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Video of the Moment #2786: Ciaran Lavery

 
By on Monday, 12th February 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Northern Ireland’s Ciaran Lavery will be releasing his third album this spring. ‘Sweet Decay’, will be out on the 13th of April, and will feature the single ‘To Chicago’, which now has its own music video. The promo was filmed by Lavery’s longtime video collaborator, director Jamie Neish, who also directed the past video for ‘Everything is Made to Last’’ and ‘’Wells Tower’. This particular video is particularly special, as Lavery explains: “What was special about this video was that it was all shot in one entire take without edits or any of that post production magic. This was something we all felt strongly about so it not only flowed but there was a sense of realism about it that could not be achieved from many angles or cuts.” I think it’s really such a sweet video. Enjoy it below. For more of our coverage on Ciaran Lavery on TGTF, go here.

 

Live Gig Video: Ciaran Lavery shares acoustic cover of Green Day’s ‘When I Come Around’

 
By on Tuesday, 19th December 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

Northern Irish singer/songwriter Ciaran Lavery has no problem eliciting strong and deep emotions from his listeners. I should know: he slayed the audience at Bethell Hall Friday night at SXSW 2017. As if giving us an early Christmas present, a few days ago he shared an acoustic version of a song from my formative years, Green Day‘s ‘When I Come Around’. For those of you familiar with Billie Joe Armstrong-sung original know that it’s a pretty upbeat, driven number, so how does it come across in Lavery’s slower version, his voice only accompanied by piano? You’ll have to watch it below to find out. The song is available for purchase now. To read through all of our past coverage on Ciaran Lavery here on TGTF, go here.

 

SXSW 2017: Friday afternoon’s focus on hearing health, with a bit of live music from Ciaran Lavery and The Sandinistas – 17th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 18th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

During one of our many treks through the Austin Convention Center earlier in the week, Mary and I had noticed that free hearing screenings were being offered to musicians and music professionals attending SXSW 2017. In Real Life, I’m currently back at university studying for my own clinical doctorate in Audiology, so I was naturally intrigued. After spending Friday morning at the BMI / AT&T Fiber Acoustic Brunch), I had a brief interval of down time, so I walked over to the Convention Center to take advantage of the service.

I arrived at Mezzanine Room 2 just as audiologists from Nashville-based charity Songs for Sound and Austin-based Estes Audiology were finishing their set up for the day, and the staff were kind enough to chat with me as they worked. They explained that Songs for Sound’s travelling Hear the Music Project had stopped in Austin for SXSW to provide music professionals attending the festival with free hearing exams and audiology consultations, while Estes Audiology had teamed with MusiCares, another non-profit music charity, to provide musicians with free custom-made ear protection. But their services weren’t only intended for showcasing artists. I’m not a practicing musician myself, but I qualified for an exam and ear moulds as a 5-year music journalist.

To begin the process, I had to fill out a quick form regarding my hearing health and occupational history, to confirm that I was eligible. Once that was finished, I had ear moulds made, which would be used to create my custom-fit earplugs. A thick, blue foam was squirted into each of my ears and allowed to harden. The mould was removed, and I was asked how much hearing protection I needed. I chose the moderate-level 17 dB attenuation, which is recommended for loud music concerts or club environments. My custom ear protectors are due to arrive by mail in just a couple of weeks, and as it turns out, I have extra motivation to use them.

After the ear mould fitting, I was administered a pure tone audiometry screening, using a touch pad and over-the-ear headphones. I was dismayed to learn that my hearing test result suggested a possible mild low frequency hearing loss. Songs for Sound audiologist Paul Shanley told me that this would be consistent with frequent exposure to loud music without hearing protection, and he encouraged me to wear earplugs when attending gigs. If you’ve read TGTF’s coverage of SXSW in the past, you might know that I’ve received this advice before. I’m typically loath to wear earplugs when listening to music, because I feel that they dampen the vibrant tone colors and subtle nuances in the sound, but this was a sobering reminder to protect both my hearing and my ability to enjoy live music.

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After my hearing exam was complete, I met Mary at Latitude 30 for a brief stop at the Output Belfast day show, where she had gone to see electronic musician Ryan Vail. The Northern Irish showcase has become a bit of a tradition for us at TGTF, so I was a little sad that we didn’t have time to stay for the whole thing. But I couldn’t help pausing for a quick listen to the next artist on the bill, Ciaran Lavery, who once again commanded the room with only the raw, powerful sound of his singing voice.

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I made sure to have my earplugs at the ready for our next stopover at Valhalla, where we caught Welsh punk rockers The Sandinistas. Mary had seen them the day before here at SXSW, but she was impressed enough that she thought I should hear them too. And indeed, their punk rock sound was massive inside the small, red-tinged Valhalla, despite their basic guitar, bass and drums set up. Even watching their set for Music Tastes Good felt like a high-impact aerobic workout: just the thing I needed to get re-energised for the remainder of the afternoon. We featured their debut single ‘Ready to Blow’ in our SXSW 2017 preview coverage of the Welsh acts showcasing this year in Austin, and you can check out a live session performance of its b-side ‘Down on the Street Today’ just below, courtesy of Studio Toy.

Mary and I spent the last part of Friday afternoon back at the Convention Center, where Mary took the time to have her own hearing screened and to get fitted for custom hearing protection. Her hearing exam results were squeaky clean, undoubtedly because she’s fastidious about wearing earplugs to gigs, but she still chose to take advantage of the customised ear moulds to help ensure that her hearing remains intact for many more years of music listening. Fellow live music lovers, take note!

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On the subject of long music careers, our final appointment for Friday afternoon was at a panel session celebrating the 20th anniversary of a leading independent music label. You can read my summary of that panel session, ‘Bella Union at 20’, right back here. Stay tuned to TGTF for my coverage of Friday night at SXSW 2017 events, which will post later this week.

 

SXSW 2017: Tuesday morning and afternoon spent with Irish artists and an exceptional English band – 14th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 5th April 2017 at 5:00 pm
 

The Tuesday morning of SXSW 2017 found me out the door early, headed across the Colorado River to the Hyatt Regency Boat Dock, which the launching point for the Output Belfast Boat Party. The Boat Party, a collaborative event among several agencies including Generator NI and the Belfast City Council, is quickly becoming a Convergence tradition at SXSW, popular among attendees from across the Interactive, Film, and Music categories.

I was lucky to get onboard, as the boat quickly reached capacity. I had only just made my way to the upper deck when I was approached by one of the morning’s performers, electronic musician Ryan Vail. I recognised him from his press photos and felt a momentary panic, worried that I would be expected to say something intelligent about electronic music and drawing a complete blank. Fortunately, Vail was knowledgeable enough for both of us, and he kept the conversation afloat until the official festivities began.

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The morning’s distinguished emcees included our friends Mark Gordon of Generator NI and Belfast city Alderman Guy Spence (pictured above), as well as Help Musicians UK CEO Richard Robinson. All three were cordial but brief in their remarks, wanting, like the rest of us, to get straight to the music performances. Vail took the stage, such as it was, first. Balancing his sensitive electronic equipment on the gently rocking riverboat was something of a challenge, but Vail managed it beautifully, setting a soft and mellow sonic atmosphere for the rest of the show.

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Alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (pictured in header above) returned to Austin this year after a successful debut at SXSW 2016, this time with her full band accompanying her. For this brief semi-acoustic riverboat set, she was joined only by keyboard player, Hannah McConnell who also provided lovely backing vocals. I found myself whistling along to the now familiar ‘Goji Berry Sunset’ and hanging intently on the literary-leaning lyrics of ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’. You can check out another SXSW 2017 performance of both tracks, courtesy of NPR, right here.

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Final performer Ciaran Lavery opened with an a capella take on ‘Let Bad In’ that had me in tears before he had even completed the full song, which made it a bit difficult to take photos. He acknowledged that his songs aren’t exactly upbeat “dance numbers”, but his richly-textured vocals and stark acoustic arrangements felt pleasantly warm and inviting in the early afternoon Texas sunshine.

After the boat party was complete, I took a few minutes to sit down with the three featured artists for this impromptu interview, then I headed quickly back downtown for another interview with a band from the Republic of Ireland, Dublin’s Picture This. I was few minutes late to reach them, but fortunately they were gracious enough to wait, and band members Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy gave this fascinating introductory soundbite. They exuded confidence and swagger, which immediately struck me as unusual, but in a positive way, very different from the self-deprecating humility of so many artists I meet. I wouldn’t have the chance to hear Picture This play live until the Thursday afternoon of SXSW, but needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.

From there, it was back to the Radisson for me, where I had arranged an interview with Reading quartet Sundara Karma. They were fresh on the SXSW scene, having only arrived in Austin hours before, but they were chomping at the bit to immerse themselves in the experience. In contrast to Picture This, Sundara Karma seemed genuinely unaffected by the hype surrounding their SXSW appearance. Click here to listen back to my poolside chat with band members Oscar Pollock and Haydn Evans.

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Interviews complete for the afternoon, my next stop was at the Convention Center Next Stage, where I met Mary to catch Irish singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning. Later in the week, (in this interview) Fanning would describe the Convention Center vibe as more like a lecture hall than a proper gig, and I have to agree with his sentiment. The large stage and open seating area was almost too spacious for Fanning’s dark, intimate songwriting, but his captivating lyrics and resonant baritone vocals very quickly minimised the emotional distance between himself and his audience.

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Keep following TGTF’s continuing coverage of SXSW 2017 in the coming days for more on all of the excellent artists featured here: Ryan Vail on the grand piano at St. David’s Bethell Hall, A.S. Fanning and Picture This at Thursday’s Full Irish Breakfast, Ciaran Lavery at the Output Belfast day show, Sundara Karma at Stubb’s BBQ, and Jealous of the Birds on Saturday’s Music for Listeners showcase at El Sapo.

 

SXSW 2017: visits to St. David’s, the Velveeta Room and the British Music Embassy (Friday, part 2) – 17th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 4th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

I want to add another rule to those I presented yesterday as part of how I saw five bands in 1 hour on my Thursday night at SXSW 2017. Rule #5: take advantage of secondary or even tertiary shows your favourite artist is playing. Knowledge is power, and any research you do into additional shows an artist is playing will help you make the most of your time in Austin. Research is not just for the purpose of avoiding schedule clashes: smaller, less prominently advertised shows, especially those off the beaten path, are likely to give you the priceless opportunities to meet your heroes and/or to see them in more intimate settings. And if you’re anything like me (short and small) and have any level of claustrophobia, this is an unsaid key to keeping your sanity during SXSW.

For a long while, the only show Berlin-based Dane Agnes Obel had scheduled at SXSW was Thursday night at Clive Bar, in the Rainey Street area of the city. Unfortunately (for me anyway), closer to the time of SXSW, it was announced Clive Bar would become the Twin Peaks Showtime venue to celebrate the reboot of the cult tv show. Further, on Thursday night the showcase would host a very special appearance by none other than FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper himself, Kyle MacLachlan. Coupled with the announcement that ‘90s boy band Hanson would be appearing at Bungalow around the corner, it didn’t make sense walking all that way and to queue up only to be disappointed.

Thankfully, Obel announced a second show at the main room at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary as part of the Communion Presents showcase, which afforded her fans like me to have a better chance of seeing her and to be able to sit down while doing so. Many did, filling the venue easily and well before she even took the stage. SXSW was just one stop in her North American tour that had already passed through the East Coast the week before. I’m still unclear why venues seem to think throwing red light on their performers is a good idea. The celebrated Obel and her truly international, all female backing band were under a sea of crimson for her entire set, so I took a rare break at shooting bands at St. David’s.

Released in autumn 2016, her third and latest album ‘Citizen of Glass’ demonstrates the imaginative Dane’s commitment to defying convention in an industry where fitting in is de rigueur. With a flurry of instruments both conventional (piano, guitar, drums) and unusual (cello, celesta, mandolin) the unique performance was beautiful, especially in the confines of such a hallowed space. ‘Stretch Your Eyes’, which I reviewed ahead of SXSW, was a masterpiece live, exceeding all my expectations.

While there are two queues for the two stages at St. David’s, the main room and Bethell Hall, I can think of only one time I’ve been in Bethell Hall in the last 6 years where the place has been packed and they weren’t letting anyone in. In that respect, it’s a placid, infrequently visited SXSW venue hidden in plain sight. Good news for me, as I was wanting to catch up on the new material from an artist who had wowed me in DC a few years ago. Stepping out of Agnes Obel’s show a little early, I was able to catch the tail-end of another set here.

Bethell Hall is less pretentious than its name suggests. It has a recreation / social room-type vibe, and therefore it has more of an everyman flavour. While it’s not like I didn’t enjoy his set at B.D. Riley’s Thursday morning at the Full Irish Breakfast, there’s something very special about seeing Ciaran Lavery performing in such of a room. Think about where many legendary singers of popular music honed their craft: that’s right, with their families and in the church.

Ciaran Lavery, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017

With the acoustics of the bare walls of Bethell Hall bouncing back Lavery’s gritty yet gorgeous vocals and acoustic guitar chords to us, you couldn’t have asked for a better venue to see the Northern Irishman. Deadpanning that he would warn us next time if he was to perform another set of “overly positive songs”, he had the audience not only in rapt attention but also chuckling at his dry Irish wit. Ending with an incomprehensibly rich sounding a capella version of Tom Waits’ ‘If I Have to Go’, it’s not an understatement to say Ciaran Lavery slayed the audience at Bethell Hall.

Ciaran Lavery, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017, 2

It fell to Oxfordshire’s Lewis Watson to follow such a great performance. The contrast was unfortunately stark, as even though I don’t think the two artists differ that much in age, lack of festival experience (or perhaps lack of practice in recent months) showed in Watson’s comparatively lacklustre set. While I am very familiar with and loved Watson’s 2014 breakthrough LP ‘the morning’, I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to his latest album released the week after SXSW, ‘midnight’. Based on his performance in Austin, I’m not sure I want to. Maybe his latest breakup knocked him harder than he’s willing to admit? The one bright spot of new material was the wispy ‘Hello Hello’, in which he asked the audience to join in.

Lewis Watson, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017

Watson’s nervously chuckled assurances that the new songs sounds better with his full backing band and his asking us to imagine one song or another with a thumping drum beat implies, whether he meant it or not, that these new songs cannot stand on their own in their original form in which they were written. Further, while I completely understand the prohibitive travel and visa costs involved in bringing a full band over from England to America, one wonders why Watson appeared at SXSW solo at all, when a North American tour with his band was already in the works for later in the spring. It’s also hard to overlook that he broke not one, but two strings in the middle of his set. Chalk it all up to nerves or unpreparedness, but I was sorely disappointed.

After a quick brisket and coleslaw break and a gawk at and a farewell wave to the hordes already queued up to see Rag’n’Bone Man’s show in St. David’s main room at 1 AM, I headed back down to 6th Street. It was St. Patrick’s Day, so a visit to The Velveeta Room’s Music from Ireland showcase was definitely in order. (Sadly, there was not even time for a Guinness!) I had been interviewing Hull punks LIFE at the British Music Embassy while Carrie caught the Academic at the Full Irish Breakfast Thursday afternoon. It was now my turn to catch part of a set by the band I’d been wanting to see live for a long time.

The Academic, Music from Ireland showcase, The Velveeta Room, Friday 17 March 2017

Having seen the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room for so many years, I have to say the Velveeta Room feels like a much better venue for the bands. It also oddly reminds me of The Tivoli where MFI’s Canadian Music Week showcase was in 2016, so it has that going for it. The Academic from Mullingar were worth the wait. Full of the fun and vigour that made me fall in love with Two Door Cinema Club back in 2009, they brought an intensity and energy to the venue that only youth can. Singer/guitarist Craig Fitzgerald is an effective frontman, leading his band into every dynamic number, from single ‘Mixtape 2003’ that we reviewed last summer to their 2015 EP standout ‘Different’. Check out my very funny interview with the whole band that we did after their set through here.

I then returned to the British Music Embassy for the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music showcase to witness Glasgow pop rockers Catholic Action have Latitude 30’s punters in the palm of their hand. They proved that being given a much bigger room that earlier at the Mohawk was no problem at all. (Stay tuned for Carrie’s report of their performance Saturday afternoon at El Sapo, which was additional evidence that outdoor Mexican-themed venues are no match for them either.) Following the Scots was another band I’d been recommended to see, though to be honest, I was expecting it to be full of shenanigans. I wasn’t wrong, and it seemed everyone who was there that Friday night to see them couldn’t talk about anyone or anything else the last day of SXSW.

Bristol punks IDLES (yes, all caps again) are probably best known to 6 Music listeners for their track ‘WELL DONE’, which hilariously name-checks not only Steve Lamacq but also ex-Great British Bakeoff octagenarian Mary Berry having a job and enjoying reggae. People are angry with what’s going on in Britain and in a similar vein to what LIFE are doing in East Yorkshire, IDLES are the South West equivalent in providing the opening of a pressure valve. In Red Hot Chili Peppers-style, guitarist Mark Bowen seems to enjoy performing in nothing but his underpants, which if you’re a photographer is not for the faint of heart.

IDLES, British Music Embassy, BBC Introducing / PRS for Music showcase, Latitude 30, Friday 17 March 2017

I get that it’s part of their anarchic style that continues into their debut album ‘BRUTALISM’ out now, but it’s distracting (I think negatively) from the messages Joe Talbot wants to send in his lyrics. Their live performance is everything you would expect: a ruckus onstage, leading to equally crazy scenes down on the floor. IDLES did everything they set out to do: create havoc.

 

SXSW 2017: Thursday afternoon at the Full Irish Breakfast and the Radio Day Stage – 16th March 2017

 
By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

It’s become a yearly tradition for TGTF to cover the Full Irish Breakfast, a daytime showcase put on by Music from Ireland at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub on 6th Street. Carrie generally does the honours while I usually take five, tucking into my complimentary breakfast, avoiding the pub’s Lipton tea and bemoaning the absent black pudding and mushrooms. This year for SXSW 2017, however, I stood in for Carrie at the start of the showcase, as she was down at the convention center, listening to Zane Lowe.

This was all fine by me, as the first band on were Belfast’s New Portals specialising in synthpop, therefore squarely in my wheelhouse. We had featured the act’s single ‘Winter Skin’ before Christmas last year and prior to our Derry correspondent Adam’s preview of the Northern Irish acts coming out to SXSW 2017. I should probably read our previews one more time before we go out to Austin because I evidently forgot that Mike and Ruth Aicken are married. They’re way too young and cool to be married! Ruth was wearing a baseball cap and her voice is sultry and poppish, leading me to compare her to Lorde and BANKS, both who young girls seek to emulate.

New Portals, full Irish breakfast, B.D. Riley's, Thursday 16 March 2017

I would think B.D. Riley’s is an unusual place for Irish artists to perform because on most days, it’s sunny in Austin and the windows out to 6th Street are thrown wide open. With New Portals’ music, it’s a bit odd to be hearing electronic music in a sunny environment and not in a club. However, Ruth let herself be totally drawn into the moment, singing with her eyes closed, grooving to the music as if she was in her own little world. But we were welcomed into that world, the buzz of the synths and the catchiness of the beats pulling us into the music despite it being eye-blinkingly 11 in the morning. As I looked around the room, I saw quite a few Guinness and gin and tonics being drunk, so it wasn’t too far from what it’s like being in a club…

The great thing about a man and his guitar: he takes next to no time to set up. For a completely different change of pace, fellow Northern Irish artist Ciaran Lavery was next up on the bill. We’ve been fans of Lavery for quite a while, and we covered him when he came out to Austin last year. The popular ‘Shame’, with Lavery’s plaintive vocals and simple yet effective guitar chord progressions, proved so disarming, I was nearly in tears.


Ciaran Lavery, full Irish breakfast, B.D. Riley's, Thursday 16 March 2017

Lavery clearly impressed the crowd, as several people asked me for his name and I recommended his live album ‘Live at the Mac’ that Adam reviewed for us at the end of 2016. I find his droll hand at stage patter hilarious, though I do wonder if it goes over better in front of Irish fans, several of whom had come all the way over from Belfast that I met at the breakfast. In any event, a job well done.

After sitting in on the enlightening and moving talk by Russell “DMC” McDaniels back at the convention center, I was able to catch most of Middle Kids’ performance on the Radio Day Stage early Thursday afternoon as part of the KCSN afternoon showcase there. I included the female-fronted Aussie band in my best bets of acts from Oz showcasing this year in Austin.

Middle Kids, Radio Day Stage, Thursday 16 March 2017

By the time they arrived at SXSW 2017, they had under their belt an appearance on American alt late night tv programme Conan, so they’d already had their American close-up with thousands of armchair viewers. The brashness of their hit ‘Edge of Town’ hit the spot with Radio Day onlookers. For an indie band on one of their first-ever trips to America, you really can’t do much better than having such a great reception on the biggest stage in the convention center.

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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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