Over the years of State Faces – both on these pages and on stage – one of the aspects that we’re most proud of has been the range of musical styles that we have highlighted, proof of wide breadth of talent working in Ireland today. Tonight is no exception, with the three acts from our class of ’15 coming from seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum.
First though we look even further forward, with a band only just out the blocks. It shows too, for a few reasons. The Dead Sets are full of youthful energy, choosing to focus it on a style of music that’s been around for decades. The result is a collection of bluesy, R&B influenced rock tunes delivered with glorious abandon. At times it’s a little too rough around the edges but that’s part of their charm. With experience will come more control, you just hope they manage to hang onto their spark.
The two leading electronic lights on January’s list, Benihana and Kobina are both facing the challenge of transferring what are essentially studio projects onto the live stage through a selection of laptops and various gizmos. The former duo ply a more ambient sound of the two, building a set that moves up through the gears nicely and draws the crowd into their world. Kobina takes it up a level, creating a more dancefloor friendly experience – albeit one with more than a few twists and turns. Vocals drop in and out, the bass booms over the other kind of R&B beats and we clearly have another electronic producer with huge potential on our hands.
Sitting between these two is an act who arrive onstage without a piece of hardware in sight, bringing instead a banjo, mandolin, slide and acoustic guitars. That Old Hannah are received as well as anyone on the bill tonight not only says a lot about the good taste and open minds of the State audience but just what a fine band they are. Their mix of folk and bluegrass works because they play it completely straight, drawing on genuine influences rather than any idea of kitsch and moving close to Punch Brothers territory as a result. The news that Rian Trench of the Solar Bears is producing their new EP only adds to our expectations that there’s more here than meets the eye. Four acts starting from differing places then, all sitting perfectly alongside one another. The Irish music scene in microcosm really.
Faces of March photographed for State by Kieran Frost