Rubyworks 10th Birthday @ The Olympia, Sunday 26th August
In this crazy world we currently reside in, economic doom-and-gloom permeates every microcosm of society, not least the music industry. So over the last few days it has been refreshing to have witnessed one of Ireland's most diverse independent record labels, Rubyworks, celebrating 10 years in business -and with no sign of slowing up anytime soon.
Rubyworks was founded in 2001 by Niall Muckian, then chief of the long-running weekly stripped-back musical feast that is The Ruby Sessions, whilst simultaneously helping out a guy from Celbridge who was irking out a solo existence with his debut album O - none other than Mr. Damien Rice. At the album's launch show in Vicar Street, the support act was a duo of guitar-toting Mexicans by the name of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Muckian saw the spark and set his focus to turning it into flames, taking on managerial duties for the pair. When selling their wares to labels amounted to nothing, the solution was simple -start his own. And now, over a decade years later, the label's sleuth of acts - from both the main parent label, subsidiaries Gotta Run Records and Model Citizen Records, and recent merger cohorts Ark Recordings - are taking to the stages of Dublin to celebrate a fantastic ten years in business.
Sunday night in the Olympia Theatre and the stage is sparsely set for one of Ireland's most adored female artists - tonight, Wallis Bird has no backing band, but truth be told she really doesn't need one. She takes to the stage to a massive cheer, and starts off with a verbal tribute to the label who have backed her for so long, before leading the crowd in the refrains of 'Happy Birthday'. To give Wallis Bird a six-song limit is a shame - but she sure does know how to wow within a limited timeframe. With just herself, her guitar, some loop pedals, a tambourine and some innovative floor-percussion techniques she traverses her back catalogue as a one-woman-band, from the early days of 'Blossoms in the Street' right up to tracks from her most recent self-titled offering, released back in March. Wallis consistently walks a fine line between quirky happy-go-lucky troubadour / brilliantly deep songwriter - and when she declares "Now, a ballad…" the audience respectfully fall silent to appreciate the latter persona, as she delivers a stunning acoustic interpretation of 'In Dictum' (which she announces will be released as a single in October, much to our delight). An emphatic performance of 'To My Bones' - dedicated to Rubyworks - draws her set to a close, albeit all too soon.
Ryan Sheridan has had somewhat of a fairytale rise to prominence on the Irish music scene - catching the attention of his future manager Brian Whitehead whilst out doing a regular day of busking on Grafton Street with his cajon-playing comrade Artur Graczyk, and subsequently snapped up by Rubyworks after a successful showcase gig. Since releasing his debut album The Day You Live Forever back in the summer of 2011, preceded by the all-conquering single 'Jigsaw', he has enjoyed consistency in the holy musical trinity of sales, airplay, and ticket sales. Tonight in the Olympia, he samples some new songs which will form the basis of the follow-up album, but it's the singles to date that really wow the crowd -in particular the album's title track 'The Day You Live Forever', the all-out sing-along for 'The Dreamer' and a brilliant extended version of afore-mentioned 'Jigsaw'. Sheridan has a real star amongst his ranks in Graczyk - completely mesmerising to watch in action, dominating the cajon whilst manning an assortment of other percussive instruments.
However, the level of instrumental prowess on show thus far is about to be obliterated by the act who started it all for Rubyworks. Rodrigo Y Gabriella take to the stage to a heroes' welcome, their meteoric rise from busking on the streets of Dublin to touring the globe thanks to being given a break by a then embryonic Rubyworks making their presence this evening all the more special. They dutifully pay tribute to Muckian, referring to him as the third member of the band, and then proceed to play a dazzling set. Continually defying genre pigeonholing, their unique brand of acoustic guitar music is so captivating to watch - Rodrigo Sánchez presiding over the intricacies of lead riffs, as Gabriela Quintero provides the awe-inspiring rhythmic backdrop. It's a privilege to see them in this stripped-back setting - a raw and powerful return to their organic roots, and one hell of a way to round off the show.
The night may have drawn to a close, but the birthday celebrations were by no means over - the Model Citizen contingent of Fight Like Apes, The Minutes, Funeral Suits plus special guests Deap Valley set out to rock Whelan's on Monday night, and we'll have the blow-by-blow report to follow…