Give the gift of music this Christmas

‘Tis the season again, and while the usual rush around town to gigs before the big few days at home remains a bit too quiet, there are still a lot of ways for music fans to get their fill and gift-givers to find that special something. Downtown takes a look at some of the options.
Give the gift of music this Christmas

Music gift ideas: Clockwise: Records & Relics, Lancaster Quay; Bunker Vinyl, Camden Quay; the new PLUGD Records on Coal Quay; Thirty Three RPM, McCurtain Street; Music Zone, Togher

Keep an eye out for upcoming gigs

The newest round of restrictions on venues in town has taken its toll - some artists are doing two shows nightly to fulfill their obligations while staying at 50% capacity, while for others, it makes no financial sense to do anything but postpone their long-awaited gigs once again.

This time last year, your writer was advising people to keep an eye out for ticket announcements on the other side of a protracted lockdown, and such has been the grim march of 2021 that he’ll dole out similar advice heading into next year - restrictions are lifted in the second week of January (as of time of writing!), and venues will need the support - from big rooms like Live at St. Luke’s and Cyprus Avenue, to the likes of the Crane Lane and Coughlan’s.

There’s always the risk of things being kicked on again, of course, which is the big ‘caveat emptor’ here, same as last year, 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 social media and websites over the coming days and weeks for more information and gigging calendars.

Spend or donate the price of a ticket

We’re both sick to death of, and living with the reality of, streaming gigs as part of the musical ecosystem at this stage - they nearly don’t register.

But if your favourite local band isn’t doing a stream, or hasn’t got any gigs on the horizon, why not give the cost of a gig ticket to a charity of your choice, following on from last year’s streams from Cyprus Avenue in aid of Sexual Violence Centre Cork?

Equally, you could head to the artists’ online shop or Bandcamp page, and stick in an order for a T-shirt, record or other merchandise for yourself or a loved one.

Keep it on wax

While the vinyl boom is in very real trouble at hands of major labels obsessed with reprinting everything on catalogue, regardless of demand or the knock-on effects for other labels or DIY artists kept waiting months on end for vinyl turnaround, the city’s record shops have kept things cooking over the past year.

PLUGD Records is back in physical premises, moving into the former Siopa Gan Ainm on the Coal Quay a few weeks back. Still being settled into, the space is presently occupied by shelves of the same exquisitely-curated selection that’s made the shop a jewel of the city’s culture - from the newest Irish releases to a world of independent music, new and old.

The shop’s website, https://www.plugdrecords.com also allows expatriate Leesiders access to the city’s favourite record-slingers. We’re reliably informed that coffee and seating are next on the list for the physical space, also, having already played host to a number of very intimate gigs and literary workshops.

MusicZone is still working away at Deanrock Business Park, in Togher, and doing its usual brisk trade in the major-label releases of the season, as well as plenty of Irish indie releases and Record Store Day stock, as well as pre-orders, special offers, vinyl accessories, and turntables.

Worth noting that MusicZone is also the only indie music shop left in Cork that’s dealing in major-label catalogue in the seemingly now-specialist CD format - largely the preserve of in-car listening, and oddly enough for some, younger, more dedicated music heads that have turned their backs on Spotify, but are also wary of the environmental footprint of vinyl manufacturing.

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.

Proprietor John Dwyer has taken the time to expand the shop’s physical floorspace and selection - and more importantly, is always an entertaining, knowledgeable and warm music head, never short of a story or two about nearly any band or music-related happening!

Records & Relics on Lancaster Quay has long packed a whole array of secondhand records, alongside a wide selection of vintage fashion and pop-culture ephemera - they’re running a 3-for-2 offer all throughout the month of December too, perfect for ticking off some entries on your own or your loved one’s vinyl wishlist.

The newest addition to the city’s offering of wax-slingers is McCurtain Street’s Thirty-Three RPM, a family-run siopa with a comprehensive selection of secondhand records, and a standout offering of international genres in particular, from classical music to chansons, as well as the usual gamut of pop, electronic, rock, jazz and hip-hop.

And if you can’t put your finger on what your loved one is after - all of these music emporia, of course, offer gift vouchers to the value of your choice!

Instrumentality

Pro Musica on Oliver Plunkett Street has taken the mantle of the city’s premier instruments, effects and paraphernalia shop in recent years, and with good reason - across two floors, there’s everything from drum kits, guitars, ukuleles, keyboard and wind instruments, to pedals, amplifiers, home recording gear, and sheet music.

It’s a can’t-fail stop for the music lover in your life, whether they’re setting out on a musical journey for the first time, a seasoned performer, or someone returning to music after a break away - with knowledgeable staff ready to help out with any requests in store, and a huge selection available at  https://promusica.ie

Gift cards for Bandcamp

The Covid crisis 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 of 2020, 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.

Five of Leeside's best in 2021

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 - here are five Leeside releases that can be bought in hard copy for presents!

Shop Local: Jack O'Rourke; Arthur Itis (centre); Mick Flannery & Susan O'Neill; The Altered Hours; God Alone
Shop Local: Jack O'Rourke; Arthur Itis (centre); Mick Flannery & Susan O'Neill; The Altered Hours; God Alone

The Altered Hours - Convertible

Arriving on three 12” colourways via Pizza Pizza Records, Convertible is the sound of a band finding the next stage in a long and winding sonic story - from the expansive, angered psychedelia of ‘Radiant Wound’ to the reverby balladry of ‘Thistle’, Cork-based five-piece The Altered Hours continue to demonstrate why there’s nobody like them on the planet.

  • Available at PLUGD Records, check in-store for colour variations.

Arthur Itis - Occam’s Razor

Never less than an innovator, Arthur Itis, the avant-garde troubadour from the planet Lukon 5, has upped his strangeness quotient in the best and most endearing fashion with new record Occam’s Razor - with the help of Pretty Happy’s Abbey Blake, and The Altered Hours’ Cathal MacGabhann, among others. Limited tapes from Sligo label Art for Blind remain - don’t sleep on ‘em.

Jack O’Rourke - Wild Place

Togher singer and composer Jack O’Rourke kept busy over lockdown, and for new album ‘Wild Place’, he drew on everything from sea-swimming to hidden talents and passions, creating a beautiful cross-section of the human experience, recorded in the city centre’s Triskel Christchurch venue.

  • Available now on CD at Music Zone and other retailers.

Mick Flannery & Susan O’Neill - ‘In The Game’

Cork singer-songwriter Mick Flannery and Clare singer-songwriter Susan O’Neill (SON) have been riding high with collaborative album ‘In the Game’ - from touring the US with emo-folk phenom Phoebe Bridgers to winning the Best Original Folk Track award at the RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards.

Ironic that such triumph emerges from such a personal, inward-looking record, a concept piece documenting the end of a relationship.

  • Available now on vinyl and CD at Music Zone and other retailers.

God Alone - God Alone EP and Remixes

This parish will likely beat the drum of Cork metallers God Alone until it bursts - an ever-changing meld of black metal, shoegaze, dance and math-rock, they’ve succeeded in maintaining momentum throughout the Covid crisis, and this compilation CD is a good entry point for the unfamiliar, taking in their second, self-titled extended-player, and its accompanying remix album, including reimaginings of tracks by the likes of Lighght, Gadget and the Cloud and Ghostking is Dead.

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