which is delivered beautifully.

The encore sees Nothing Ever Lasts Forever from 1997’s comeback album ‘Evergreen’ segue into Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild side before Lips Like Sugar brings a memorable performance to an end. It’s clear from tonight that although Echo and The Bunnymen are no longer prolific songwriters, they are far from extinct.

Heathers – The Unitarian Church

The Unitarian Church was the setting for Heathers’ first set of the night (they played at the Workmans’ almost straight after) and the stunning setting was ideal for the MacNamara twins to showcase their stunning vocal prowess. The girls’ voices weave and interlock with each other so effortlessly, and the basic accompaniment of just one electric and one acoustic guitar compliments them so well. Remember When was particularly breath-taking, with its stop-start verse that runs into an energetic and uplifting chorus. Waiter was another excellent performance, and the passion put into the performance is plain to see. The chemistry between the girls is exceptional, perhaps to be expected from identical twins, but remarkable nevertheless.

Swords – The Button Factory

Swords have been doing the rounds on the live scene for a few years, but are only beginning to crack the consciousness now with their single All The Boys receiving a fair dose of radio play in the last few weeks. While that song may sound like a band trying to do a Fight Like Apes, it belies what Swords really are as a band.

Granted, they share a number of common characteristics with their musical forebears – synths, keys, bass and drums leading the instrumental charge with bright, female vocals on top – the two bands take the elements in very different directions. Playing to an initially small crowd (we’ll put this down to the glorious Dublin sunshine) Swords play in a much bigger soundscape: their music seems to fill all of the empty space in the Button Factory.

There is an element of restraint in the trio’s indie-electro. Lead singer Diane Anglim’s vocals always seem poised and calculated throughout – similar in style, if not sound, to Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh – though never cold. It’s Jarlath Canning’s bass playing that truly sticks out, however. His fingers move up and down the fret board quicker that any you would regularly see on the four-stringed instrument. It is the electronically distorted sound from it that provides the most compelling piece of the Dubliner’s make-up.

Altogether, it works very well and Swords perform the difficult task of getting the unconverted moving, with Chasm and the aforementioned All The Boys the key factors in this. They are a band on the rise and this performance only goes to further reaffirm that.

Little Bear – The Unitarian Church

Little Bear followed Heathers in the church, and they put in an excellent performance. Devil’s A Songbird was the opener, and using some kind of trickery on a phone, created a haunting whistle that was spine-tingling. Frontman Steven McCool’s (awesome name, right!?!) voice is stunning, managing to be delicate yet powerful all at once. The backing vocals are equally impressive, and the instrumentation for every song is excellent, the piano and acoustic guitar create a pleasant atmosphere, while the bass guitar and drums fill out the sound when necessary. The band keep up the flow of beautiful arranged ballads the whole set with I’d Let You Win and Few and Far Between both standing out as two truly marvellous songs, that stick in your head long after they’ve finished playing. A hugely impressive performance that really marks Little Bear out as a band to watch in the future.

Sleep Thieves – Sweeneys’

Sleep Thieves played at Sweeneys’ at about nine o’clock and opened with the brilliant Fortress. A drum machine pounds out a relentless beat while hazy synths swirl around dreamily. Brennan’s voice pierces through this gorgeous collage of sound like a knife. Her vocals are absolutely amazing, and her presence on-stage is utterly mesmerizing. The band is not all about electronics though, heavily effected guitars feature heavily on Islands and the variety in instrumentation helps the band keep things interesting. Oceans is an aptly named song with waves of synths crashing around your ears and Brennan’s voice sounding like a siren’s call. The fact that most of these songs are making their first live outing makes the news of a new album all the more exciting. There might be a lot of excitement recently over the Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches, but on the basis of tonight’s performance, Sleep Thieves are definitely as good, if not better, than their dream-pop counterparts. Different Time finished off the band’s set nicely, and allowed plenty of time to run over to the Button Factory for Echo and the Bunnymen.

Nanu Nanu – The Workman’s Club

Alien pop duo Nanu Nanu are Glitterface and Marc2 the sci-fi alter egos of Laura Sheeran and Marc Aubele (Bell x1). The band came to prominence thanks to the infectious single Pocket of Gold earlier this year. However, anyone expecting a set of dance floor anthems will have been sadly disappointed as the majority of Nanu Nanu’s set consisted of staid mid tempo sci-fi material which failed to set pulses racing whilst a cover of Relax! by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is an oddity best forgotten. Control however delighted the crowd thanks to its high energy levels which were mirrored by the band. Onstage Sheeran’s alter ego Glitterface resembles an intergalactic queen circa 1980’s Hollywood and she slithers across the stage using his chiselled midriff to great effect. Glitterface’s vocals were impressive throughout the performance especially when she held long notes which delivered an otherworldly feel to proceedings.

The crowd soon grew weary of the mid tempo material however and a second helping of Pocket of Gold was demanded and duly delivered with some aplomb. Nanu Nanu clearly have potential, but at present they rely too much on the gimmicky elements of their alter egos rather than the quality of their material. But as Pocket of Gold and Control illustrate when they do it well, they do it well.

Fight Like Apes – The Globe

With the Fundit campaign for their new album struggling to hit required heights, you could be forgiven for thinking that the love for Fight Like Apes is waning. Saturday proved quite the opposite as, even before Echo and the Bunnymen finished in the nearby Button Factory, queues for the Globe, and the Apes performance there, stretched down George’s Street to the emblematic ‘Why Go Bald?’ sign.

Inside (we won’t bore you with the details of our miraculous entry) people were packed in like sardines in a crushed tin box, with the bar and toilet almost inaccessible. It all proved worth it though for the fervent, if overheated, crowd. Even on a temporarily constructed stage with a set littered with new, unheard material, Fight Like Apes proved yet again that they are the best live Irish act of a generation.

Their shows are a constant upbeat sugar-rush of obnoxious, electro pop in the most glorious way possible. It’s almost impossible to resist getting caught up in the excitement, especially as the band rip through classics such as Lend Me Your Face and Jenny Kelly. A constant sweaty bounce is the audience’s only reasonable course of action. When MayKay enters the crowd for the latter half of Jake Summers, the Globe shakes like it has never experienced before.

Finishing off with a duo of Snore Bore Whore and ‘encore’ – they just ducked down behind their instruments while encouraging the crowd to chant “One more tune” – of Battlestations, the band have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. If this proves to be the start of Fight Like Apes last hurrah, it’s certainly a high point for them to go out on. If not (as we all hope), it’s a fantastic live band performing right at the peak of their powers.

Daithí – The Mercantile

Daithí manages to do something that many artists across the wide spectrum of dance genres struggle to do. He makes it look like he is actually working and not just pushing play and pretending. His focus and enthusiasm is infectious as he bounds from one piece of equipment to the next hammering buttons as if his life depended on it. His use of the fiddle furthers this believability by acting as a conduit between man and machine; adding a humanity and unique texture to his compositions, often absent in dance music, in the process. However, Daithi hasn’t just found a niche and stuck to it he’s evolved.  This evolution is evident in The Mercantile where Daithi delivers an uplifting set of material which emits itself as much from the man himself as the machines which relay his commands.

Owensie – Upstairs at Sweeney’s

For those more familiar with Owensie from a few years ago, you’ll notice a few changes if you came to see him upstairs in Sweeney’s early on Saturday. Michael Owens has grown a lot of hair in that time as well as five new band mates.

Taking the stage late and unsoundchecked after some technical difficulties, there can be confusing Owens’ soft, delicate vocals. What you might not recognise from the man who brought us the fantastic José Gonzalez-like sounding ‘Aliens’, is the additional depth brought about by drums, bass and sax among others.

It’s a folk sound somewhere between Elliott Smith and Neil Young that dominates the sound of ‘Citizens’; from which most to the evening’s set was taken. Certainly live, The Distance of Her Love sounds like a Neil Young song with added jazz leanings, as though the Manitoba man were soundtracking a noir film. Owens hasn’t lost his campaigning edge either with Hang Your Head Low and Rogue Trader as pointed as everything he’s done before

There are some problems with the performance though. The crowd is never really fully engaged and a lot of chatter takes place throughout. Some of the added instruments don’t really tally up either. While the saxophone adds here and there – especially on the ambitious, experimental closer – the shaker occasionally gives the music a tropical island sound that doesn’t seem to fit with the intended musical direction. Still an act worth checking out, Owensie didn’t really get it going on the night.


Camden Crawl Dublin – Saturday – Photo Gallery

Photos: Kieran Frost