I have been with them from the beginning. In the summer of 2011 I was at a gathering at a friend's house on the outskirts of Dublin. I felt out of place and was not enjoying myself. Suddenly it dawned on me that I could jump on my bike, cycle very fast across the city and be at the National Concert Hall in time to try and see the Gloaming. I had seen the listing; I was a fan of Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill and I knew Iarla Ó Lionáird from the Afro Celt Sound System. My plan worked out. Although the concert was officially sold out, the box office were able to sell me a single seat near the back of the stalls.
The Gloaming were a new supergroup and that show at the National Concert Hall in 2011 was their live debut. It was great, but over the years they have only gotten better. I saw them once more at the Concert Hall, on one of the nights when their fan Michael D Higgins was in attendance, and once at Womad, probably my favourite time I have seen them.
The quintet have released two albums on Real World and they have been returning annually to the Concert Hall in Dublin, which they call their spiritual home. This year they sold out an unprecedented seven shows. I was at night six.
The Gloaming are Martin Hayes on fiddle, his longtime accompanist Dennis Cahill on guitar, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on hardanger fiddle, Iarla Ó Lionáird on vocals and pump organ and Thomas Bartlett on piano. All musicians except Thomas come from a trad background, but the music they produce together is much bigger than trad. It is hard to describe. There are trad parts, particularly played by Martin, but they are woven into larges pieces of music, sometimes jazzy, sometimes classical, often up to ten minutes long.
The tunes start off softly and slowly, but gradually gather pace until all musicians are in full flow. The result is hypnotic and spellbinding. I read some reviews online and Jim Carroll said it best in the Irish Times: “Breathtaking, groundbreaking, grandstanding and any other accolade you want to apply from your big bag of superlatives.”
The band members take turns addressing the audience in between songs. Larla gives us background on the songs, Caoimhín mentions that Philip King is in the house, Martin makes us laugh with his droll sense of humour. Thomas mentions that he is nervous as his best friend Joanie is at the show. Only later does it become clear that this is none other than Joan As Police Woman, who will play Dublin two days later. Dennis is the quiet man, but then he is their backbone musically.
They play for over an hour and a half in a set that includes all the best pieces from their two albums. The audience is totally quiet while they play, but erupt in loud and elongated applause when the songs end. The sound is perfect; sometimes barely more than a scratchy whisper (Caoimhín's fiddle), at other times thunderously loud (Thomas' piano). The lighting is pretty and underlines what a beautiful place the Concert Hall is for witnessing live music. At the same time the music makes you forget where you are. We are in a large room in the city centre, yet the sounds are such that you feel yourself out in nature, confronted by rolling waves, noisy waterfalls, moon and stars above. I found myself wishing that the night would not end.
The band members are incredibly talented and involved in many individual projects. I can only hope that they will continue reconvening as a group periodically and treat us to such magical performances.
For those unfamiliar with the Gloaming we have some recommendations:
Documentary about Martin Hayes, 'Natural Grace' (2012), directed by Art Ó Briain - Trailer
'The Gloaming – Moment to Moment' (2016), documentary directed by Philip King, available on the RTE Player.
The Workman's Club is an atmospheric small venue on the Southside of the Liffey on Dublin's Quays. The building, next door to the U2-owned Clarence Hotel, is over 160 years old and was home to an actual working mens club from 1888 to 2003. It has been a live music venue since 2010 and has won the Hot Press/IMRO Live Music Venue of the Year Award.
It was the opportunity to see Tonstartssbandht live that had me heading into the place and I found myself thinking how nice it was and that I should go there more often. Storm Doris had been causing havoc and the start of the show had been pushed back by an hour as the band had been delayed on the ferry coming over.
Support was by Elliott Vincent Jones, who sang along to a laptop and danced with flailing arms. He sounded vaguely like Talking Heads and some girls were dancing enthusiastically. He performed his own music, but it was nonetheless too karaoke for me.
What little I knew about Tonstartssbandht I had found online. They are a duo consisting of brothers Edwin Mathis White and Andy White, originally from Florida, now based in Brooklyn. They started in 2007 and have released an unusual large volume of music since then. They are also members of Mac Demarco's band Their curious name is pronounced tahn-starts-bandit and was the result of Edwin randomly stringing letters and words together. I cringe at band names with deliberate misspellings, so the strange name did not endear them to me. After the support act it was a relief however to see a drum kit and a guitar set up on stage: Proper instruments, always a plus.
It is difficult to describe the music and that seems to be the guys' intention. At times the vibe was 60-ish, a bit reminiscent of the Doors. The songs were very long, built up out of very different sounding parts. There was no verse/chorus structure. The guitar was sometimes nice and jangly; the drums were powerful, with plenty of echo. It all sounded like long jams rather than actual songs. The brothers sang in falsetto voices at times; the vocals were on the thin side, buried in the otherwise fairly heavy music. For only two musicians they produced a big sound.
The band said that it was their first time playing in Ireland and they were appreciative of the turnout. Edwin told us about his ferry experience and his bout of seasickness. He had been staggering around like a drunk and once he sat down he saw the horizon go up and down through a window for the remainder of the journey (tip from an experienced ferry traveller: Go outside next time).
As a live act Tonstartssbandht are entertaining. It would not be the kind of music I would listen to at home. I do not really see the point of constructing pieces of music out of many disjointed parts. There is no accounting for taste of course.
Tonstartssbandht. 'Sorcerer' comes out on 24th March 2017 via Mexican Summer.
Well, Monday nights don’t get much better than this. A new venue for us, and what a great venue (apart from the usual O2 fare of Tubourg and Heineken) the Institute in Birmingham is. Capacity of 1,500 this is an intimate place and a host of fine bands regularly tread these boards. Great views of the stage, this really is the, 'seeing a big band, in a small venue' gig.
Great to see Israel Nash back on stage and hopefully there is a new album soon. Just with a pedal steel guitarist tonight, the duo unleash a firestorm of acoustic music for half an hour or so, finishing up with a gritty version of The Band’s ‘I Shall Be Released’
Band of Horses, last seen at the Shepherds Bush Empire in 2016, where songs from the new album ‘Why Are You Ok’ got a live airing in the UK. Now a few months on and the band are back in the road groove and the tightness is clear. A set around 1 hour 45 mins, has a liberal sprinkling of better known songs throughout . It’s a nice trip through the band’s history as they enter their second decade.
Formed in Seattle in 2004 their full length debut was the 2005 release of ‘Everything All the Time’ which remains their touchstone however, the four albums since and various band member changes has not diluted the superb songwriting or live sound.
This is a cracking show, loud, raw and rocking, this 5 piece turn a Monday night into a Friday night with ease!
Dull Times/The Moon
The Great Salt Lake
Throw My Mess
Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
In a Drawer
No One's Gonna Love You
Islands on the Coast
Is There a Ghost
The General Specific
American Football have become regular visitors to the UK over the past couple of years and with the release of LP2 in 2016 they have returned for a show at “their favourite venue” The Shepherds Bush Empire.
The gig is a real winter warmer. Support comes from New Jersey native/Chicago inhabitant Evan Thomas Weiss AKA; Into It. Over It.
Before he plays bass for American Football, Evan gets an extensive solo set, suffering from ‘Man flu’ like symptoms his singing voice remains intact and with three albums of material, he delivers a fine solo set.
American Football sound as dreamy live as they do on record. LP2 is played front to back and in order for the first half of the gig. Perhaps playing the songs in order is a bit uninspiring (unless it’s a 20th anniversary tour) but,, it really does suit this particular band. The music is intense, relationships, ups .. mainly downs ... so when listening to LP2, you listen to the whole album again and again, so for the live show, you can experience the same emotions.
The band formed in1997, with LP1 disbanded in 2000 and then reunited in 2014, with LP2 as already mentioned being released ilast year. There is a certain mystique about the band so, when Mike Kinsella say’s something like “You’ve had your money’s worth”, you wonder if the gig is coming to a premature close. Thankfully it’s just a break (not sure why they would need one) and after fifteen minutes they are back for songs from LP1 and the ninety minutes of the show are effectively sublime.
Where Are We Now?
My Instincts Are the Enemy
Home Is Where the Haunt Is
Born to Lose
I've Been So Lost for So Long
Give Me the Gun
I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)
Desire Gets in the Way
Everyone Is Dressed Up
The One With the Tambourine
Stay Home Honestly?
I'll See You When We're Both Not So Emotional
The Summer Ends
New dates added for more shows in the summer:
- Brigton Concorde 2
2 Sep - Albert Hall Manchester
3 Sep - Summerhall Edinburgh
4 Sep - Button Factory Dublin, Ireland
It's 27th May 1967 the first line-up of Fairport Convention play their first ever gig at St. Michael's Church Hall in Golders Green. Some 25 members later and Simon Nichol (who is the one remaining original member though he went for a mid 1970's wander), Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway who have been the band since 1998 celebrate Fairport's 50th year. The celebratory year starts with the traditional Winter tour criss-crossing the country during February and March.
Fiddle player Ric Sanders introduces tonight's support Sally Barker, who you may know from a recent series of The Voice, but for many years she has been a member of The Poozies and sings with the re-formed Sandy Denny's Fotheringay, which provides a neat link to an early Fairport Convention line-up. Sally plays folky-country-blues songs from her most recent solo album 'Ghost Girl' along with tracks from earlier in her varied career.
There's a beautiful country song possibly called “Two Hearts”, which she's considering giving to Dolly Parton to record. 'Talk About The Money' gets a good rapport with the audience tonight. The tradition is that before starting their set, Fairport accompany the final track of the support's set which tonight is an excellent track called 'I'm Not Whole' which was written by Sally's son.
Fairport Convention start their first set with a new track 'Our Bus Rolls On' from the new album 50:50 @50, which acts as a bio for the current band members echoing the themes of 1971's 'Angel Delight'. Whilst Chris Leslie has been the band's main songwriter since 1996, the band always recognise their significant earlier authors. 'Genesis Hall' is introduced as written by Richard Thompson when he was “ .. just out of nappies ....which he'll be going back into shortly ... well it happens to all of us” a Swarbrick/ Thompson track “Now Be Thankful” (one of my personal favourites) is sensitively and beautifully played with Chris taking lead vocals.
There's a preamble to explain the origin of the next track which is a new arrangement of the instrumental 'Danny Jack's Reward', which goes something like this ; Ric “ I phoned Peggy and told him I wanted to make a new arrangement of Danny Jack's Reward for us to play at Cropredy with some additional musicians”, Peggy replied “How many additional musicians do you want ? “, “I replied 43!”. What follows is the arrangement which Joe Broughton's Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (all 43 of them) played at Fairport's 2014 Cropredy festival and is now known as the expensive version, although tonight we get the cheap version played by the five piece it's still a great new arrangement.
The second half of the show begins with a couple tracks from the back catalogue, the traditional track 'Sir Patrick Spens' and Sandy Denny's composition 'Fotheringay'. Sally Barker returns to take Sandy's vocals on 'Rising For The Moon'. There's 'Farewell, Farewell ' from the multi-award winning 'Liege and Lief' album really brings out the beautiful twin fiddle playing of Ric Sanders and Chris Leslie.
The opening track from the new album is 'Eleanor's Dream' which is a rockier number in the style of 'Myths and Heroes'. Final track with the now familiar banjo intro from Chris is of course 'Matty Groves' ,which tells the story of doomed love between a lady of the manor bored with her husband and the handsome man she sees in the church (the years and the venues may change but the theme remains). Sally Barker returns (place a bet on her appearing at Cropredy this year) to sing a verse of 'Meet on the Ledge' as we bid farewell to old friends and promise to see them them again because as the song finishes “if you really mean it, it all comes round again”.
The Winter Tour continues until 5th March, there's a special 50 years celebration of the first show at the Union Chapel in London, and Fairport's Cropredy Convention is 10th -12th August in a field in Oxfordshire.