Stevie G: My first proper gig in pandemic times

Downtown columnist Stevie G enjoyed his very first gig in Cork in many months, here's how it went...
Stevie G: My first proper gig in pandemic times

Gemma Dunleavy at The Kino.

I went to an actual gig last Sunday. It was my first proper gig in many many months, since the start of the pandemic in fact, and the way things are going it might indeed be my last for awhile.

The numbers are rising in Cork and Ireland so the period of uncertainty will continue but the Kino Cork couldn’t have made a better effort in putting on a show that was safe, socially distanced, and intimate.

Gemma Dunleavy was the artist on stage and she’s someone I’ve been a fan of for many years. She was a very young singer when she first came down to the Pav for a show with Frank B many moons ago, and I’ve seen her in Dublin a few times singing a few songs here and there at events.

But this was the first proper full show of hers I saw her perform at, and accompanied by the super Roisin Berkley on harp, she delivered a wonderful gig.

Even as a youngster her vocals cut through impressively live, and in the Kino last Sunday the quality of her singing was very impressive. Not everyone can sound as good live as in studio.

Gemma has been around for ages and but she’s still developing her solo catalogue, and her acclaimed ‘Up de Flats’ EP obviously provided the centrepiece of the show.

The limitations of the numbers at the venue allowed Gemma to talk more directly to a very attentive audience, and her conversational dialogues between the songs were excellent, and gave us all a good background to the EP, which celebrates her own Sheriff Street community in Dublin.

Gemma’s passion for her neighbourhood shines through on this excellent EP, and it’s always refreshing to hear a more authentic and sympathetic perspective on people and places that have been negatively portrayed by the media for decades.

Gemma gets to the heart of not only the social problems but the colour and humour and vibrancy of her people, and it was hard not to be moved by both her words and songs.

I’ve written a lot about the very special voices we have in Ireland right now, and like Denise Chaila, Tolu Makay, Loah, Erica Cody, and many others, Gemma Dunleavy has a lot to say and she’s a unique talent that we need to embrace fully!

It was a perfect gig for me personally, as I’m a huge fan of the type of soul, garage and electronica that Gemma brings, but it was also very special that it took place in the Kino. Joe and Ed and the team have done a great job there and everything from the sound and lighting to the table service and health screening was top notch. I couldn’t help but thinking at the gig that I was pretty much 100% in a safe place and it was a million miles away from the image some people have of gigs in 2020. You couldn’t even stand up from your table and while we all wish for times when we can dance again, it is a necessary move and it made for a very nice experience where all the focus was on the music and the stage.

Even the merchandise was sold via table service and myself and my friends were very impressed.

Hopefully the Kino and others will be able to remain open for the duration of the pandemic.

I wrote last week of the challenges many venues and promoters have in 2020 and beyond, but it’s good to see people still trying to do it right and do it well.

The audience members at the Kino were all very grateful to be there last Sunday, and everyone was fully cooperative and sensitive to the difficulties of having a show in autumn 2020. We all long for the day when we can get back doing the shows we used take for granted over the years, but for now, promoters and artists and venues and others simply have to continue trying to be creative and seeing what they can do.

As I write this, even next year’s festival season looks a bit in jeopardy and it would be a brave promoter or festival to start planning with too much intensity at the moment. Some of our local venues and clubs will sadly not open anymore, so for those of us passionate about music, it’s imperative that we remain supporting those who are still trying to keep the music going.

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