Heavy meitheal: Punk and metal gigs push the boundaries for Cork 

Cork-based crew Relapse Promotions have ambitions on placing the city on the national map for punk and metal - and with two major gigs on the way at St. Peter’s and The Kino, they’re continuing to make and underline that mission statement. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks to members of the group.
Heavy meitheal: Punk and metal gigs push the boundaries for Cork 

Drakonis will play as part of the gig at St Peter’s Church on North Main Street.

As with any counter-cultural concern after Covid, anyone that’s mucking in on heavy music in Cork is, in effect, helping to re-lay the foundations of its Leeside culture and community after a trying few years. Punk, metal and alternative rock, are after all, products of the people that put the effort in, and there’s a good few gangs of heads doing just that in the venues and spaces available to them.

One such crew is Relapse Promotions, a group of promoters with experience in running DIY shows in Cork and Limerick, whose first Relapse all-dayer back in March at An Spailpín Fánach was an important meeting-point for the city’s punks after The Circumstances, pulling from their own previous gigging experience. Event-manager/admin Ciara Hayes talks about the group’s roots in Limerick, and how they came together.

Horrenda on the agenda in Cork.
Horrenda on the agenda in Cork.

“It started as Overdose Festival, when we were still in Limerick, and it was basically just an idea to have an all-day punk festival in Limerick. It ended up going so well, we decided to do a second one. I don't think any of us ever intended for it to turn into a promotion company or anything like that, but it was literally only a few weeks after the second Overdose that lockdown was announced.

“We made plans for a third one to happen in August of that year, but obviously the lockdown just kept getting extended and extended. By the time we did have organization for the third one in place, I had moved down to Cork. So obviously most of us are now in Cork, so we decided to rebrand and start putting the majority of events on in Cork, with some smaller events in Limerick - we've left the door open for bigger events in Limerick sometime in the future.”

That first all-dayer at the Spailpín in March formed the basis of their next step - while the venue is no stranger to metal all-dayers or marathon d’n’b sessions, it still made for an ambitious first event, hinging on people’s readiness to venture back into gig venues after what society has endured.

“When the lockdown just got lifted out of nowhere, the initial plan was to have it the following week, but we had postponed it at this point, so we had to wait a whole two months before we went back into it,” says equipment manager Jim Spillane. “But that gave us more time to get all of our eggs in one basket. We had a lot of help, a lot of our friends were there on the day to help bring everything in, accommodate the bands, do the doors, help with the equipment, all that kind of stuff... It went well.”

Adds treasurer Aaron Griffin: "It's always nerve-wracking when you have something like a festival with 12 to 13 bands on it... and you open these doors, and there isn't immediately a flood of people - 'well, s**t'. But throughout the day, people were floating in. It picked up around four or five o'clock, and ended up being more successful than we thought it was going to be. And most importantly, everyone seemed to have a great time, which was good to see."

The crew have run some spot shows and local legs of tours since, including excursions at Fred Zeppelin’s and Limerick’s Record Room. Speaking about how it’s been to get into that rhythm of running gigs, and the big takeaways after the Covid crisis, Spillane says they’ve had no shortage of help.

Hircine is part of the lineup for the next Relapse gig, Oíche an Dullahan.
Hircine is part of the lineup for the next Relapse gig, Oíche an Dullahan.

"It's really good for us in the sense that we've had so many bands, and people getting onto us in general to put on these gigs, we haven't really had to have too much thought about, 'we want to put on this band for this event', we have an inbox full of bands, 'let's just meticulously work our way through it'. We've got a decent enough ship running, because everyone does their job. So it's pretty seamless, at the best of times."

Adds Hayes: "Even new people attending shows - there's so many. I've noticed it definitely more in Limerick, but definitely in Cork. There's so many people going to gigs now who would have just simply been too young, prior to lockdown. It's so cool to see the scene is growing, having a new crowd is really cool."

The next big Relapse gig is Oiche an Dullahan, a black-metal night at St Peter’s, an arts centre on the city’s North Main Street that occupies a 12th-century church. It boasts a national line-up of genre exponents, including Belfast outfit Drakonis, Dublin veterans Horrenda and local bands Everdead Wood and Hiricine.

Considering the genre’s history with churches, a gig like this seems like it should have happened a long time ago - event manager James O’Mahony talks about how the concept has come together.

"I wasn't actually a member of Relapse when the first festival happened, I just helped out at that, because I'm a close friend of theirs. It was only afterwards, Ciara approached me and asked me if I wanted to join it to do the metal side of things. One of the first things I wanted to do was a black metal show, a full black metal lineup. Jim approached me with the idea of putting it on in a church, and said that he'd been on to Dan O'Neill at St. Peter's.

“It was kind-of a no brainer, putting on a few black metal bands, having the option to have a big well-known headliner from outside Cork, [and then put some good Cork bands on the billing]. There was no resistance at all to putting it on there. Nobody said no, and there was no ifs, ands, or buts.”

Given the surroundings, and the history that St Peter’s possesses, it’s no surprise that the bands have been plotting away on doing something special with their sets at the venue.

Glitchers playing Cork.
Glitchers playing Cork.

“We were going back and forth a little bit with the ideas with Drakonis - they had some cool ones, they were very, very down for it,” says O’Mahony. “They said they had a prop spell book that set on fire - like when you open it, it just lights on fire. I was like, 'we'll see if we can do it'. [It didn't line up with fire safety], but they're bringing big skull mic stands and a glowing pulpit.”

The following month on Saturday September 24 is Relapse 2.0, the group’s next all-dayer happening at The Kino on Washington Street. Featuring UK punk duo Glitchers, and an array of Irish bands including local outfits Red Sun Alert, Daz-Gak!, Stanton’s Grave and Dirty Casuals, the festival will also be making the effort not only to include poetry and visual art - and will be open to an all-ages audience until 9pm.

"Things always go smoothly on the festival side of things, and they go so smoothly that I'm almost worried. On the day it always just turns out fine. The biggest hiccup so far was Belfast crew Problem Patterns had a personal event that day that they didn't take into account when they agreed to do the festival - [supersubs] The Magnapinna are such a huge draw for Cork people.

“We're still working on finding people for the art stalls I think, and have to confirm with poets, but other than that everything's going really well.”

“[The Kino] does offer a lot, like salsa dancing some nights, and other nights, there's, like, pro wrestling,” says Spillane. “Even the way it's set up, there's beanbags, an audiovisual setup, their own PA, they've a big projector screen, so it's going to be like a trippy, weird, hippie, Woodstock kind of festival. But indoors.”

“Yeah. With a bunch of angry punks screaming at you,” chuckles Griffin.

The crew are clearly putting forth a lot of effort into their corners of Leeside music after the Covid crisis, and amid the issues that independent music in the city currently faces. As our chat draws to a close, talk of their own ambitions for their own operation, and the city’s wider cultural community.

Everdead Wood on the line-up.
Everdead Wood on the line-up.

"Cork has just as much potential as Galway or Dublin, there just isn't as much money pumped into it", says Hayes. "A big thing for me is there just simply aren't enough events for like younger people in Ireland, that adolescent age range, like there simply is not enough. I really want to emphasize that our gigs are a safe place for everyone. I think that's so important to be mindful, to look out for each other in the music scene."

Relapse Promotions’ Oiche an Dullahan happens on Saturday August 27 at St Peter’s, North Main Street, with Drakonis, Horrenda, Everdead Wood and Hiricine on the bill. Tickets €15, doors at 8pm.

The Relapse 2.0 punk and arts all-dayer takes place on Saturday September 24 at The Kino, Washington Street, with a line-up including Glitchers, Red Sun Alert, Stanton’s Grave, Daz-Gak!, Dirty Casuals and more. Tickets €15, doors from 2pm.

More information and tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/relapse-promotions-37817924273

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more