Tick off these Irish gigs in your diary

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 13.27.23IMAGINING IRELAND: 21st Century Song, National Concert Hall, tomorrow.

A couple of weeks ago, Dublin MC Mango put out the tweet: “I started rapping out the back of school by the bike sheds. Now they’ve got me rockin across on the stage of the National Concert Hall and the Barbican Centre in London. Gas.”

This personal epiphany from the north Dub is happening artists all over the country. OK, most rappers and electronic producers don’t have an NCH gig this weekend, but they know events like this blur the lines between the underground and the mainstream. Irish music isn’t a genre in itself, and folk music can be grime bars or soul as well as songs crafted on an acoustic guitar.

This showcase could easily be called Reimagining Ireland. Produced and curated by Paul Noonan of Bell X1 and Lisa Hannigan, it’s a celebration of modern Irish music, from the avant-garde to crossover pop.

As well as on-fire grime duo Mango x Mathman, The NCH also welcomes alt-folk from Maria Kelly, Saint Sister and Seamus Fogarty, soul departures from Loah and Brian Deady, spoken word performance from Stephen James Smith and a new composition by producer J Colleran aka Mmoths, performed by Ireland’s leading new music ensemble Crash Ensemble.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 13.28.00BICEP, District 8, Dublin, tonight, Telegraph Building, Belfast, tomorrow

You can almost smell the relief in the air, with dry January given the fingers, the first pay cheque after Christmas and the first guilt-free techno blow-out of the year.

Both these gigs have been sold out for weeks, with the kind of Facebook fomo ticket scramble reserved for festival season.

Well deserved too — Belfast duo Bicep were knocking around at grassroots level for years, with their Feel My Bicep blog and label, and hosting perfectly-curated techno parties.

Their 2017 debut album joins the dots between techno house, electro, jungle breaks and psychedelia — one of the most well-rounded ‘dance’ LPs of the year.

For these blowouts they’ll largely bang out the techno, which is no bad thing. They’re joined by fellow Feel My Bicep DJ Hammer tonight, and they’re going overboard tomorrow with Hammer, Daniel Avery and Cormac.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 13.28.38BETH ORTON, Limelight 2, Belfast, tomorrow; Whelan’s, Dublin, Sunday

In the 1990s, Beth Orton was a byword for the comedown, with her low-key guest spots on tracks by the Chemical Brothers, William Orbit and Red Snapper.

After a decade or so of alt-folk, she went back to electronica on her own terms on her last LP Kidsticks, with Fuck Buttons’ Andrew Hung. It’s all droney synths and motorik beats, but all wrapped in comfort blanket psychedelia.

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