A night of rap and metal crossover. This one will be difficult to top.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 12
Wizards Of Firetop Mountain
No Spill Blood
Agitate The Gravel
Trumpets Of Jericho *
Bridges Of Madison County
* Trumpets Of Jerico pulled out due to illness.
The Bridges Of Madison County
Comprised of members of The Jimmy Cake, Hooray For Humans, Hands Up Who Wants To Die and Sylvan, The Bridges Of Madison County make noise that is adequately-described as wonky trumpet-punk, or better described as ear-splitting, breakneck rock, featuring the trumpet. If you’ve seen The Bridges… perform, you’ll know that the Dublin foursome don’t take themselves too seriously. If you’ve yet to have the pleasure, I don’t care to spoil the surprise, so I will simply say that last night, TBOMC had the crowd in stitches without telling a single joke. And, really, isn’t that what good music is all about?
Wizards Of Firetop Mountain
In case the name didn’t make it clear, Wizards Of Firetop Mountain specialise in “wizardry and riffs”, but what their Facebook profile doesn’t quite spell out is the head-banging, fist-thumping brilliance of a WOFM show. Falling somewhere between ’70s hard rock and ’80s metal, Wizards blast out a sound so ostentatious, it’s almost hard to stomach. Almost.
By combining expert musicianship (the relentless, demonic percussion of Ror Conaty in particular deserves a shout-out) with a delightfully brazen stage presence, Wizards Of Firetop Mountain avoid the cartoon rock label and against all odds, won over every single music-lover on the Whelan’s floor. I had planned on mentioning the third chink in their armour, the lead singer’s hair, but have since decided that it deserves a post of its own.
Ones To Watch is hardly Electric Picnic, but if you’re Lethal Dialect, the main room in Whelan’s last night might as well have been Stradbally’s Main Stage. The scruffy Wexford St. regulars were demonstrably not the crowd he’s used to – actually, as far as I can tell, it was the first time he ventured beyond the comfy confines of the blossoming Dublin rap scene… which I don’t imagine was ever very comfy to begin with. As the only straight-up rapper in a line-up of rock and electronica artists, Lethal had the unenviable job of representing the controversial movement that is Irish hip hop. The aim was, presumably, for a bunch of bearded Indiephiles to go home impressed, and not in a “Isn’t he clever, remembering all the words?” sort of way.
Of course, the boy from Blanch took it all in his stride. Aided by partner in rhyme Costello and a scratch-happy DJ, Lethal appeared right at home on his new stage, occasionally ambling around the crowd without dropping a single syllable. Granted, there’s nothing earth-shatteringly different about a shaven-headed youngster in baggy jeans and a hoodie, rhyming about smoking weed and telling us to keep it real. Though the beats are undeniably clever, Lethal is not a quirky or outrageous rapper, but he is changing the game. Thanks to last night’s show, a couple of dozen music fans now believe that Irish rap is a credible mini-industry, and something that they can definitely get on board with.
Personally, as a lover of all things hip hop, I can testify that to hear an Irishman rhyming in an Irish accent on an Irish stage felt really, really good.
The Quite Special:
We were introduced to Ballymun crooner Willa Lee at the end of Lethal Dialect’s set, when the Master Of Ceremonies beckoned his fellow Workin’ Class Records signee to join him on stage. The DJ had already dropped a beat when Lethal interjected, declaring, “The shit that this guy has to say needs to be heard acapella”.
A fresh-faced Lee looked too young to even be allowed inside the venue, but the fact that he doesn’t have many years on the clock made it all the more exciting when he opened his mouth. Sketchy online recordings make him sound like a young, Irish Finley Quaye, but on his Whelan’s debut, his baritone boom closer resembled a reggae Donny Hathaway. The song was ‘Drifting’, his own composition, and to hear him sing it was a damn privilege.
Although he’s yet to release any material, Lee appears on Lethal’s second album LD50 Part 2, which you can hear a snippet of here.
Last Days Of 1984
White Collar Boy
* Change from original line-up which listed Future Monarchs.
NOTE: The festival expands to three spaces tonight – Whelan’s Main Room, Whelan’s Upstairs and for the first time ever, The Village.
For times, go here.