Gig Review – Deathcrusher Tour, October 26th, Vicar St

It’s rare that such a good lineup comes to Dublin. I’ve written about Carcass before and without wanting to sound overly dramatic or clichéd, I would not be here without them. Hearing Symphonies of Sickness when I was fifteen years old was my introduction to extreme metal, and it’s been such a huge influence on my musical tastes.

Doors for this gig opened before six, which is a sure sign that there is a long night ahead.

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Gig Review – Aeternum Vale, Malthusian, Behemoth, December 11th, The Academy

The expected Polish invasion of Abbey St was disrupted by the bad weather yesterday: with all ferries across the Irish Sea cancelled, Behemoth’s fellow countrymen Decapitated were stranded in the UK with their support bands Grand Magus and Wintefylleth. Decapitated were a big draw to this gig, and though I’ve seen them before at a festival, I’d like to see them in a smaller, club environment.

Local bands Aeternum Vale and Malthusian were brought on board to fill up the bill – Aeternum Vale play compelling melodic black metal – lots of distorted trebly tremolo guitars. Their soundcloud is definitely worth a look.

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Gig Review – The Contortionist, The Safety Fire, Protest the Hero, November 28th, Voodoo Lounge

This kind of lineup – progressive and mathcore bands – often attracts a slightly hipper crowd with haircuts and snapbacks alongside more stereotypical metal fans, thanks to mathcore’s strong roots in the (post-)hardcore scene. I’m not fully sure where I fell on this spectrum. I was there in black jeans and band t-shirt and boots, but the band was Job for a Cowboy (a reformed deathcore band), and they were kinda skinny jeans, but on the other hand my beard is a little too unkempt at the moment to be considered hip. It led to a tension of identity, but one that on reflection I think allowed me to be the ideal audience member for a gig of this kind.

I managed to again miss the opening act, on account of being on a bus to the gig while they were on stage. London’s Palm Reader seem to be a catchy, aggressive outfit, with short and punchy songs, and were probably worth a look. Their debut album is on Spotify. Sorry guys, I’ll try catch you next time!

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Gig Review – Malevolence, Goatwhore, Dying Fetus, November 20th, Voodoo Lounge

Last week was the beginning of a seriously music-heavy few months; Wednesday and Thursday saw the ICC 10 festival, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Irish Composers’ Collective. ICC are a wonderful organisation I’m involved in, allowing Irish composers the opportunity to have music performed by some the country’s top contemporary music performers. The festival was a great celebration of the past decade of new music, and it was a really wonderful experience to see so many members past and present in attendance, proving just how strong and vibrant the Irish new music scene is.

As well as ICC 10, there is a huge amount of metal happening in Dublin over the next two months, and this season was kicked off last Thursday at the Voodoo Lounge. This was a rare gig where I came away without any band t-shirts; I missed Fallujah, I wasn’t quite impressed enough by Malevolence to buy merch, and the other two bands I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing in polite company. Continue reading

“I’m currently between streaming services…”

A few weeks ago, a Barclays ATM decided to eat my Irish bank card. While this was a little inconvenient, I had some cash to hand and was able to get by for the next few weeks. The chief hiccup was that my monthly Spotify payment was due the following day – and living in the UK but paying for Spotify with an Irish account meant I couldn’t get a replacement card in time to pay that month’s fee.

I didn’t see this as the end of the world – Spotify offers both a free and a premium payment service, so when the payment didn’t get to go through, I just got demoted to regular Spotify.

Unfortunately, as I primarily use Spotify’s mobile app when I’m walking to college or travelling somewhere, I learned that free Spotify is the worst thing.

I’ve given out about this before elsewhere, but here’s a quick rundown of the problems with free Spotify:

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Gig Review: Red Fang, The Shrine, and Lord Dying, March 18th, Manchester Sound Control

So this was my second-ever trip to Manchester (details of the first found here), and disappointingly it still wasn’t the early nineties when I got there. Get it together, Manchester! I did manage to get in some tourist sights this time around, including the pretty cool Museum of Science and Industry and the Brew Dog bar on Quay Street.

Sound Control is a nice venue just beside Oxford Road train station. I arrived a little early, and took my place in the queue with the expected assortment of aged metalheads and younger, hipper fans – Red Fang being a band with a sizable following among fans who aren’t otherwise interested in metal (their last album was described, a little uncharitably, by Terrorizer as a “my first stoner metal album”).

A couple of amateur musicologists behind me in the line kept me entertained with their analyses of… something, I didn’t quite catch what:

Pretty much every song has semitones, but like, the dissonant kind?

Quite.

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Gig Review – Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, and Zebrahead, February 6th, O2 Academy Leeds

The trip to this gig framed the entire experience rather nicely. Traveling from York to Leeds by myself, I made a friend on the train who was also going to see Reel Big Fish. Once we reached the station, she invited me to hang out with her and her friends at the gig. Unfortunately there was no space for me in their car , and so I ended up walking to the venue in the rain. When I got there, there had been some mix-up with my tickets at the box office and for a while it looked like I wouldn’t get in at all.

So to recap: on the way to see a show I make and then immediately lose a friend, have to walk to the gig in the rain, and then I almost don’t get it. It would almost have been worth it, just for the experience of actually BEING a character in a ska-punk song.

Opening band Zebrahead were not quite in the same vein as the two main acts – charming pop punk in the vein of (but significantly better than) All Time Low, rather than the more ska sound of Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. The lineup of drums, bass, guitar, and two vocalists – already big for pop punk – also featured a bartender, who stood behind a booze-laden table and served drinks to the band between songs, not contributing musically except for some out-of-tune backing vocals. Unsurprisingly, most of their songs were about drinking and partying. This sets the scene for the kind of silly, frat-boy antics the band revelled in; most notably, the two appearances of a pair of caricature Germans, complete with lederhosen, who were brought out on stage to chug beers while the band mocked them. I’m not sure how to process that.

That last paragraph makes me feel dirty because I wrote “All Time Low”. Ugh.

My chief criticism of Zebrahead would be their constant calls for the band to jump, or dance, or start a circle pit. All bands do this but Zebrahead were the worst I’ve ever encountered, seemingly saying it between every song. The crowd will dance if they’re having fun, not just because the bands asks them! I yearn for the day that frontmen realise this.

A brief guest appearance from the Reel Big Fish horn section was a nice way to close their set, and left the crowd warmed up for Less Than Jake. After their set, several of Zebrahead’s members were on and off stage, doing their own roadie work – a touch of humility that’s always nice to see in a band.

 Less Than Jake took to the stage to a recording of The Who’s Baba O’Reilly, which quickly turned into a fast-paced ska cover. They powered through three more songs with no preamble and no loss of energy. Overall, they interacted with the crowd more than Zebrahead; calling a guy up onto stage because he had a cool mohawk, getting any audience members called Liam and Emma on stage to drink beer with them, singling out people who were texting rather than watching the show, and trying to cheer up bored security guards. The banter between the band members was also entertaining if a little juvenile. They played a perfect mix of tracks from their new album See the Light and classic material, ending particularly strongly with the anthem in honour of their hometown in Florida, Gainesville Rock City.

 It’s debatable which of the two main acts should have had precedence – both Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake are veterans of the American ska-punk scene, with over twenty years’ worth of experience to their names. In any case, Reel Big Fish were headliners for this show, and I pushed my way to the front to get the best possible experience, ending up two people away from the barrier, right in front of centre stage.

Again the audience were treated to a perfectly-chosen set, despite vocalist Aaron Barrett’s ominous warning of “We’re gonna say the four worst words any band can say to a crowd: Here’s a new song”. All the new material proved to be classic Reel Big Fish however; the combination of poppy, upbeat riffs, expertly arranged horn sections and utterly depressing lyrics that have made them so popular for over two decades. The Jamaican origins of ska are also much clearer in Reel Big Fish than any American ska band I’ve heard since Sublime.

Despite not exchanging as much banter with the crowd as Less Than Jake, they had more energy on stage and the audience responded in kind, never losing their enthusiasm or easing back on the dancing, and I have the sore ribs to prove it. It’s the sad paradox of packed ska gigs that the parts of the crowd with the most energy are also the regions where there’s not enough to room to perform the iconic dance of the genre, the skank. The best moment of crowd interaction in the entire gig was their performance of S.R. in several different genres, separated by Aaron’s instructions for specific accompanying dances: “For this next song, which is the SAME song, I want you to jump/shake your booty/headbang/square-dance.”

They followed this with their classic Beer, maybe the best example of their mixture of downbeat words and upbeat music, and a fan favourite. Thinking this was the end, once the song was over I made my way to the back of the crowd, only for them to launch into the actual final song, their justly famous cover of A-ha’s Take on Me. You don’t realise how badly that song is missing a ska horn section until you hear this cover version. Being a little further back in the crowd, I witnessed several brave or foolhardy souls attempt to build a human pyramid – dead in the centre of the mosh pit! – and finally had enough space to skank all through this blistering final performance of what was an excellent gig.