Review by James Hendicott
Photos by Kieran Frost
Having settled on a different support band to the triple-header for each of he FMC tour gigs, Dublin has hit the jackpot with a superb one-off performance from Cloud Castle Lake. Sadly, playing at 7.45am, no more than twenty people have made it in to catch the Dubliners clever, slow-building set. High pitched vocals and am atmospheric vibe that seems to wash over the listener suggest that the youngest and newest band on tonight’s bill are going places, despite being little more than an appetizer tonight.
Rumors are working their way around Whelan’s early arrivals that the Cork show suffered from the order the bands played in. Thankfully that’s not something that’s happened today. While having three co-headliners obviously creates an issue surrounding the band’s relative status, it makes sense from the crowd’s point of view to go by increasing energy levels, culminating in the abrupt stylings of And So I Watch You From Afar. That’s what happens tonight; Fionn Regan, therefore, is up first.
Performing alone with a small collection of electro-acoustic guitars, Regan mixes hits from his debut such as the delicate ‘Be Good Or Be Gone’ and ‘Hey rabbit’ with livelier newer efforts like the character-commentary of ‘Violent Demeanor’. Even two albums in, Regan still comes across a touch awkward on stage, rarely saying more than ‘this is a song called…’, but his lyrical quirks and well-honed vocals more than make up for any shortcomings.
Tonight’s sets come in at just half an hour, with turn over times an impressive fifteen minutes, but by the time Jape strolls out from backstage Whelans has gone from leisurely hanging back and soaking up the vibes to crammed in up to the rafters. Richie whips out two new songs early on, an impressive display of song writing given the recent progress with both the Redneck Manifesto and new side project Visionair. The second of these – we think the name is ‘Fire In The Hand’ – suffers from technical difficulties halfway through, but thanks to a backing track failure we’re treated to a far more unique live-instrument only version that’s startlingly tight when produced spur of the moment. Jape knows what his audience are here for, though, and the buzz really kicks up a notch with lively renditions of ‘Floating’, ‘I Was A Man’ and ‘Strike Me Down, the last of which features Richie begging the ceiling to open up and allow lightening to drop him to the floor.
The most vibrant of tonight’s acts is still to come, though. And So I Watch You From Afar supported Them Crooked Vultures on their European tour earlier this year, and came back telling stories of a beer or two with John Paul Jones and performing to packed arenas in Austria. Back in tonight’s more modest surroundings they still perform like their lives depend on it, blasting their way across stage to brash yet perfectly timed rock rhythms. It takes an impressive range for an instrumental rock band to make an impact, yet in efforts like closer ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’ ASIWYFA demonstrate that their sheer ferocity is matched by some equally impressive twiddly, subtle moments.
‘D Is For Django The Bastard’ (or ‘Dublin, you bastards’ as it’s rebranded for the night) sets heads banging early on, before ‘S Is For Salamander’ and ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ mingle with the new single ‘Straight Through The Sun’ in offering a clever aural assault that – lover of heavy guitar music or not – it’s impossible not to be impressed by. The technical ability of these lads is astounding, and the impulsive fist-flinging, stage-leaping and imposing chords played high over the audience make them one of the most watchable bands we’ve had the pleasure of seeing this year.
Perhaps the cleverest aspect of this tour is in the chance for fans of any of the three headline names on offer to sample the music of two other successful Irish acts – in fact they have little choice, as the running order’s kept fairly quiet before kick off. By the last night it’s clear that all the kinks have been ironed out and the three-piece headline set up are all as happy as each other. While thirty minute sets are a little short of ideal, what this set up does do is give a great showcase to every act involved. On tonight’s evidence, each of them stepped up to the brink.