Groundhopping: St Patrick’s Athletic (v Waterford, Richmond Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 19 April 2024

Result: St Patrick’s Athletic 1 – 1 Waterford

Tickets:  €18 adults, €5 kids

Attendance: 4,376

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: I must admit I saw less of the action at this game than I’d have liked to – the drawback of bringing a two year old who needs to be watched, and the need to keep her happy by giving her space to run around in the corner of the Camac Stand. From what I saw, it was of modest quality at best, with both sides scrappy in midfield and creating relatively few chances. Waterford led early on from a corner, with Pat’s equalising in the second half and then pushing for a winner that never really particularly looked like coming.

Both seem to lack a bit of patience and control, and I think they’ll be mid table at the end of the season in a League of Ireland that has a couple of quite poor teams this year (and a few other really decent looking ones).

The ground:  I’ve been to Richmond quite a few times and this is the first time I’ve seen it quite as packed as it was tonight, and my first time in several years since moving away from the area – the growth of the league of Ireland continues, and I believe this must have bene very close to a sell out, if not a total sell out, judging by how packed the stands were. So far as I can tell it’s close to impossible to get into the main (Inchicore side) stand this season due to season tickets.

There’s one main covered seated area that has space for home and away fans, another large uncovered seating area behind one goal and the rest is terraced standing. It’s all a bit old school but I’ve always liked that, nice to see so many packed in.

Extras: I liked the almost hidden food stall right at the far end of the Camac. Richmond seems to have decent facilities these days, but with the four kids in tow, I passed on the trip to the club shop or any search for a programme, and ended up buying small heaps of sweets.

Assorted asides: The kids were fascinated with the river running behind the terrace, in particular when a ball was blasted into it and they could watch it float down.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 4. Home wins: 1 Draws: 2 Away wins: 1

Goals: 13. Home goals: 7. Away goals: 6. Goals per game: 3.25

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Buckwise: “We have a passion for club electronica and IDM, but we also love cinematic atmospheres and try to find the best way to blend the two”

Some of my favourite bands are ones I’ve discovered by going to festivals throughout Europe: Icelandic folk singer Arny Margret, Danish experimental jazz act Svaneborg Kardyb, and Estonian techno rock fusion act Bedless Bones, to name just a few recent discoveries.

Buckwise are a little different: while I stumbled across their music as a consequence of dropping in for a few hours of Tallinn Music Week during a family holiday, I had already flown home by the time they played. They had emailed asking to meet up (and promising Italian delicacies – nice lads!), and while we didn’t get to do so, I did take the time to listen to their brand of dance played on more conventional instrumentation, and I heard a seriously impressive production, like a less cover-based and more instrumentally-varied, spaced-out version of incredible guitar act Showhawk Duo.

So we decided to do a short feature, in the hope I might be able to grab the Italian act just a little bit of Irish attention, for which they’ve kindly answered my questions. And here it is…

Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Buckwise?

Buckwise were conceived by Lorenzo L’Abbate, Nicola Galluzzi and Francesco “Gnappo” De Luca. After several years of collaboration in other bands, they decide to give rise to a new sound that melts British and German electronic music and American indie-folk, melting banjo trumpet and guitars with programming.

Some months later, Roberto Matarrese, musician and producer, joined the band bringing his vocal and writing skills and sound design mindset.

After our first studio album, ‘Turning Point’ (2019), we went in a new artistic direction and a new sound, with Michele Granito and Francesco Lombardi becoming part of the band and giving a new impact to live performances.

This has led us to new collaborations like Dischi Uappissimi, our current label and management, and Bonimba, a publisher with an attitude for soundtracks for prominent productions. We’re also starting playing live outside of Italian borders, like at Tallinn Music Week in Estonia and ProtFest in Bosnia, and we’ll go to France to play at the FIMU Festival in Belfort.

You have an unusual style of music. How did you come to perform in this way?

Definitely all our past experiences as individual musicians and our background with different musical genres helped. In addition, the musical journey we made as a band has gradually led us to express this style. We have a passion for club electronica and IDM, but we also love cinematic atmospheres and try to find the best way to blend the two.

Is there a particular way of writing that you use to achieve the electronic effect with more traditional instruments?

Sometimes we try to think of parts that we would play with traditional instruments and bring them into the electronic world, using synths and drum machines. When we then go back to reproduce them with string instruments, winds, or drums, it sometimes feels almost natural, also because we use electronic effects a lot even with traditional instruments.

How do you convert your recorded songs into something you can create again live?

It’s one of the most fun parts because, starting from a production work, the live part sometimes leads us to change things up, and live songs have a different impact compared to recorded ones. We try to make the songs more engaging for the audience in a concert. Listening to a song with headphones and being on a stage bring about different sensations, and we try to accommodate this when we think about our live performance. So, sometimes, it sounds different from the record.

What are you like as a live band?

We try to bring to the stage the same engagement and spontaneity that we have in the studio. We are five brothers having fun, each with our own attitude but one single body that moves. It’s a balanced situation in which we feel comfortable, and feeling that the audience perceives this positive mood allows us to create a direct relationship with those who listen to us from the very first moments of the show.

Groundhopping: Blackburn Rovers (v Sheffield Wednesday, Ewood Park)

Competition: EFL Championship

Date: Sunday, April 21, 2024

Result: Blackburn Rovers 1-3 Sheffield Wednesday

Tickets: Adults – £25-30, Seniors – £20-25, Age 18-23 – £15-20, Age 12-17 – £10-15, Under 12 – Free

Attendance: 21,718

Game/Experience Rating: ☆☆☆☆

The Game: With both sides embroiled in a battle to avoid relegation to League One, it was little
wonder that they both came out flying.

Josh Windass gave Wednesday an early lead, but Rovers levelled courtesy of a player who has been
the scourge of Championship defences this season.

Sammie Szmodics has been a standout performer for the Lancashire outfit and it was no surprise
when he fired home the equaliser. His efforts for Rovers recently resulted in a call-up for the Republic of Ireland squad and his performance highlighted why that was fully deserved.

Szmodics has become hugely popular with Irish sports bettors this season, delivering numerous
payouts for people who wager in the ‘anytime scorer’ market. However, punters who backed Rovers to win on the top Irish betting apps were left frustrated as Wednesday scored twice after the break to claim a valuable victory.

The result boosted the Yorkshire side’s chances of avoiding the drop and left Rovers looking
nervously over their shoulders.

The Ground: It is not too long ago that Rovers were hosting Premier League games at Ewood Park
and their stadium remains an excellent venue.

The atmosphere was helped in no small part by a 7,000-strong contingent from Sheffield who made
plenty of noise throughout the game. The playing surface was also in excellent condition despite the number of games that have been played on it this season.

Extras: Standard fare for a second-tier club. The prices were not too bad and the McDonald’s across
from the ground was an added bonus.

Assorted Asides: Rovers’ demise in recent years has been well-documented, with owners Venky’s
making a complete mess of running the club. It is sad to see how far things have fallen and conversations with their fans painted a sorry picture about the ineptitude they have had to endure.

Allowing under 12s in for free is a nice touch by the club, but they are unlikely to retain many of
them if Rovers’ fortunes do not improve on the pitch.

Meltybrains?: “we intend to get people out of their comfort zone”

Creating a kind of music that’s hard to categorise, aside from to say that – as the name suggests – it sets out with an intent to challenge and shock, Dublin act Meltybrains? have taken the slow road to debut album ‘You’.

Described as an exploration of what it is to be a man in his 20s, ‘You’ explores anxieties and internal journeys, and examines what the band  view as a kind of symbiosis between the self and the universe. It is, for want of a better explanation, an attempt to put the bigger picture of their lives – the grand questions – to music.

The record’s been a process, so much so that Meltybrains? have only just made a post-covid return, meaning until recently it had been three or four years since their last show. “I don’t really know what to expect from our gigs,” Dillon laughs. “It’s mad music. I sometimes look at the audience and think ‘do they actually like this’?”

“We absolutely intend to be a bit jarring, get people out of their comfort zone. I think all of us would be into harsh noises, unpleasant music, especially in a live setting where volume is so important.”

“With ‘You’, we tried to use song structure a little bit more, but still the structures are quite unusual a lot of the time,” he continues. “There are a lot of moving parts in Meltybrains? and it’s been a while since this was our main thing. There are a lot of logistical, practical and emotional moving parts. We’re very comfortable with each other without offending anyone, it’s been a very personal process with no real main songwriter. Which is great but it definitely takes longer.”

The themes, too, are complex. “The album looks at a person as an analog for the universe,” Dillon says. “We thought about that while we were writing. One song, ‘Yes Man’ dates back to 2013 or 2014. I guess it’s a recollection or a reflection of our lives over the last ten or so years. Not many tracks were created just for the album.”

Roe Byrne: “Busking changed my life in so many ways”

© Dan Butler Photography

18-year-old Roe Byrne is a staple of Grafton Street, a rising star of the Dublin busking scene who has broken out into the more mainstream music world. With his first headline show ever freshly under his belt – a show last weekend at Dublin’s Sound House – Byrne’s prolific songwriting looks set to open a world of opportunities in 2023. 

In fact, with latest single ‘Set Me On Fire’, Byrne feels like he’s setting a tone of sorts for the coming year, as he looks to build on over a million video views, achieved shortly after completing his leaving cert and heading to college.

“I busk most weekends, depending on the weather and my schedule but it absolutely changed my life,” Byrne says “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now if I hadn’t started busking. I was always the shy kid in school, I would carry my guitar around every day and I got a bit of teasing for it but I just loved sitting in the music room at lunchtime singing.”

“Busking made me so confident, it gave me an outlet and an opportunity to perform in front of strangers, which is a lot easier than performing in front of people you know. I was a total introvert before I started busking, but now all I want to do is to sing to as many people as possible. It changed my life in so many ways.”

While much of Byrne’s busking career centres, as is traditional, on covers, his own songs have a distinctly personal angle, with his life filtering easily into his music.

“I definitely write about my own experiences,” he says, “but I take a lot of inspiration from what’s around me. Stories that other people have told me, situations that friends of mine may be in and even just the people I meet on a random day busking, they all have a story to tell, it’s just getting that message across with a catchy melody that’s the hard part!”

Megan Burke: “It turns out I should always trust my gut”

From what she saw as something of a career ‘false start’ on the X-Factor, to appearing on the Late Late Show as she establishes herself more permanently through a series of popular online posts and singles grabbing over 4 million views, Megan Burke’s decade long journey with music has been one filled with twists and turns.

“I was only a baba and at the time [I appeared on the X Factor], and the people that I was working with urged me to enter as it was such a popular show then,” Burke recalls. “I was always reluctant because I didn’t really think it would be my thing, but eventually I came around to the idea and thought ‘feck it why not?’ Turns out I should always trust my gut because it is never wrong, and it wasn’t really for me, but it was a great experience to have under the belt.”

“At the time I was very disappointed when I was sent home. I was distraught for a few hours but looking back now I’m glad it didn’t work out. I didn’t know who I was at 20 so I believe a show like this would have chewed me up and spat me out back then. Now would be a whole different story as I am so sure of myself. It really helped me but not in the way you might think. It made me realise what I didn’t want from my career in music, which was as important as figuring out what I did want.”

These days, Burke’s music can be divided firmly into two categories: more formal releases, like recent single ‘For Hours’, and digital only ones for which she garners a heap of online attention, and are much less formally produced.

“Social media releases are a complete solo project,” she says. “I only really need myself for that process. I really need a lot of prep in general, but with single releases I need so much preparation and help. I rely on so many people when I’m releasing a single, and I am very lucky with the people I surround myself with on these projects. It really does take a village – yes, I know that saying is used when raising kids but my music is my baby so I’m gonna use it anyway!”

James Walsh: “Carol King’s songwriting is the unreachable goal”

Once touted in the same breath as global megastars Coldplay, in the early 2000s, the distinctive vocal of James Walsh and the emotive, mellow-indie sound of his band Starsailor was pervasive across radio.

With hit singles like UK top ten hits ‘Alcoholic’ and ‘Silence Is Easy’, Walsh was on the crest of a wave yet by 2009, having faded from the limelight, the band had called it a day. Today, Starsailor have been back for several years, but Walsh also tours solo, delivering a mix of Starsailor hits and his own material from a series of solo albums including his most recent, 2021’s ‘Everything Will Be Ok’.

“‘Love Is Here’ is going back a few years, but it’s nice to resurrect a few of the songs that have slipped out of the set over years, and great to see so many young people in the crowd,” Walsh says of touring Starsailor’s best-known record recently.

“The line between my Starsailor stuff and solo stuff is quite blurred to be honest. I know people want to see the Starsailor songs as well when I play solo, so I try to mix it up as much as I can, something like 50/50. It’s a sort of evolving process, as you get to know the solo songs that sit well alongside the Starsailor songs. The fanbase for the solo stuff is not huge but it has grown and grown, and there are people who sing along to both.”

“My solo stuff is more introspective, more singer-songwriter. The band has everyone’s different elements. I love Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Jackson Browne, Carol King. Carol King is a benchmark for me, if I can write a song anywhere close to her songwriting… That’s the unreachable goal.”

“As soon as we finish our tours we’ll be going back into the studio as Starsailor,” he continues. “There are enough songs there for both another solo album and another band album. Weirdly, when the band was doing really well I felt I didn’t have the time to write songs. Now there’s a bit more time, and writing is a much more constant process.”

“Everytime I get a few spare hours I try to write a song. I’m a firm believer that once an idea starts to form, I finish that idea, and if it’s not good enough, move onto the next one. I can’t work if I think the next part of something has to be the best thing ever. I look at it afterwards instead, I find it more satisfying.”

Ciaran Moran: “Quite frequently the best souls, community spirits and talent of the inner city are overlooked”

Ciaran Moran’s most recent EP is a return, in a sense, to who he truly is. In it, Moran takes the stories from life around him in the North Inner City, and attempts to summarise them in a form of music that has a specific sense of place.

The result, ‘Life Inner City’, could easily have been a full-length record. Instead, it’s a refined but far shorter five-track, one that will draw parallels in terms of feel with the likes of Christy Dignam and Damien Dempsey. Moran eschews convention, preferring to reflect on his roots.

“The North inner city is where I was born and raised, about two minutes from Smithfield Square,” Moran tells us. “I wanted to create a project that represents the community and beauty of the struggle in the North Inner City, something that people from that area could feel a part of, or as if they own a piece of the project and feel in some way involved in it.” 

“Throughout the project, I tried to let people know of the truths and downfalls, what really happens, but also how great this place is. You’ll hear this particularly in ‘Devil’ and then just some reminiscing throughout ‘Miss The Rain’ and ‘Life Inner City’”.

“Quite frequently the best souls, community spirits and talent in the inner city are overlooked, but there’s a special vibe in that place. Everyone knows everyone, everyone supports everyone, and they’ll remind you of where you’re from. In recent years, there have been projects written about certain parts of town and the flats etc., But the difference with this project is I never adapted my style or genres to suit modern culture or trends. It’s as real as it gets and can be listened to easily by the folk it’s, at times, written about. I wanted people from the area to take the project as ‘Life Inner City – Life In Our City’.”

There’s plenty of inner city fame to be found behind Moran, who cites major influences ranging from Christy Moore to Roddy Doyle.

“When I lived in town and was about 13, I went to my local youth centre, Bradog,” he recalls. “There was a great bloke (Sparky) who introduced me to Colm Querney for a songwriting course. Colm and Sparky actually started me off writing, but through the youth club I had some great opportunities, and one of them was to do a fighting words workshop with Christy Moore, run by Roddy Doyle, on a road not too far from Croke Park.”