Third Smoke at Whelan’s, Dublin on Saturday 18th March 2017

For many years now Third Smoke have been the big fish in the small pond that is Dundalk, amassing a huge following in their home county of Louth, but perhaps the comfort zone of small town heroes has done as much harm for Third Smoke as it has good. Perhaps the lack of local competition failed to push them on in the way the horde of bands in bigger towns would.

But there has been a sea change in approach in the last number of years that has seen Dundalk’s finest attempting to harness their potential and repurpose it with a view to taking on national acts for a place at the top table.

Where once many of the songs would have cumbersome elongated arrangements that were no doubt immense fun to play, Third Smoke have decided to rebuild themselves in an image that is equally enjoyable for the listener as it is for themselves on stage.

Tonight’s performance indicates that they are much closer than ever before to becoming that household name. Singles Man Made Fire and Summer Breeze showcase this more measured approach to songwriting whilst still embracing the quirky nature of Third Smoke.

Although singer Hugh Donlan is clearly the frontman, there’s a much great dynamic at work here.  Almost every member instrument-hops frequently without either the show losing pace or the quality of the delivery dipping. This gives Third Smoke a much more collective ‘real band’ vibe than many of the other acts in their genre – who in reality are nothing more than a singer-songwriter with several other guys in the shadows.

This is never more evident than on the tub-thumping Heavy Sunshine, with its rousing four-part-plus harmony vocals and frenetic double-drumming sections. Third Smoke are on the up and their contemporaries should be worried because they are already better than many of them. If they get in the studio with the right producer they will soon start overtaking them.

Photos by Oisin Feeney