Ciú­nas – the acts that need some hush,

When you’ve had enough push­ing and beer-fling­ing why not go for an act that re­quires just a lit­tle bit more at­ten­tion, writes Lau­ren Mur­phy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

YOUR FES­TI­VAL ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t have to be about dodg­ing hu­man stacks of GAA jer­seys, bal­anc­ing on tip-toes for a two-sec­ond glimpse of Bey­oncé’s bum, grap­pling through Cold­play’s retina-burn­ing light show, or tak­ing your life in your hands by squeez­ing your way into the moshpit for Foo Fight­ers. From time to time, amongst the grandiose Main Stage spec­ta­cles, there’ll be a per­for­mance that re­quires a lit­tle bit of un­der­stand­ing. A lit­tle bit of rev­er­ence. A lit­tle bit of re­spect. Yes, acts like this ex­ist even at Ox­e­gen, be­lieve it or not.

Yet these are not artists and bands that need a brigade of shush­ers to usher them on stage; just ones who make mu­sic that re­quire a bit of ciú­nas and at­ten­tion to fully ap­pre­ci­ate. Trust us, when you’ve had enough of the push­ing, pogo­ing and beer-fling­ing (let’s face it, we’ve all had the foul rem­nants of some­one’s pint hurled to­wards us at a fes­ti­val), you’ll be glad that there are acts like the ones be­low to pro­vide some sooth­ing balm for your fraz­zled men­tal state. It’s not for noth­ing that Conor Oberst (see in­ter­view, page 8) was sad­dled with com­par­isons to Bob Dy­lan be­fore he’d even hit his twen­ties. The Ne­braska man has been writ­ing and per­form­ing since his early teens, re­leas­ing his first al­bum un­der the Bright Eyes pseudonym at the age of 18. Since then, his lyri­cal prow­ess has grown sharper, as heard on songs like Bowl of Or­anges and First Day of My Life. Mu­si­cally, he’s a bit of a chameleon, too, go­ing semi-ex­per­i­men­tal on al­bums like Dig­i­tal Ash in a Dig­i­tal Urn, as well as with his side projects De­sa­pare­ci­dos, Mon­sters of Folk and The Mys­tic Val­ley Band. Oberst’s Ox­e­gen set will prob­a­bly draw mostly from the re­cent al­bum The Peo­ple’s Key. It’s rock­ier than the rootsy Amer­i­cana he ex­cels at, but keep an ear strained for those re­mark­able lyri­cal cou­plets – they’re still in abun­dance. We know that Eels aren’t pri­mar­ily known for their se­date mo­ments, but hear us out. Mark E Everett’s band have been around long enough to know how to work a fes­ti­val crowd, and that means plenty of up­tempo tunes from his re­cent trip­tych of al­bums. Yet, given his life’s mis­for­tunes (doc­u­mented in the highly rec­om­mended Things the Grand­chil­dren Should Know au­to­bi­og­ra­phy), he’s also ca­pa­ble of writ­ing songs of sad­ness, self-de­struc­tion and re­demp­tion. Everett’s a mas­ter­ful sto­ry­teller and one of the best writers of skewed love songs, so let’s hope he throws a few of those qui­eter mo­ments into his set; That Look You Give That Guy, Rail­road Man and Grace Kelly Blues would sit just fine along­side Dog Faced Boy and Hey Man (Now You’re Re­ally Liv­ing). Most im­por­tantly, have you seen that bloody beard? It’s wor­thy of a minute’s awed si­lence alone. For­give us a mo­ment while we swoon. Jenny Lewis, is there noth­ing you can’t do? Rilo Ki­ley haven’t re­leased an al­bum since 2007, but their front­woman’s solo out­put has been tid­ing us over just fine. Her lat­est en­deav­our, fol­low­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with The Wat­son Twins and con­tri­bu­tions to al­bums by Elvis Costello and Bran­don Flow­ers, is Jenny & Johnny, the duo formed with her Scot­tish-Amer­i­can boyfriend Johnathan Rice. Their al­bum is a gor­geous blend of melodic pop with an in­die­rock heart­beat and swoon­some har­monies; in other words, it’s not ex­actly mosh-friendly mu­sic. Songs like the laid­back An­i­mal, the gor­geous Switch­blade and the funky Slavedriver will sound per­fect in the pres­ence of hot sun­shine (right?!) and a cold bev­er­age. She & Him may be ab­sent from the Ox­e­gen bill this year, but Jenny & Johnny are the

next best thing. We’re not try­ing to tell you that you have to stand crossarmed and po-faced dur­ing the Durham si­b­lings’ set. In

fact, you prob­a­bly won’t be able to stay still if you tried; the trio, whose live show is sup­ple­mented by their mu­si­cian par­ents, make the sort of dance­able vintage rock­a­billy that sug­gests they’re from an­other time. That’s ex­actly why you should, if you’ll ex­cuse our blunt­ness, shut up and lis­ten to Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. They’re not the kind of band who’ll use vol­ume and a flashy stage show. In­stead, their charm lies within the nu­ances of songs like I’m Go­ing Back and Goin’ Up the Coun­try, as well as Kitty and Daisy’s vo­cal in­ter­play, and their brother’s bril­liant gui­tar-play­ing. Dance your legs down to your knees – but don’t for­get to lis­ten, too. Any reg­u­lar gig-goer has been there. You’re en­joy­ing your favourite band’s set when all of a sud­den the crowd shifts and you’re stand­ing be­side the per­son who knows ev­ery word to ev­ery song. Oh, and they’ll make sure that ev­ery­body knows it, too. We’re not usu­ally ones to con­done vi­o­lence, but if you find your­self stand­ing be­side this per­son at a Na­tional gig, you have our per­mis­sion to take what­ever ac­tion is nec­es­sary to shut them up. It’s not be­cause Matt Berninger and his co­horts need hush to cause that rip­ple of elec­tric­ity that spreads through the crowd ev­ery time they play, but their songs are beau­ti­fully slow­build­ing af­fairs with raw, emo­tional peaks that re­quire at­ten­tive­ness to fully ab­sorb. Be­sides, how will you be able to en­joy Berninger mur­mur lines like “I was afraid I’d eat your brains” if the mouth-breath­ing id­iot be­side you beats him to the punch? Speak­ing strictly in terms of deci­bels, Noah and the Whale are prob­a­bly one of the qui­eter bands on this year’s Ox­e­gen bill. The Lon­don band are known for their songs of lovelorn an­guish (as heard on The First Days of Spring), rather than their un­con­trol­lable rock wig-outs. It’s all that Laura Mar­ling’s fault; she had to go and break poor Char­lie Fink’s heart. Then again, maybe she did them a favour, since that al­bum plucked Noah and the Whale from the over­crowded pen of con­tem­po­rary folk bands and in­stalled them as a band with real lyri­cal com­pe­tence. Sure, they have plenty of up­tempo tracks, but it’s the lush in­stru­men­ta­tion and lyrics like those of Our Win­dow that res­onate the loud­est. With any luck, the quin­tet will play their set to a crowd who ap­pre­ci­ate the sub­tleties of their mu­sic.

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