IN PHOTOS: People Under The Stairs rock the mic at The Sugar Club

California hip hop veteran 2 piece People Under The Stairs recently brought their rambunctious live show to The Sugar Club and Choice Cuts were kind enough to bring me along to take some photos.

It was incredible night of music, with Dublin DJ Handsome Paddy warming up the crowd with a mix of obscure beats and oldskool classics before People Under The Stairs took control of the packed out venue and treated us to an education in street knowledge.  

Double K (Michael Turner) and Thes One (Christopher Portugal) describe themselves as “just good old hip-hop”, but in truth there’s a something more here. The group excel at the fundamentals that brought the genre to the world stage: deep groove samples, irresistible breakbeats, and simplistic street corner emceeing. Double K’s skills on the turntable are undeniable, sampling everything from soul, jazz, reggae and especially funk. This bedrock is the perfect platform for Thes One’s laid back and somehow simultaneously heavy hitting rhymes. The guy can spit! On the few tracks that both MC’s rap on they display the kind of off the cuff chemistry that can only come from years of practice. 

The whole evening was slightly bittersweet as the group announced it was to be their 2nd last ever show, with the final one taking place in London’s Jazz Café the following night. All we can do is keep listening to their excellent back catalogue and hope they someday change their minds….


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LIVE REVIEW: Too Many Zooz go ape at The Sugar Club

New Yorkers and self described ‘Brass House’ trio Too Many Zooz hit The Sugar Club on Saturday night for the first of two sold out shows in the capital as part of the Becks Rhythm Series. The former buskers haven’t been around that long, but in a short time have racked up a legion of followers after a video of them performing their  unorthodox brand of electro-acoustic tunes in a New York subway station went Viral in 2014.

Since then the group have been extremely prolific, recording and releasing 4 EP’s, 6 Singles and a full length album entitled ‘Subway Gawds’. They’ve also toured extensively and even collaborated with Beyoncé at the CMA Awards. Not too shabby!

Support on the night came from Dublin Neo-soul outfit Akora. Having been acquainted with the musical stylings of most of the members (they’re some of the sickest session players in town), this was my first time seeing their new venture live and boy am I happy I did. There are some serious songwriting chops on show here. The kind of complex layered music that takes years of practice to make look this effortless. The bass and drums provide a rock solid foundation for guitars and keys to riff over, while lead singer Ciara O’Connor ‘s vocals drive through the tracks, subtly filling the sonic gaps in the soundscape. The set encompassed elements of soul, electronica, RnB and breakbeats all blended together skilfully into an entirely separate beast. Check these guys out live as soon as you get the opportunity. For now head over to their Breaking Tunes page and listen to their demos, which are as polished and well written as any tracks you’ll find blasting through the radio.
 Too Many Zooz arrived like returning heroes to cheers and screams from the assembled crowd. They wasted no time, bursting in to a set of hi-tempo tracks that really showed off the level of skill all three virtuosos posses on their instruments. Drummer  David “King of Sludge” Parks  is a bonafide human metronome, knocking out ridiculously precise and complex rhythms at a breakneck speed. This would be enough to make your jaw drop, but when it’s combined with the speed and precision of Matt Doe’s trumpet solos and the note perfect groove of Leo Pellegrino’s baritone sax it’s pretty unbelievable. These cats can BLOW!

Leo combines this skill with some pretty killer dance moves throughout the set, bouncing and sliding across the stage at a near constant pace, somehow never missing a beat on the sax. Their stage presence is palpable. The whole scene is a lot of fun and the crowd are loving it! Every single person is on their feet by the 3rd or 4th song, including the mostly seated sections of the venue. Joining in is pretty irresistible. They fill a surprising amount of sonic real estate for such a small group with the trumpet covering the high end and the sax acting like a bass guitar/synth, all the while driving forward with an eclectic mix of percussive sounds and rhythms.

One criticism I would level is that the tracks can become a bit repetitive. It’s difficult to maintain this mardi-gras level of excitement for an hour plus show, but that could just be me. The energy on stage never dips once. It’ll be interesting to see what direction the music takes to stand the test of time, whether more members will join or some texture will be added with backing tracks. Although it could be argued that this would take away from the raw intensity on display, which would surely be a shame. One thing is for sure, these guys are definitely worth checking out the next time they swing by your neck of the woods.  Kudos to ChoiceCuts for continuing to book such brilliantly eclectic acts that you just don’t get anywhere else in the country!

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Space Jam – The Comet is Coming and Yonen take over The Sugar Club

Last Tuesday the Sugar Club was the scene for a journey of musical discovery courtesy of London Psychedelic-Jazz trio The Comet is Coming, with support from Dublin instrumentalists Yonen.

The latter act took us on a tour of the cosmos with their intergalactic instrumentals complete with a live AV show that really set this apart from your usual fare. At times frantic, at others soothing and sad. At one point guitarist Alan Dooley is coaxing what sounds like whale song out of his six string.

Such was the nature of the music and the quiet attentiveness of the crowd that the guys often had to announce when a piece was finished with a quick ‘Thank You!’ which was met with stunned applause. This band makes incredibly complex music and they are tight as hell live. Catch them as soon as you can.

Headliners The Comet is Coming are hard to define. Take 1 part jazz, 1 part psychedelia. Mix with smooth Sax and bake at a high bpm for 2 hours. Drummer Betamax Killer’s rhythmic stabs drive the tracks ahead while Danalogue The Conqueror on keys and King Shabaka on sax add embellishments and flourishes along the way. Be assured that their songs are even better than their names!

In other tracks the sax is clearly in the lead, laying the rhythm down with honks and squeals for the drums to follow before exploding into section long solos.

The crowd were loving it. By the second song the band had half the seated crowd down on the dance floor and it wasn’t much longer until the other half followed. The sheer scope of influences on display made for such an eclectic set. Some songs were straight up funk, some like mental techno tunes and others still leaning towards industrial rock like a funked up Nine Inch Nails.

The Comet is Coming could be accused of being slightly all over the place at times but when they hit that sweet spot and all joined in on the same groove, which was often, you could absolutely lose yourself too it. These guys are an unstoppable force, highly recommended ear-candy.

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REVIEW: Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles in The Sugar Club

The Sugar Club is packed to capacity as Cory Henry and his band take to the stage. The Snarky Puppy keyboardist needs no introduction and his fans have come out in droves to see what his solo side project has to offer.

From the moment the first song begins it’s clear that this will be a night to remember. Cory is a masterful bandleader, taking time to step out of the limelight. While the band members rip it up with extended solos, Cory struts around the stage egging each of them on. Shouting, instructing “Hit me on the one.” Bham! “Hit me on the two.”…Bham! “Hit me on the three”……Bham! “Take it back home.”

When it’s his time to shine, he goes into a trance like state. He stares straight ahead, not even glancing at the keys as he plays incredibly complicated improvisational pieces. “Was that alright?” Cory asks, “YEAAAAH!” we reply.

Funk is music that is innately fun. The audience and the performers share the thrill of taking risks, laughing when it doesn’t work and cheering when it does. If there was a single word to describe this show, that’d be it. FUN!  My highlight of the night was the dark, brooding, bass heavy cover of Prince’s “1999”, with it’s slow build eventually erupting into a massive crescendo. Incredible stuff.  Soulful backing singers, walking baselines, syncopated guitar and  insane drum groove. These guys had it all.

The shouts of “ONE MORE TUNE” threatened to bring the house down and they graced our ears with one more dose of musical medicine. Afterwards Cory stood by the exit meeting fans and thanking anyone who said hello. This is a man who truly appreciates his fans. I’d highly reccomend checking him out next itme he hits our shores.

A special mention to the band and their great hats!

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REVIEW: Harbouring Oceans in The Workmans Club

ho-live-24-10-16It’s been just over 6 months since Harbouring Oceans debut single release ‘Enso’ (you can see what we had to say about it here), and since then the band have been taking the their time, building their fanbase and really working on their craft. That work is all starting to pay off!

Halfway through their set it’s clear that the band already have the guts of a very strong album. Not only that, but they are TIGHT! Like really tight, their songs are full of ridiculous rhythmic stops and stabs alongside drastic yet fluid dynamic changes.

I’m not quite sure how to define this, there are elements of pop, rock, jazz, R&B, country and a dollop of funk. Some of the vocal harmonies are straight out of backstreet boys territory (in a good way though!). This is pop-rock with real substance.

Anthemic at its core, sometimes uplifting, sometimes heart wrenching, these songs are built to be replayed. It’s only after multiple listens that you get to fully appreciate everything that’s going on in these skillfully layered compositions.  Watch out, when they release a full long player you won’t be able to escape it.

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Live Review: Overhead, The Albatross, Race The Flux & Participant at The Workmans Club

Overhead, The Albatross @ The Workmans Club

Overhead the Albatross took over the Workman’s Club in Dublin last Saturday for what promised to be a night to remember. Participant started things off, playing some of the songs off his new EP ‘Content’. These songs are really great, but the live iterations were less fully formed than I was expecting. While everything was there, the energy seemed to dip in parts that were heavy on the backing tracks. Participant could definitely benefit from more involved live arrangements or possibly a live band. Either way I’m very interested to see what he does next.

The crowd started to swell for Galway Electro-Rockers Race The Flux. The band made their presence felt immediately, bursting in to ‘Olympus Mons’ from their Olympians EP.  These guys really set the tone for the evening, coaxing the crowd into coming closer and rewarding them for their bravery with song after song of chest thumping RAWK! Upcoming single ‘Matty Rusko’ is a welcome addition and the instantly recognisable ‘Can I’ threatens to bring the house down. If you get the chance to see these guys don’t hesitate, their recent Electric Arena set at Electric Picnic suggest that they won’t be gracing such small stages for long.

At last the main event! Overhead, The Albatross made their way to the stage to greet a now completely sold out crowd. The guys really outdid themselves in terms of lighting and stage production and it really adds to the already electric atmosphere. ‘Flubirds’ is first up, starting slow to ease the crowd in to things before building to a triumphant climax. Every person in the room now knows what they’re in for. ‘Telekinetic Forest Guard‘ comes sweeping in next followed by some new tracks  ‘Bara’ and ‘Daeku’. Could these be from the fabled first album? Let’s hope so, because they’re both fantastic! Just when things were starting to get sweaty, disaster struck. 2 minutes into the bands most recent release Big River Man, the power in the entire venue(and half of Temple Bar) just went. It was a strange moment, it happened really suddenly so the crowd we’re still jumping and Ben was still playing the drums along side some really tinny sounding unamplified electric guitars. Than everyone was just standing around confused for a second before they realised what had happened. Someone actually captured the moment here:

Frontman Joe, never one to let a good crowd go unsurfed launched himself off the stage and got carried all the way to the back of the room.

Lot’s of chants of ‘LADDER, LADDER, LADDER’ ensued and then it just kind of….ended. Well, although a little disappointing it was definitely memorable and for me that’s enough. Here’s the full version of ‘Big River Man’ for anyone who’s jonesing for it after the show! Make sure to check out the photos below.


LIVE REVIEW: Winter Longing- An Evening with Mongoose and Friends


Last Thursday I strolled into Whelans on Wexford Street not knowing exactly what to expect. The evening was billed as ‘Winter Longing- An Evening with Mongoose and Friends’ and promised to “explore unrequited love and yearning in the depths of Irish winter” and “Satisfy your winter longings at this night of music and poetry!”. What the packed venue was treated to was quite possibly the ideal way to spend a cold November night. It was an opportunity to slip comfortably into Winter and explore the emotions that this sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful season often evokes.

In an unusual manner, the headliners opened the show playing some of the beautifully crafted songs from their self titled debut album. It’s hard to describe how amazing perfectly arranged harmonies sound when performed this well. Mongoose sound like they have been singing together their entire lives. Their harmonies blend so well they become one singular ocean of sound, it really is jaw dropping stuff. It comes as no surprise that they’ve been selected for the Other Voices music trail this year.

Next up was a stripped back set from the Young Folk, really lovely modern folk songs performed on Acoustic Guitar and Melodica featuring great harmonies(something of a reoccurring theme throughout the night).

Canadian born Dimitra Xidous, the first of the poets on the night, performed some very interesting and sexually charged poems, my favorite of which was Keeping Bees, which is also the title of her book of poetry available here.

Niamh Regan, the first solo act of the night, is a singer songwriter who plays captivating reflective pieces with some very interesting guitar work. I couldn’t find much recorded work online, so I’m interested to see what she does next.

Next up was Griff, better known for his work fronting New Secret Weapon. Griff’s solo work is very different to the band, but still similar in influence and performance. Fans of Jeff Buckley’s work will definitely like this material. Griff will be releasing a solo EP early next year so watch this space.

After a short interval to wrap our minds around the first half of the evening, The Eskies hit the stage for what they described as “Probably the least noise we’ve ever made on stage”. The band, well known for their energetic and raucous live shows, treated us to a rare glimpse of their quieter side on this occasion. They even gave us a sneak peek at a brand new song, their take on the archetypal story of crossing paths with the devil in the style of an old sea shanty!

The second poet of the night was the wonderful Eoghan O’Ceannabháin, brother of Muireann from Mongoose and a musician in his own right in the band Skippers Alley. Eoghan’s poems explored the disconnect of the digital devices that simultaneously connect and distance us. His words are powerful and thought provoking. He is initially nervous but his words speak for themselves. One topical poem about the situation in France and Syria receives a standing ovation with clapping that refuses to die down. If you have a chance to see this man perform, do it.

Mongoose returned to the stage to finish off the night with some more tracks including the gorgeous ‘Can I see you tonight’ and their fantastic new single ‘Slow Burning Feeling’. As the evening came to a close their was a distinct air of satisfaction among everyone in attendance. Apparently it’s been suggested that they should make it a yearly occurrence. For all those who missed out on this gig, I sincerely hope they do.

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The band will performing at the Christmas Craic’er gig in aid of Focus Ireland on December 20th along with some other fantastic musicians, details here.