With all those January blues floating about Young Hearts Run Free have still brought a seizable helping of people to St Werberg’s church in Dublin, a little used but beautifully intimate space. Canada’s Spencer Krug aka Moonface is back just three weeks after his New Years gig here for Young Hearts but the crowd is swelling and add in the mulled wine and home-made cakes (pay what you like) and you could be in cheery, pre-Christmas times.
First of tonight four acts is NiamhMcCormackSings. A pleasant intro, she successfully covers xxx with a simple piano, warming our ears up. Fresh from mass critical acclaim with The Gloaming, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh steps to the fore next. This time it’s just him and a fiddle, and as he seems to be a part of something taking trad far away from preconceptions, we have no expectations. Beginning with perhaps discordant strands, for about 15 or 20 minutes he weaves textures together and quickly turns his solo presence into a widescreen road trip. Hypnotic and spine-tingling, he creates scenes that a full orchestra might barely be able to achieve, but with much more intimacy. An amazing moment to experience in the first month of the year.
Katie Kim is our third musician, and again she becomes a commanding presence, accompanied only by her guitar and some loop pedals. Her voice puts the image of her sitting in a dark room facing down Hope Sandoval in your head. It’s the 4am of the soul that she sings to, like hearing Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ on a drive through the night and the reverence the church adds and instils focuses everything. Such an ideal setting for her.
We are encouraged by the organiser Siobhan to pop across the road to The Lord Edward for a swift half with the promises that she’ll come get us before the main act. Everything about the running of this just lives and breathes intimate warmth, and it’s fitting that it’s a fundraiser for the Simon community.
We return to the church and Krug comes to the piano, warming his cold hands. Once he touches the keys though, the church’s chills are a non-issue and he fittingly begins with ’Love the House You’re in’. He’s very emotive in his playing and seeing him stripped of bandmates benefits from the simplicity and lack of distraction, as does his new album. Warm and amusing between songs he is fully lost when playing, holding back on a note from time to time in perfect silence. His plaintive cracked-voice cry of “…I don’t know if I can call this home” at the end of ’Everyone is Noah…’ would put the heart crossways in you. When it then blends into the dark landscapey ‘Your Chariot Awaits’ you can just hang up your hat.
The raw trip through his bare new album, in this church no less, is January mid-week perfection. Some new, non-album songs are aired but don’t mesh with the unity of the album. It’s to the title track, ‘Julia with Blue Jeans On’ to bring it all back to the delicate red thread. With this still swirling in our heads, a medicinal pint in The Lord Edward was required, where most of the team were ensconced including Krug himself after a while. No backstage, no them and us. An immersive, inclusive night above all our post-Christmas winter expectations.
Moonface photographed for State by Mark McGuinness.