The Scratch at Whelan’s, Dublin, 7th April 2019

It’s not often you’d go to an acoustic-based gig in Whelan’s and expect to see a load of heads crowd surfing, but The Scratch are no ordinary acoustic-based band. One of the most interesting bands to hit the Irish music scene in years, the Dublin 12 based quartet brought their unique blend of heavy metal, traditional folk music and local humour to a packed out Whelan’s for a night of high energy, good tunes and even better craic.

Preceded by a rousing set from fellow folkish messers The Deadlians (whose song I Don’t Wanna Ride Yer Aul One Anymore is a comedic masterpiece) and hyped up by a few jigs and reels courtesy of tap shoe donning dancer “The Legs”, The Scratch hit the stage to a raucous ovation and as much crowd participation as you could possibly imagine right from the get go – the lads were practically drowned out by the full house chanting “but sure didn’t he forget to get back to me” during Flaker.

In between and during numbers, The Scratch gave back as much as they got; handing out cans of Guinness, cajon player/vocalist Lango ordering the audience to take a seat on the floor, telling us “I want at least 16 to 24 bars outta yiz before anyone even thinks of standing back up, is that alri’?!”. The gratitude for the affection afforded them was on full display, guitarist/vocalist Jordo exclaiming at one point “we’re only messin’, and ye’re messin’ with us!”

While it’s true that the lads are the purest messers, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are very, very capable musicians and for all the “keep going sure it’s grand” attitude in their lyricism, on cuts from their ‘Old Songs’ and more recent ‘The Whole Buzz’ EPs there is a wealth of deft, masterful and often beautiful musical interplay and harmony; whether on cuts like the Jordo penned instrumental The Road to Ballyshannon or on recent single Old Dog – the latter being a highlight of the evening with Lango taking a short break only to re-emerge wearing the grotesque skin mask from the same song’s video and be crowd surfed back to the stage.

Speaking with us earlier this year, guitarist Dock reminisced about the band’s debut gig in Smithfield, referring to his, Jordo and Lango’s previous exploits. “After that show it was: ‘That might as well have been a Red Enemy gig’. And then from that moment it was: ‘This is who we are’. We’re never gonna not have that metal influence and energy. It’s just gonna sound different.” How appropriate then that during mock set closer Get It Right Up Ye, Red Enemy frontman Kevin Letford donned that same mask to deliver the signature growls that punctuate the track’s outro.

After a brief break, the lads would re-emerge in frocks and floral crowns to play crowd favourites Cúnla and Punisher before taking their leave for the last time, but there was never a feeling of The Scratch having overstayed their welcome.

Jordo lamented at one point how shite it was going to be for all of us to have to go back to work on Monday morning, and considered not going himself. If there’s any justice in the world, with live shows as good as that, he and the others won’t have to.