The TDC Auditorium, part of the Triskel Arts Centre in city-centre Cork, tonight plays host to a ream of great Irish talent, with a definite lean left in audio and aesthetic sensibilities. Darkened sans the solitary projector up the back and some odd stage lights, it feels different here than its usual, functional self. Still, as a venue, it’s nothing short of a godsend to a town starved for decent venues in recent years. Backing tonight’s proceedings too are Alliance Promotions, a promo company that have, in the past year, assumed an important role in the town’s gigging scene. The eclectic booking on offer here, and the strong crowd, full of both regulars and new faces, speaks well of their work.
The atmosphere is perfect then, for the magical mania of First Blood Part II, the frankly unhinged brainchild of Dave Kennedy, and his accomplice for this evening on pedals and manipulation, none other than People of the Monolith/Siorai Geimhreadh/Screaming Moist man Declan Synnott. Staring the concept of music in the face and laughing, wild-eyed, FBP2 has always been about experimentation and an out-there showmanship, and this comes through this evening, Kennedy creating shards of dissonance with an alto sax for Synnott to loop and manipulate however he feels, making for a truly engaging piece of improv, that attacks the auditory senses and leaves one simultaneously agape and delighted for the existence of such boldness.
The first part of tonight’s double headliner is the return to Cork of space-rockers Realistic Train, their intergalactic jams recalling Kyuss, Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath in equal measure, and featuring the presence of doom-folk solo standout Michael “Owensie” Owens in his creative day job, as it were. And they are on form tonight, despite the technical foibles that go on all around them, with mikes giving up the ghost, and stage lights practically non-existent.
New material, such as Jupiter, holds up well, while The Lightning Machine‘s Hawkwind-esque gallivanting lends astronomical atmosphere to an already amazing set. Big Mistress, however, is the zenith here: big, groovy riffs support the story of Ireland’s economic collapse in the decidedly rock ‘n’ roll allegory of a “large” lady. Cliches are poked fun at, but the serious message remains. Realistic Train’s momentum is locomotive.
Atop the bill tonight are Cork’s Brains, a blackened, bluesy proposition steeped deep in B-movie and horror influences and occult tropes.
Launching their second EP on cassette, it is this record that provides the bulk of the night’s material, their distinct feel taking on wider Americana influence and investigating stand-bys like the deal with the devil, among many others. The tongue-in-cheekness of it all is backed up, though, by solid songwriting chops, serious wit (check out 3ft Wide, 7ft Tall from their first effort) and a confident, commanding presence, which tonight, sees Brains, led by bassist/vocalist Karol Lapot, and joined by local blues luminary Brian O’Reilly for the latter part of their set, hold the assembled throng in the palm of their hand, even with tech foibles working against them.
A solid showing from a band that your writer sees having a much larger role in Cork music’s hierarchy sooner rather than later.
Review and photographs by Mike McGrath-Bryan