SUFJAN STEVENS, The Helix, Dublin, tonight and tomorrow.
Some indie bookies are already paying out on Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell being album of the year, and he’s bringing the record to Dublin for two nights.
As a simple folk song tribute to his late mother and stepfather that touches on mental illness, drug abuse and cancer, it’s a world away from the widescreen grandeur of Illinoise and The Age of Adz.
But the Carrie & Lowell shows have been a chance for Stevens to become just Sufjan, after previous tours performing in angel wings backed by full orchestras and glitchy electronica.
With his seventh LP being unanimously backed as his best, it proves the song is mostly always the real heart of the matter.
PEANUT BUTTER WOLF, Sugar Club, Dublin, tomorrow
This show is a pilgrimage for anyone who’s spent any time shuffling through racks at record fairs, or dodging dog-eared Rod Stewart and Slade vinyls in charity shops.
As Stones Throws Records boss, we have to thank Peanut Butter Wolf for legendary albums like Madvillainy and J Dilla’s Donuts — but he’s also one of the true kings of crate-digging.
Like labelmate Madlib’s quickfire cross-genre set at Beatyard a few weeks ago, expect everything from underground hip-hop to dusty soul, funk and outer limits psychedelia.
And as another nod to hip-hop’s digging past, archivist Breakbeat Lou is playing a special Ultimate Breaks & Beats show. The 25-volume compilation series that ran from 1986-81 is the closest thing we have to a hip-hop bible — a vast collection of songs with drum breaks that has been mined by literally thousands of producers.
And as if you’re not spoiled enough, there’s a screening of iconic hip-hop movie Wild Style, support from DJ Mek and BBoy breakdancers.
PROMS ON THE PIER, Dun Laoghaire Pier, tomorrow and Sunday
A few weeks after Dun Laoghaire kicked off to the sound of techno, hip-hop and disco at Beatyard, Proms on the Pier promises to be a more sedate affair.
Since the Festival of World Cultures folded a few years ago, the seaside suburb has been calling out for a few events to show off the waterfront.
Proms on the Pier will suit fans who are up for a nostalgia weekend — from those reminiscing to the ironic dancers and chancers at Johnny Logan.
You can also get your soft-rock ballad fix with Air Supply, Ultravox hits with Midge Ure, lilting ballads with Phil Coulter and a big cheesy ABBA singalong with Bjorn Again.
And in Dreadlock Holiday, 10CC already have song of the weekend in the bag.
THE POLYPHONIC SPREE, The Academy, Dublin, Monday, & Limelight, Belfast, Tuesday
The long white robes may have been banished, but the Polyphonic Spree are really now a cult band after going under the radar in the last decade.
In the first half of the noughties, the 20-strong Texas choral troupe were an over-joyous antidote to the skuzzy indie acts chasing The Strokes’ thunder. Their 2002 debut album The Beginning Stages Of… burst like a solar-flared polaroid over festival bills, and Reach For the Sun bored itself into everyone’s head for a summer.
They were a bit heavy on the jazz-hands amateur dramatics, so small doses were in order, and their next four albums didn’t set off the hype machine.
Their most recent LP Yes, It’s True, is straight-up psychedelic soft-rock, but if you fancy harking back to their ‘glory days’, they’re on a 15th anniversary tour, playing their debut in full. Now there’s an anniversary you hadn’t banked on.
PARQUET COURTS, Roisin Dubh, Galway, Wednesday
Parquet Courts are set for the Picnic next weekend, but if you’re a big fan, catch them at the Roisin – or the Limelight next Friday – as who knows what wormhole you’ll be down at Stradbally.
The Brooklyn slacker garage urchins are head and shoulders over plenty of other Pavement copycats and post-punk revivalists.
Their unofficial anthem and call to arms Stoned and Starving nails the brief of swaggering and noise-pop – every line a t-shirt slogan. Sure, they’re achingly cool, but they’re pretty class while they’re at it.
MINIMUM MAXIMUM, Dublin Civic Offices amphitheatre, tonight
Here’s a better post-work Friday option than you and your mates piling into the nearest pub to bitch about your work that week.
Minimum Maximum – a joint effort by Nialler9 and Happenings – is a new series of gigs over the next three that start on Friday at 6.30pm on the dot, in the amphitheatre tucked behind Christ Church Cathedral and the Dublin Civic Office buildings. It’s a perfect kickstart to your Friday night, or a nice way to catch a guilt-free early gig if you want a sensible early night.
Tonight’s event features Melancholic folk from I Have Tribe, dreamy new age electro-acoustics from Saint Sister and Stomptown Brass — who sound exactly like you’d imagine, with that name.
There’s no booze, so there won’t be much tie round the head action from the council office workers, but this is quality good clean fun.
Featured Sufjan Stevens photo © Denny Renshaw
Original version in Irish Daily Star