‘Tis the season for live music - the 12 gigs of Christmas in Cork

The evenings have drawn in, whether you’re looking to head out before you head home for Christmas, or spend some ‘Twixtmas time with friends in the company of live music. Downtown’s traditional 12 gigs of Christmas has you covered. Mike McGrath-Bryan casts an eye on the December calendar.
‘Tis the season for live music - the 12 gigs of Christmas in Cork

When it comes to Cork gigs here are some Christmas crackers.

Hope is Noise, Body Drinkers and Stanton’s Grave

Saturday, December 10; Fred Zeppelin’s, Parliament Street, 9pm

Gigging for the first time since the Covid crisis are Cork’s homegrown post-hardcore heroes, Hope is Noise. Having existed in various forms since coalescing in secondary school in Carrigaline in the mid-’90s, and assuming their name in 2005, theirs is a story of riffs, turbulence, changes on the local scene, and most importantly, a friendship and musical partnership that’s endured over 25 years and counting. Support from Cork black-metallers Body Drinkers - including former I’ll Eat Your Face man Barrytron on drums - and Cork punx Stanton’s Grave.

  • Tickets €10 at eventbrite.ie.

The Love Buzz, Cardinals and Canned Pineapple

Saturday, December 10; Cyprus Avenue, Caroline Street, 7pm

Cork psych-punk enfants terribles are back on the road all through December, capitalising on a steady head of live steam they’ve generated in the post-Covid circumstances. Having spent last holiday season on the road in support of UK cock-rock pastiches The Darkness, the Leeside trio are on headlining duties, with backup from Cork shoegazers Cardinals, whose own ‘Amsterdam/The Brow’ debut shows ample promise, and UK outfit Canned Pineapple.

  • Tickets €10 at cyprusavenue.ie.

Mary Coughlan

Sunday, December 11; Coughlan’s, Douglas Street, 3pm and 7.30pm

One of the country’s most legendary female voices heads up a sold-out double-header in the intimate back room of one of the city’s most comfortable pubs - no better space to experience the end result of decades of musical graft, drawing on ten albums’ worth of songs that draw equally on the guts of blues and jazz, and the heart and honesty of an Irish accent.

  • Two shows sold out; keep an eye on venue social media for any updates or ticket sales.


Monday, December 12 & Tuesday December 12; Live at St Luke’s, St Luke’s Cross, 8pm

Who else but Ireland’s queen of country - and its newest superstar pop export - is out here selling out big halls on a Monday night in the dead of winter? These two gigs are part of a Christmastime lap of honour around the country, following a breakthrough year for CMAT, including the release of debut LP ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’, and relentless Irish, UK and US touring. And no better woman - in a blend of pop genius, low camp and impeccable choreography, lies the big, beating heart of a songwriter that paints thousand-foot pictures of life’s struggles and victories.

  • Two shows sold out; keep an eye on venue social media for any updates or ticket sales.

The Frank and Walters and I Dreamed I Dream

Friday December 16; Cyprus Avenue, Caroline Street, 7pm

In what’s becoming an annual appointment for one of our city’s most treasured musical institutions, The Franks have a Christmas gig upstairs at Cyprus Avenue, beating the winter blues with a lifetime’s worth of sunny jangle-pop, and a live show that continues to justify the superlatives. Equally exciting, however, is the idea of Leeside noisemakers I Dreamed I Dream on the big stage - possessed of an utter disregard for musical convention, this Leeside five-piece veers wildly between recognisably Corkonian post-punk; whimsical riffs on sean-nós and the city’s slang; and at-times unsettling readings of visceral self-penned fiction, with brooding ambient accompaniment.

  • Sold out; keep an eye on social media for updates or ticket sales.

CABL, Mossy and Lifts

Friday, December 16; Fred Zeppelin’s, Parliament Street, 8pm

A gathering of young Irish bands with much to offer for fans of broad alternative rock, upstairs in the red room on Parliament Street. Dublin outfit CABL have referred to themselves as “indie-pop through a broken dishwasher”, and indeed, a pair of recent live videos released on YouTube attests to their way with a hook. Hailing from the Northside of Cork, Mossy have become firm favourites of the Downtown parish with a whip-smart brand of pop-inflected shoegazing and a consistent gigging work-ethic, while a recent excursion to a gig Cork’s Rebel Reads put Dublin ‘better than post-punk’ outfit Lifts in the proper context, the band producing a mesmerising performance in the low light of the city’s anarchist bookshop and community space.

  • Tickets €8 at eventbrite.ie

Stephanie Rainey

Saturday, December 17; Live at St Luke’s, St Luke’s Cross, 8pm

A homegrown pop phenomenon if ever there was, Glanmire woman Stephanie Rainey was on the brink of hanging up her guitar when single ‘Please Don’t Go’, an emotive tribute to her late nephew, went viral, propelling her to regular gigs and an increased industry profile. But having grown weary of the constraints of major-label life, she’s resolved to plough her own furrow independently, with this Christmas gig at St Luke’s seeing her play to her loyal hometown following to cap off a year that’s also seen her radio career kick off, as she presides over Sunday afternoons on RedFM.

  • Tickets from €31 at uticket.ie.

Coroza, Grey Stag, Emigra, Hircine

Saturday December 17; Fred Zeppelin’s, Parliament Street, 8.30pm

Evan Prendergast and crew at the Dead Cult promotions house have worked might and main to provide the Leeside metal scene with a steady and well-organised platform for gigs, and their Christmas party will be hefty to say the very least. Cork doom-metallers Coroza headline after a busy year of recording, while Dublin outfit Grey Stag have mightily impressed this writer in previous Cork excursions, referring to themselves as “a sociopathic groove tyrant with a penchant for dank riffage”. Locally-based metallers Emigra have been at the city’s musical peripheries for what seems like a lifetime, while fellow Leesiders Hircine’s black-metal onslaught set a vicious tone at the Oíche an Dullahain gig this past August at St Peter’s.

  • Tickets €11.53 at eventbrite.ie.

The Tan Jackets

Thursday, December 22; Crane Lane Theatre, Phoenix Street, 9pm

If it’s something different than the usual Christmas-week crush on the streets of Cork city you’ll be wanting, this parish will wholeheartedly endorse the efforts of popular beat combination The Tan Jackets - a supergroup of musicians that have formed the backbone of the modern Cork scene in their own endeavours, including members of The Altered Hours, The Shaker Hymn, Fixity and O Emperor, coming together to pay homage to some of their dearest-held influences in ‘60s psychedelia and proto-punk. Think MC5, Them, The Sonics. ‘Dirty dancing for dirty dancers’, as they’d describe themselves.

  • Free in - but buy their album at https://thetanjackets.bandcamp.com, because every cent goes to Cork Penny Dinners, a cause that needs your donation more than ever.

And So I Watch You From Afar

Tuesday, December 27; Cyprus Avenue, Caroline Street, 7pm

North Shore post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar are undertaking a hectic Christmas and New Year tour, as they finally get on the road in Ireland to play tracks from ambitious new album ‘Jettison’. A nine-track album that blows their sound wide-open, each track features dedicated visuals from artist Sam Wiehl, and the record includes cryptic spoken-word contributions from singer Emma-Ruth Rundle and Helmet guitarist Neil Fallon, as well as strings from the Arco String Quartet. It’s a statement of intent from a band that’s accomplished a lot - interesting to see how it joins the band’s lean-and-limber live trip through its discography.

  • Tickets €20 at cyprusavenue.ie

Rubyhorse and the White Horse Gospel Choir

Wednesday, December 28; Live at St Luke’s, St Luke’s Cross, 8pm

Cork rockers Rubyhorse, an outfit with their own close ties to the White Horse gig venue in Ballincollig, team up with their stablemates in the White Horse Gospel Choir for a special hometown gig at Live at St Luke’s. Having reopened the door on making music a number of years ago, the outfit has sought to reconcile the polish and pop nous of big singles like ‘Sparkle and Shine’ with their own urges to write their second chapter on their own, DIY terms.

  • Tickets from €27.81 at uticket.ie

Jack O’Rourke

Friday, December 30; The White Horse, Ballincollig

A singer and songwriter whose second full-length, ‘Wild Place’, is an extended ode to the slowed pace, hidden revelations and precious joys of life amid the Covid crisis, Jack O’Rourke has made good in the post-Covid circumstances, with consistent gigging, as well as appearances on RTÉ and BBC telly, and a spot at this year’s Other Voices festival. A major name to have on the city’s gig billings on a regular basis, another excursion to Coughlan’s on Sunday December 18 is also sold out - so keep an eye out for anyone with a ticket going spare, they won’t last!

  • Sold out; keep an eye on social media for updates or ticket sales.

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