Poster: Paul McNulty
For those who aren’t familiar with the almighty Citóg, it is a weekly gigging platform which has seen over 160 acts grace the downstairs stage of the Cellar Bar on Friday nights past. Run by local musicians Hob Junker and David Boland, its premise is simple: three independent artists play for free each week with at least one of them being based in Galway. Today marks Citóg’s second birthday. Having recently met David Boland for a chat in anticipation of this sacred event (national Citóg appreciation day, let’s get this trending on Twitter folks!), I felt it was an appropriate time to look back on how Citóg was conceived, lost its baby legs, and became a fully-fledged toddler at the ripe old age of two.
Citóg was given birth to in 2010 by doting parents Jay Burke (otherwise known as Hob Junker) and Ray Cuddihy, two young bucks from Cork who were unhappy with the fact that their beloved Cork bands were finding it difficult to secure gigs in the venues of Galway. After about two months, Ray bowed out in order to pursue other projects (eventually starting the Wingnut Records movement which is now well on its way to global domination) and David “wormed [his] way in to assume the position of booking agent”. The change to personnel brought with it a more structured approach as David is, by his own admission, quite obsessive. “Ray brought his contacts up from Cork and then just through generally being a personable and nice guy, a lot of people came up to him and asked for gigs. It was kind of, loose, I think, is the best way to describe it. It wasn’t as ocd as when I began my tyranny.” At this point the pair took stock of where Citóg stood which resulted in the scope of the night being broadened and a change in its general direction. Firstly, they re-designed the stage. What inspired the new aesthetic?
“I don’t know, I suppose I’m an interior designer at heart” was the joking response offered by Dave. They purchased an assortment of old tat from second-hand shops and, with the addition of a pair of curtains donated to them by a friend, it all came together. “It seemed like the perfect amount of space to line up all this old, kinda weird looking vinyl, really naff at times. Like we’ve got Milli Vanilli and there’s one guy’s face who I always look at and kinda laugh to myself… Logan, Johnny Logan. People like that, and they’re just staring down from the walls like musical greats at these new bands. We wanted that kitsch kind of look, like it was an old living room, just to make it more comfortable”.
In a bid to bring some of what they considered the best music in Ireland to Galway, they set about contacting the acts who were playing Hard Working Class Heroes that year, a move which proved fruitful. One of the most significant decisions they made was to ensure that there was at least one Galway band on the roster every Friday. Encouraging local talent has always been paramount to Jay and David, especially new endeavours. “I suppose we just wanted to support unsigned bands really. To provide an alternative, more accessible option. To support local music and give young bands a chance to play in front of people and get a bit of experience before they try for bigger venues”.
As Jay and David are unable to offer artists payment in return for playing Citóg, they’ve been determined from the outset to promote them as much as possible within the local community instead. This has included securing coverage of the featured musicians in the local newspapers. Resident sound engineer/photographer/cameraman Jay takes pictures and records videos of the bands’ sets, which he then uploads to their Facebook page and Youtube. They’ve also put together and distributed compilation CDs to showcase some of the acts who’ve played over the last two years, which are available to download from the Citóg Facebook account.
Citóg is a pretty friendly being. Dave and Jay resolved from the start to respond to everyone who emailed in expressing a desire to play the night. “We always try to answer people and fit everyone in. We have all types of genres”. The one type of music they tend to shy away from is that of a particular heavy variety as “We felt that side of things was already catered for by the likes of Us Vs. Them Promotions, who have a great network and their own crowd. That’s an example of how a scene can really support itself. It just seems to really work and it’s worked for a long time”. Having said that they have hosted a few specifically heavy nights, with Us Vs. Them even taking over on one occasion.
The Cellar Bar shut its doors at the end of 2010, which left Citóg in the wilderness for a while. Not ones to easily give up, by March Citóg had moved to De Burgos, an “underground, beautiful cavern. It’s really suited to acoustic sounds, like a really quiet, mellow kind of sound”. Although the lads were enthusiastic about the potential of the venue and enjoyed their time there, they faced some problems. They were unable to secure drinks promotions or the provision of free alcohol for the acts playing. The most pertinent drawback was an issue with noise levels. A contrasting set of priorities lead David and Jay to return to their spiritual home when the Cellar Bar re-opened in June. They were more than happy to return to the place which has the growth of Citóg etched into its walls.
How has adoptive parent David seen the growth of Citóg manifest itself over the last two years? In testament to the lads’ grounded nature, David’s instinctive reaction was to propel the bands forward into the light, while the proud parents themselves are happy to remain in the background. “The main growth we’ve seen is in the actual bands that come in, like local bands that play. We’ve seen a lot of growth in people like My Fellow Sponges and Jenny Liston”. David has also noticed a marked improvement in the technical side of things “The Cellar’s always been notorious for having bad sound in that room cause it’s really kinda stuttered and there’s pillars. Jay has perfected a really good sound in there. The one big improvement in Citóg is the video quality”.
What have some of the high points of Citóg’s life been thus far? Something which David has been really pleased about is the level of support Citóg has received from the community in terms of the crowds it draws “From the start we’ve had a loyal crowd. Just through guilt-tripping friends and manipulating people around me. There’s a lot of people who’ve been consistently supportive of it, which is great”. He’s also content with the collaborations Citóg has been a part of “DeclanQKelly organised a few special nights like Bethlemayhem. Paul McNulty has been our regular poster artist and Barry Richardson has also worked on posters for us. Also, Donal McConnon organised our Christmas Nativity Play and will be organising some future events with us like a Spanish-themed night” Their favourite night to date ok place when they threw their first Halloween party “I dressed up as a robot, a big cardboard robot, and went out on the streets to try to get people in. Everyone dressed up, Rural Savage headlined and everybody was completely bladdered. It was insane”.
What does the future store for Citóg? The terrible twos? Not likely. David feels that people making music in Galway have become rejuvenated about what they want to do of late, which is something he and Jay are looking forward to being a part of, considering their DIY ethos. There are plans at work to produce more mixtapes and the idea of taking Citóg on the road to other cities has been discussed. One of the more exciting prospects in the pipeline is the potential formation of an independent collective. If it comes to fruition it would be in the vein of Popical Island, remaining in not for profit territory, with the aim of offering guidance and support to developing bands.
You may have noticed the liberal employment of personification when referring to Citóg throughout this piece. This is because Citóg has essentially become a living entity in its own right. Under the tender care of its loving parents, it has become an integral part of the city’s music scene. Citóg has brought together like-minded people and spurred on the growth of its peers (the acts) through reciprocal creative support. Long may its pulse continue to beat.
Here follows some birthday wishes from people who have grown up with Citóg:
“We kind of started Citóg by accident two years ago. It was always meant to be an alternative, or even an alternative to the alternative!! We had an unforgettable first night with Ten Past Seven, Laura Sheeran and Blasterbra. The bar manager at the time asked us to do it weekly which is very demanding and ambitious. We went ahead but I quickly found it to be way too much work. Dave came in and has done an absolutely brilliant job. I’m always amazed by the level of commitment and passion shown by J and Dave to keep Citóg going every week for free” – Ray Cuddihy (Wingnut Records)
“We love playing at Citóg, having done so several times now. Dave and Jay have created an incredibly laid-back atmosphere combined with an excellent technical set up that makes the whole gig thing a breeze. They’ve put so much effort into presentation and documentation – they’ve got the best-looking stage in Galway for sure and their gig videos are top quality. They are seemingly tireless in their quest to showcase new Irish music and should be first port of call for anyone looking to play here. We wish them a happy birthday, here’s to many more!” – Yawning Chasm (Aaron Coyne and Declan Kelly)
“My second ever gig was playing at Citóg over a year and a half ago and luckily the lads have asked me back to play on numerous occasions since. Everyone involved in the night is so encouraging and it gave me the boost of confidence that I needed when I was starting out. I always enjoy going to Citóg as a singer and a spectator; you are guaranteed an event full of varied and original talent. Citóg is a rare gem” – Jenny Liston
“For as long as I’ve known Jay and Dave they have been 100% passionate and committed to original music. There are no underhanded pretences with the lads. What you see is what you get. They are at the pulse of original music in Galway. As a band we feel so privileged to have been included in the Citóg line-up on a regular basis over the last two years. We wish the lads continued success with Citóg in the near and distant future. I am sure this is something we will look back on in years to come and thank god we were around to be part of the experience” – Eoin Dolan (The Followers of Otis
“I first encountered the gentlemen of Citóg when they started up their underground movement at the Cellar and it wasn’t long before Ray, Hob and Dave had conspired to hook up a night featuring acts on my label, Rusted Rail. We’ve had some fun nights in various candle-lit cellars with old lamps and vintage vinyl and fine music, and the laid- back left handers sure know how to put on a night…..long may they run!” – Keith Wallace (Rusted Rail)
“Always love to play Citóg. Especially love the ‘what the f**k was that’ reaction we usually get when we go from indie to hip hop. Somehow it’s never expected. Getting gigs in decent places can be hard when you’re just starting out. With Citóg you have no worries about booking a venue, paying a venue and trying to make some money from the door. Just plug in and play. Oh and the free beer also helps..a small thing but shows they’re doing it right” – John Millane (Milan Jay)
“Deep within the murky world of entertainment, there lies an even murkier still and stinkier realm of original music. It is all too often caked in weather-beaten cynicism, pimple-scalped incompetence and smoke-swollen-wine-crackled-eyeballs on a sugar rush. It may be very easy to overlook the quality of service, consistency, good-nature and pure-distilled helpfulness which Citóg offers musical acts, but make no mistake, we’d all be lost in the sand without such a sturdy rock on which to build a church of tunes” – Donal McConnon (My Fellow Sponges)
“I couldn’t imagine being bothered to book bands every week for free, you can tell Citóg do it ‘cus they have a passion for Irish music. Dave gave us our first gig beforeCitóg ever started after hearing a badly recorded song of ours on myspace. We never planned on being a band but he kind of made us one. I think that pretty much sums up the ethos of Citóg, not just booking bands ‘cus they’ll draw a crowd but actually harvesting musicians and giving people a chance. It almost makes up for the fact that they’re complete a**holes.” – Jimmy Monghan (Music for Dead Birds)
“In our opinion,Citóg offers great opportunity to original musicians in the West. It mothers local creativity and offers a springboard for artists to learn and explore. Dave and Jay run Citóg – professionally and efficiently! The sound quality is much better than any other venue in the city. The people are friendly, the surroundings warm and intimate. Citóg has supported and renewed musical creativity and originality here in Galway City. As artists and music heads we say Thank You Citóg.
Philadelphia Tea Party – Patrick Ashton and Joseph Conroy
Can you feel the Citóg love?
The birthday party to end all birthday parties commences at 7 this evening. The ruckus will be brought by Music for Dead Birds, Brian Kelly (So Cow), My Fellow Sponges, The Followers of Otis, Jenny Liston, Fires of Babylon, Ergot Fire and Big Monster Love. Give Citóg the gift of your presence tonight.