Beauty Sleep kicked things off at the Arc Stage, continuing on the same upward motion that propelled the duo’s performance last year the polished sound and shimmery synth-pop milieu of their music feeling right at home within the strobe lights and slick video production. Growing with every year, Beauty Sleep once again brought their joy-filled sound to Ireland Music Week.
Nnic took to the Circle stage amid smoke and moody neo-pop sounds. Making the most of the clarity the online performance backdrop gives, the songwriter cut through the screen with soaring dynamically led vocal twists and turns. Throughout a set that revolved around drawing the viewers at home closer, Nnic was able to create a distinct atmosphere in a setting where that is hard to create.
In a typical year, Denise Chaila’s Ireland Music Week performance would have had queues out the door, due to the immense promise surrounding the artist. Indeed, Chaila has made 2020 her own with the tremendous mixtape Go Bravely being her most recent triumph. So it can be no surprise that Denise Chaila’s set last night was just as magnificent as expected. Flanked by Murli and God Knows, Chaila was powerful in her delivery as she weaved her way around transcendent versions of ‘Chaila’, ‘Holy Grail’, and the buzzsaw ‘Copper Bullet’.
It seems as if Ireland Music Week was made for an artist like Fia Moon. An artist who has shown promise via a string of compelling singles, the alt-pop artist shined brightly over highly-stylised music and showcased that she could make the studio-sheen come to life in the live realm, especially Moon’s lush pop vocal that commanded attention with each intricate hook.
One of the elements of Ireland Music Week I thought would be lost via the online setting is the ability to be caught off guard by an artist I just happened upon. And while I had intended to tune into another stage, the attention-grabbing drama of Celaviedmai’s set opener compelled me not to change the channel. A powerhouse performance that demanded to be heard, there was something about the confidence and authority of Celaviedmai that translated through the screen instantly.
Fears brought a sense of subtle craft to her performance. Using the deep atmospherics of her music as a backdrop the artist drew the viewer in with an intense yet restrained vocal that added to the inherent tension that emanated from the stark textural soundscapes. It’s important for festivals like Ireland Music Week to give light to the more gestural, quieter side of our music scene and through Fears both the festival and the artist delivered just that.
Modernlove took the opportunity to convey their vivid melodically rich sound via a slick set that showcased the group’s ability to create deep, full-bodied music live milieu. Indeed, Modernlove gave the impression of a band who have matured quickly into an act who have a firm grasp of both their studio and live sound.
Since debuting at Ireland Music Week last year, Kynsy’s rise to prominence within the Irish music scene has taken root via two stand-out singles ‘Cold Blue Light’ and ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’. While 2019’s performance was a diamond in the rough situation, 2020 was a giant leap from the artist. High-definition indie-pop through a jangled dream-pop prism, Kynsy’s quick-snap hooks and melodic songwriting were presented in a performance of true clarity and jagged, angular edges.
It would be difficult to overstate just how instantly captivating both Luz’s songwriting, and music is. Easily one of the fastest rising songwriters on the scene, Luz is another case of an artist who, on any other year, would have been greeted by a full house packed to the rafters with music lovers and industry alike. Regardless, Luz’s 15-minute online set allowed the music to speak for itself with the closing track, ‘Author’, serving as a snapshot of what is and what’s to come from the artist.
The metamorphosis of Rachael Lavelle over the past year or so has been brilliant to behold. The art-baroque-pop textural weight of Lavelle’s music brought to the fore by commanding, and soaring vocal makes for a truly bewitching experience. Indeed, it seems Lavelle is traversing her own sonic territory, and it will be intriguing to see where that takes her. But for now, Rachael Lavelle’s IMW 2020 set highlights the diversity in sound that lays at the heart of our scene.
The tour de force nature of Vernon Jane could have been lost within the online streaming medium. But via a take-no-prisoners approach the band, whose debut offering The Ritual Of Love Making is one of the stand-out albums of 2020, made the 15-minutes count with the short sharp shock of a set that encapsulated the melting pot of styles and sounds that rests within their turbulent music.
Dark Tropics were one of the acts going into Ireland Music Week that I was most intrigued with seeing live. The noir-tinged indie-pop of the group’s latest tracks, ‘Moroccan Sun’ and ‘Badlands’, exuded an effortless cool that I felt might be hard to recreate in a live setting. However, from the outset, via a beguiling vocal presence, it was clear Dark Tropics have a strong grasp on their music that comes to life on stage. Indeed, by the end of Dark Tropics set, it was evident that this was an act the industry side of Ireland Music Week should pay very close attention to.
Murli is a showman. With his magnetic movements and effortless flow, Murli with Denise Chaila and God Knows by his side seemed to let the music and lyrics drift right through him. From the opening beats of his latest single ‘Till The Wheels Fall Off’ to the end of ‘Loud Boys’, Murli looked like an artist who enjoyed every moment of performing and in turn I enjoyed every minute of it.
The commanding presence of Naoise Roo took hold from the instant her set began. Brought to the fore by how Roo’s deep, beguiling vocal merged with the swirling backdrop of texture and persistent rhythm, the performance was one built from great dynamic moods and tones (see the intense closer ‘Whore’). 2020 saw Roo return with her E.P. Sick Girlfriend and this performance highlights what we were missing in the interim.
Jackie Beverly is an artist who seems to evolve with each single and performance. With her Ireland Music Week performance Beverly once again expanding the scope of her sound with a stylistically rich and emotionally affecting set that contained an added sonic weight to it. Delivering multi-layered but clear music throughout, Beverly’s songwriting and studio craft in tracks like ‘Someone Else’ and ‘Talk It Through’ was perfectly translated as the artist added to what was there before. In short, Jackie Beverly nailed it.
Like a force of nature, God Knows came thundering into his set with nothing held back. Going in hard, the quick snap beats, the melting pot of sounds and unrelenting words of God Knows set created an intense mood that came out right of the computer screen and took hold from start to finish. Unpredictable and captivating, this was a set that demanded to be heard.
In the year of his great return, R.S.A.G’s revitalised IMW 2020 performance showcased his neo-expressionistic flare for casting a myriad of shapes and colours across a large sonic canvas. Propelled by weighty beats, buzzsaw bass and diverse pops and clicks of sounds on top, tracks like ‘The Jungle’ and ‘Chroma’ were tidal in their unrelenting intensity, and dialled themselves into the viewers want to return to late night live gigs with all our friends.
Ireland Music Week 2020
And so it goes, Ireland Music Week 2020 is in the books and on the record. The artists above took the spotlight and made it work, but what of the festival itself? Subtextually, IMW 2020 spoke to the immense work that goes on behind the events we have taken for granted for so long. Like a boxer that somehow finds the strength to rise to their feet in the final rounds, the Irish music scene defiantly showcased its importance within the greater cultural and economic landscape despite a year that has been catastrophic to its well-being.
From the artists to the promoters, sound crew to film crew, venues to the digital audience, the symbiotic nature of the industry was laid bare as where the machinations that make it possible. While the quality of what’s being produced was allowed to shine through via a brilliant array of artistic diversity.
Typically, the main aim of Ireland Music Week is to give artists a platform to be seen internationally, but in 2020 perhaps the goal is a lot closer to home. This year, it was the scene itself that was being showcased, and it is our Government who should be paying attention and change its outdated preconception of the industry. Live music is the ground beneath the feet of Irish culture, without it there is no place for the roots to take hold and grow. And that foundation needs our support now more than ever because music and the arts are something, we honestly can’t afford to lose.