A Season of Shows

Image Credit: Liv McGregor

From nu-metal to indie pop, Isabella Ambrosio’s spring and early summer were filled with shows that she just has to tell you about.

After what seemed like years of uncertain dates, a new season of shows has bloomed in Dublin. Every week, at least one new performer, if not more, lines up to take the stage and share their works across Dublin venues. Festivals are finally back in full swing, queues line the streets outside venue doors, and pubs are packed to the brim the minute performances end. With masks and social distancing long forgotten, there is almost nothing to prove that COVID could have ever shut down the live music sector. 

Now that events can unfold without safety protocols, it’s a newfound opportunity to focus on the music without having to worry if you’re standing too close to someone. While some bands are standout acts, are either disappointing or forgettable. Maybe the pressure of being back on stage is getting the best of them or it’s possible that their performances are improved by a studio setting.

Blind Channel, a Finnish nu-metal band, opened for I Prevail on the 25th of March at 3Olympia Theatre. After having the pleasure of speaking with them ahead of their Dublin date, and hearing that they had played over 130 shows the year before, I knew they would be a well-rehearsed and prepared act. Faithful to tradition, Blind Channel uses its most popular songs as the standard opener. Fortunately, though, it worked in their favour. Their most popular songs happen to be some of their best – ‘Bad Idea’ is a personal favourite, with soaring melodies and the guitars swinging at the bridge. ‘FLATLINE’ is their most recent single, with the vocalists, Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bouncing off each other, getting the crowd involved through mosh pits. When they played their most well-known song, ‘Dark Side’, as their encore, they did a fantastic job of engaging the audience and preparing them for the remainder of the show. During this song, I noticed the most movement among the audience as they mirrored the confidence of Hokka and Moilanen. The band’s enthusiasm was upbeat and assured. It was a fantastic way to start the performance. 

Teenage Dads were next on my list, opening for Lime Cordiale in 3Olympia Theatre, on May 16th. After taking the band out for pints before their set, I have to admit that seeing them on stage as the opening act less than 10 minutes later was quite surreal. They’re a charismatic band whose personalities combine well into a seamless act. Lead vocalist Jordan Finlay, sounded just like he did in the studio. His vocal control is incredible, and he oozed a certain confidence on stage that I hadn’t quite grasped in the interview. From where I was standing, you could tell lead guitarist Connor McLaughlin was having fun as he interacted with the crowd with his facial expressions. Angus Christie was amusing to watch, as he swayed his hips along to his basslines to the crowd’s delight. Finally, drummer Vincent Kinna perfectly embodies the stereotype of the drummer with his wild long hair and impassioned shoulder movements. Altogether as a unit, they were a joy to witness and although I have been a fan of theirs for a while, the night only further confirmed it for me. Oh and ... they did a cover of Buggle’s ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ that was so good it only added to the energy within the crowd. It was a smart choice, playing a song that everyone knows. They also played an exclusive preview of their song, ‘Speedracer’ and revisited some of their hits like, ‘Hey, Diego’ and ‘Teddy’.

DMA’S had invited me to watch their show after interviewing them a month before. On the 23rd of May, DMA’S had some big shoes to fill after I’d just come back from seeing some of the best gigs I had seen in a while. Unfortunately, I found their performance lacklustre and rather uninteresting. The crowd was also poorly behaved, spilling drinks on people around them and engaging in a lot of unneeded elbowing and shoving. They had some passable music, but it seemed like their acoustic guitarist, Johnny Took, who was highly engaged with the audience in front of him, was the only one having any fun on stage. The concert’s extreme volume also ruined the mood. At one point, though I was outside in the smoking area and not directly in front of the speaker, I was still able to hear everything clearly to the point where I questioned the sound engineer’s hearing levels or attendance at the event. In my time, I have had my fair share of loud gigs in 3Olympia, including metal gigs. However, none of them were as loud as this indie band was. 

I wrapped up my season of gigs with another Teenage Dads gig. This time, it was the last show of their headlining tour around the EU and the UK, which was sold out. The band had recognised me from the interview I had done with them the month before and sought me out in the crowd during their opener. As they welcomed me and thanked me for coming, I got excited for the night ahead. We ended up chatting for a while, everyone in the band saying hello and thanking me for coming. I’m not overselling this gig by saying it was one of the top 5 best gigs I’ve attended in my life. They played upstairs in Whelan’s, an iconic venue, and they brought it. As everyone jumped and bounced to the beat, I swear I felt the floor shake. It was a smaller venue, which allowed for some more fluidity to their performance, more interaction with the crowd, and back-and-forth banter. There was a malfunction with Vincent Kinna’s in-ear monitors, but he played through it, using only one hand to drum during one of their songs. Connor McLaughlin had a string break on one of his guitars, but he powered through. Angus Christie was a vision as he swayed and gyrated his hips in his signature fashion. At one point, when they were on stage, McLaughlin’s shoelace came untied for the second time (after I had already pointed this out to him a first time). He simply put his foot out in front of me on stage and nodded towards his shoelaces. He continued playing as I tied his Converse. And at the end of the gig, during their second to last song, ‘Teddy’, Jordan Finlay got off the stage, bouncing into the crowd with his microphone, showing more energy than I had ever seen him have. Everyone was dripping in sweat, but it was one of the most euphoric, enjoyable shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. I felt like I was in this bubble, as though nothing else mattered. Granted, I didn’t know the words to every song, and only really recognised the ones of their most recent EP, Midnight Driving, and their newest single, ‘Speedracer’ – but the energy was ... electric, for lack of a better term. I reveled in every moment of this gig and If I could go back and live in that moment for the rest of my life, I would die a happy woman.

I honestly hesitated to mention the second Teenage Dads gig, but I couldn’t talk about my season of shows without featuring the best one. I felt in my element watching, observing, and enjoying. As I took it all in, I realised, I’d never get over Teenage Dads in Whelan’s. Having pints afterward with them was the cherry on top as we chatted like old friends who've known each other for years. 

Being able to finally focus on the performance in front of me and to live in the moment was an indescribable feeling that I recommend to all.