I came to Ireland seven years ago, in pleasant weather like the one we are enjoying these last few days. No point in using an umbrella, almost no way to keep safe from the rain and certainly not from the wind. But…I was welcomed kindly. I had a dear friend living in Dublin at the time, in whose company I spend many dark afternoons. She introduced me to other people and I started my life in a country not so different to my one, well, except for the grey, I admit. At the time I wanted to immerse myself in the Irish culture, get to know people from here. I was interested in music, seeing bands live, to go out and see for myself that city everyone had talked to me about. The best place to live in when abroad (at least in an English speaking country).
I recently started to do a playlist, in my still underused Spotify, of the bands and singers I was told about when I arrived. Some of them are still on my favourite bands list. Some artists’ careers froze at that particular time. Some of them reoriented their trajectory to become essential names in the Irish scene years after and to the present. My playlist is named Kimmage, a very clichéd place to live in if you are Spanish and come to Ireland “to improve your English”… which was my case.
My immersion in this music was such I almost forgot what I listened to before that time. I believe this happened because, one: the music from this side of the world has been always my soft spot and now I could understand every word (or so I thought!). I will never forget “Pepe Jeans honey” most commonly known as She Moves In Her Own Way (Inside In/Inside Out, 2006) by The Kooks. The second reason was: I could see all those bands live! I made my business to attend all the gigs I could and visited the venues I still consider the best non-traditional Irish culture immersion places ever. To name a few: Vicar St, Temple Bar Music Centre (now The Button Factory), Crawdaddy, The Olympia Theatre, some outdoor like Marley Park or Malahide Castle and Electric Picnic, of course.
The albums I listened to belonged to a scene that was fading away at the time, as I learned recently. Bands like The Frames, Bell X1, Damien Rice (a band formed by the very talented Vyvienne Long, Tom Osander or Lisa Hannigan, as well as Rice), the disappeared Mic Christopher, Gemma Hayes to name some of the ones that still would be part of my playlists. At the time, I was given The Cake Sale (2006), an Oxfam charity album which combined some of the best talent of that scene. The album was done with the collaboration of two Canadian usual suspects at Irish venues back then: Emm Gryner and Josh Ritter.
Emm Gryner, who recently did the backing vocals for the Space Oditty covered by the most popular astronaut in YouTube, played in Crawdaddy in 2007, where I had the chance to see her. I absolutely adore Shining Light (Ash's song cover) included in her Songs of Love and Death (2005). I honestly think I can’t choose between the original and her cover. Gryner lent Black Winged Bird to The Cake Sale, one of my favourite tunes in the album, perhaps because it is performed by Nina Persson (The Cardigans) another of my soft spots musically speaking. I would like to know how that happened!
Josh Ritter, as our second Canadian, has always enjoyed of some popularity in Dublin. So much, he even released a live album in 2007 recorded in one of our favourite venues and called In The Dark: Live At Vicar St. His contribution to The Cake Sale was singing Vapour Trail. Some Surprise is that one song that strikes your chords, or at least mine. In the album it was sung by Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol) and Lisa Hannigan, although it was written by Paul Noonan (Bell X1). I had the luck of listening to it live in one of Hannigan's solo gigs, singing duet with Noonan, in Vicar St! What else can you ask for!
I reserve a special place in my heart for the songs I included in the playlist and some others not available on Spotify... Some of them remind me of my beginnings in this country, like Underglass (Burn The Maps, 2004) by The Frames, terribly overplayed in the clothing store that first hired me. It was part of the monthly compilation to be played at all times in the shop floor, over and over again. Birdtalk EP(2006), full of songs that I loved instantly as much as Vyvienne Long, such a lovely girl! The EP made me laugh, at loud, He wants to move, cover of the NERD’s song She wants to move is absolutely priceless. Vyvienne Long can also play Seven Nation Army like no one, with Jack Whites’ permission, and only armed with her cello. Then, there is Flame, by Bell X1, that I must have listened to about a million times. First, due to my obsessive playing on repeat of songs I really like. Second, to my lunch times spent in Jervis Centre (if the weather was too miserable to get out of the mall when on break); where it was overplayed especially around Christmas time in 2006.
I learned to love and appreciate the talent of the Bellies, Gemma Hayes or Lisa Hannigan. Bell X1 became one of my favourite bands and, although I tried my best, their fantastic Music in Mouth (2004) or Flock(2005) were sadly never exported to my country of origin. I gathered all their albums until date and went to many, many of their gigs at the time. I was really happy when I eventually managed to get a copy of Field Recordings (2012) and Chop Chop (2013) and got to see them live in the concert Hall last June. Nobody Moves Me like they do. Since, apparently, they go through life thinking the way I do and struggling with the same things. I guess it’s a generational thing…
Gemma Hayes came up with an album, not long after, that is one of my favourite ones to listen to on full, The Hollow Of Morning (2008). As part of the tour to promote Let It Break (2011), she played in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray (where I resided at the time). I had no doubt about attending the date, for two reasons: her very particular voice and her ability for loveless tunes to sound so disarming. She didn’t disappoint at all and the atmosphere turned very special during the gig, in which she was only accompanied by Ann Scott.
One of Lisa Hannigan’s first gig as solo artist in Whelan’s, was the first time I saw her live. I had seen Damien Rice in Marley Park by then and I was really looking forward to see her, as I heard her presence on stage was so captivating. The person who told me this is my husband today, who I blindly trust on these matters. Therefore, I was really curious about this girl that seemed to charm everybody... I wanted to listen to the female voice of Volcano (0, 2003), which I simply adored since the first time I listened to it. 0 was the only album of that wave that made it to Spain (at least to the South of Spain) before my arrival to Ireland. Lisa Hannigan has produced two fabulous albums in these past few years and I am really forward to the third one. Her shows are not to be missed! I have witnesses, as I convinced some of my friends to go and see her, here and in Spain. I did also buy her albums for my friends and family back home until I found out her second album eventually made it to Radio 3 (the indie music station, something like Phantom 105.2, but with coverage nationwide) Yay!
Those bands and their songs, some of them anthems, made me feel welcome. That's what music does.