Sudden Club Weekender: Sudden Movement

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Ahead of a colossal weekend of independent music, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with some of the artists and producers at the Sudden Club Weekender.

This weekend sees some of the cream of Irish and international independent music hit the recently-revived Kino venue on Washington Street. Sudden Club Weekender, presented by erstwhile Leeside culture auteurs Southern Hospitality Board, is a three-day run of gigs and afterparties created with a sense of spontaneity in mind. Caoilian Sherlock, SHB co-promoter and The Shaker Hymn guitarist.

“We aimed to have a pop-up club that moved around non-traditional venues. Started with MNDSGN in The Sextant, SassyBlack in AMP, and we did a kind of pilgrimage to Connolly’s of Leap over the summer. I guess the intention was to make people raise their eyebrow with certain shows and venues in the hope that it would make for a more interesting show but also, “sudden” is such a statement of a word. I liked the idea that The Sudden Club is a temporary gang – and you’re in the gang as soon so you come to the gig.”

The idea for a festival emerging from out of nowhere played well into a big gathering of artists capping off landmark years, says Caoilian. “We just wanted to throw a big party at Christmas, or for the end of the year. So that’s what we’re aiming to do. Make it a party. All of the acts that we asked know that’s our shtick, so I’m sure we’ll be successful in that aspect. And Gulpd are throwing some late night events that are tying in with us – so it’s my favourite type of weekend. A real showcase.”

Headlining night one, on the 9th, are Rusangano Family, one of the most influential musical outfits in the country at present. Socially-conscious hip-hop with a multicultural voice, the trio is comprised of a pair of MCs, Zimbabwe-born Godknows and Togo-born Murli, with Clareman mynameisj0hn holding down beats. 2016 has been their breakout year, with the release of long-player Let the Dead Bury the Dead.

The album examines the act’s place in the world as artists and as people, taking in soul-searching internal monologue on expectations and cultural shifts, taking a step forward from the outfit’s early solo and collaborative configurations. Godknows speaks on the record: “Our music, although people might say it’s political, we happened to make an objective album, and if we look at the world’s outlook right now, the best thing is to love, and to be objective, and I’m happy that our music is what’s getting me through what’s happening in the world. That’s something for me, maybe personally. I’m happy I can still listen to the album, because that means we made a good album.”

Having decimated Cork venues twice this year with a hyperkinetic live show, including a sold-out album launch at the Kino earlier in 2016, the question of what we can expect now emerges, an inquiry Godknows tackles with a glee readily evident even down the phone line. “Aw, man! I think we’re gonna be well-rejuvenated. Y’know, we’ve learned a lot since the album came out in terms of performance, in terms of stage, in terms of our own voices. What you can expect is a bigger live show. The energy stays the same, but I think, the show, for some reason, maybe through experience, keeps getting more grand. I love that, ’cause at the end of the day, we have to go out and perform every time. For us, it’s the joy of doing something new, something we’ve done a lot of times, but in a new way.”

Supporting Rusangano Family is Corkman Ruairí Lynch, a.k.a. Bantum. Following an extended radio silence, Lynch re-emerged in the latter half of the year with new album Move, a work rooted in extensive collaboration, not only with Rusangano Family and Senita on leadoff single Feel Your Rhythm, but across its creative process, as Lynch reveals. “This record could never have happened without collaboration. Initially I intended to just release a follow up instrumental track to the Take It single back in February, but a series of fortunate events led to these collaborations. The Rusanganos are just the best lads. I traveled to Ennis to hang out with them when we recorded the vocals and they’ve been fantastic to me this year.”

The Altered Hours have had an incredibly busy year of it, releasing their debut LP earlier this year via Cork labels Penske and Art for Blind, and undertaking a comprehensive European tour. There’s one more round in Ireland this month for the band, including headlining the 10th at the Kino with The Bonk in support. Guitarist/vocalist Cathal McGabhann is ready for more. “You could just put me in the back of a van tomorrow, and tell me I have shows booked for the next year straight and I’d be the happiest man alive. I really like playing the guitar and I love travelling with my band mates. When I don’t know where I am, and I have a gig that night is when I’m at my best I think, shaking these illusions of attachment one gig at a time.”

The band’s debut long-player In Heat/Not Sorry has made this year a landmark for the band. MacGabhann reflects on the band’s relationship with the record. “I’m proud of that record. In my opinion, it was the first step for us into our own world, sonically and conceptually. The release of this record out of my hands was a great relief too. I have so much energy to burn when it comes to making music I’m pretty sure at this stage it’s an entirely insatiable desire, so finishing a project and getting it off your chest allows me to shed all those positive and negative feelings and move on the next bunch of songs. Looks like this will continue for the foreseeable future while hopefully learning and expanding along the way.”

The weekend’s final headliner, on the 11th, is U.K. songwriter Rozi Plain and band, supported by The Shaker Hymn and Anna-Mieke Bishop.

An established composer and a seasoned session musician for artists like This is the Kit, 2015 saw third album Friend released on London indie Lost Map, followed up by this year’s companion piece Friend of a Friend. “The album was a mixture of songs that’d I’d been playing for a couple of years, and really, brand new songs. We recorded in a very short, very intense space of time at a studio in London called The Total Refreshment Centre. Lots of things about it came together in this really cosmic-feeling way, it was a great time! Friend of a Friend‘s name was Johnny from (labelmates) The Pictish Trail’s idea. We’d had a few remixes come in and so it was a good excuse to ask pals if they fancied doing some more and then putting them all together. It includes some live session tracks and covers as well including a Sun Ra cover that we do that I really enjoy playing so it was fun to be able to get it on something.”

Plain is excited about coming back to Cork, having done a few tours of duty here with her own band and amid collaborators. “Yes, we love coming back to Ireland. We played earlier this year at Quarter Block Party in Cork, and at Levis’, and they were two of my favourite shows of all time that we’ve done. So, it’s very exciting to be returning! Everyone is always so welcoming, and such great vibe dudes. I used to come on holiday to Ballydehob every summer when I was little, and have great memories of it.”

The Shaker Hymn have been no slouches this year, either, with new album Do You Think You’re Clever? preceding a big Irish tour and several music video releases. Caoilian holds forth on the process. “We’re all very proud of it as a record. It was the album we had been yearning to make for a long time, in terms of sounds and style. It’s much more of a full-band record than the first in respect of ideas, and it’s been picked up very nicely throughout the year. Couldn’t ask for much more than that.”

Amid all the excitement is the announcement that Southern Hospitality Board are to wind up their operations under the moniker for the foreseeable future. A veritable force of nature on the Cork scene since going into business for themselves post-Pavilion, they’ve been one of the anchors of Leeside music, a sentiment echoed by MacGabhann. “Caoilian and Aisling should be extremely proud of their work in Cork city. They really are incredible people with a wonderful sense of style, loyalty and dedication to a great gig experience. I have come to know the lads through music in Cork over the past 6 years or so and they have just been on the ball the whole time. They’ve been an invaluable support to our group for years now and so many others.”

Caoilian, looking to the future, explains the rationale behind SHB’s decision to call it a day. “We had a very busy year booking shows and working on our own music, and then just working our own jobs that pay the bills. We never really had a chance to talk about the toll it was taking on us. It hasn’t been making us rich either. Which is fine, it’s not why we do it, but it is important. We both took some holidays in November, and separately came back with the the same ideas, a bit of clarity… I have pledged myself to about 408 new projects and bands, so I’m sure I’ll wear myself out with those. Aisling is the same, we won’t be stuck for things to do anyway.”

Coughlan’s: Going Live for Fourth Festival

 

September 21st-25th sees Coughlan’s on Douglas Street serve as the epicentre of Cork music during its flagship Coughlan’s Live Festival. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with venue coordinator Edel Curtin.

“Coughlan’s annual festival has become an important event on our calendar, as it marks the anniversary of the venue. It’s always a nice time to take stock of what has happened in the previous twelve months, and to celebrate all the great musicians we have had the honour of hosting. The festival is a chance for us to say “thank you” to the people that have supported us since the beginning, so we try to have as eclectic a mix as possible and keep some of the shows free. It’s nice for us too, to be able to remind ourselves that we have made it through another year, and hopefully done a good enough job in the process, especially with so many venues having to close their doors.”

Edel Curtin, booker for Coughlan’s on Douglas Street and its sister company Coughlan’s Live Promotions, is preparing for the venue’s annual centrepiece event, Coughlan’s Live Festival. “This year’s festival will be a cracker. We’re very excited about having Rusangano Family thanks to our friends in Southern Hospitality Board. John Blek and the Rats is always a fantastic show to go to in Coughlan’s, and our silent disco has proved hugely popular over the past few years. The Voice Squad promises to be a really special show too, and it’s their first time playing the venue. All in all it promises to be a great weekend!”

In its fifth year, also headlined by talent like Hermitage Green, and Lisa O’Neill, the festival marks the space’s fourth anniversary. Edel talks about the roots and beginnings of Coughlan’s as we know it. “For years, previous to Coughlan’s becoming a venue, I had it in my head that I’d like to be part of a small music venue. At the time I was still working as a musician, and Cork didn’t really have a small intimate space for musicians to play. There seemed to be a gaping hole where The Lobby used to be and it became an ambition of mine to try in some small way to fill that void. Myself and some friends started a casual session that took place every Monday night in Coughlan’s. It was good fun and started to draw a crowd. At the time the back room wasn’t really in use, and although it’s very small, it seemed like a nice space to try something. I organised a festival for that September and the rest is history, I suppose! People liked the venue, musicians liked playing it, and after that weekend I started getting enquiries from more musicians that wanted to play. I never thought it would turn into what it has, to be honest, and a huge part of that is down to the incredible support we received.”

The venue tapped into a rich, but underutilised, vein of acoustic-led genres and sub-genres, something that hadn’t really been pushed to a venue’s forefront in recent years in Cork City. What was behind the decision to lead with this genre, right as others were appealing to other, contemporary audiences? “I suppose the type of shows that were put on were largely dictated by the venue itself. I wasn’t sure what would work in the room volume-wise, but I knew there wouldn’t be a problem with the more acoustic shows. Over time we were able to experiment a bit more, and take a few chances. Personal taste also played a part, to a degree, but I think as the venue grows, we are broadening the types of shows that we put on. Rusangano Family at this year’s festival is a good example of that I think.”

Quickly beginning to outgrow the walls of the backroom of their headquarters, the Coughlan’s team began expanding into other venues in town, collaborating and co-promoting with Cyprus Avenue and The Oliver Plunkett to name a few. “Coughlan’s Live Promotions happened quite organically off the back of the venue. We were fortunate that some of the musicians who had previously played Coughlan’s and were now in need of a bigger venue wanted to keep working with us. Having come from playing music as a profession, there was already a good relationship with a lot of the venues in the city, and thankfully they were receptive to us putting on shows. It’s great to be able to use these
venues, and it’s exciting for us to be able to book acts that we might not necessarily be able to have in Coughlan’s.”

The hard work and entrepeneurial spirit of the Coughlan’s team has reaped rewards, with the Hot Press and IMRO Venue of the Year award in 2013 taking pride of place at the venue’s entrance. “Winning awards over the past few years has been genuinely very humbling. To know you have the support of so many people is a great feeling. This is not an easy job to do, there’s a huge amount of work that has to be done behind the scenes in order for the venue’s doors to stay open, and to see this recognised is hugely encouraging for us. People have really gotten behind us, and that is the biggest reason for us being able to continue doing what we do. We are blessed too that we have fantastic staff, there’s a really great team and I think people see that and want to support it. It’s a huge reason for people returning to the venue, they know they will be looked after, treated well and greeted by a familiar face. We don’t have the biggest stage or best lighting rig, but the place has atmosphere and character and I think that counts for a lot.”

Living Space: For the Arts in Mallow

The town of Mallow, and villages in the surrounding area are rich in history, architecture and literature. From Doneraile’s place in the annals of the written word in Ireland, to Mallow Castle, to the town itself helping set part of the stage for Irish cinematic classic The Wind That Shakes The Barley. But by and large in recent decades, the area’s artistic and creative communities have been buoyed almost entirely by dedicated individuals, working in local community spaces. It is in this spirit that Cork County Council Arts Office presents us with Living Space, a series of day-long arts programmes in the town centre throughout July and August. Leah Hearne, festival producer for Quarter in Cork City and one of the all-dayers’ co-ordinators, speaks of placing a focus on the arts in the town. “I guess Mallow’s proximity to Cork City, while also a strength, has provided challenges for arts activity there. Even though it is one of the County’s largest towns it hasn’t had the benefit of dedicated cultural spaces such as are available in Skibbereen or Cobh. That’s all due to change in the next couple of years with the development of the former Town Hall by Cork County Council, which will provide new and much needed exhibition and theatre space. The Living Space Project is connected to this development, as it’s very much concerned with developing ownership and involvement in the arts in the community in Mallow. So that’s what we are trying to do with this project, to give the residents of Mallow an opportunity to enjoy art and be entertained at home in Mallow, and I hope that will have a knock-on effect in terms of seeing Mallow as a place where they can put on activities, shop, work, socialise and so on.”

Mallow is an area that has massive artistic potential, in terms of location and aforementioned dedicated individuals, as well as groups like CDYS and Mallow Arts Collective. What have been the upsides of working with people in the arts in and around Mallow? “There has been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and good will. Every group I contacted seemed really grateful for the opportunity to perform at home in Mallow. Once word got out, I had people contacting me as well wanting to get involved. That energy and willingness to contribute is fantastic to see. I think with enough of those people who have that enthusiasm and the capacity to give of their time there is tremendous potential for good things to happen.”

Each day of the Living Space events presents different themes, activities and events. It makes for a vast variety of arts and culture the likes of which have seldom been seen in the town in years. Leah goes into the details on the lineup.“There weren’t really clear themes in mind when we started out programming the days, we wanted a variety of activities that would interest small kids, teenagers and adults. Once everything settled into place though, themes did start to emerge. The first day, Saturday July 16th, is a party really, and everyone is invited. With a variety of music, aerial acrobatics, theatre, circus and puppet shows, and every age group being catered for, there really is something for everyone. It’s all about getting everyone out enjoying themselves as they traverse the town to take it all in.”

“Saturday July 23rd, is a little more laid back with a different kind of engagement. Hydra Quintet present an evening concert of classical music in St. James’ Church from 5pm while Mallow Arts Collective have your afternoon entertainment sorted with a showcase of local musicians in a number of spots throughout the town. Hydra Quintet will also facilitate a children’s music workshop about their love of Mozart at 2pm. Renowned, award-winning artist Michael Fortune will be in Mallow Library at 3.30pm to discuss his socially engaged work exploring folklore through the medium of photography and film.”

“Saturday August 6th is all about discovering the town. Artist Jock Nichol will be facilitating a day of outdoor painting, helping artists of all abilities develop their own response to the environment. Beginning at Thomas Davis Plaza at 3pm, The Living Space Trail, a specially curated walking experience of Mallow is being developed, blending history, folklore, and art while guiding participants to performances from Claire O’Brien, Caoilian Sherlock and Dowry (the solo music project of Ena Brennan). Send your stories about the town to livingspacemallow@gmail.com

Then wrapping up the series of events is a picnic in Mallow Castle grounds on Sunday August 14th, a day I see as being about conversations. Entertainment and activities will be provided by Blarney Brass Band, Centre Stage School and Splattervan.”

Mallow town centre’s makeup, including a long main street and new developments including Market Square and the Plaza, will make for a unique setting. Were there any challenges or issues, particularly with planning the events? “No, I wouldn’t say so. As the events were created with and for the town, the town’s space and layout could not have posed a challenge as they were one of the starting points from which everything grew. One of my first days on the job in June was walking around the town with Ian McDonagh and Arran Towers of Tallest Smallest, sussing out the potential spots for Circus Outside the Box’s aerial show. It was my first time in Mallow in a few years and the first time I was really looking, just noticing the potential and the possibilities. For me, coming in to this project as an outsider, someone who has never lived or worked in Mallow, was something I was initially wary of but it quickly proved advantageous to be unaware and without preconceptions. I found that while meeting the traders on the street, they appreciated my outside perspective.”

After this series comes a look at the viability and sustainability of arts in the North Cork town, ahead of the redevelopment of the old Town Hall into a fully-functional arts centre. It’s something that’s generating much-needed buzz locally, especially after a long period of economic uncertainty has resulted in a series of business closures. “The Town Hall development is really very exciting, I would love to see it being used as a place for national and international and to stay and carry out artistic residencies. It would be fantastic to see North Cork follow in the footsteps of West Cork becoming a lively and vibrant hub for creativity and tourism. With the Town Hall development, the beautiful castles and Mallow being so accessible by train I think there is great potential there.”

Living Space happens in Mallow town every Saturday throughout the next four weeks. Check The Living Space Project on Facebook for more info.