Saturday, 13 August 2016

Live: ROCSTRONG SOWYG EP Launch @ The Grand Social

ROCSTRONG SOWYG The Grand Social
Photo: Remy Connolly

ROCSTRONG - 'Go 'Head' @ The Grand Social

Info: Last night saw the launch of Dublin act ROCSTRONG's debut EP, SOWYG (Show Off What You Got) at The Grand Social, with support coming courtesy of singer-songwriter Ryan O'Shaugnessy and BARQ, both of whom got the crowd perfectly primed for the headline act.

André Bangala (Rocstrong) is a bit of an enigma on the Irish music scene at the moment, and that's no exaggeration, it's easy to give plaudits, but when they are backed up it's even easier. Although he may be slightly tired (but probably not) of the focus on his debut single 'Go 'Head' which was released roughly two years ago, it did send a tremor across the Irish music stratosphere, and beyond, featuring in the trailer for the Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' starring Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, Josh Brolin and a typically star-studded cast. It's hard not to imagine Clooney shuffling across his kitchen in a dressing gown and slippers getting down to the song.


ROCSTRONG The Grand Social Dublin
                                                                                            Photo: Remy Connolly

That's not what it's all about though, wonderful and all as it is. Rocstrong has previously cited the influence of his family and father in particular, a balance of discipline and encouragement, as well as growing up with a wide range of music from the 50's-70's, but focally 80's pop stars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince. To this I can relate, and see it translated as an undercurrent in his sound. While interaction with an audience is nice but not necessary, ROCSTRONG and co. did a stellar job last night, fully engaging the crowd before the set and inbetween songs, without over-cooking the pot. The Congelese born musician wittily enquired "Shout if you're from Africa, shout if you're from Ireland, shout if you're from neither" when the latter response was given he responded; "Welcome to Ireland!".

There was also pause for thought though as Bangala touchingly remembered his friend John Ojo (for whom he wrote 'Block Party - Kaiser') who tragically passed suddenly whilst playing football, 12 months after the premature death of his sister. The audience were told of how John, though naturally devastated by the loss of his sibling, was the most determined to pick himself up and carry on with life as a way of honouring her. Fittingly his life was celebrated and not mourned unduly in the African tradition, as opposed to the glum, dark dress code and despair of Irish custom.


ROCSTRONG The Grand Social
Photo: Remy Connolly

From there positivity and a damn good time were the order of the evening, with the EP's title track 'SOWYG' obviously going down well along with 'Hold Yah' and the rest of his repertoire. The band were excellent, with a particularly pleasing guitar solo (top video), additional brass section and percussion with electronic beats, bells and whistles courtesy of Keith O'Reilly.

The venue was busy right from the beginning of the night which is unusual, and was packed by the time ROCSTRONG took the stage, it was bloody hot in there, but it felt like a moment in time. I'm horribly romantic about music, and often have to reign myself in, suppress thoughts! but this guy is the real deal, I would say 'You better see him now before it's too....etc. etc.', but it might already be too late. For me it's not that ROCSTRONG has arrived, if that was the case there would be little room for grander things, greater songs. All he has to do now is ignore everyone apart from those close to him who have been on this journey from the start, having already successfully put himself in a unique position domestically, the next step should be to dive in with no parachute, that's how the creativity will flourish further.

ROCSTRONG The Grand Social
Photo: Remy Connolly







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