As the Leeside scene turns a corner, Mike McGrath-Bryan salutes eight of the city’s hardest-working young music professionals.
While the city’s venue situation slowly comes around of its own accord after a traumatic eighteen-month period of closures and gentrification, the roots of the beginnings of a renewal in Cork music lie embedded in the fertile soil of Cork’s promoters, music writers, DJs and organisers. Names and faces often count for a lot in any small community, and over the last decade or so, a generation of young music heads have been slowly learning and fine-tuning their craft around the city, gutting out the depths of austerity and the recession, finding ways of making it work. Though by no means a definitive list (and there’s enough to fill another four instalments of this length by this writer’s count… hello, editors), here’s a look at eight Rebels who are doing their part in changing the game in the city by the Lee.
AISLING O’RIORDAN (Co-promoter, Southern Hospitality Board/Quarter Block Party; vocals/key/guitar, Morning Veils/HEX; co-presenter, Quiet Angry Women; disc-jockey)
With a singular focus on local cultural life, and a vast array of experience across numerous music and cultural roles, Aisling O’Riordan has undoubtedly become central to Cork music. As one-half of influential promoters Southern Hospitality Board, her stewardessship of Quarter Block Party’s music programme has formed an important part of the February festival’s identity, while her role as one-third of folk doomsayers Morning Veils has helped bring about some cracking tunes and memorable live appearances for the seldom-seen trio. Regular radio show Quiet Angry Women provides her with a platform via online station Dublin Digital Radio, spotlighting female artists and featuring mixes curated by women in Irish music, and as a record-slinger, she’s shared billing with some of Irish music’s best and brightest, including a set in front of a packed Vicar Street in support of Girl Band and Rusangano Family, among others.
CAOILIAN SHERLOCK (Co-promoter, Southern Hospitality Board/Quarter Block Party; guitars/vox, Saint Caoilian/The Shaker Hymn/The Creeps/Worm; presenter, Dublin Digital Radio; label co-head, Small Town Disco; disc-jockey; freelance sound engineer)
A bon vivant, a troubadour, a raconteur: Caoilian Sherlock is an eminently likeable everyman in Leeside music, embodying the best and most worthwhile aspects of the musical existence. His music, whether as Saint Caoilian or as part of The Shaker Hymn, takes his influences & experiences and turns them into smirking, humourous reverie, while his work with Southern Hospitality Board, and before that The Pavilion, with Aisling O’Riordan, has placed him on the frontlines of new and interesting music in the city. His renaissance man status sees him involved on multiple fronts with Quarter Block Party, while his ventures into net-label territory and online radio under the Small Town Disco banner see him flexing those organisational muscles in a new context.
EMMA KELLY (Promoter, Merakindie Presents/The Roundy/PLUGD Records)
Emerging from a background in food and hospitality PR to tap into her passion for music, Emma Kelly established herself in earnest by taking the lead on the Mardyke Complex’s now-defunct UrbanJungle project, hooking up with community music groups like Cuttin’ Heads Collective and Room101 online radio to set the foundations of a potential centre of arts and other endeavours. Since striking out alone under the moniker of Merakindie Presents, Kelly established a near-impossible feat in early 2017, booking an incredible twenty-four dates of an Irish tour for a triple-bill of Wexford singer-songwriters, exploring restaurants and clothing shops up and down the country in addition to small venues and bars. Since then, working relationships with the likes of Fixity, The Bonk and Clang Sayne have kept Kelly busy, while her latest coup, helping reopen PLUGD Records upstairs in The Roundy bar on Castle Street, has placed the venue squarely at the centre of eclectic and eccentric sonics in the city. Recently-announced new-music night ‘Signal’, in collaboration with Cosmonaut Music and Overblown.co.uk, sees a meeting of some of Cork’s sharpest musical minds.
CORMAC DALY (Promoter, Cosmonaut Music/The Listening Room/Undercurrent; music coordinator, IndieCork; freelance sound engineer)
Having moved to Cork only a little over two years ago, the pace of Cormac Daly’s integration to the Leeside music scene has been astonishing. Kicking off with gigs and sessions in the now-defunct Cork Community Print Shop, Daly’s current promotion schedule sees him run events and gigs under numerous marquees, and across a wide spread of genres. Cosmonaut Music is his baby, providing a home for all things heavy, noisy and strange; The Listening Room transforms The Village Hall into a living-room acoustic session; and Undercurrent brings together Irish electronic music’s most vibrant and vital. Add to this a burgeoning rep as a freelance engineer, and the goodwill generated as an important part of the IndieCork festival team and you have one of the pillars of the city’s music community. The addition of the Signal night to his portfolio is another feather in an enviable cap.
SIOBHÁN BROSNAN (Blogger/promoter/DJ, Skirmish; press relations officer, Cuttin’ Heads Collective; promoter/organiser, Townlands Carnival)
One of the behind-the-scenes stars of electronic music in Cork, Siobhán Brosnan, a.k.a Shiv, has ploughed a furrow as a DJ, promoter, and blogger with London-based techno blog Skirmish (affiliates of cultural-commentary mavericks VICE), and as part of Cork hip-hop auteurs Cuttin’ Heads Collective. Having worked with counter-culture newspaper Rabble as a resident music expert, and curated live mixes from a revolving door of Irish electronic artists on Cork community station Room101, Shiv also currently works closely with the Townlands Carnival festival out of Macroom, and as part of Skirmish, co-curates mixes for London-based Future Radio and moderates the wonderful Music People Have to Hear group on Facebook.
DARREN KEANE (Bass, Not Earth/MueseuM/Worm/HAGS/many others; music journalist, State/The Thin Air; member, The Dead Pigeon Club; disc-jockey)
A Clonmel man with a penchant for throwing himself headlong into his creative outlets, Darren Keane’s spells as bassist for HAGS and other outfits, combined with music writing for the UCC Express and experience in managing bars in both his home and adopted towns, provided the perfect frame of reference for an explosively productive few years. Having handily cut his niche, his return to live performance with improv outfit Not Earth has inspired several other of his own projects, including MueseuM (ambient improv, alongside Arthur Pawsey) and Worm (noise/ambient, with Caoilian Sherlock) while his work in music writing for State and The Thin Air presents an insight into the thoughts of a passionate, yet no-nonsense music man. His Prince-only DJ sets have become the stuff of urban myth, also.
KELLY DOHERTY (Composer/producer/DJ, Gadget and the Cloud; presenter, Dublin Digital Radio; promoter, Future; music journalist, The Thin Air)
One of the first generation of Irish music journalists to operate free of print media’s predominance, Kelly Doherty began writing about music at the tender age of 16 for various online outlets, including her own blog, the now-defunct Alternative Tone. Being emboldened in the process to throw herself into every aspect of music, an encounter with Jon Hopkins while reviewing Electric Picnic 2015 set Doherty on the path to composition and production, emerging as ambient/aesthetic sadgirl beatsmith Gadget and the Cloud. Under the same name, Doherty is rapidly becoming a regular presence on local bills as a DJ, while also maintaining a weekly slot on Dublin Digital Radio. Her work for Belfast-based national music blog The Thin Air has also keenly honed her journalistic and editorial voice, while, as a member of female DJ advocacy group GASH Collective, is outspoken about the importance of rebalancing gender in Irish music. Most recently, Doherty has led the foundation of queer/feminist night Future at the Poor Relation, as part of her comprehensive student activism.
OUTSIDER YP (Rapper/beatmaker; promoter/organiser, Outsiders Entertainment; conceptual artist, designer, writer)
Ambition, it can be said, is nothing without earnestness of endeavour, and this can truly be said of Cork-based rapper Outsider YP. With an intrepidness born of the immigrant experience in small-town Ireland, he invests hip-hop with an ear for psychedelia and pop-culture reference points, dipping liberally into his pains, joys and conflicts to present a frankly thrilling vein of conceptual art. Over the past few years, this has been accompanied with a flair for high-art multimedia experiences, including a lush video shot in Hong Kong City for single ‘Saddest Day’. As one of the Outsiders group of rappers, producers and graphic designers, Mavambu has dipped his toes into everything from promotion and booking to fashion and fiction, currently nursing a concept multimedia series among a number of other long-term projects.