Tag Archives: concerts

Culture, Society and Popular Music; The Country Music Scene in Ireland

This is the first post in a weekly series of blogs relating to topics in the Culture, Society and Popular Music module I am studying this semester as part of my Music and Audio Production degree.

Country music is at the centre of attention of the media this week with Garth Brooks selling out 4 dates in Croke Park. Garth Brooks was a very popular artist in Ireland in the early 90’s and the announcement of his Croke Park gigs has caused huge excitement among his old and new fans. It’s been impossible to ignore the frenzy on social media and the fact that this is the first time ever that one artist has sold out so many shows in Croke Park in record time! This blog continues the discussion in class about the country music scene in Ireland.

I would like to begin by expressing my personal opinion of country music and its’ culture. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the genre as I find prolonged listening very boring and cheesey (the I, IV and V major chord progression, the vocal styles and the bland, basic drum beats)! To be quite honest, it generally doesn’t grab me inside. I can’t connect with the music and it doesn’t make me feel good. This is not ignorance or disrespect towards the genre at all. It’s a simple matter of personal taste.

On the other hand as a guitar player myself, I do genuinely really like the guitars in country music. I love fingerpicked acoustic guitars, twangy electric guitars (especially Fender Stratocasters!), pentatonic scales, bends and slides. I have absolute respect for country music guitar playing and acknowledge how skilled guitarists are. I love when these guitar elements combine with rock music, for example Metallicas’ “Mama Said” (country rock) is one of my all time favourite Metallica songs.

As I’m not a fan of the music itself, I have never really connected with country music culture. Growing up in a rural area in the early 90’s, I was aware of the line-dancing craze and of the dancing sessions in the local parochial hall- it seemed cheesey to me, even as a child! No one in my family was interested in country music or attending the dancing.

This picture reminds me of the image I had from my childhood of the locals line-dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe"
This picture reminds me of the image I have from my childhood of the locals line-dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe”!

Fast forward to the present. About four times a year every year, I work with my father at country music gigs he organises in a country club venue in county Meath.

I should explain that my father is a DJ on a local radio station and presents a very popular show dedicated to céili country, old time songs and ballads. His playlists includes songs by artists such as the Wolftones and the Dubliners as well as local artists and musicians.

The gigs are very popular and usually sell out, drawing a large crowd usually of elderly and middle-aged people. The gig consists of a live band who plays all night with local singers (all these singers have recorded material played on the radio show regularly) and usually one or two bigger stars who are full-time musicians.

An old Facebook event screen shot of my fathers country music night.
An old Facebook event screen shot of my fathers country music night.

I usually do front of house- taking tickets, greeting the people as they come in, selling raffle tickets during the show and help out with loading of music gear. I usually end up chatting with the people and I’m always struck by their friendliness. I’ve noticed that the middle-aged folk tend to take the country music culture side more seriously than the older ones- dressing in cowboy boots, hats, leather jackets and denim shirts. It’s always an enjoyable night and although I can’t say I like every song I hear, I do enjoy the energy and sound of the live band!

As mentioned in my opening paragraph, the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park have caused a frenzy on social media. My own Facebook feed was a mixture of excitement and annoyance.

Screen shot from my Facebook feed.
Excitement: screen shot from my Facebook feed.
Annoyance: another screen shot from my Facebook feed.
The opposite view: another screen shot from my Facebook feed.

I’ve noticed through posts on Facebook that the ticket sales itself was a big social event. Friends posted pictures of themselves q-ing and tagged their friends in them. These kind of posts got plenty of likes and comments, giving me the impression that this was actually a lot of fun for fans of Garth Brooks.

Q-ing to buy tickets was a positive social event.
Q-ing to buy tickets was a positive social event.

I have never in my life seen photos of people q-ing for tickets months and months before any event. Occasionally I might see a photograph of a ticket with an additional comment along the lines of “Got my ticket! Can’t wait till the show!” but never photos of smiley, happy people meeting and waiting in the cold to buy their tickets.

I was impressed with the community spirit at these social events when in class we saw fans looking out for each other. The fans seemed genuinely caring towards each other.

I haven’t seen any evidence of bad natured reports or derogatory comments through the media about Garth Brooks, his fans or country music in general. I have seen funny tweets and posts about the fact so many shows were added but these were good natured.

A good natured Facebook post by a fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.
A good natured Facebook post by a fabricated satirical newspaper and comedy website.
Musician Niall Breslin tweet
Musician Niall Breslin tweet.

Today FM’s Gift Grub incorporated Garth Brooks in a new satirical song on their show. The song itself is country music and the lyrics are humorous with mock Irish politicians singing about the Recession to and with a mock Garth Brooks.

My attention was drawn to an old Rich Hall interview about country music on Paul Merton’s Room 101 (I do take into account that this is a British not an Irish show). I thought Rich Hall made valid points about contemporary country music becoming more manufactured, overly produced and losing its’ traditions and values. The interview was funny and light hearted but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. I never considered that country music might be losing its’ roots and values.

My perception of country music hasn’t really changed with the recent coverage. For me it always was and still seems to be- you either love country music or you hate it! I for one am glad that the country music fan (who may sometimes only consider themselves general music fans) still has the passion and enthusiasm to q for tickets, support their country music hero, stick to their guns and be proud to call themselves a fan, especially after having to wait almost 20 years since his last Irish show. I think it’s great a new generation of fans have become passionate about country music. Even if I personally don’t like most of the songs I hear and the music itself is not quite as authentic as Johnny Cash, it still delivers relatable lyrical messages while showcases musicianship and songwriting. That to me is a healthy thing.

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Oh, Happy Day!

Oh, happy day indeed! I’m very excited to announce that I have joined Gerry Simpson’s Augustinian Gospel Choir on a permanent basis!

The concerts last week in the Barbican theatre in Drogheda were very successful. It was a fantastic production and my inbox was full of messages from everyone who enjoyed the experience!

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir. Photo by Colin Bell.
Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir. Photo by Colin Bell.
Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir band. Photo by Colin Bell.
Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir band. Photo by Colin Bell.
Yours truly on bass. Photo by Colin Bell.
Yours truly on bass. Photo by Colin Bell.

Augustinian Gospel Choir @ Barbican Centre 2013 – Images | Colin Bell.

Great review in the Drogheda Independent by Hubert Murphy.
Great review in the Drogheda Independent by Hubert Murphy.

‘Mindblowing’ night of music at the Barbican – Independent.ie

I enjoyed the concerts and rehearsals so much I couldn’t bear the thought of parting ways with the choir after the shows last weekend. I got such a lovely, friendly, positive energy every time I was around the members of the choir! Chancing my arm, I offered my services of alto vocals and my offer was greatly accepted with open arms! I attended my first rehearsal as an alto last Tuesday and there I received the warmest welcome from everyone.

I have been aching to take part in a music production for a long time, I’m so excited!

Today we performed at the Annual Mass for Road Traffic Accident Victim’s in the Augustinian Church, Drogheda. I was playing bass again alongside Alan Barton on drums, Gerry Simpson on piano, backing up the choir. It was a very beautiful and touching Mass.

I will be announcing further performances in the near future!

Myself and Gerry Simpson after the show :)
Myself and Gerry Simpson after the show last weekend in the Barbican theatre, Drogheda 🙂

 

Heavy Metal Fans Get Spoiled by Blaze Bayley With His New Release “Soundtracks of my Life”

I’m so excited! Yesterday I received my Platinum edition of Soundtracks of my Life, the latest release from legendary metal vocalist Blaze Bayley and I have just opened the package… like the 299 other (lucky) diehard Blaze fans, my reaction is “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!” \m/

The package includes the book Blaze himself wrote with the help of his wife Eline about his journey from the beginning of his Wolfsbane days, his Iron Maiden adventures, right up to his most recent solo release in 2013, the double disc album itself, a fridge magnet, a badge and a certificate.

The book is autographed by Blaze and includes my own name in gold ink as well as the album booklet and certificate. My own name is also printed on the first page of the Special Thanks section in the album booklet!

"Soundtracks of my Life" Platinum Edition \m/
“Soundtracks of my Life” Platinum Edition \m/

As a longtime fan of Blaze Bayley, this is just amazingly awesome!!!

My younger sister introduced me to Blaze’s solo music which is kind of ironic- I introduced her to Iron Maiden by happy accident when I loaned her my walkman (yes, walkman) with Brave New World on tape inside one day for the school bus journey home (she came home that day a die-hard Iron Maiden fan!).

So a couple of years later she was playing Blaze’s Tenth Dimension album in her bedroom when I was having a chat with her. “Stealing Time” came on and I was hooked. I borrowed the C.D and that was it! I adored it. From start to finish, a superb album.

In 2004 a special gig was announced, we heard it through word of mouth from a metal fanatic friend in England I think. Blaze was coming to play in the Village, Dublin. I personally couldn’t believe Blaze Bayley was going to play such a small venue. Myself, Arlene (my sister) and her friend headed up for a ridiculously early time, hoping we’d get to meet Blaze himself before the gig. We waited and waited and waited… All day we sat outside the Village (we were the only ones!) and eventually we were invited inside! There he was, larger than life, Blaze Bayley himself with a huge smile. I remember my sister giving him a lollypop because she thought it would be cute and he laughed. He was so nice! He signed everything we gave him, (one of the items he signed for me was my Virtual XI Iron Maiden album booklet-my favourite Maiden album!) joked around with us and posed for photos with us. We were on an absolute high and couldn’t wait for the show…

Meeting Blaze in the Village, Dublin 2004
Meeting Blaze in the Village, Dublin 2004
Posing with Blaze in the village, Dublin, 2004 \m/
Posing with Blaze in the village, Dublin, 2004 \m/

The show itself was amazing. Blaze gave such a performance, his multi-national band was amazing, the songs were brilliant, the sound was perfect, we had so much fun!!! I came home with a setlist, a drumstick and a guitar plec. I also came home with a sore neck and without my voice!! I remembering meeting Italian guitarist Luca Princiotta after the show and talking with him, I also remember him giving me a kiss on my face, he was so very lovely! 🙂 That entire day was so special to us all and my sister and I remember it with the fondest of memories.

Blaze performing that night
Blaze performing that night in the Village, 2004.
Blaze Bayley band 2004
Blaze band performing in the Village, Dublin in 2004
Blaze hugs one of his guitarists that night mid solo! :)
Blaze hugs guitarist Oliver Palotai that night – mid solo! 🙂
Blaze and guitarist Luca Princiotta, 2004
Blaze and guitarist Luca Princiotta, 2004
Bassist Nick Douglas and Oliver Palotai in the Village, Dublin
Bassist Nick Douglas and Oliver Palotai in the Village, Dublin
Nick Douglas and Blaze Bayley metal moment, the Village 2004
Nick Douglas and Blaze Bayley metal moment, the Village 2004
Blaze has a quiet moment in the Village, 2004
Blaze has a quiet moment in the Village, 2004
Drummer Daniel Löble after his jaw dropping drum solo
Drummer Daniel Löble after his jaw dropping drum solo
Luca Princiotta and a smitten Steffy post gig ;)
Luca Princiotta and a smitten Steffy post gig 😉

Fast forward to 2010… Blaze was coming back to Dublin! This time we heard through Facebook. Fibbers on Parnell St. There was a meet and greet before the show and I was so excited and nervous to meet Blaze again. He wouldn’t talk at all to anyone (I assumed it was to save his voice for the show) but I sat beside him, said “welcome back to Dublin!” and he grabbed me and gave me the biggest, squeeziest hug I ever got in my life!!! That night he signed my Tenth Dimension album booklet.

The following show was unbelievably energetic and I fondly remember it starting off with the unmistakeable sound of Blaze Bayley himself shouting from the back “Get out of my focking way!!! Let’s get this focking show started! Come on!!!” as he pushed his way through the crowd. His big Birmingham accent filled the room and we all laughed and made way for the mighty Blaze! What a show it was! Again we were up the front and this time almost too close! I remember being able to hug Blaze while he sang, drenched in sweat! Haha, so brilliant! His band line up had changed but these players were brilliant as well. We all had a brilliant night. What a gig.

The biggest and best hug of my life! Myself and Blaze in Fibbers, Dublin 2010
The biggest and best hug of my life! Myself and Blaze in Fibbers, Dublin 2010.
Up close, personal and drenched in sweat! As all metal musicians should be!
Up close, personal and drenched in sweat! As all metal musicians should be! Blaze in Fibbers, 2010.

Blaze has become very Internet savvy in the last few years, he’s always posting on Facebook, usually he posts brilliant photos of himself in various places in Europe, making the same heavy metal face! He’s constantly gigging and recording. It’s amazing to see his international fan base on Facebook, everyone seems to have the same love for this brilliant, larger than life performer.

Blaze likes to keep his fans updated through brilliant selfies on tour.
Blaze likes to keep his fans updated through brilliant selfies while on tour.

I’m sure we all love him for the same reasons- his fantastic lyrics and songs, his amazing energy he delivers in his performances and the time and love he gives back to his fans.

Soundtracks of my Life is not only the perfect thank you to all his fans, it’s the perfect way to celebrate Blaze’s 30 years in the music industry.   “Thank you all so much for your support over the years and making it possible to live my dream.” -Blaze Bayley.

An awesome heavy metal album. Soundtracks of my Life is out October 31st. Make it your business to own a copy of it.