The venues are reopening. Despite a tremendous delay in the publication of any sort of roadmap for live music, we’re at the point now where the Covid vaccination programme is set to allow entry into live venues after a wait of over eighteen months. In one way, it’s deeply surreal to be writing these words, after so long, with so much still in the air. In another, it’s the conversation we’ve all been having with ourselves - what now?
Among the venues reopening is Fred Zeppelin’s, the flame-painted rock and metal bar on Parliament Street that’s served as a stronghold for all kinds of under-represented, weird or extreme music for over two decades, re-opening in October after proprietor Tom Keating deigned not to provide a ‘Fredz lite’ in streaming or limited capacity.
Into the post-Covid breach, and over a year removed from its original announcement date, steps Dead Cult Promotions, a new gig promotions outfit set up by Cork-based musician Evan Prendergast - drummer in Leeside hardcore band Worn Out. Suffice to say, like the rest of us, he’d no idea of what laid ahead when plans had to be kicked on at the crisis’ outset.
“There's different stages of what the pandemic was like. We all thought it was going to be a two-week thing and Worn Out had a tour in April, and we were like, 'look, this, they could hardly lock us down for over a month. Like that's insane, the whole country could collapse'. As it got closer to the tour, we realised we actually had to cancel. I'm trying to reschedule things, it was just a pain trying to book ahead then, just to have something.
“After a while, my motivation was abysmal. I just wasn't bothered with a lot of things.
"I found myself just unnecessarily aggressive, and kind-of pedantic about a lot of things, just because I didn't have an outlet. It's only when it's completely taken away from you, that you realise how much you actually do depend on it, y'know?”
The last few months have been that weird “between” space for Cork music - venues unsure of when they’re reopening, if doing so at all; waiting on the roadmap from the government; waiting on things to level off. Against that backdrop, Prendergast’s promotion endeavour comes along at the perfect time.
“I'm glad now with the shows that I have coming up. They've been booked and talked about for quite a number of months, because I wanted to be able to at least look forward to something. I didn't know if we were going to get a roadmap, or if it was just going to be overnight, because nothing, nothing surprises me anymore with regards to this. So it's just constantly trying to have the next stage ready, just in case.
“Just making sure that I had logos (for posters), and making sure that bands knew, 'look, this is what we have, I'll keep you up to date'. When we had the roadmap for the 22nd of October, it was such a relief, like 'I don't have to send a bulk email and message people being like, oh, yeah, that's cancelled.'
The concern’s first gig is on Saturday November 13th - Worn Out top a bill that also features hotly-tipped Dublin hardcore band Bitter Pill, Cork/Galway proggers Aponym, and debuting Dublin outfit Lost to Life.
“I'm such a big fan of Aponym, every single time that I see them, they're just tight. I always feel like they're always going to be that band, you know - they're too heavy for some gigs, and not heavy enough for others. I was thinking that they have to be on this, because that's where they are, and I think they kind of relish that.”
For many on Cork’s scene, it’ll be their first time in nearly two years opening the door that separates the downstairs bar from the venue, and scaling the stairs, up that red corridor and into the fray. Prendergast is hopeful that it’ll be the first of many such journeys.
Against the backdrop of the current situation, it’s easy to ask the question of the idea going forward for Dead Cult - what kind of scene are Cork’s gig promoters walking back to, and how can they get a foothold in an ever-changing situation?
“There definitely is a want, like, for shows in places like Fredz, y'know. It's one thing to have the big massive gigs, but to have your local scene come back is something that people might have taken for granted before.
“I think there'll be a good couple of months, where bands are going to get the most support that they can, because I think a lot of people, whether they're involved in music, understand the pain that a lot of bands have been going through.
“We have our prices set at €10 for entry. And the reason it’s set at that instead of doing €5, is because I'm determined, to make sure that absolutely everybody that does a job, whether it's the headline band, or the person taking the door, that they will be paid for their time. No one’s coming out at a loss anymore.”
- Worn Out, Bitter Pill, Aponym and Lost to Life play Fred Zeppelin’s on Saturday, November 13, for Dead Cult Promotions’ launch party. Doors 8pm, €10 at the door.