Just recently, this parish spoke with some of the musicians behind Cyprus Avenue’s Red vs. Blue showcase, and a common thread along the whole discussion was the return of in-person audience and the fostering of connections among the city’s music community.
While that’s been a defining feature of gigs post-reopening, it especially rings true for the city’s younger musical cohort - where over two years of ideas, concepts and ambitions have been taken from the backburner and to a slow, steady boil.
The post-Covid conversation has also necessitated a reappraisal of the city’s arts spaces and their typical fare - which led vocalist and guitarist Daniel Sheedy and his bandmates in Cork rockers Skies Behind to investigate the possibility of bringing a rock ‘n’ roll show to the storied surrounds of the Everyman Theatre on McCurtain Street.
“So we reached out to loads of different venues and we wanted it to be really special, because it's a unique event, and that's how we want it to be, and the Everyman were just fantastic. Back in February or so, we made out the plan for the whole thing, how we would run it, who we would ask, all that sort of thing. And then we were like, 'okay, let's start talking about venues' and we got in touch with the Everyman.
“It was Sophie Motley, the artistic director at the Everyman, who really got behind the idea, I think she's really what's made it possible to have it there. They seem to have a really big emphasis at the Everyman now with supporting local, and they're not afraid to go outside the box. So for them, it's a bit of a risk, it's a bit different, it's definitely different for them. But it's giving such a big stage to bands like us, who just wouldn't get it otherwise, and showing them off on that iconic stage.”
It’s seldom that raucous rock music of any stripe has bothered the walls of the famous theatre in your writer’s memory - best known for a rich history of stagecraft and entertainment that’s seen everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Cha and Miah tread its boards, as well as a well-earned Jazz Weekend pedigree, from Herbie Hancock to Robert Glasper.
But with a change in circumstances amid the tumult of the crisis has emerged a facilitating role in local arts for the grande dame of Cork theatre - including taking a keen interest in these young bands’ gigging proposal.
“They've been incredibly professional. I mean, they're really top class, we knew that going in”, says Sheehy. We're lucky with our skill set as well in the band, like we have guys like Joe Clarke, our drummer, who's done a lot of sound engineering, and he's done some lights, he really understands the tech side of putting on a show like this quite well.
“So he's able to kind of take all that and liaise with the technical people in the Everyman. And then from a promotion side of things, I mean, their marketing department has been fantastic, really assisting us in getting the word out there. We knew we'd need months and months to plan it, and now that it's finally happening, things are starting to fall into place.”
It’s one thing to pitch and propose a gig in advance, and try to talk ‘em into the building - it’s quite another to walk into an empty Everyman and take in its atmosphere before an event, reckon with the generations who have proceeded you in the same pursuit of a good time in years past.
The bands are confident and excited, however, about leaving their mark on the audience in the here and now, says The Flavours’ bassist Julian Power.
“I think what we all have in common as bands is that we're all trying to make the transition to bigger venues, and with that, a bigger crowd. Obviously it's synonymous with Cork, We're all familiar with it. And when we come together as a group of five, you know, I think we're gonna fill the venue, I think it's gonna be a rockin' show.”
Much as has been mooted in this parish weekly for the past while, there exists a great hunger to get back out to gigs on the part of musicians and punters alike, imbued by circumstance with a new appreciation for the role of live music and its fierce sense of connection in their own lives.
And the buzz for Uncorked has been building for the past while as well, especially among that ever-growing complement of musicians across the genre and age spectrum that are excited to see how the bands rise to the occasion, according to the Flavours’ Jordan Devlin.
“People are pretty excited for the gig. Anyone that I've spoken to in the run up to the gig is really excited because it's such a big venue. I feel like everyone is on the same buzz, even the people like my lecturers in college are all talking about it, and all that sort of stuff, because it is... you don't really get many showcase gigs in Cork, anyway, so this is a big step in the right direction.”
“It's a big show, it's a lot to ask, and it is really exciting, and I think the concept was always going to sell itself once you get it out there, because it's different, and it's unique,” adds Sheehy.
“It's all about original and really talented acts. I think we're going to get a really good crowd, and we're going to be able to create a stronger community within Cork music and Cork arts as a whole out of it.
“For all the bands involved, for any artists that come down on the night, for photographers, visual artists, I think that's a really, really important part for us as well, and having it on this unique stage, this really different setting, I think it's a big contributor for that, because it kind of makes us realise that you can be ambitious in these ways, especially when you work as a community.”
As much as Uncorked is about a sense of ‘arrival’ for the bands on the billing, or the old-world charm of the venue, it exists as a much-needed showcase of that emerging generation of new bands and artists who finally have the chance to as society continues to move on.
In that respect, no-one on the billing sees the gig as an end in itself - but as a hopeful kickstart to more regular events and initiatives in the city, and a way to continue fostering that sense of post-crisis connection.
“We've really helped each other out as a community,” says Mossy rhythm guitarist and vocalist Emma Maguire. “I feel like especially for me, we haven't had a headline gig just yet, it's just been support slots. Our first gig back was with The Flavours (at Cyprus Avenue). It set the tone and it was just such a great gig, I think it was sold out as well. So just other band being nice enough to like, y'know, give a helping hand to others.
“I think we just help each other out, and that's a huge deal. Even the community in general, like photographers, it all comes full circle and everyone helps each other out, and I think that it wouldn't have been able to happen if it wasn't for that.”
"It was really tough during the pandemic, because I felt like there was a lack of support from the government in general, but there was some people in the community as well that were like, 'oh, well, you should just go and find another job',” says Devlin.
“When things eventually did come back, seeing everyone come together, and be so eager to work, just getting out there and booking gigs, getting ready to record, it's so reassuring to know that we're not the only ones in that boat. We're ambitious, we're trying to get somewhere with the music."
Adds Power: "I hope that anyone who comes to the show, whether that's the general public, an artist, or some other industry professional sees that Cork is a hotbed. There's loads of artists, there's loads of stuff going on.
“The problem, really, and it's probably always been the problem, is a platform. I mean, we just need more venues, we need a new music night, we need something to happen every week, I'm hoping someone will come to this gig and say it needs to be done, they can build on it, and there will be something for more bands to come forward.”
With all of this mind, then, there’s really only one thing left for the bands to do, when all the shouting and stressing is over - get on that stage and make some rock and roll in front of friends, peers, family and the wider community.
And attendees of the gig are in for seeing five young Cork bands, at the outset of their respective journeys and overcoming the collective trauma of the last two years, doing what they’ve always set out to do.
Sheehy adds: “It's a show we've literally been thinking about for half a year, so we just can't wait to get out there, to play it, we just love engaging with the crowd, show them what we have, make them feel welcome, make them feel like they can just, y'know, forget about life for 30 minutes while we're playing.”
Uncorked sees The Flavours, Skies Behind, Rasputin’s Boots, Mossy and Ora Fantoma head to the Everyman on Tuesday May 24, with doors opening at 6.30pm. Tickets €12 available at everymancork.com.