by / March 5th, 2010 /

Choice Music Prize – Vicar Street, Dublin

6/1 shot Adrian Crowley stole the Choice Music Award headlines on an emotional night at Vicar Street, securing the vote of assembled media experts in the final two minutes of deliberations. Crowley’s fifth album Season Of Sparks won the mellow Galway star a pot of 10,000 Euro and the title -Irish album of the year 2009′, an accolade he accepted in a state of genuine shock at the end of a night crammed full of Ireland’s top talent.

CODES opened proceedings, demonstrating once again the extent to which their energetic live show surpasses the choirboy-style vocals of debut album Trees Dream in Algebra. Next up was Julie Feeney, a truly bizarre live performer who spent the duration of her second track flitting amongst the audience and whispering -a story’, in between laughing like a hyena. While Julie has a great voice, this particular performance is so odd it turns most of the audience off her, being pointedly arty and off-the-wall but utterly lacking substance. Her glittering dress is far more memorable.

Dark Room Notes are also a touch slack, falling short of their best in their two-track blast, and seem to lack a distinctive persona on stage, especially when given the sizable Vicar Street platform to fill. It takes the superb Duckworth Lewis Method to really get the night going. Writing an appealing album entirely about cricket is an achievement in itself, but succeeding in selling that album in Ireland is a still bigger claim to fame. Hannon and Walsh are all about the on-stage banter, and produce a mini-set that could have flown in direct from the 60s, and is peppered with a level of audience interaction that puts them a league above the other performers up to this point.

Valerie Francis takes up the challenge, and produces a delicate couple of tracks that suggest she has plenty more to offer, yet fail to truly inspire. The Swell Season’s set scores one hit and one miss: the Marketa Irglova driven opener is a drab and uninspiring affair, while Hansard-focused follow up -Paper Cup’ is far more inspiring, and features Leonard Cohen’s guitarist (who remains oddly unaccredited by name, and has apparently stumbled his way to the awards via a multi-city Spanish drinking session).

Crowley is the second last performer, and produces a note perfect yet strangely disconnected performance, one that offers ample demonstration of why he later picked up the award, yet remains a relatively poor advert for Crowley as a live prospect. All of which leaves the incredible And So I Watch You From Afar to rough things up a bit, and demonstrate why State’s contingent unanimously tipped them as our winner of choice. The Belfast instrumental punk stars were like a shot of energy direct to the vein, and no doubt talked a large part of the assembled crowd into heading for their -secret’ gig down the road right after the awards. Stage jumping, thrashy guitars, angst and the kind of well rehearsed chord transitions that can only come from endless hours of lively rehearsal are the features of what is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most compelling live acts.

In truth, as good as the night was, Choice suffered from the same pitfalls that face any show of this sort. The line up – though high class – was highly eclectic, making for disconnected and slightly uninspiring viewing. Two songs per act simply isn’t enough for anyone (the effervescent And So I Watch You From Afar aside) to really get into the swing of things. The problem, of course, is that there’s no obvious better way to do things. Valerie Francis wittily summed up the scenario after her first 3-minute ditty, announcing to the crowd -this is my last song’. As for the audience, we spent as much time looking at screens as actually watching live music, and everyone’s turned up for a different act or two, making for a mixed and sporadic vibe.

The pitfalls, though, might well be insurmountable, and have to be taken as part of the package. As unfulfilling as it can be, we’d rather have a -taster’ song or two from each artist and enjoy an eclectic and variable evening than miss out altogether, and you’ll rarely find a more impressive array of Irish talent all in one place than here at Choice. And So I Watch You From Afar, Duckworth Lewis Method and The Swell Season provided the entertaining bursts, and an emotional Adrian Crowley sent us all home – or down the road to the Mercantile – with smiles on our faces.

Photos: Julie Bienvenu

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  • Hil

    Is it just me or is Glen Hansard morphing into Bonnie Prince Billy?

  • H.B

    The tone of this article is highly unproffessional..

  • J

    Poor article. Does one person sum up all of States opinions on this event? Just because your favourite act didn’t win why pick holes in the winner. Typical begrudgery.

  • Molly

    This article is really awful, tired, jaded and uninspired. I had a completely different experience of the show and so did all of the people I talked to on the night. Is this journalism?!! The show is about the albums and the acts aimed to represent the albums in two tracks. Julie Feeney’s performance was awesome, brave and beautiful and managed to show both the madness and simplicity contained in a phenomenally substantial record which you’ve clearly not heard. Adrian Crowley created a remarkable intensity over two songs which also represented the beautiful intensity of his album. Valerie Francis did very well also to show us what the album was about. You shouldn’t confuse your taste with actual musical quality. Perhaps you should stop writing about music and stop fuelling it with such uninspired writing.

  • What was your problem with this article exactly guys?

    James doesn’t picked sides apart from pointing out the obvious on the night – that ASIWYFA were a shot of energy, a different proposition to the rest of the night. He merely reports how the night went down in his eyes

    Personally, I was there myself and found the night mostly sombre and quite slow overall. The last two years had a better range of acts. I thought Julie Feeney for example, has better songs to showcase to a possible new audience and she will have lost some people by doing the songs she did.

  • Molly

    I didn’t think this event was a Meteor style thing where people do their ‘hits’. I would have asssumed that the Choice audience was a well educated ‘music lover’ type of audience and that the audience would already know most of the albums anyway? I wouldn’t have wanted to see them all do their ‘hits’. Maybe I’m being naive. Re Julie Feeney, I was really glad she chose the only theatrical song on the album rather than the songs she’s gotten all the airplay with. I’d heard her amazing renditon of Impossibly Beautiful on Tubridy that morning and thought she was so brave not to choose to do it or some of her other ‘hit’ type songs at Choice.
    Re article, it makes really uninspiring reading and doesn’t show that he knows the albums or the artists or know about the specific craft of their work atall. Particularly Adrian Crowley comment, the whole thing about Adrian is the world you go into with him over a full show or album. His live shows have such a special aura. He’s not going to be jumping around energetically like ASIWYFA because his music is TOTALLY different. ASIWYFA were great too don’t get me wrong but just totally different to AC. I could go on..

  • Okay, now that there’s some sort of explanation I feel I can actually jump in.

    If I had written in detail about every artist, this would have been an article far too long for most people to actually bother to read. If the lack of detail bothers you, well, you were there too, feel free to give us some more. There’s little point in a song-by-song summary of a two track set (go to playlist if you want that), I simply gave the vibe and a few words on every artist, as well as expanding on what I thought was noteworthy. After all, there were eight artists to cover in the course of a quick review.

    Yes, it was my opinion, but – and I aim this at the person who said it was unprofessional, too – I could hardly give someone elses, could I? I’m not in the business of hyping something that was okay (it was hardly a slating, was it, really?), and I wrote it as I saw it. Anything else would be seriously unprofessional, and a twisting of the definition of a live review. We have strong editors, and I can assure you that if they thought this article was less than fully professional, you wouldnt be reading it. No one claims anyone’s opinion is fact, but the reviewer has to come back and write what they thought, and that’s what I did.

    As for it reflecting the opinion of State on the whole, of course it doesnt. We dont write every article collectively or discuss them in depth before publishing, that would just be unrealistic when we’re putting up a handful a day and we all have other things to do. This is my opinion, but a few other people from State were there and – having spoken to a few of them – I’d say their opinions are in most cases at least broadly in line with my own, though I fail to see how that’s relevant.

    If ‘knowledge’ is the problem, Molly, than I can assure you that I know most of these artists well. Not all of them, admittedly, but there are eight, so that shouldnt come as a shock. I have seen five of the eight live before, and for the record, the one I knew least well – Duckworth Lewis Method – I was actually very positive about. I’ve heard the Julie Feeney album a few times, and personally I dont think it’s anything special. Again, just my opinion.

    As for Adrian Crowley, I can only write about the two songs he played, so to expect something different because he’s normally better is… well, again irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. If you read my review history, you’ll see I have seen him before (a few weeks ago, actually, in Glasgow), and thought he was so dull live I barely gave him a mention in the review. Again, he was amongst half a dozen artists, and again it’s just an opinion. I actually like the album (I HAVE heard it), but I think Crowley’s pretty poor live, and I’m not going to say something different to please his fans, sorry. As for the award being deserved or not, kindly point me to any point where it says it isnt? The only reference to the award in the whole article, positive or negative, is in saying who won it, and a quick mention that most of the State folk in attendance were rooting for ASIWYFA. So what? If you think that’s bitter, I think you’re being far too sensitive.

    So (and I’m going to rap this up now, before I bore the pants off everyone, I have better things to do with my Saturday after all!) I’m sorry if giving my opinion in what is essentially a subjective opinion piece offends you (or anyone else for that matter), but if it does you need to think about what you’re expecting when you’re reading music writing. I don’t feel I should have to spout credentials, but just so you know, I’ve written large parts of two books on music (one on Irish music) and been published in a number of major newspapers and magazines. I’m not some amateur hack. Though I really dont think that should even come into it to be honest, as your only attack seems to be on my opinion and not the writing, in which case you really need to start reading reviews for what they really are, and not be so hostile about it. I certainly wont be quitting because someone doesnt like one piece (I’ve had a few compiments on it, too, btw, just not on here).

    I’m not arguing that this is my best article ever (far from it), but I told it as I saw it, and apart from the overuse of a few words (it was late when I wrote it), I think it accurately reflects what I saw. Good at times, but stunted and occasionally a bit dull. It’s not a pop at Choice, award ceremonies often are like that. I stand by it, and welcomed your (eventually) well argued opinion. Just don’t work on the assumption that everyone saw the night the same way you did.

  • Molly

    James,
    Equally don’t just don’t work on the assumption that everyone saw the night the same way YOU did. You just might be wrong and I believe you are. Having written a few books doesn’t give you good ears. You just might have good balls and good specific knowledge in certain areas of music.
    Why I think I am so insensed by your article having thought about it is the glib, cynical, crass, dismissive and superior tone towards artists all over it. I didn’t and don’t mean to sound like this is a personal attack on you but I find that your superior attitude goes way beyond merely expressing your ‘opinion’ about their work. It is possible to express a like or dislike without embroiling this attitude, and many reviewers do this very successfully all the time.
    Your lengthy and defensive reaction also surprises me. You find it easy to dismiss excellent artists in this ugly way but don’t respond too well to being challenged on your points.
    Enjoy your Saturday. I’m sorry but I won’t ever be spending mine reading your books.

  • Molly, I gave a ‘lengthy and defensive response’ because there was a lot to be said about the comments. Funny how you havent actually followed up on very much of what I said. A review is an opinion. I gave my opinion on the artists, and have made it very clear that it is an opinion. Yours is different, fine, I take no issue with that. At no point did I say my opinion is definitive or right, how can it be, it’s an opinion! (unless you see not writing ‘I think’ in every line of the review as being overly forceful, which some do, but it makes for an awful read…). You, on the other hand, have very clearly said that my opinion is just wrong (see last post). So I’m being superior? Pot, kettle?

    I’m trying my best to respond to this in a polite way, but your posts come across as someone unable to deal with the idea that not everyone likes your favorite artist. I have already, in both this post and the last one, accepted that people will and do hold a different opinions to me. Julie Feeney’s performance was at best divisive. Even a fan would be able to see that. Did you see her at Electric Picnic last year? She did a similar thing and was practically laughed off stage. Most of the people around me for AC, meanwhile, responded with utter indifference to his live set. They also applauded him winning the award. I felt the same.

    I’ll say it again, and you can quote me, rather than a hostile bit of paraphrasing, please… where exactly did I say that AC in any way didnt deserve this award? And where was I superior? I’d like the chance to respond to this first (false) and second (rather vague) criticism (which, frankly, unless you have anything else to say that isn’t just about me disagreeing with you, are the only bits that concern me at all), as I believe you’re reading between the lines far too much, and putting words in my mouth because you dont like what I wrote. I’m not going to argue opinion with you, you’re welcome to yours, but if you’re going to say such aggressive things about the article, I want your evidence.

  • James I personally find the tone of your articles condescending and irritating in general. Your comment about being a well-published writer is also laughable. Please refrain from commenting/adding essays about yourself on here, it makes you look foolish and a git and reflects badly on this magazine. Molly, you sound more like the writer here and perhaps you should be headhunted by State instead.

  • You’re welcome to that opinion Mike, but if people are going to attack my credibility I think it’s entirely relevant. The comment/ essay/ whatever you want to call it was almost entirely about what Molly wrote, and only bought up my background as she pointedly questioned whether I should even be writing. Her comments are certainly no less condescending then the article, and I’ll feel free to defend my own work thanks. I’m sure Molly would be welcome at State.

  • Molly

    There’s no point in dragging this out any more because frankly I’m bored with it. The tone in your review as referred to by me and 3 others above is very dislikeable. To me because it is so dismissive of a number of artists and I only happened to mention 3 of my favourite in my first post including Valerie Francis. Here again, her performance was really charming I felt. Your Swell Season reference was also just really smug and condescending. I won’t bother going on. You do also in fact completely and bizarrely misrepresent Julie Feeney’s show at Electric Picnic. She was certainly not laughed off the stage as you well know and plenty can verify that. Your point re Adrian Crowley is at least argued out properly even though I totally disagree with you. He was my favourite performer on the night.

    No I don’t like your tone and style of writing about music from this above and I’m entitled not to. It’s is either vicious sounding or complimentary in a patronising way. Other reviewers manage to give criticism and still sound insightful and engaging. Yours is just off putting. That’s my opinion. I am an ex musician now civil servant so maybe that’s why I feel protective over artists! Sorry if it seemed personal, I really didn’t mean it to be that way. I’m done now. You may have the last word so don’t worry about it any more. Good luck.

  • God folks relax, the man wasn’t overwhelmed by some of your favorite bands, get over it!!

    His tone isn’t condescending, he doesn’t come across like he knows better (Although, people give out just as much when a writer comes from the ‘I’m just a fan with no prior knowledge of what I’m reviewing’ style) and the only attacks are coming from a few commenter’s here.

    It’s just music people and James gave his opinion about a show he attended. If you disagree then write what you thought without reducing yourselves to personal attacks and gripes about the mans integrity & professionalism.

  • Molly, my job at a gig like this is basically to review bands in a few words, so I get through eight in a reasonably readable length. If that comes across as too dismissive, then that’s the nature of the beast I’m afraid. Other than doubling my review length, I can’t see another way to do this honestly. Every act had their good and bad points, but to cover them all would take pages. I have to be both quick and honest and I genuinely believe I achieved that. I’m sorry it seems to have upset people, that wasn’t my intention, but it certainly isn’t a dishonest or uninformed review (okay, that’s highly subjective, but I certainly know more about these acts than a typical man in street).

    I’m happy to disagree over stuff. There’s definitely an implication in your comment that if I reply at all, all I’m after is the last word. Feel free to respond, I just don’t like the implication that I have some malicious intent, it’s not something I’m prepared to accept. Ignoring you after responding at all would be to accept that. All I asked is that you back up the harshest of your criticisms. I pointed out the two things that particularly bothered me above, and you’ve pointedly chosen not to give me anything to back up your comments on either of those criticisms. Come back with them, and I’ll accept the critique. They were the only reason I even entered the debate in the first place.

    I’ve said – very clearly I think – from the start that you’re welcome to your opinion. The only thing I take offense at is the idea that this is anything other than a genuine opinion written by an honest fan of Irish music. Anything else – personal opinions on the bands etc – is water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned.

    @ticketsthere I’m grateful for the perspective, thanks :).

  • I think you’ve been offered some valuable constructive criticism here, mate, and only a complete egotist would ignore a handful of comments pointing out the same things. I find it humorous that you yourself leave comments on other posts berating State Magazines readers for differences of opinion but can’t cope with comments on your own. And FYI I wasn’t criticising this post and am not particularly precious about any of the acts at the Choice either. As a State reader I felt obligated to finally speak out about what I see as an unnecessary superior tone to certain writers contributions (ie Yours). That is all. Good night.

  • Okay, I’m not in the habit of getting personal about this stuff (if you dont believe me, read the above and tell me which side of this debate is launching the personal attacks), but Mike that last reply made me laugh so much I nearly wrote off my computer spitting tea over the keyboard. In case the irony of the above is lost on anyone, allow me to annotate Spiky Mike’s last comment:

    “I think you’ve been offered some valuable constructive criticism here, mate, and only a complete egotist would ignore a handful of comments pointing out the same things.”

    Constructive criticism? That’s truly comic, Mike. Allow me to offer you some constructive criticism on your band. They’re bad (for the record, I’m making a point, I’ve never heard Mike’s band, I’m only assuming that the name refers to one). Did that help? If your genuine aim was constructive criticism, you’re welcome to develop your constructive part, because as far as I can see there isnt one. Unlike every negative poster on here, I’m leaving a contact with every single post. If you had left one (no, a link to a Dublin University isnt a contact), Id have been happy to talk to you and listen to what you have to say. You didnt give me that option. Click on my name, you’ll get my website with contact details, I’ll be happy to talk about this over email. I’ll even welcome it, and come back on here and thank you for your contributions, IF you’ve got something genuinely constructive to say. As for the ego part, I get feedback from editors on a daily basis, yet your argument is that I should take heed of you and several other anonymous posters with a clear agenda? So, if me and my friends were to make comments on your band, you’d listen to me ahead of the producer, would you? I think you’re the one with the ego problem, ‘mate’.

    “I find it humorous that you yourself leave comments on other posts berating State Magazines readers for differences of opinion but can’t cope with comments on your own.”

    How, exactly, can I not cope? I replied, sure, but last time checked replying is not a sign of not being able to cope. In all seriousness, I welcome anyone to come on here and tell me I represent the angrier side of this debate. I’m coping just fine, thanks. As for my comments, yes, I’m opinionated, and I often argue opinion on the site I work for. If you take issue with anything I’ve said, have the balls to go back and take it up with me on the post that bothers you, rather than making vague references.

    “And FYI I wasn’t criticising this post and am not particularly precious about any of the acts at the Choice either”

    Right. So in the spirit of ‘constructive criticism’, you though you’d hop on a bandwagon, did you?

    “As a State reader I felt obligated to finally speak out about what I see as an unnecessary superior tone to certain writers contributions (ie Yours). That is all. Good night”

    As a State reader you have the option to read, or not read my writing, Mike. My name’s clearly printed at the top. If you dont like my contributions, how about you either dont read my pieces, or go and take it up with me on the post you dont like rather than band wagon hopping. You’re welcome to call me on my ‘superior tone’? Go on, Im looking forward to it. Post me a link to the posts here, I promise to come back and reply.

    As for your post on the whole, your main issue seems to be that you dont like that I comment on other people’s opinions in posts. Yet here you are, slagging off a stranger in a post in a far stronger way than I have ever done on this site, with attacks that go way beyond opinion and into the personal. In other words, Mike, YOU ARE A PRIZE HYPOCRITE.

    But thank you for showing such an interest in what I’ve written for State in the past. Seriously, you must me by biggest fan, and you’ve made my Sunday with your (presumably unintentional) hypocrisy. Really.

  • johnny hotpants

    it doesn’t take rocket surgery to figure molly and james wont be buying each udder an aul easter egg this yr!

  • Beetlebum

    Wow, I came on here to comment on Adrian and Valerie – the first I agreed wtih 100% and the second I thought was harsh, but then I saw this debate, so instead I thought I’d have my tuppence worth..

    James, I think you were naive to get involved. Personally I think the review’s blunt, but it’s certainly not unprofessional. By responding you’ve given the masses a platform. I havent read your work on State in the past, but I can only assume it’s got under a few collars, as the reaction to this review is massively excessive next to what’s been written.

    But having said that, anonymous folk on the wind up, I think James – aside from his harsh but bang on last post – has been pretty nice about all this. I’d expect him to have had more support, given that Molly’s comments are unreasonable and she’s disappeared without backing them up. Mike Got Spiked has been owned, and is a bit of an idiot if he cant see the irony of what he’s saying.

    Just my perspective, for what it’s worth. I thought Valerie |Francis was excellent, but hey, I can deal with it without becoming a child.

  • James, pack your bags. You’re fired.

  • Conor McCaffrey

    Anyone heard the Superjiminez album?

  • Fintan Davies (the Quiet Riot)

    Not to get personal, i don’t know the author, but this article is poorly written and strangely biased.

    out of interest i flicked through some other comments written by james, and his opinions skit and flicker depending on who’s cool at the time.

    sadly, it’s indicative of his attitude overall, and his lack of charm or generosity when reviewing speaks volumes of his lack of love for music, and his admiration for edifice and cool.

    Also from the comments left on other threads he comes across humourless and bitter, so it’s ironic when he’s criticised he leaps to the ultra defensive.

    I guess i did get personal.

  • FYI: Fintan Davies = Spiked By Mike.

  • OK now, this is getting ridiculous. James is one of our main writers and is as passionate about supporting good music as anyone on State.ie. Yet he also calls things as he sees them, which is what we ask of all our contributors. The Choice live event was not a good one, which is no reflection on the prize itself but it has to be said. And as for James only praising what’s cool and hip – http://www.state.ie/2010/03/features/lost-prophets-interview/. Enough now.

  • johnny hotpants

    enouht now!! ah here back to blighty wit the both of ye!! if all you’ve got to back him up with is a deep throat lost prophets interview then there’s no spam in the tin,i dont hate the english i have loving relationships with some, but i just cant help but feel bad for the unusually large proportion of them who have an inability to embrace their own insecurities, and if you cant do that then dont write about music in public, yours drunkenly…johnny hotpants