There are a few tentative announcements for 2021 starting to happen among venues, mostly in the second half of the year.
While there’s still very much the element of being on a wing and a prayer regarding live music in many ways, it’s worth keeping an eye on announcements and grabbing tickets from venues like Coughlan’s and The Kino, already running limited-capacity live shows again, and from Cork Opera House and Cyprus Avenue, big rooms with ample ability for social distancing when live music gets the full go-ahead again.
There’s always the risk of things being kicked on again, which is the big ‘caveat emptor’ here, but refunds would most likely be offered in such an event, as well as the ability to use tickets on rescheduled dates.
Check back with venue socials and websites over the coming days and weeks for more.
In the meantime, there’s loads of online streams happening from venues around the county, following grants given as part of the July economic stimulus. A variety of artists and DJs are taking to stages and venue floors in streams available across venues’ social media presences, from big names to emerging outfits, and it’s well-worth a dig around for a big evening in, or a musical accompaniment for commutes.
But Cyprus Avenue has taken the lead and left donation links across all of its Facebook Video streams for Sexual Violence Centre Cork, especially important at this time of year, and after a year of increased reports of domestic violence and sexual assault.
If the streams you’re watching are taking donations for local charities or the artists, consider chipping in as best as you can. And if not, why not give the cost of a gig ticket to a charity of your own choice, or head to the artists’ Bandcamp page and stick in an order for a T-shirt, record or other merchandise?
The city’s indie record shops have been seen to do a brisk trade in the weeks since reopening, which is a great sign for 2021.
Plugd Records is back, after its former premises closed at the outset of the first lockdown, and is on the way to adapting to a new era of physical and online spaces. Store owner Jim Horgan recently launched a new website, boasting the shop’s unique array of stock from indie labels all over the world, as well as a dedicated section for indie Irish releases.
But much as the physical Plugd was a hub for music in its various locations over the years, plugdrecords.com will also be expanding into blogs, sharing their new radio programme via online station Dublin Digital Radio, and streaming a series of intimate gigs recorded at an undisclosed location over the summer. You can mail-order from https://www.plugdrecords.com, or click-and-collect your records, picking up at Filter café on Sullivan’s Quay, with a free coffee for all pickups.
MusicZone is back in business at Deanrock Business Park, in Togher, and doing a brisk trade in the major-label releases of the season, including plenty of indie-exclusive vinyl presses and Record Store Day stock, as well as pre-orders on several reissues for 2021, as well as special offers, accessories, and turntables. Pop in store, or order online at https://www.musiczone.ie, with free postage for orders of 3 LPs and over.
Bunker Vinyl, on Camden Quay, stocks a mix of Irish and international music, new and secondhand, as well as local CDs and tapes, as well as cleaning and turntable accessories. Records & Relics on Lancaster Quay is also back open, with a whole array of secondhand records alongside a wide selection of vintage fashion and pop-culture ephemera. Both shops are available to pop into in person, but be sure to look up their Facebook pages for opening hours.
2020 has put in sharp focus the importance of direct sales of music and merchandise to artists, especially in the light of diminishing returns from streaming services, and the near-complete cessation of live activity.
This parish has been vocal about the importance of indie music service Bandcamp to artists in recent years, providing a one-stop shop for digital downloading and paid streaming, mail-order merchandise, subscription options, and now, live streaming. To say nothing of #BandcampFriday, where the service has waived its share of revenue for the first Friday of the month, every month since March, with all money going to artists, labels and/or their designated causes.
If you or a loved one wants to dive in, but doesn’t know where to start, the service offers online gift cards, which can be emailed to anyone, including one’s self to print out and give physically. Take a look at https://bandcamp.com/gift_cards for more info.
With so many options for new music in shops and on Bandcamp, it might be a bit overwhelming to pick and choose artists for different tastes and palates, if you’re still after something for the music head in your life...
Northside blackened dancey metallers God Alone have played a quiet blinder despite the lack of live action, with a tape and digital collection of remixes from a number of Irish electronic/dance producers, and a live session recorded at Blackpool Rehearsal Studios for UK festival ArcTangent, as well as a selection of T-shirts parodying popular fashion brands, at godalone.bandcamp.com.
Psych-rockers The Altered Hours gave us a look into their creative process early in lockdown with the release of three-track EP ‘Immediate Believer’, a trio of work-in-progress demos recorded ahead of the band’s next release, and showcasing a pared-back take on their music. All proceeds are continuing to be donated to the Simon Community, and the EP is available digitally at thealteredhours.bandcamp.com.
Multi-instrumentalist Dan Walsh doesn’t care very much for genres and pigeonholing, so perhaps discussing his Fixity project, performed both solo and with collaborators and termed as ‘directions in music’, is one of those classic cases of dancing about architecture. It certainly does his music a service to experience it for one’s self, with three new releases recorded and issued digitally over the course of lockdown. Listen and download at fixity.bandcamp.com.
‘Songs about good and bad sense’ is as succinct a summary of a record as a music hack could hope to see alongside a release, and for Cork-based semi-improvised psych outfit The Bonk, it’s an idea that anchors ‘Songs for the Meantime Vol. 1’, the first in an ongoing series of releases for this strange moment in history. An extended meander on the wisdom of a life in music, the EP is an exploration of the questions that face us all as musicians, facilitators, hacks, raconteurs, etc. Find it at thebonk.bandcamp.com.
Electronic composer Kelly Doherty served up a slice of pensive, yet hopeful lockdown ambience from her Gadget and the Cloud project in compilation release ‘Things I’ll Never Say’, a mix of new songs, remixes and previously-released compilation tracks that serves as an overview of her last year or so of work. Eno, by way of emo, available at gadgetandthecloud.bandcamp.com, with a tape release via Cork-based label Fort Evil Fruit, available from fortevilfruit.bandcamp.com.
There’s been ‘big’ hip-hop projects emerging from Ireland all year, but Corkman Adam Gould has provided one of the records your writer has been going back to all year under his Gaptoof moniker. ‘Looks Like Rain’, a mixtape of lo-fi instrumentals and collaborations for Dublin label Soft Boy Records, includes appearances from, among others, Corkonian labelmate Yenkee. A run on tape earlier in the year sold out, with downloads available from softboyrecords.bandcamp.com.
While barely getting the opportunity to gig properly at all before the onset of the crisis, Cork-based Kerrymen Deadbog have provided a dense, layered, but polished take on hazy shoegazing with their self-titled debut EP. A tremendous excursion that plunges a surprising depth for its 22-minute run time, it falls nicely between the goalposts of Ride and the Cocteau Twins, and can be streamed and downloaded at deadbog.bandcamp.com.
On the topic of shoegazing, it’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the year, Cork dreampop four-piece Emperor of Ice Cream were a historical footnote, a memory held dear by those who were there when the band nearly scaled the pre-Britpop summit. Lockdown sent the band’s members reminiscing, demos were dug up, and before long, all involved had to itch to finally finish ‘No Sound Ever Dies’, an album that had been canned before its scheduled release 25 years ago. Get a listen at emperoroficecream.bandcamp.com, and cop the white 12” at local record shops.
Taking historic cues from the War of Independence, in particular the Béal na Bláth area and its surrounds, North Cork man Dan Callanan chose an apt year to release 'Aghavrick Acid' under his Local Gods pseudonym, doing so via his Department of Energy label. An EP taking in an ambitious blend of acid techno, dub, ambience, found sounds and field recordings across four longform pieces, it flits thematically between time and place, built conceptually on the aforementioned events, but sampling news reports on the death of Bobby Sands, Church of England choral music, and the static remains of long-wave radio. Download at localgods.bandcamp.com.
Dublin-based label Allchival finally gave life to a long-awaited labour of love for Cork’s post-punk community, with the release of ‘Hiding from the Landlord’, a compilation of tunes from the various musical projects of towering vocalist Finbarr Donnelly and guitarist Ricky Dineen. Covering ground from Five Go Down to the Sea?, Nun Attax, and Creation-signed project Beethoven, it includes demos, radio sessions, and cuts from the legendary Kaught at the Kampus live record. Order online on vinyl, CD and download, from allchival.bandcamp.com, or take a quick look at local record shops for copies.