Rubyworks 10th Birthday @ Whelan's, Monday 27th August
The Sunday night leg of Rubyworks 10th anniversary celebrations saw artists from the main faction of the label in action - Rodrigo y Gabriela, Wallis Bird and Ryan Sheridan - as well as a relative newcomer as a result of their merger with UK indie label Ark Recordings, Manchester songstress Josephine. The bill for Monday night at Whelan's follows a similar formula, with the trio of the Model Citizen subsidiary of Rubyworks - Fight Like Apes, The Minutes, and Funeral Suits - with L.A imports Deap Valley thrown into the mix for good measure. It's testament to the strength of the lineup that there's such a large crowd of people already gathered in Whelan's by 7:30PM - even Mischa Barton has showed up for the occasion (obviously a big fan of the FLApes early EPs).
It's Deap Valley who open up the evening's proceedings, and there's a real air of intrigue as Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards take to the stage. It's their first time performing in Ireland - well, save for a teenage Edwards' performance of show-tunes in Spike Island prison many years ago (yes, really). The much-lauded but little-heard duo waste no time as they launch into their gritty rock stylings, with the focus on the fundamentals of pounding rhythm and rip-roaring riffs as a backdrop to howling vocals. It's a total showcase set, the opportunity to take first listens to what they have to offer, plus to enjoy the spoils of their high-octane debut single 'Gonna Make My Own Money'. An impressive set from the Californians, we look forward to hearing more.
Dublin four-piece Funeral Suits are up next, a band who've been on the gigging circuit for many years but who took their time in crafting their debut album Lily of the Valley, which was released on Model Citizen back in June. It's a cracker of an album, and it's a real shame there's only time for half of it to be aired tonight - but they use the time wisely with a jam-packed set, kicking off with a storming rendition of 'Health'. The irresistible hooks of 'All Those Friendly People' make it the bands most likely live anthem, but it's the understated brilliance of 'Colour Fade' which steals the show tonight - an amped-up expansive take on their finest song to date. The manner in which the frontline trio alternate between guitar, bass, keys and vocals adds an extra element of vibrancy to the performance. Funeral Suits are currently gearing up for their biggest UK tour to date this autumn, and if sets of this standard are the norm then they may look forward to winning over a lot of new fans across the pond.
If there's one band who can bring the noise to any birthday party, it's The Minutes. The Dublin power-trio are no strangers to a full house in Whelan's, and tonight sees them rock their way through the best of their continually popular debut album Marcata, released on Model Citizen back in May 2011. Relentless touring both at home and abroad has seen them flourish into a finely-tuned juggernaut of a live act. The already classics sound sharp, in particular current radio-favourite 'Gold', but even more exciting is the airing of two brand new tracks - 'Hold Your Hand' and the thrilling sprawling rock anthem 'Supernatural'. Front-man Mark Austin drops the between-song bravado temporarily to issue genuine thanks to Rubyworks for "taking a big chance on The Minutes" - but as the band continues to go from strength to strength, no doubt that the feeling is mutual.
MC Conor Donovan steps onstage for his introduction of the final act, but his efforts are in vain - the baying mob know full well who's waiting in the wings to close out the night, and their cheering soon drowns him out. This is the first time this year that Fight Like Apes have played live, and all questions as to what they've been up to are immediately answered as the band explode on stage to open up with a new song in the form of 'Merry Man' - the order is to "DANCE", and dance the audience do. It's the first of five new songs that are debuted tonight - 'Pretty Keen' and 'Crouching Bee' work well as back-to-back slices of hook-laden dance-pop with a trademark FLApes edge, similarly 'Unleash' mid-set, and 'Jabba' (yes, Jabba the Hut) which is reserved for the latter end. As far as first listens go, the five songs serve their purpose superbly - the buzz of anticipation is palpable, and it's exciting to hear the deviation in style. Mary-Kate Geraghty presides over additional synths, Jamie 'Pockets' Fox's workstation has expanded to accommodate extra keyboards and a laptop to unleash beats and samples, the percussive advances made on The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner continue with the solid presence of Lee Boylan, and Conor Garry's thundering bass-lines drive it all along. Geraghty's voice is in mighty form throughout, belting out the new songs with evident conviction and revelling in the ones that have brought them thus far - there are intermittent classics to balance out the new material, a nice way to form the setlist meaning the high energy is maintained throughout. It's most definitely a show for the fans - the big singles are absent, and in their place are lesser-aired album tracks such as 'Indie Monster' and 'Recyclable Ass', plus the vintage delights from their formative EPs, the epic 'Battlestations' and the always sublime 'Snore Bore Whore'.
Chants of "ONE MORE TUNE!" are ignored as the band leave the stage, the house lights come one, piped music plays through the speakers, and revellers give up and make their way towards the exits to grab some fresh air to relieve the sweaty mayhem that was. Suddenly, a cheer erupts, and there's a mad dash back to the stage - "We missed you!" says MayKay, as that unmistakable bass-line of 'Jake Summers kicks off. Four additional minutes of screaming, shouting, moshing, crowd-surfing, and even wrestling follow before it's REALLY over. Welcome back, Apes - your unpredictably brilliant stage-presence has been truly missed.
And so concluded the second night of celebrations in honour of Rubyworks 10th anniversary - a thrilling evening of live music, showcasing the more alternative side of the label's broad spectrum of acts. Each at different stages of their careers, each with their own dynamic genre-bending style, and each full of high praise for the label who believe in their respective visions and support them in what they do. Happy Birthday, Rubyworks - here's to the next 10 years!