Gigs of the week: February 27 – March 6

CHOICE MUSIC PRIZE, Vicar Street, Dublin, Thursday, SOLD OUT

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 18.48.57Say what you want about the irrelevancy of the BRITs for actual music — you know we won’t be here this time next week talking about all the madness that went down at the Choice Music Prize. Madonna had barely enough time to dust her cape off before a million vines and memes were uploaded on Wednesday, and Kanye’s premier of All Day got upstaged by a 50ft flame, his big selfie takeover of Nando’s and Liam Gallagher tweeting that he was “utter shit”. The papers and music sites barely registered that poor old Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith politely picked up their trophies and played their lovely songs.

The Choice Prize has always set itself aside as an award that’s strictly about the music, none of that old hype and nonsense, thank you very much. And next Thursday in Vicar Street is a chance to catch the acts setting out their stall before the winner is announced, even though only four of the album prize acts will hit the stage, along with three acts in the running for song of the year.

Over the last decade or so, Ireland’s answer to the Mercury Prize has been awarded to albums that still stand up, from the likes of Jape, Adrian Crowley, the Divine Comedy and Julie Feeney. Villagers’ win last year mirrored the widespread praise for the album {Awayland}, while judges weren’t afraid to go against the grain in 2007 by giving the gong to the sadly-defunct indie-electronica crew Super Extra Bonus Party.

This year’s shortlist has been called out by a few commentators as a bit of a head-scratcher, that brought a welcome debate about major label-backed bands on the list and the inevitable huffing over more experimental acts being snubbed.

There are of course some proper ‘Choice-like’ acts such as Damien Rice, James Vincent McMorrow, The Riptide Movement, We Cut Corners and previous prize-winners Delorentos. We also have leftfield trad outfit  The Gloaming, who may be a decent bet, if their three sold-out National Concert Hall gigs this weekend is a hint. Sinead O’Connor is probably in her strongest ever position to win the prize with her strongest album in years, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. And if all the extreme hype and bluster over Hozier last year turned into awards, the Bray man would have a Grammy, an album of the century, an Oscar, a Nobel Prize and the freedom of Ireland on his mantelpiece. As it turns out, he is the front-runner with the bookies, but we have a feeling the judges may have grown weary of hearing Take Me To Church blasting out of every pub, shop, car stereo and TV spot for a year.

And then we have the two ever biggest ringers — U2 and Aphex Twin. The Choice judges are quick to point out that the prize isn’t necessarily some hand-out pat on the head for an up-an-coming act, but we reckon U2 don’t really need the €e10,000 prize money — they’ll have blown that many times on a round of dinner and drinks. Their album Songs of Innocence also became the biggest music story of the year, pissing off a billion iTunes users, give or take a few tens of thousands who actually wanted it on their phones.

The biggest spit out the tea moment came with electronic pioneer and sneery rave prankster Aphex Twin being announced on the shortlist, thanks to Richard D James’s birth cert showing his Limerick roots. In a year when he’s already picked up a Grammy for Syro, the most subversive thing he could’ve done in years would be turning up to play “CIRCLONT6A [141.98]” (syrobonkus mix) just before Delorentos.

James Vincent McMorrow, The Riptide Movement, Delorentos and We Cut Corners will be representing the album nominees in Vicar Street, while Kormac, Little Hours and The Minutes will put in the final blitz for song of the year, up against The Script, The Coronas, Kodaline, Sinead O’Connor, Hozier, Delorentos and The Riptide Movement — public vote at It’s a hard one to call in the albums, but personal Aphex love aside, it’d be hard to bet against Hozier or James Vincent McMorrow.

The Co-Present: This Other Kingdom and Patrick Kelleher, Workmans Club, Dublin, tonight, €e6

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 19.01.35DWAYNE and Niamh on alternative radio show The Co-Present on have been making inroads in promoting recently, and they’ve just secured a monthly team-up with the Workmans Club. The monthly Friday gigs will feature a rising Irish band followed by a DJ set, and a live broadcast on the station. Psych-rockers This Other Kingdom open the account tonight, showcasing tracks from their upcoming debut LP Telescopic. Taking it through till late, renowned electronica artist, singer and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Kelleher is getting his Cold Dead Hands on the decks, playing anything from B-52s to DEVO, with plenty of oddities in between.

A GUY CALLED GERALD, Twisted Pepper, Dublin, tomorrow, €14 (tickets)

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 19.04.30A HUGE chunk of today’s electronic music can be traced right back to Gerald Simpson’s first pioneering steps on synths and drum machines in the late 80s. As one half of 808 State the Manchester innovator put some manners on the rough and ready acid house scene in 1988, and his own Voodoo Ray is still the definitive anthem of early UK rave. After sketching the blueprint of drum & bass and acid techno through the 90s, these days Simpson nods towards Detroit techno with his live set-up that hits with the same soul as Octave One or Underground Resistance’s more transcendent works.

THE GLOAMING, National Concert Hall, Dublin, tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, SOLD OUT

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 19.06.40THE Gloaming should be on the syllabus for those of us who don’t realise we’re into trad. The Irish/American collective have bottled the blood-boiling fire of Planxty with contemporary minimalism and a deft ambient touch. The Gloaming are up for the Choice Music Prize award next Thursday — proof that the jig still isn’t up for trad and its many evolutionary branches.

EUROPE, Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Monday, €26-35 (tickets) / Ulster Hall, Belfast, Tuesday, £30 (tickets)

europe_the_band__then___now_2_by_darkaphasia-d3isr7xOF ALL the daft 80s poodle metal bands, Europe are the act most defined by a single song. And their big daft 1987 classic The Final Countdown is the only other rock song bar Van Halen’s Jump that you learn to play on air synth before air guitar. It remains to be seen whether the Swedish veterans can keep punters occupied while they wait for the fist-pumping final song in the Olympia, but be prepared for a breakout of high-note karaoke as Joey Tempest (what a name!) is heading to Venus. Support is from Black Star Riders — the most recent members of Thin Lizzy who’ve finally given up the ghost of Phil.

SPANDAU BALLET, 3Arena, Dublin, Tuesday, €49.65-60.45 (tickets)Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Wednesday, £35-55 (tickets)

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 19.08.52NOSTALGIA isn’t going out of fashion any time soon, and it’s Spandau Ballet’s second spin round the block following their reunion in 2009 after a 20-year split. Tony Hadley’s moved up an extra suit size but he’s still got that voice cut from 80s pop Gold — and the new romantics have still got their East End sharpness. It’s rare for an 80s pop band to be reunited in full — but they’ve all buried the hatchet, and their documentary Playboys of the Western World is a winner.

tUnE-yArDs, Vicar Street, Dublin, Tuesday, €22 (tickets)

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 19.36.12OVER the course of her three albums, New Englander Merrill Garbus aka tUnE-yArDs has been gradually shaking off that annoying ‘kooky’ tag stitched onto female artists with any avant-garde leanings. Taking tribal indie-folk and electronica into psychedelic rabbit holes, Garbus’s live show has her creating skittery drum patterns and looping on the spot, while looping vocal cycles, yodelling and ukelele, along with bass by Nate Brenner.

Originally published in Irish Daily Star