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RTÉ Choice Music Prize Awards Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 28th March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Earlier this month, I headed out to The RTÉ Choice Prize Awards at the jam-packed Vicar Street in Dublin 8, south of the Liffey. Arriving early, we grabbed ourselves a pint of Guinness’ Hop House 13 and took our seats in anticipation of an exciting, music-filled evening. During the course of the night, we were treated to a range of live performances, as well as the announcement of the winner of both the RTÉ Choice Music Prize single and album of 2016.

The first act of the night was Wallis Bird, whose yellow-white hair glowed onstage like a beacon of light. Bird captivated the audience with her heartfelt a capella as she stood alone onstage during ‘Home’, the title track of the album for which she was nominated. On another track, she banged against a microphone and used a loop pedal to create a rhythmic and organic backdrop for her incredible lungs. It was a raw and vulnerable performance. In a post-performance interview, Bird recounted the significance of ‘Home’ and living in the house where she first met her girlfriend.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmd3wDnRJpM[/youtube]

Next up was Bantum (Ruairi Lynch), nominated for his album ‘Move’, who I’d had the pleasure of seeing before at the Shortlist Sessions, but the last time I saw him he was alone onstage with his laptop and guitar. This time, he was joined onstage by the singers who feature on his tracks. The first track ‘Feel It Out’ featured Farah, and the second featured Loah and two backing singers on the song ‘Take It’. It made a huge difference with the singers being live, really fleshing out the music, and he looked like he was a lot more comfortable. After the performance, he discussed his love for funk sounds, and how the album was released completely independently.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky1xy600BKc[/youtube]

We Cut Corners, who I’d also seen at the Shortlist event, took to the stage next and played a hugely varied set in terms of tempo and sound. Nominated for their album ‘The Cadence of Others’ the duo confidently took to the stage to perform their tracks ‘Middle Kids’ and ‘Of Whatever’. Considering their smart and wonderfully wordy lyrics, you’d never guess the pair are teachers. At one point, the two stood side by side at the microphone, singing a capella with a smoky, moody spotlight allowing their voices to carry over the crowd. Then, at other times, Conall Ó Breacháin was banging one handed against a drum kit with one hand whilst John Duignan was strumming away at his guitar.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl1sJLwtmUo[/youtube]

Next to the stage was indie legends and former winner of the Choice Prize, The Divine Comedy. Neil Hannon,sat at a piano to perform some tracks from his latest effort ‘Foreverland’, Divine Comedy’s 11th studio album, reviewed by editor Mary back here. He and his live band kicked off their three-song set with ‘Catherine the Great’, before playing the witty and evocative ‘How Can You Leave Me On My Own?’ and drawing a number of laughs from the audience.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehxil2jZiok[/youtube]

Following The Divine Comedy’s performance, the winner of the Song of the Year was announced. Unable to be there on the night, winners Picture This (winning for ‘Take My Hand’) had recorded a video accepting the award and thanking all who had voted from a studio in the States where they are recording their new album. You can listen to Carrie’s interview with Picture This in Austin after that recording experience here.

Lisa Hannigan then took to the stage. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t heard Hannigan sing live just how powerful, yet calming her voice is. Ethereal and waif-like, Hannigan seems to command the stage without really trying to draw attention. I’m trying not to sound like a super fan. Armed with a banjo on one track, and what I believe was a tabletop accordion on another, Hannigan’s album ‘At Swim’ (reviewed by Carrie here) was nominated for the Album of the Year, and she played a few tracks from the album, including the spooky and slow-marching ‘We, The Drowned’ and the folky ‘Undertow’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSnaQAv77JE[/youtube]

The sixth act of the evening was the all-in-black Katie Kim, nominated for her third studio album ‘Salt’, whose morose, moody sound I fell in love with right away. Standing at first with her guitar, then moving onto a keyboard, Kim’s unusual and rich sound filled the room, and in particular her tracks ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Day is Coming which are the first two tracks on the album. ‘Salt’ is an emotive and powerful piece of work, and seems even more incredible when considering Kim is a solo artist.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cspN1Zk3L7Q[/youtube]

A little different to Kim’s haunting melodies, eventual Album of the Year winners Rusangano Family (for ‘Let the Dead Bury the Dead’) virtually erupted into life and had the audience on their feet during their fast-paced set. The title track of their LP opens with the tolling of a funeral bell, before MCs God Knows and MuRli began to do what they excel at, capturing the crowd’s attention with their fast-paced and lyrical verses.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ap_P-poNuY[/youtube]

Rapping about Irish identity and asylum seekers, they engaged the crowd by dancing and jumping enthusiastically throughout the set, even joining the audience out on the floor, while DJ mynameisjOhn was at the decks. After just a few minutes of their performance, former TGTF contributor Tom turned to me and said, “I want these guys to win”.

RTE Choice Music Prize 2016 winners Rusangano Family

Then we had All Tvvins, the enigmatic indie pop duo Conor Adams and Lar Kaye, nominated for their album ‘IIVV’, which Adam reviewed back here. They started with the catchy ‘Thank You’, a track with a seriously addictive guitar hook. Up next they played ‘These 4 Words’, followed by ‘Darkest Ocean’, receiving huge cheers from the audience. Bouncing around the stage, the pair looked like they were having a great time.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6agMJjr2TK0[/youtube]

The final act of the night was Overhead the Albatross, nominated for their album ‘Learning to Growl’. An instrumental-only act, live they have what seemed like 6 million guitars, a drum set and a violin. They finished up with a well-earned standing ovation and certainly deserve some real props for making instrumental-only music so interesting and feel so accessible. I’m going to be honest, I couldn’t tell you what tracks from their nominated album were played, but they were certainly impressive with a mixture of funky rhythms, moments of slower paced violin solos, and with an evident passion for the music that they were playing.

All in all, we had a pretty spectacular night. It was great to catch a glimpse of what the all too underrated Irish music scene has too offer. Perhaps underrated isn’t the best term, as the people that I’ve spoken to in my newly adopted home can’t help but rave about the music that is out there by Irish artists. This is music too often under the radar in terms of the global picture aside from the occasional artist that will break through: Hozier jumps to mind here.

I can definitely say that I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future of Irish music, particularly now that I’m able to access more of it living on Irish soil. If the eclectic and talented mixture of music that I heard at Vicar Street is any indication of the variety of music there, then I’ve got high hopes for the music that I’m going to be discovering over the coming months (maybe even years) now that I’m rooted here in Dublin.

 

Live Review: RTÉ Choice Music Prize – The Shortlist Sessions

 
By on Monday, 6th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Last Wednesday evening saw performances from nominees of the RTÉ Choice Music Prize in the candle-lit venue the Workman’s Club in Dublin city centre. Hosted by Irish musician and radio presenter/producer Cormac Battle, the evening started with two nominees for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish Song of the Year, followed by two of the acts shortlisted for Irish Album of the Year.

Ten acts have been shortlisted for the Irish Song of the Year, including James Vincent McMorrow and ex-One Direction-er Niall Horan. On Wednesday we saw performances from Heroes in Hiding and Raglans, both based in Dublin and the only two acts nominated for this award who have self-released their singles. Up first were folk-rock quartet Heroes in Hiding, who revealed during a brief pre-performance interview with Battle that they had never won or been nominated for an award.

However, within 30 seconds or so of the band playing their nominated track ‘Hospital’, it became pretty clear why they are now getting this kind of recognition conferred by the Choice Music Prize. ‘Hospital’ is a catchy track, featuring seemingly medical-inspired percussive sounds and upbeat guitars and drums. It’s little less folky than some of the band’s other stuff but is definitely a track you can dance or bob your head along to. The chorus, featuring vocalist Joe Carroll crowing “next thing I knew / I was in the hospital”, recalls a real near death experience of Carroll’s in which he remembers very little of the incident, but after which he woke up in a hospital bed.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZlyiiVJffg[/youtube]

The band followed this up with ‘Beer’, for which Carroll donned an acoustic guitar. Bassist Liam McCabe took the lead vocals on this track, which started out much more mellow and laid back than ‘Hospital’ before building to an early Mumford and Sons-esque climax (sans banjo) that literally made the room shake.

Next up was Raglans, who thanked their manager and revealed that it was their second time playing The Workman’s Club. Lead singer Stephen Kelly’s stage presence was everything you could want from a ballsy lead singer. He has a swagger and laid back confidence, joking “if you feel like voting for us: thank you. If you don’t… f**k you”. They started with ‘House Where I Was Born’, which isn’t the track that is up for nomination but is a solid track nonetheless; it features on their ‘Again & Again EP’. With edgy guitars and intense drums aplenty, this is as authentic rock ‘n’ roll as you’ve ever heard. Kelly’s Irish accent doesn’t come across when he singing and at times, the band actually reminded me of early Arctic Monkeys, in the rough and ready, yet great sound of their music. Nominated track ‘Who Knows’ came next: high in energy, it engaged the crowd most out of all the acts we saw that evening. Commanding the stage with growing indie guitar hooks and a hammering drumbeat, the band looked to be in their element and enjoying their moment in the spotlight being nominated for the Choice Music Prize.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9P2As4JCu4[/youtube]

Following a break, it was time for a pair of the Irish Album of the Year nominees to take to the stage. Bantum is an electronic act originally from Cork who appeared onstage armed only with a guitar and a laptop. He jokingly commented that he would get himself a new guitar if he won the prize money. Pretty different in style to previous two acts, Bantum is synth heavy, and track ‘Take It’ features ghostly vocals from Loah, whose voice is reminiscent of the xx’s Romy Madley-Croft. [Loah appeared at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 last October and is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017. – Ed.] It’s the kind of chilled out dance track that would be fitting at a festival as the sun is beginning to set and people are in between the highs of the morning and getting their second wind just in time for the evening acts. didn’t catch the name of the second track, but it carried an equally atmospheric and laid-back essence. Whilst I really enjoyed Bantum, The Workman’s Club didn’t seem like the best setting for the performance, and his sound didn’t quite seem to engage the crowd as well as other acts. Maybe this was because the event was on a mid-week evening? However, Bantum definitely has an easy-going ambient sound that would work better in a club at the weekend, or a summer festival.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky1xy600BKc[/youtube]

The final act of the evening was indie duo We Cut Corners. Both members are teachers and they stood together onstage with their acoustic guitars. Both John Duignan and Conall Ó Breacháin have high, clear and bright singing voices, one complimenting the other. They started with ‘Reluctant Recluse’, a smoky, soft acoustic track, featuring some nimble wordplay (“I was a reckless child / now I’m a childless wreck”), and a wholly passionate performance. This track appears on ‘The Cadences of Others’, the album for which the band is nominated. Even while simply performed with just a pair of melancholic acoustic guitars, the delivery of ‘Reluctant Recluse’ on this night conveyed a whole melting pot of emotions, making the track a standout.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4wGroj4sck[/youtube]

The second and final song from We Cut Corners was ‘Of Whatever’. Despite the quiet nature of the track, the pair were able to keep the rapt attention of the crowd, the crystalline vocals and emotive lyrics mesmerising. Lyrics like “but young love is reckless / leaves you gasping and breathless” and “a wave of whatever / is sweeping the nation” cemented this for me as being a genuinely beautiful track, making me think of the act as an Irish male First Aid Kit.

All in all, it was a fantastic night and I was glad to have seen all four acts perform, each bringing something different to the table. Votes can now be cast by the public for both the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Irish Song of the Year and of the Irish Album of the Year. The winners will be announced at a live event on Thursday, the 9th of March, at Dublin Vicar Street.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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