LEVELZ, The Wiley Fox, Dublin, tomorrow, €16
Factmag once called Levelz Wu-Tang meets the Happy Mondays, and I’m nicking that right now. The Manchester-based crew are a loose collective of grime and hip-hop MCs, producers, musicians and DJs, ranging from 8-14 members depending on when you catch them.
There won’t be much elbow room on the Wiley Fox stage as nine of the crew hit Dublin for their Irish debut tomorrow. While much of modern UK grime and hip-hop is centred around skeletal, minimalist beats, Levelz throw in ragga, dancehall, soul, G-funk and sci-fi breakbeats at the wall and it all seems to stick.
As well as the Levelz squad, there’s ample support from Cork-based collective Cuttin’ Heads, featuring Sixfoot Apprentice, Costello, Major Grave, Mango, Young phantom and more.
Another Love Story, Killyon Manor, Meath, tonight-Sunday (Sunday tickets only, €35)
Most promoters are staying well away from festivals in the next few weeks as the shadow of the picnic hangs over proceedings like the mothership from Independence Day.
But then again, the Picnic has been sold out for months, so maybe the Happenings and Homebeat crews are hoping for those stragglers.
Another Love Story is a lot more refined than Ireland’s big commercial festival, described on the site as “a random weekend stay in a beautiful country manor”, and a “bespoke weekender of music, art, whimsy & fun” — either sounds good.
Now in its third year, it’s not about the blockbuster headliners but the setting — Killyon Manor in Co Meath – with its rambling gardens, waterways and an actual bee reserve.
Music-wise, it’s heavy on electronica, leftfield folk, psych, post-rock and soul. Highlights include Lambert, Talos, Cian O Ciobhain, Variant Sea and Somadrone, as well as other off-the-radar talks, workshops, therapy sessions and other “occurrences & affairs”.
OLD FIRM CASUALS, Voodoo Lounge, Dublin, tonight, €15
Old Firm Casuals sound like a gang who’d kick your head in down a back alley in Glasgow, but instead of knocking you into next week with a bottle of Bucky, they just bang you over the head with classic oi! Punk.
The Casuals are the side project of Rancid’s lead guitarist and vocalist Lars Frederiksen, and if you’ve been at a Rancid gig in the last few years you’ll see he’s ditched the cut-off denims and patches for Fred Perrys and a zero all over skinhead.
His latest left turn is nominally a skinhead band, without the ska that’s all over Rancid records. It’s uplifting, snarling pogo punk with gang chorus chants and sloganeering song titles like This Means War, Never Say Die, We Want the Lion’s Share, and in case you didn’t get it — Skinhead.
It wasn’t the start of a slow demise though, as they’ve been bumped back up to heritage band status, playing venues like the 3Arena and now this big outdoor Belsonic bash.
Besides the die-hard ska fans, punks and skinheads that have stuck with them since their mid-70s Two-Tone days, Suggs and co have plenty of neutral fans happy to bop along and do all the daft dancing to Baggy Trousers, Our House, One Step Beyond and My Girl.
Unlike their ska peers The Specials, Madness generally avoid the political sloganeering for a straight-up party — and they’re always happy to play up their Nutty Boys nickname.
INVISIBL SKRATCH PICKLZ, The Sugar Club, Dublin, tomorrow & Sunday, €20
Dancing will take a back seat for a while in the Sugar Club this weekend, as it’ll be all eyes on decks, locked in to legendary turntablists Invisibl Skratch Picklz.
The original trio are the highest ranked turntablists in the DMC championship history – and were even begged to stop entering as it was stopping other mere mortals from even bothering.
After splitting in 2000, the crew is now founding member DJ QBert, D-Styles and Shortkut, and they’ve just recorded their first album since 1997’s Vs Da Clams UV Death. Expect two nights of tightrope-walking breaks, scratches, cut-up raps and soul, funk and movie samples.
There’s plenty of variety between the two gigs if you want to double-drop – tonight features support from Skratch Lords, a DJ Mek breaks set and DJ TuKi, while tomorrow’s an early 4pm start, with support from Cutting Headz and a Q&A with Tu-ki and ISP on the last 20 years of hip-hop, turntablism and beyond.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Vicar Street, Dublin, Sunday, €28
Godspeed You! Black Emperor are not so much post-rock as post-apocalyptic drone strike. The quiet/loud dynamic of their imitators is swept to one side for an intensity that’s as elemental as Earth, Sunn O))) or Swans in full flight.
With no new album to hawk around, they’re still touring off the back of 2015’s Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, and there’s probably a few minor after-shock vibrations still knocking around Vicar Street since their gig last year.
Some 20 years in, the Canadians are still the masters of avalanche riffs, wilderness drones and clifftop jeopardy.
NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS, Belsonic, Titanic Belfast, Tuesday, £33
With Beady Eye folding after some dodgy club and theatre gigs and Liam Gallagher reduced to trolling on Twitter, it’s been confirmed that Noel was always the brains of the operation in Oasis.
Not that Noel pretends Oasis were a thinking man’s anything – he loves taking side-swipes at their simplistic melodies and chant-along choruses, getting a buzz from getting one over on more cerebral rock bands.
The more his High Flying Birds carry on, the less it seems like Oasis without his reprobate wee brother – his last album was (steady on) a bit more experimental, and Ballad of the Might I was better than anything on the last few Oasis albums. He’s even working with David Holmes on his new album, and that really put Liam’s nose out of joint – why’s he working with “Ginge”?
Still, no matter what happens, the biggest roar on the night will be for the likes of Don’t Look Back in Anger and Champagne Supernova.
Get their early for brilliant Belfast band Pleasure Beach — but that means you’ll have to stay for Catfish and the Bottlemen. Can’t win ’em all I suppose.
DISCLOSURE, Belsonic, Titanic Belfast, Wednesday, £35
Just two months after Disclosure hit Kilmainham, the Lawrence brothers are back for another big outdoor showcase at Belsonic.
Getting you over the midweek hump, Howard and Guy have the biggest chart house and garage hits of the last few years to call on.
Debut album Settle may be a bit overplayed by now – they released half the album as singles – but you still can’t argue with the crossover appeal of Latch, White Noise and You & Me. Second album Caracal was more of the same, but they were hardly going to ditch the formula.
They’ve nailed their festival headline slots over the last few years, so even if there won’t be many surprises, there won’t be many complaints either.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, Boucher Playing Fields, Belfast, Thursday, £49.50
Somehow still treading water amid decades of musical progress all around them, Red Hot Chilli Peppers are true survivors — rock’n’roll cockroaches.
Their by-the-numbers new album The Getaway could damage other bands, but there’ll always be a big field in Ireland for Anthony Kiedis’s bare belly and Flea’s slap bass.
The Chillis used to be an iffy funk metal band for teenage boys but their so-called dodgy stuff on BloodSugarSexMagic, Mother’s Milk and One Hot Minute is still way ahead of their ‘mature’ albums Californication and By The Way, two of the most over-played rock albums of the last 15 years.
Still, if they bang out some early stuff it should be a laugh. And just pray they don’t play The Zephyr Song.
- Originally published in Irish Daily Star