Looking back on the Cork local music scene in 2022, and hopes for the future

2022 was the year that Cork’s music scene began to rebuild from Covid, and a generation began to stake their claims in the city’s venues, and on record. Mike McGrath-Bryan spoke with a few local music heads about their thoughts, and their hopes for the new year.
Looking back on the Cork local music scene in 2022, and hopes for the future

Clockwise from top left: Elle O’Leary Kelleher; Stevie G; Arran Blake; Emma Maguire; Julie Landers; Ciara Hayes; Evan Prendergast; Emily
Dollery and Cian Mullane.

Arran Blake - bassist and vocalist, Pretty Happy; film-maker

“2022 has been a good year for us, and we owe a lot of that to the city we come from. It felt like the first proper time back for gigs, and in that, the return of music. In the last twelve months, we’ve played and seen the best gigs we’ve ever experienced.

“After releasing an EP named after the fine publication you are reading (I know, I know we’ll get nowhere with flattery) you can probably tell how much we love to utilise our inherent Cork culture in our music. People from Cork are known for being offbeat, big-headed (how could you have a small head coming from here?), and possessing a great sense of humour. Some of the best people we know, our family and friends, exemplify these traits, so when we write about Cork, it’s more a love letter to the great people that populate our streets rather than the physical city itself.

“We have lots of hope for 2023. This year has been magical for the sounds coming out of Cork. Elaine Howley, I Dreamed I Dream, Mossy, Mantua, Ana Palindrome, Dankenstoned’s Bongster, the list goes on. Cork’s never lacked talent, so that’s not an issue. Our biggest hope in the new year is more support systems put in place for live music, more curated venues and more craic agus ceol.

“So, we’re excited to see what next year holds for our beautiful, self absorbed, perfect City.”

Julie Landers - drummer and vocalist, I Dreamed I Dream; music journalist

“I’m really excited and optimistic for what’s gonna come in 2023. Some of the best music being made at the moment is being made in Cork and I say that as a rotten blow-in. People are getting really inventive with where they’re putting on gigs and how they’re running them. Quare in St. Anne’s Park as part of Cork Midsummer Festival was a fantastic example of that. There’s so much going on in Cork and I think it’s only going to get better next year. There are some brilliant heads about the city that are full of amazing ideas and the drive to carry them out.

“Saying that, I do want there to be more opportunities made by the City Council and those who own venues for artists. Because you can be the best musician in the world but if there isn’t somewhere in the city for you to play the music that you’re playing things become much harder. I’m interested to see what happens in the new year. We’ll be coming into the second year of Cork City Council’s Arts and Culture Strategy for 2022-2026, and I want to see how the objectives they outlined in their initial strategy manifest.”

Stevie Grainger - DJ; music educator; broadcaster, RedFM; columnist, The Echo

“In 2022, it was good to see gigs and shows come back without restrictions, though I think it's tougher than ever to run these events. I'm delighted to break even anytime I do one myself, so putting all that energy and time into them isn't always the best move. I enjoyed promoting and programming shows in Cyprus Avenue, Marina Market, Test Site and City Hall, and I was lucky enough to be able to bring some upcoming acts to the stage here and some other festivals too outside the city. We have the talent here!

Yesunia performing at Stevie G’s Cork City Hall event on Culture Night.
Yesunia performing at Stevie G’s Cork City Hall event on Culture Night.

“For 2023, I'd hope that more artists from my musical background will do some proper releases, and I hope there's more opportunity for shows too. The club scene may finally benefit from some better opening times, and we might be able to actually be proud of our nightlife, which has disintegrated somewhat in recent years. I spend my days mainly doing youth work now, so I'd really love it if there was more backing forthcoming for these projects, as kids of all ages and backgrounds need to be supported. All in all, I remain optimistic. Cork is amazing and people love coming here. Let's make it a city worth visiting, both day and night!”

Emily Dollery - DJ, Set Guitars to Kill on UCC 98.3FM

“The first gig I can remember attending after lockdown was WORN OUT in Fred Zeppelin’s in April. I can recall there being a palpable sense of joy and relief at the ability to come together once more—a feeling I would encounter again seeing local talent like Mossy, Staff Party, Automatic Blue and more in the following months.

“The level of support and collaboration I’ve seen in the local scene has been fantastic, especially in these strange and often challenging post-lockdown times. I think one issue local artists have encountered is the limited number of venues in Cork, but some amazing new spaces (for example, Crack Jenny’s and the newest iteration of Plugd on Coal Quay) have popped up and provided the opportunity for a diverse range of artists to experiment in their

performances.

“I’m also hopeful that it will become somewhat easier for independent artists to make a living through their work; the Basic Income for the Arts scheme that was piloted this year has definitely provided a ray of hope and, in my opinion, would allow a great deal of freedom and security for smaller artists. It would be wonderful to see this implemented on a wider level, and the newfound security would surely incentivise more musicians to create without the fear of financial loss.”

Donagh Sugrue - multi-instrumentalist, Messyng & An Eldritch Abomination

“I’m kind-of the wrong person to ask from an artist/promoter perspective because I essentially spent the year as a fan. The reintroduction of gigs in Plugd was absolutely great for my sanity, given that a considerable chunk of my personality is just saying the phrase “goin’ Plugd later?”.

“I feel like Covid pulled a bit of the arse out of music as a community in Cork. There is still an awful lot happening, but it can feel pretty disparate and distant. I hope we get to relive the experience of “just hanging out”. I think there really needs to be another venue for live original music that facilitates this hanging out though, somewhere akin to upstairs in the Roundy.

“I would also love to see an increase in live music where alcohol is not a driver of the success of the evening. So much of our live music industry is already tied up in pubs and bars. It would be really nice to see some places running shows where it is only music. You can pay for your ticket and not be expected to ALSO buy drinks.”

Ciara “Fozzie” Hayes - bassist, RPC; gig booker/show-runner, Relapse Promotions

“I did not trust 2022. I don’t think anyone did, did they? That suddenly all of the smaller joys we used to take for granted would come flooding back, just like that? But that’s what happened, almost overnight.

“I think it's fair to say no matter what reservations anyone had, there’s no denying 2022 was a smashing year for music in Cork city, at least in the counterculture spaces. All of the new promoters who have cropped up in the wake of the pandemic are doing an absolutely fantastic job, and seeing all of the new bands who have formed is just amazing – there were only two different ways the scene could have gone following the pandemic and it chose the option of thriving.

“Cork is a particularly interesting example when it comes to local music because of the immensely diverse range of bands and artists that the city is home to. Some of my highlights for Cork-based releases this year include Red Sun Alert’s single ‘Literally’, The Magnapinna’s ‘Party Rumours’ EP, and - if I may be so bold as to self-promote – R.P.C’s ‘Chop, Drop & Roll’ EP.

“The one glaring issue I will point out is Cork’s current lack of suitable venues, so hopefully that is a market someone will capitalise on. Personally, I have a lot of events planned that I can’t wait to announce.”

Pebbledash - Cork alt-rockers

“As a band, we can see the variety in Cork, and it’s something we are really proud to be a part of. The support for young bands has been immense, and is something we saw with the release of our two singles during the summer. The appetite for something raw and local is palpable, and when we felt that, as I’m sure other bands did, it gives you a propulsion to produce the best work you can and to try and make it unique and exciting.

Pebbledash: The appetite for something raw and local is palpable
Pebbledash: The appetite for something raw and local is palpable

“After playing loads of gigs in Cork also, we look to broaden our horizons and begin playing further afield with a gig or two lined up in Dublin and a few other counties. Apart from that, I’m sure like many other bands we are putting our heads down and focusing on creating original and memorable songs and who knows what the future will hold, we can’t wait to be more involved and watch other bands in Cork progress and perhaps steer the focus down south.”

Emma Maguire - vocalist & guitarist, Mossy

“This year saw us being offered our first headline gig with our friends Little Known in Cyprus. We were lucky enough to play in venues like The Everyman during ‘Uncorked’, and Workman’s Club and Whelan’s in Dublin. Played with some new friends and old - Red Sun Alert, The Cliffords, The Drive, Cardinals, Pebbledash, Floorshow, Skies Behind and so many more. To top it all off, we released our third single ‘Call Me’ at the end of November.

“As for our 2023 it’s starting to look like recording our first EP and writing a lot more. ‘New Year New Set’. The one thing I’d love to see for the Cork scene this year is the potential to establish more music venues.”

The Drive - Cork shoegazers

“There’s been some great releases and shows this year from fellow Cork artists, God Alone’s LP is savage, and its release show in Cyprus Avenue was unbelievable. Pretty Happy's EP is pure Cork too. The music scene is bursting and it's great to see it this way.

“As for us, we plan on playing load of shows in the new year to tour our latest release, ‘in reverse.’. 2022 was a great year for us, we spent so much time writing and touring the songs that would become this project. In the new year we’re hoping to get a lot of writing done, some new tracks will grace your eardrums, and plenty more shows. We’re very excited for what 2023 has in store for us and the Cork scene as a whole.”

The Drive: The music scene is bursting and it’s great to see it this way.
The Drive: The music scene is bursting and it’s great to see it this way.

Elle O’Leary Kelleher - guitarist & vocalist, I Dreamed I Dream; music journalist

“Cork music has had a bit of a mad year. There’s been a lot of focus on negatives; Cork is facing a very serious venue crisis and is still chronically under-represented by the mainstream national music media. Honestly, I’ve never been more proud of the artists working in my city than I have been this year. In spite of everything, Cork bands are thriving.

“Cork artists are working to tear live music away from the stranglehold of Diageo by putting on gigs in alternative spaces. I’ve seen gigs in record shops, a deconsecrated church and an anarchist bookshop, to name just a few. The artists in this city are a million times more resourceful than anyone else because they have to be. Imagine what people could do if they had some money! The Cork alternative scene is proving to be a startling antidote to “handsome guitar boy” and “corporate-backed, FIFA soundtrack-ready shouty man post-punk” music, and I’m so excited to see what’s going to come next.

“Some of my favourite Cork (or Cork-based) bands to make waves this year have been Pretty Happy, who’ve absolutely burst away from being local darlings to literally rockstars playing with legends like Kim Gordon and Pavement, whilst never forgetting to pull the rest of the Cork scene up with them, Dankenstoned’s Bongster, who are, in my opinion, the world’s greatest stoner band, and Elaine Malone, who is mere moments away from hypnotising the world into psychedelic bliss (which is honestly what everyone needs right now.) I’ve also heard tell of this gang of lunatic women called I Dreamed I Dream? I don’t know about them, though. I’ve heard

they’re oddballs alright.

Cian Mullane - multi-instrumentalist, God Alone, Daz-Gak!, Red Sun Alert

“2022 was the best year yet for all of my projects - we got to play new countries, release new music, and sleep on a lot of new friends' floors. A lot of my favourite artists released bangers of albums this year also such as new releases by ActualAcid, Junior Brother, Gilla Band, CMAT, Unyielding Love, The Mary Wallopers, A-tota-so and The Magnapinna.

“Next year is looking to be really nice, with new releases, and new tours, and new bands, and I am very excited to see what myself, my friends and everyone sound in the country gets up to.”

Evan Prendergast - drummer, WORN OUT; gig promoter, Dead Cult

“After having what I love taken away from me for two years due to Covid, I was determined to make 2022 count. I needed to move up and push forward.

“With WORN OUT, we toured Scotland and England, toured with Cro-Mags, released our single, ‘Bridgeburner’, toured Ireland, played the best shows we’ve ever done, and just generally pushed forward with what we love to do.

“This year was the first full year of Dead Cult. We sold out 90% of our shows, had the first ever Cork Metal Market, brought bands over from the UK, grew as a team, sold out of merch and have made plans for the future that I’m extremely excited about.

“For 2023, I’d love to see more venues opening or pubs taking a chance on the heavy and alternative scenes. We have an incredible array of bands and artists, with less and less ways to showcase them. People go to the shows. It’s very much alive.”

Dan Sheehy - vocalist & guitarist, Skies Behind

“Cork music is buzzing. At least the small alternative rock/punk/indie corner of Cork music that we find ourselves most comfortable in. The last year, I've been so surprised, excited and inspired by the talent and energy that's got our small local venues bursting at the seams.

“I could spend a paragraph listing off band names, but then I invariably miss some very special acts in the process. For 2023, my only advice is to get in to Fred's, Spailpín or Cyprus Avenue on a night that you're free. Discover a band you’ve never heard of before, and get on board before they take over the world.”

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