It’s Friday, it’s 8 PM and the Village is heaving. No ordinary occurrence but then tonight is no ordinary night. Richie Egan of Jape is on stage as part of the Camden Crawl, an imported concept from London to Dublin. Given the prevailing economic circumstances (there’s recession on you know) it’s probably the only import going in that direction right now but it’s like the good old days of the Celtic Tiger never left, as the excesses of a Saturday seem to be in evidence on the day the lord set aside for chilling out.
Richie isn’t a man to fail to rise to the occasion, with the inevitable ‘Floating’ transformed from laid back ditty to powerhouse dance anthem. Disappointingly, many people, including eh, me, make for the exit when that song finishes, leaving the rest to enjoy ‘Ocean of Frequency’ from last year’s album of the same name.
I head down the stairs, out the door and into Whelan’s, right into the sonic assault of the Bambir, who are apparently the house band on Friday nights. This was ironic in the extreme, given the organisers purposefully kept the schedule under wraps for as long as possible to encourage spontaneity and discovery. Speaking only for myself, the one new band I managed to discover ended up being completely unconnected to the festival itself.
And what a band; their off beat time signatures and noodling guitars recalling prog-rock at it’s best, like Mahavisnu without the navel gazing, topped off with the type of flute work that would do Ron Burgundy proud. Their impressive sound lead to me making a real lemon of myself on Twitter, asking for info on them which was far more easily gleaned by just asking someone. There might be an app for that yet.
My timing already off by showing up late for Jape, I had a vague notion I’d catch a bit of the Ambience Affair, a notion quickly squashed as I headed up the stair to see two thirds of the band come the opposite direction. Woops.
At this stage it was getting close to stage time for And So I Watch You From Afar (hereafter known by the acronym ASIWYFA and various superlatives) in the Button Factory. The venue seemed less than half full when I got there but I needn’t have worried as the Belfast quartet quickly filled the remaining space with noise.
They went even further than just filling in the space between people and seemed determined to fill mouths, ears and chest cavities with pure noisy joy. I said to one fellow gig goer that I felt strange; having gone to “gigs like this” since I was 15 but never having seen this sort of crowd, an eclectic mix of revellers rather than heavily tattooed types,
enjoy music like that.
But of course with all due deference to the likes of Converge or Dillinger Escape Plan, the gigs which I readily associated with them, ASIWYFA are a band apart from whatever you choose to lump them in with. The instrumental band with the sing along anthems; the guitar musos who never have the audience anything less then 100% engaged as on the shout along refrain to ‘7 Billion People Alive All At Once’.
The set reaches a climax on ‘The Voiceless’ with Rory and Niall taking to the audience and creating an impromptu sit down in the middle of the dancefloor. As the song builds towards its epic conclusion everyone rises up, until there is a heaving mass of people with no demarcation between band and audience.
It was always going to be tough for the Dublin Gospel Choir to top that, given their usual exposure to this type of audience is in a field in Laois on a Sunday morning, but I was unable to find out, having departed on the high of ASIWYFA.
You can follow Lee Daly on Twitter at @LeeDalyIre