On Friday, Tommy Ramone – the last surviving member of über-influential band The Ramones – died in his home in New York. On Saturday, Little Green Cars, Dublin’s latest answer to punk, took the stage at Iveagh Gardens in their biggest headliner to date. It didn’t come as much of a surprise when singer Stevie Appleby paid tribute. “It is a sad day. The Ramones are no more,” he said quietly while holding the famous black T-Shirt of his favorite band. Then the five-some proceeded to mourn in the only way you’d expect: they played some fucking rock and roll.
Little Green Cars have been touring for the last year on the back of their debut album Absolute Zero, finally landing in the heart of their hometown. The stage is refreshingly simple: four microphone stands, a drum kit and keyboard. The one decoration is a giant poster of a traumatized redhead, donning an expression that can best be described as watching puppies drown.
The band takes the stage quietly, heads down, dressed smartly in black suits and sly smiles. To the delight of the packed garden, they launch immediately into their music after nothing more than a quick “Hi.” The set instantly pounds and hits a high surprisingly early, one that it keeps for the majority of the next hour and twenty minutes. The second song ‘Angel Owl’ displays a musicianship that is far more advanced than your basic barre chords. From there, we get one of their most popular hits ‘Harper Lee,’ which the band performed on American Late Night staple Jimmy Fallon back in 2013. Midway through the set, the music takes a folksy turn with ‘The Consequence of Not Sleeping,’ and one could easily draw a Mamas and the Papas connection. The range of taste and influence is immense and refreshing. Little Green Cars walks the line between pop accessibility and punk sophistication with the shrewdness of industry veterans.
Each band member, armed with a microphone, sings in almost every number. What results is a rich harmony base for very advanced syncopation and lyricism. Faye O’Rourke impresses with robust vocal ability and channels a little of the great Patti Smith in her meaty alto. And while Appleby does pretty much all of the very limited talking, you can’t help but think he drew the short straw. They are a group whose only centre is the music and they can’t seem to banter for the sake of the audience. In fact, they never even think to introduce themselves.
As good as Little Green Cars are, you can feel that they are getting tired. Appleby quips halfway through the gig “We’ve sung these same songs so many times…so many times.” It makes sense, when you are touring one-album for more than a year, the songs will stretch thin fast. More than once they mention their excitement to get back to writing. And while the concert is a celebration for the audience, it seems more of a release for the band.
They end the night in darkness and their encore performance of ‘The John Wayne’ is nothing less than intoxicating. You can understand why, in a relatively short amount of time, this group has caught the attention of Ireland and the world. Punk, Folk, Rock, Pop – everyone seems ready to either claim or categorize these upstarts. However, Little Green Cars seem to be creating a sound that is effectively avoiding genre altogether and landing somewhere new. Much like The Ramones did back in the dirty old 70’s of New York.
Photographed for State.ie by Derek Kennedy.