Santa Rita concert: Rue

One class of concert I keep going to and not writing about are these Santa Rita concerts organised by the Ergodos people and held in the Little Museum of Dublin. They follow a similar pattern: one arrives and has a little drink of the wine from the sponsors (Santa Rita) and then mills around the rooms of the Little Museum of Dublin, which is a Georgian house on St Stephen’s Green that has been converted into a quirky museum of Dublin stuff. Then Garret Sholdice of Ergodos has a chat with the artist performing by a fireplace after which everyone is encouraged to skull another glass of the tasty wine (from Santa Rita) before heading down to the exhibition room for the concert, in which it is not permitted to bring the wine. The concert is then usually about an hour long. which means I get home sufficiently early that my cat is not too annoyed at having her dinner delayed.

The concerts are not always of the same type. Sometimes they are of the classical recital class, with particularly memorable ones in this regard including Malcolm Proud playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations on harpsichord and William Butt playing music by Bach and Britten on cello. They have also had folkie ones, like Sam Lee’s interesting folklorist performances of tunes collected from Irish Travellers or Chris Woods’ neo-folk adventures. And they also have whacky performance art nonsense like a Jennifer Walshe concert where she did the whole event like it was a seance or funny electronic stuff like the one by Chris Watson, where he stitched together a load of wildlife recordings to create an imaginary vision of a magical country rising temporarily from beneath the sea. Whatever they serve up, these concerts are always great and I pass judgment on my so-called music aficionado friends who never show up to them.

The most recent one of these concerts was by Rue. Rue are a local three piece comprising Radie Peat and Cormac Dermody, both also of band Lankum, and Brian Flanagan from the United States of America. They are billed as being a cross-fertilisation of Irish trad-music and Appalachian music from over there. The concert was good but I found it more like redux version of Lankum than an actual trans-Atlantic mind meld. Much of this came from the fore-grounding of Radie Peat’s work in the set, both her drones and her vocals, with several of them being her on her own which meant that poor Brian Flanagan did not get much of a look in. But for all that here were some great tuneage on display in the performance. The two that struck in my mind, perhaps because I had heard them before, were ‘Biddy Mulligan, the Pride of the Coombe’ and ‘T Stands for Thomas’. The latter is a variant of ‘P Stands for Paddy‘, a song of coded courting, while the former is a first person testament from said Biddy Mulligan, a resident of the Coombe and a street trader. The song has apparently gone through an odd journey as in days of yore it was pretty much sung in music halls to make fun of the working class residents of the Coombe but in more recent years it has acquired a more celebratory tone.

Caveats about intercontinental failure aside, this was still a great concert. Possibly the unique selling point of the Santa Rita concerts (aside from the wine) is how cosy they are – it is easy to end up sitting almost on top of the artists. And it is nice being on top of artists.

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Rue (Culturefox)

Lankum: live and on record

Back before Christmas in the Beforetime I went to see Lankum playing in Vicar Street. But who are Lankum? Well they are a bunch of Dublin folkie-tradders from Foxrock who developed their love of music while studying at Blackrock College and Muckross (true fact). Two of them are brothers whose surname is Lynch, so for a while they traded under the name Lynched before realising that this might make it difficult to get gigs in the United States. So they changed their name to Lankum, a reference to ‘False Lankum’, a version of the ‘Cruel Lincoln‘ / ‘Long Lankin‘ murder ballad. I have been hearing about how good they are for years but it was only recently when Radie Peat of the band appeared on John Kelly’s Mystery Train to talk a good musical game and one of their tunes cropped up elsewhere and sounded like my kind of thing that I decided to take the leap and investigate them. I lassoed some pals to share a table at this concert and bought their most recent album (Beneath the Earth and the Sky)beforehand to gain some sense of their recorded work. Thus fortified I arrived at Vicar Street.

There are four members of Lankun, two Lynches and two non-Lynches, of whom one is part of the Dermody musical clan and the other is Ms Peat. The music is quite droney, much of it coming from Peat’s harmonium and concertina but also from one of the Lynches playing uilleann pipes. The tunes are mostly trad arrs but there are a couple of more recent tunes by other people and even some by Lankum themselves. Radie Peat maybe sings most of the songs; she is impressive and hearing her reminds me of how unusual it is to hear Dublin working class women sing in their own accent, which is particularly strong on ‘What Will We Do When We Have No Money?’, the album’s opener. However what might be the most striking tune is sung by one of the blokes, this being ‘The Turkish Reveille’, the one about the captain who promises a sailor all kind of things to sink an enemy ship before betraying the sailor and leaving him to drown. The piece is very evocative of the horror of finding yourself stuck out in the middle of the ocean, with the drones and the repeated lyric about lonely lonesome water building a general sense of watery doom.

Anyway, that’s Lankum for you. They are worth investigating both live and on record. Aside from having good music on it, their Beneath the Earth and Sky record is also conceptually interesting, as it was recorded (Albini-style) by Julie McLarnon at the Analogue Catalogue studio, where they only use analogue kit. To some that might seem like the very embodiment of rockism but it is an interesting constraint and I think the approach benefits music of this type (for all that I have only listened to it on digital media).

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Lankum (Guardian – Lankum: Between the Earth and Sky review)