In recent months Limerick has had a much needed bolt of electricity injected back into the music scene. Recent years saw the demise of the much loved Boat Club, the ever popular High Stool as well as several other pop up venues. In turn, Limerick gig goers were left with only one option in the form of Dolan’s Warehouse. A fine venue by standard, but somewhat lacking in the booking department. While the stage in question was hogged by the Aslans and Coronas of the world every second week, most of the regular heads opted for house parties and alternative gigs around the country. Fear not, the recent opening of the The Blind Pig has been more than welcomed by the alternative / metal scene and now with the addition of Bourke’s Thursday night sessions, people have a reason to log out of their Facebook accounts once again.
Former Whelan’s booker (and Limerick man) JJ Henessy has been responsible for the hugely successful ‘Thursday Sessions’ at Bourke’s. Recent weeks have seen Irish heavyweights Jape, Tieranniesaur, Bouts and Le Galaxie all perform free shows in the intimate venue. Tonight is no exception with two of Galway’s finest, the wonderful Elaine Mai and the hugely underrated So Cow, both of whom are making their respective débuts in Limerick tonight.
Although relatively unknown to many outside Galway and Dublin, So Cow have quite an established fanbase worldwide. They’ve cut their teeth on the US indie circuit for some time now and have toured with some of the biggest names around. They are also credited with being the first ever Irish band to play the prestigious Primavera Sound Festival, some feat considering the current slab of Irish talent. Upon taking to the stage, So Cow jump head first into a barrage of noisy yet effective buzz pop. The band are as tight as a nun’s arse (Ooh, Vicar, please – Ed.), and while bass player (Jonny White) and front man (Brian Kelly) do their best Diggle & Shelley, recent addition (and former Grand Pocket Orchestra tub-thumper) Peter O’ Shea provides a tight but never over complicated back bone to the mix. What I like about So Cow is that they don’t have any gimmicks as such. There are no keyboards, no mac-books, no 2nd and 3rd guitarists, it’s just three blokes blasting through a repertoire of great pop punk. The songs are arranged well and although many people would call it all a bit simple, there is enough going on in each to command attention. The real strength So Cow possess is a knack for a great melody. I can’t help but imagine these songs on a lost Weezer album somewhere between the ‘Blue’ and ‘Pinkerton’ era. That statement being a compliment of the highest regard. It is easy to see why Pitchfork gave them a whopping 7/10 for their début effort. So Cow do it the way it’s supposed to be done, no frills all thrills, rock n roll!
Headlining tonight’s line-up is another Galway based artist Elaine Mai. A relative newcomer to the Irish scene, Mai is currently on tour in support of her new Dots EP. Watching Mai perform is a lot of fun as you get to witness her creative genius first hand. The songs for the most part start out as hollow shells. By the time they reach their climax, everything from hand-claps and xylophones to kick drums and acoustic guitars fill them up at rapid pace. The harmonies are beautiful and faultless, and her natural tone complements the songs throughout the night.
A lot of the punters look on in amazement as Mai utilises the looping pedal. It is obvious that some have never seen the likes of Mai in a live setting, as they look on perplexed yet intrigued. Mai doesn’t do too much talking, instead letting her music speak for itself. It’s tough to pinpoint influences here, which is never a bad thing. A lazy comparison would be Anna Calvi with a €3000 voucher for Thomann but I’ll settle for “the here and now”. Watching Mai closely, she seems to break a little smirk every time the main hook of the song is looped down.
In some ways it’s like she’s the angler and we’re the bait. She fires the hook out and when we least expect it we tend to grab on, bit by bit we’re pulled into her world, fixed on her emotions and enthralled by not knowing where we’re going to land. Through her long fringe you can see her eyes scanning the crowd from left to right, she seems to thrive on the audience and even more so the live reaction. Watching Mai perform reminds you what live music is all about, yes we can still go and buy records, download albums and read reviews but there really is something to be said about the here and now and Mai knows it.