Category: Venues – Whelans

Columbia Mills


Columbia Mills (called Empire Saints in a previous life) debuted their first EP upstairs in Whelans and I went along for Ceol Collective. Really impressive opening – dying to see them again to be honest. And their support act Dear Desert are definitely ones to watch as well.

This gig was originally reviewed for Ceol Collective which has now ceased operations. The review that was published is preserved for posterity here!

Columbia Mills started as they mean to go on by selling out their debut headline gig in Dublin, upstairs in Whelans, where they launched their new EP “Factory Settings”, with support from the exciting Dear Desert. Watching Columbia Mills smash out one song after another to a packed room, it seems like they have been around forever. This is likely helped by their indietronic sound which is a delicious melting pot of 80s and 90s influences and manages to sound both completely new and utterly familiar.

Support act Dear Desert opened the night with an explosion of synths, deep rhythms and soaring falsettos, impressing the growing crowd. Having recently launched their own EP “Give it Up”, Dear Desert almost stole the show from the headliners with their accomplished sound which hints at impressive things to come. I highly recommend checking them out (here

But Columbia Mills were never going to allow themselves to be surpassed by their brilliant support act. Opening with the distorted vocals and heavy beats of “The Perfect Day”, they clearly stated their intent to be recognised as an exciting new addition to the live music scene. It is apparent that they are not an act who have rushed their EP release – apart from their cover of The National’s “Sorrow” which did the original justice while making it their own, the set consisted of original songs. These Bray natives seem to have far more tracks ready to go than just the four included on Factory Settings, so it is likely that we’ll be getting another release in 2015.

Standout tracks on the night were the encore set of “Bass Soup” followed by current single “Never Gonna Look at You the Same” which highlights the band’s ability to resist relying on the more electronic influences of the rest of the set and to produce a radio-friendly single while maintaining their distinctive sound. A brilliant debut, it seems likely that this is only the beginning for Columbia Mills.

“Factory Settings” is available here  




Columbia Mills



Dear Desert

Join Me In The Pines



Whelans had some amazing acts as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations, and Join Me In The Pines was one of my favourites. David Geraghty’s solo project had been on my hit-list since I missed his first tour, and didn’t disappoint. The strength of his lyrics and musicianship made this a magical night – which made it all the more surprising that it didn’t pull a bigger crowd.



Finishing up with a few Bell X1 favourites did no harm and were a treat, but to be honest, were unnecessary. His solo work stands for itself (not that I was complaining about the chance to hear the others!).



A (to quote the man himself) “naked” David Geraghty sans guitar20141016_224503



Wild Promises



This photo sums up for me the glorious chaos of a Kila gig. Rip-roaring trad to an international crowd who want to go crazy? Always going to end up pretty hectic – but in the best way possible.


“We are made of star stuff” Spirit of Folk Festival 2014 launch


The Spirit of Folk Festival 2014 Launch in Whelans – titled We Are Made of Star Stuff” – was one of those special nights that you stumble upon but that leaves you just a little bit changed. I know that sounds pretentious, but with a great musical line-up preceded by a stellar (see what I did there? Geddit?!) list of speakers, it was always going to be a little bit special.

What surprised me was that although the music was great – particularly Carriages, who are consistently brilliant – it was the speakers that absolutely made the night. The speakers ranged from Lee Hurley talking about how we are all a little bit star (and they are all a little bit us), to poet Stephen James Smith, via Grace Dyas talking about creativity and Christian Reeves, who told us all to start before we’re ready. A beautiful night all in all.


Stephen James



Leading Armies


There is a Light album launch


Biggles Flys Again


Dylan Tighe

My last gig in May was the album launch for the “There is a Light” collaboration album, launched by Bluestack Records in aid of the brilliant First Fortnight. The album itself is a selection of some of the best Irish acts around at the moment and is downloadable here (, with the bands donating their songs for free to benefit the mental health charity.


With five of the acts featured on the album performing on the night, the launch was a real treat – and, as I often point out in my posts, a total bargain at €10 (seriously – we, the gig-going population of Ireland, are spoiled with the quality available to watch for half-nothing). A bonus performance by Kevin Nowlan opened the night, followed by Biggles Flys Again, who were their usual brilliant selves. Dylan Tighe was up next, and then Owensie, both of whom mellowed the mood but showed their song-writing skills to spectacular effect. Hidden Highways and The Ambience Affair completed the line-up.


Hidden Highways


Kevin Nowlan

I’ve spoken before about First Fortnight and what it stands for, but a brief speech from JP Swaine, director of the charity, turned this from “just another gig” (albeit with an array of local talent) to an opportunity to remind ourselves of what First Fortnight is all about. It aims to challenge the very real stigma around mental health in this country, and to raise awareness of mental health issues. From some of the conversations I had that night, it certainly got a few people thinking. All in all, a great night for a great cause.


Hiss Golden Messenger


A relatively quiet gig-going month in May was interrupted by the ever-delightful Hiss Golden Messenger upstairs in Whelans. Confessing to being hugely jet-lagged, he never-the-less performed a belter of a set. Love this guy.

Niall McCabe band


Next up, I have to admit, was on a bit of a whim. I didn’t know much about the Niall McCabe band before I went to see them, having done a bit of a trawl of upcoming gigs and listening to one or two of their songs. This is what I love most about Irish music – coming across someone almost by accident and heading to see them. They didn’t disappoint.


A small intimate crowd upstairs in Whelans, some serious musicianship and great singing and song-writing – this gig summed up me at my gig-going happiest.