Saturday, 27 January 2018

Review: Whelan's Ones To Watch 2018

EHCO - Sarah Ryan Photography
Jessica Lord of EHCO - Photo: Sarah Ryan Photography

Photos: Sarah Ryan & Remy Connolly

Info: With the dust settled on last weekend's Whelan's Ones To Watch it's time to reflect on another great start to the year courtesy of the annual showcase festival. It's sadly unavoidable but I didn't get to catch all of the acts I wanted to, even though I know this is going to happen in advance it still bugs me afterwards! I had run out of steam by the end of the 3rd night and missed a great line-up on the Sunday as a result which included Sub Motion, Tanjier and Young Earth. I also heard great things from others about Ailie and Susie Blue in particular on the last night. I had also intended to catch The Felonies upstairs on the Saturday and failed to do so, hearing great things about their set afterwards exacerbates the disappointment! Joined by my fellow gig enthusiast and incredible photographer Sarah Ryan (who I must thank profusely for the best of the snaps here and the photo edits also!) off we went into the iconic venue.

The first act I caught on the Thursday night was Eve Belle on the main stage, it's always good to kick off with an act I haven't seen live before and she didn't disappoint. A stunning and unique vocal performance was delivered by the alternative folk act and the heart was warmed. It was then straight upstairs for a band whose sound I have enjoyed so much over the last two years but had somehow not seen live before, Dublin's Silverbacks. Getting to hear their single 'Dirty Money' live was a proper treat for the ears.

Eve Belle - Sarah Ryan Photography
Photo: Sarah Ryan


Back down to the main stage and Galway romper stompers The Clockworks played all da hits and some new tunes too including forthcoming single 'Rumours In The Stockroom' which will be with us in the next couple of weeks. Aside from their infectious pop-rock sound you have to admire their tireless cross-country gigging dedication, with the group regularly playing live shows in Dublin as they broaden their fanbase. Another boomerang trip upstairs to see Derry anarchy-rockers The Wood Burning Savages, man alive they never disappoint, firebrand rock riffs and assertive performing are always the order of the day. 

The Clockworks

The Clockworks

The Wood Burning Savages

The Wood Burning Savages

I caught a quick song or two from the epic Little One on the main stage and couldn't go see anyone else until I'd heard one of my favourite Irish singles of 2017, 'The Habit', it was hard to leave but thankfully Sarah was on hand to capture the moment, as well as The Girl Talk who were on after whilst I hung out for a few acts upstairs. 

LITTLE ONE - Sarah Ryan
 Photo: Sarah Ryan

The Girl Talk - Sarah Ryan
Photo: Sarah Ryan

Proper Micro NV was the next port of call, and the electronic act gave a theatrical as ever performance with a fine set which was littered with tracks from his superb Colours EP as well as some new material. I told all y'all before the festival commenced to go see Girlfriend and I hope you heeded my advice! They put on another epic set and one of the most energising performances of the entire weekend, they really are a band that I could happily go see playing live every weekend and never get bored of it. Needless to say the joint was packed for them and there was a large contingent of musicians in the audience too which is always a positive. Looking forward to seeing them again very soon.

 Photo: Sarah Ryan

Photo: Sarah Ryan

Finally on the Thursday night we all gathered for a jammers main stage performance from former Enemies man Eoin Whitfield and band, aka EHCO. It was my second time seeing them in the space of six weeks after hitting up their headline show in The Bowery in early December and it was even better again on this occasion. It's quite tantalising at present with EHCO having released just two singles until now, understandably at this early stage, in the form of the hugely popular 'Raise It Up' and 'FIA'. These two tasters give a snapshot of the live magic, it's a full on escapist electronic sound why swims seamlessly from hypnotic to sharp industrial beats and euphoric finales. Can't wait to hear more, in the interim you should do yourself a favour and check him out live without delay.

EHCO - Remy

After a rather late end to the night on Thursday I was all set for the Friday, and first up was Dublin folk act Sarah O'Gorman upstairs whose debut EP last year, Concrete Rain, was a highlight for me, lovely mellow and soulful sounds to soothe a tired, well, soul. After I was down to see Molly Sterling on the main stage, 'Plain Static'? Yes please, delighted to have been able to catch another one of my favourite Irish single releases of 2017 live once again. 

Sarah O'Gorman

Molly Sterling

Molly Sterling Whelan's

Main stage highlights were brought courtesy of the immense funk-rock troupe MUNKY who gave it socks, we were invited to say hello to front man Zachary Stephenson's mother who was watching at home on Whelan's live Facebook stream, which we all duly obliged before he told us (and mother) that "this next song is about taking drugs". It was great to see another Dublin band and long-time favourite Oh Joy back in action, it had been a while since I saw them live, and their set was the best I've seen them, the new material sounding fresh as a daisy and a boisterous performance to boot, a debut album is in the pipeline from the trio also.


Oh Joy

Oh Joy

A quick scooch to the front-bar for indie-rockers Drivelight and then I pretty much spent the remainder of the night at the upstairs venue to catch great sets from LOWLI, Dowry (Éna Brennan), JyellowL all of whom justified being a hotly tipped act to keep an eye on in 2018, and a mercuriously dark (in every sense) performance from electronic troupe SYLK who I had wanted to see live for quite some time. 



Dowry Éna Brennan



Saturday, slight fatigue kicking in, inability to properly converse with others without scaring them, but very happy to be in Whelan's once again for another night of sterling acts. A big favourite of mine since the THUMPER man began doing his solo work is Joey Gavin who kicked things off at the Front Bar, again, a much needed tender and entertaining beginning. From that point it was two hours of manic running around, I'd been told Bad Hands who were on after Gavin were ones to check out but unfortunately couldn't make it on time. Main stage I caught Bray indie-rock four-piece No Tie Friday before hopping upstairs for Van Panther, this was the typical 'going in dark' to see an act, I knew none of their music, and I was really impressed. They had a breezy pop-rock sound that was wonky in all of the best ways, at times reminder me a bit of Weezer particularly courtesy of their excellent drummer. I think my old pal Stephen White who was with me enjoyed them quite a bit too.

Joey Gavin

Joey Gavin Whelan's

No Tie Friday

Van Panther

Van Panther

Wowie zowie there was some truly exciting acts playing the main stage on the Saturday night in the shape of BODIES and For Foresters. BODIES were a class apart, it was heaving for their set, to the point where it was difficult to get near the front of the stage. Front man David Anthony McGeown gave it all as did his band, it was mood-driven, ambient, dark and delightful. 

Before For Foresters another one of the highlights of the weekend for me occurred via the infallible punk noise of Dublin trio Alien She, again at the Front Bar. Space was a high premium, the word was obviously out that they were one of the ones to watch over the weekend. Their set was gloriously anarchic, chaotic and spirit-lifting, and drummer Jon Dots destroyed his kit, it ain't a festival unless you see at least one drum stick snapping in half and Dots was just the man to provide the moment towards the end of their set. 


Alien She

Alien She Whelan's

Alien She Whelan's Ones To Watch

Alien She

And so to the mighty experience that is a For Foresters live show, front man Gabriel Blake is a tour de force. Blake was impassioned, and angry, you can tell he is a song-writer who feels the bullshit of this country deep within his bones, but he doesn't deliver that anger in a preachy way, he's subtly comic about it to soften the delivery, whilst also making it powerful. Unfortunately during their quieter moments there was such a loud amount of chatter from the back of the main stage that it was off-putting, but I won't whinge about that right now. Ultimately For Foresters brought their A-game and once again justified their credentials as one of the finest live acts in the country, it was a see-saw of blistering energy, mournful story-telling and theatrical balladry, it was a beautiful beast.

For Foresters

For Foresters Whelan's

For Foresters Whelan's Ones To Watch

My 2018 Whelan's Ones To Watch literally came to a crashing end upstairs with Slow Riot, a short way into their set I tripped (sober!!) whilst crossing over to the other side of the stage, thankfully it was so packed only the people in the front row saw it! Dignity in tatters, but camera somehow unscathed, I took a few last snaps after regaining my composure and then felt it was time to call it a night! Slow Riot were a great end to a great weekend for me, no more festivals for a few months, but plenty of more live shows. A massive thank you to all the acts who entertained us and a big up to the staff at Whelan's who as always, make these events run so smoothly and are beyond obliging. Sometimes I wonder about how long this burgeoning Irish music scene bubble can last, I hate to think of it ending, but on the evidence of last weekend, it's nowhere near around the corner.

Slow Riot

Slow Riot

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