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Clocking in at over 600 pages and featuring a cast of some 162 characters, ranging from Strokes to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem to time-distilled acts like Mooney Suzuki and Har Mar Superstar, could-shoulda-wouldas like Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Rapture, along with various journalists, bloggers, industry heads, and Moby, it’s safe to say that Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011 is an extensive read.

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mary hickson

The second edition of Sounds From A Safe Harbour (SFASH) returns to Cork city next week, Thursday to Sunday, September 14-17, with a stellar lineup including three humongous shows at the Opera House: Lisa Hannigan, the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra and Aaron Dessner on Thursday, Bon Iver on Friday, and the National on Saturday. Needless to say they’re all sold out but there’s absolutely loads on, with shows at St Luke’s, Cyprus Avenue, and Coughlan’s. There’s art, exhibitions, the final instalment of Crashlands, celebrating 20 years of Crash Ensemble, which has taken the orchestra all over Ireland, and just too much for me to even wrap my head around. There’ll also be secret gigs – and that’s not even including Ear Den which sounds like it’ll be very special. There’s a lot of people involved in something like this, but Mary Hickson towers over it. The inaugural festival two years ago was her baby and she’s back for more this year – how could she not when it became known that Bon Iver and the National would be playing. I got to chat to her in SFASH HQ eight days out from the festival. It was supposed to be for the TPOE podcast but alas, technical difficulties (bad mic leads) scuppered those plans, but I persevered through choppy audio to transcribe the majority of our 30-minute conversation. We talk about one of the best cups of tea anyone is ever likely to have, how festivals in Copenhagen and Berlin shaped her, and the moment of her musical life, which involves a Tibetan bowl, a kidnapping, and one Justin Vernon singing his biggest song. So there’s no audio of the interview, but there’s plenty to dig into below. And if that’s not enough for you, check out Nialler9’s interview with Mary for his Irish Times column, How Music Works. See you in Cork next week – and if anybody has a spare ticket for the National *nudge nudge*….

All pictures by Brid O’Donovan (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram)

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All pictures by Brid O’Donovan (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram)

Emmet Condon, organiser of Another Love Story, which took place last weekend at Killyon Manor, Co Meath, was telling me recently that the done thing with a ‘successful’ festival is to expand things, to grow bigger the following year. But ALS isn’t like other festivals. He said on the TPOE podcast: “I think our intention has always been to keep this selective in size and not to grow it beyond – I think when you go beyond a certain size you lose a certain amount of specialness and the whole idea of this all along has been to create that thing that didn’t do that. Very much our idea is to keep the scale of it while keeping the quality of it really high.”

ALS is small – about 400-500 punters plus the various bands and performers and others who inevitably want to stick around for the weekend. It’s intimate in the extreme. It also takes place in a legit manor house – the main stage is the ballroom, the second stage is the front room, which holds at most 50 people, and then talks and some other goings-on take place in the library, curated by Young Hearts Run Free. There’s a Cosmic Canopy for DJs and Sing Along Socials, a couple of other tents, a run-down outhouse in the forest. It’s special. And there’s hardly any advertising (*cough* Hendricks Gin *cough*). I was talking to someone over the weekend who’s going to Electric Picnic in ten days and is almost wary of it now – it’s going to be a shock to the system. But if S Club 7 and 5ive at Electric Ireland’s Throwback Stage are what you’re into… Also anything that hasn’t got Live Nation’s fingers all over it yet can only be a good thing. And as Jim Carroll put it: “It turns out that there is another – and better – way to put on festivals than the shite we’ve become sadly used to.” (Emmet had good things to say about Electric Picnic, though: “I think Electric Picnic is all things to all men and I think it does it really really well in the last couple years.”)

As for the music, Another Love Story feels like a festival that rewards people who have been paying attention to the careers of various Irish performers. Mergie Lewis is hardly a well-known artist, yet there was a palpable air of anticipation for the packed front room at midnight on Saturday – she rarely plays a show, she eschews the obvious and it feels like a special moment. Emmet Condon is Homebeat, who have been putting on shows in mostly non-traditional venues since about 2011, featuring a host of up-and-coming Irish acts and friends – they’re putting out music by Carriages and Let’s Set Sail on the formative Homebeat record label over the coming months, and those two bands were the first to kick off ALS on Friday night. The crowd is appreciative – they’ve probably seen Carriages a couple of times over the years, and sets at ALS mostly feel like a triumph. Ships on Saturday night was my personal highlight. I haven’t seen Sorcha and Simon live before, something that only dawned on me as the first notes hit. But the ballroom was packed, fun was had both onstage and off, and the songs sounded huge. Also Simon might be the funkiest bassist in the country – popping and locking those shoulders! (Special mention for Bantum – it was great to see his AV set play out to such a good crowd too. All the tracks from Move just sounds so flipping great.)

Emmet also talked on the podcast about how important programming and flow is to a festival, something which is lost at some other festivals, especially when it comes to Irish music, where it feels shunted onto the bill late in the planning process. Katie Kim kicks things off at 1.30pm on Saturday, easing a lot of hungover people into the day. Tomorrows, plying a sunny Real Estate vibe, pick things up a little before the Replacements tribute band Seen Your Video (four-fifths of the original Villagers lineup plus Peter Toomey from the Immediate; I popped for Conor O’Brien and another member of the Immediate being onstage again, I won’t lie) turned up the fuzz, Conor in particular seeming to revel in electric guitar solos. On Sunday it’s something similar – This Is How We Fly easing people into the day, JFDR providing a powerful atmosphere (her songs are quietly unassuming, building up for four minutes before they truly reveal themselves and you get it), and David Kitt and (his only) friends, Margie Lewis and Richie Egan, capping off a triumphant party. (I haven’t stopped singing ‘Me and My Love’ since.)

In the programme for ALS, the team states: “This story, like all great love stories, was born from a series of seemingly chance encounters – a set of apparently inconsequential twists in the road which has led us here together with the silently inevitability of the tides. This is the thing about true love, it is as unavoidable as day or night. It doesn’t so much happen as impose its will upon you – suddenly before you know it, it is impossible to imagine life before or after it. ALS is the thought we now spend our year turning over in our heads like the memory of a lost lover’s laugh, we are so thankful of your support which makes this all possible, and we are so delighted to welcome old friends back, and new friends here for the first time.”

I was one of those at ALS for the first time and had a glorious time – I haven’t even mentioned Gilbert Steele killing it until 4am Saturday night, or Siobhan Kane and the YHRF talks, or Richie Egan picking the Ponyo theme tune to open up the Loose Joints podcast recording on Sunday, or Davey Kehoe being my discovery of the weekend, playing krautrock in the woods, or Oose being, well, Oose. Another Love Story was amazing. It’s the only Irish festival of the summer for me – and it’s everything I could’ve asked for and more.

“You, you got what I need, don’t say this is the end, don’t say this is the end…”

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another love story 2017

The fourth edition of Another Love Story, a festival presented by Homebeat and Happenings, takes place in Co Meath this weekend. Tickets (there were only 600 or so) are long gone. It’s supposed to be a very special thing, with a bill featuring mostly Irish acts such as Katie Kim, Tomorrows, Ailbhe Reddy and Ellll, JFDR from Iceland, amazing DJs such as Cian O’Caobhain (An Taobh Tuathaill), and lots of other stuff like the love olympics. I’m going for the first time this year and am very much excited. So much so that I talked to Emmet Condon of Homebeat. You can listen to the chat on the latest episode of the TPOE podcast (iTunes/Soundcloud) – just click play on the SC embed below. I’ve typed out some highlights from the chat, relating to the festival, below – we also talked a lot about arts spaces in Dublin being squeezed, the Homebeat label he’s launching featuring Carriages and Let’s Set Sail (Nialler9 had the scoop this morning) and lots more, so you’ll have to listen to the podcast for all that. See you at Another Love Story!

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saint sister

Subscribe to TPOE’s New Irish Music playlist on Spotify

It’s a jammers week of new releases – just as well cos I’m off to Barcelona and Primavera next week. I’m spending an inordinate amount of time trying to decide between Solange and Broken Social Scene, embroiled in a direct clash on Thursday. It’s a very tough decision to make. There’s a new TPOE podcast up this week – Eoin French aka Talos talked to me about the making of one of the strongest debut albums of the year, Wild Alee, what to expect during festival season and how Anohni’s album inspired him. Coming Sunday/Monday, there’s a special festival previews podcast with Thin Air/State critic Darren Keane so subscribe on Soundcloud/iTunes/whatever podcast app you use to get the in-depth chat. On this week’s roundup, Belfast’s Beauty Sleep channel Passion Pit, Kildare’s Native Ensemble channel Jungle, Kildare/Dublin band Silverbacks go slacker on their new EP, Elaine Mai returns with The Colour of the Night EP, Cork funk/RnB band Shookrah showcase their talents on the Cliches EP, Come on Live Long release their second album, James Vincent McMorrow surprise-released his most personal album to date, Cork avant-garders Fixity release their third album, Belfast’s Sea Pinks unveil their sixth album in seven years – perfect for summer – Saint Sister release their first single of the year and show why they’re the next big thing, London-based Dublin singer Swimmers Jackson pines for cans by the canel, and Ailbhe Reddy showcases her new EP Attach to Memory.

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new jackson

Subscribe to TPOE’s New Irish Music playlist on Spotify

It’s a relatively quiet week for new Irish releases, maybe just as well because all I really want to do is listen to New Jackson‘s debut album. The roundup of best new Irish music this week also includes Loah – debut EP out next month – Citog Records from Galway unveil their second compilation, CPNHGN and their guitars return three years after they released their debut album, and Rejjie Snow unveils his new mixtape.
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LIZA+FLUME+SPAIN

Subscribe to TPOE’s New Irish Music playlist on Spotify

This week on the new music roundup, we have noise-pop (emphasis on the noise) from Dublin’s Thumper, Saint Caoilian‘s debut EP of love songs, Liza Flume‘s EP charting a breakup, another taster of Come On Live Long‘s second album (with a brilliant video), vintage rock from Limerick band The Poke and for a good cause, another taster of Robbie Barron’s Britpop-leaning Milky Teeth, and the Great Balloon Race‘s long-awaited second album arrives.
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Subscribe to TPOE’s New Irish Music playlist on Spotify

In this week’s roundup of new Irish music, there are pop bangers galore on Daithi‘s new EP, festival-sized choruses from Third Smoke, garage rock vibes from RSAG, dirty electronics from Lakerama, rap from Cork-based Outsider YP, sunshine pop from No Monster Club‘s fifth single of the year, folk/saxy 80s stuff from Elephant, relaxing stuff from Mount Alaska, and Ships‘ long-awaited debut album!

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Pine The Pilcrow - Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

Subscribe to TPOE’s New Irish Music playlist on Spotify

In this week’s roundup of new Irish music, there’s ambience from Winter Aid, a big pop tune and news of a new EP from Ailbhe Reddy, an emotionally heavy but heartful EP from the Meath indie band Youth Mass, a gorgeous post-Gloaming song from Pine the Pilcrow, indie-rock from Cork’s Neon Atlas, Liza Flume returns and goes electric, Shookrah showcase another song from their forthcoming EP, New Jackson‘s got a late-night, early-morning tune ahead of his long-awaited debut album, and Thumper, one of 2017’s ones to watch, release another noisy number. There’s no order to how they’re all presented so dig in and find a new tune to love

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Placemats & Second Cuts

Marlene Enright released her debut solo album, Placemats and Second Cuts, at the end of March and I chatted to her about it for The Point of Everything podcast. You can listen to the interview below, via Soundcloud, or on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use. Some of the interview is transcribed below, as we talked a lot about songwriting.

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