Sunday 1 March 2009

Villagers in The Stables, Mullingar 28th February 2009

Yesterday myself, Blathnaid and Rob of Egoeccentric went on a bit of a trek down to Mullingar to see Villagers play in the Stables. Apparently all gigs there start late so there was time for a quick pint in Dun Laoghaire before the drive down to the midlands.

Click on the read more for a review of the gig.

This being my first trip to The Stables I didn't know what to expect. What I found was what looked to be a converted stable. The venue, whose capacity I couldn't guess but would assume to be quite small, was laid out with long benches. Minimal lighting was provided by the candles resting on each bench, which served to increase the air of intimacy in the venue. The walls and ceiling were plastered with gig posters which created a nice juxtaposition between the old world charm of the Stable and the modern edge of the music scene it houses.

The Stables Walls and Ceilings Were Covered With These

Arriving slightly late at about 10.15 we were just in time to see the first act, 'The Ambience Affair' a guitar and drum duo that make heavy use of loop pedals to create expansive soundscapes. The pair took to the stage about 22.20 and launched into a 30 minute set of quietloudquiet acoustic tracks with a shoegazy edge. One of the pitfalls of using loop pedals is the tendency to fall into the same patterns and to rely too heavily on the amount of layers you can create so that the basic song suffers. Unfortunately The Ambience Affair's set suffered from this and the resultant effect was that no single song stood out. Then again that might be the point. Despite these minor quibbles I enjoyed the performance a lot. In much the same way as I listen to 'Massive Attack', The Ambience Affair's hypnotic loops provide an soundtrack that can either be used as ambient background music or can be fully attended to for maximum enjoyment. I'd be interested to see how this band progresses if they harness some of their soundscapes and turn them into slightly more accessible songs.

Second to take the stage were normally three piece Arrow in the Sky who were short a member for the evening. For most of set the pair made use of acoustic guitar and mandolin to produce fairly standard singer-songwriter fair with a few odd instruments thrown in. Listenable but but not exactly innovative. Poor crowd interaction didn't exactly help and the performance would have benefited greatly from some eye-contact with the audience and a bit more energy from the performers.

This could not be said of Villagers who somehow mananged to produce a set that was both a quiet and intimate affair while still using walls of guitar feedback and unbounded energy. The Brainchild of Ex-The Immediate Conor O' Brien, Villagers recorded output is a completely solo project however they're live performances are a collaboration between various musician friends of Conor's. With a constantly rotating line-up (which at one gig point of Richie Egan of Jape) one would expect some level of sloppiness in the playing but Villagers set is as tight as that of a band who have been on the road for years. The line-up consists of Conor on acoustic guitar, Berkely guitarist Tommy McLaughlin on electric guitar, (I think) David Crean on Keys and two other members, whose names I unfortunately did not take down, on Bass and Drums.

The 12 song set soared from quiet to loud, integrating tracks from their 'Hollow Kind' EP. Conor O' Brien filled his lyrics with a rare passion and conviction that makes the listener believe in what he's saying. Tommy McLaughlin seemed to be channeling the spirit of The Bends/Ok Computer era Johnny Greenwood, with intricate melodies and minimalist playing giving way to chaotic distortion and acres of feedback. A solid performance from every member made you believe that this wasn't just the work of one man and that every musician felt as much the part of the music as any other.

Although it may seem like the press are holding Villagers up on a pedestal the heights of which they can never live up to, performances like this make you feel like you've witnessed something special and makes you believe that this band could go far. So if you have the chance go see Villagers now before they take to the cities and stadiums.

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