January 31, 2005

White and Brown Dwarfs, mostly

Last night I was in a pub off O'Connell Street, waiting for The Ill n' P and DDK to arrive. I started to jot down these notes...

You'd think (just spelled that "tink," by the by; the Irish are getting to me) that a pub fifty yards off the city's main artery would be either guady or touristy or both, but The Sackville feels more like a village pub. It is small, quiet, clean and bright, a square room carpeted in cadet blue, with a bench lining two walls and the rest of the space dotted with stools, all in red leather. The Sackville's dominent theme, however, is mahogany: Walls and ceiling are completely panelled in it; the scattered low-slung tables and the bar that dominates half the room are all its rich reddish-brown, touched here and there by brass.

The village pub atmoshphere isn't because of the decor, though; it's far more the fact that they've drawn down the blinds over both windows and the whole pub is sitting around watching RTE and conversing quietly. Specifically, they're watching You're a Star.

You're a Star is the Irish version of American Idol. Sort of. Your reward isn't an album being put out on a major label; it's being the Irish entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Americans, if aware of the thing at all, are aware of the Eurovision Song Contest Mainly as a punchline, Exhibit No. One in considering the question "How can an entire continent have such terrible taste in music?" Least, that's how I think of it. I've never seen it. I'm looking forward to it, though; it happens in May. From what I understand, twenty-odd countries send in a contestant, either a singer or a band, and they do their number before a panel of twenty-odd judges --- one judge from each particitpating nation. Then the judges assign them points --- twelve points to the performer they thought was best, eleven to second, and so and so forth. Whoever gets the most points wins; you can't vote for your own country. A fairly reasonable system, but supposedly there's lots of backstabbing and backroom dealmaking that goes on. Ye shall fear the wrath of the mighty Scandinavain block, etc.

For a nation that, while small, is famed for its musicality, Ireland has apparently been something of a non-entity of late in the contest --- many might consider this a point in its favor rather than otherwise --- but RTE is determined to remedy this and to milk the occassion for as many hours of cheap reality programming as possible. So they set up the usual auditions, and sent out judges to frown menacingly at the yowls of delusional fame whores, and then the picked a hundred acts and sent the to boot camp in Killarney. There they had a week to learn new songs selected for them, and then they auditioned again, and they got whittled down to, I think, sixteen. Now they're at the stage where they're paring down them down one by excruciating one.

When I came into the bar a contestant was just finishing up; he had an excellent voice and a charismatic stage presence, but I couldn't even tell you what kind of song he was, because I only heard the big finish.

The band that played next, Jade, is a four-piece, all women. The sound is nouveau-country; bit of the brass and twang of country, but speedy and punchy with a rock-like steady thump. Like a cross between the Bangels and the Dixie Chicks. (You may not have been able to perceive it from my commentary thus far, but I have absolutely no musical training. Or talent.) Their stage clothes reflect these cross-genre influences, as well. The drummer's got pigtails and they're all wearing kicky little skirts you wouldn't be surprised to see at a line dance; they've paired this with knee-high suede stiletto boots. During the inteview potion I was worried the bassist was going to tip over. She reminded me strongly of a picture book I had as a child which featured three ponies forced to disguise themselves as princesses and walk around on their hind legs. They seemed competant, and the crowd seemed to like them okay --- though this being RTE, what the crowd seemed to like was determined largely by how successful the bandmates were at cramming the studio audience with their relatives --- but they had a singing drummer, y'all. I have more than once surveyed friends and acquaintences on this point, and nobody has yet been able to come up with a good band that had a singing drummer. (There's the Eagles, the Phil Collins version of Genesis, and The Monkees, at least for the Micky Dolez numbers. The prosecution rests.)

The next up was a chick called Loirraine Maher. Will it sound bad if I tell you I can't remember much about what she sang because I was distracted by the backing band? It will if I tell you that what I was most struck by was their overwhelming aura of generic, souless competance, such as you find in an award-show orchestra. I think a triangle may have been involved. Man, on the basis of that performance I have no idea how this chick got this far. Her voice is really weak --- tremulous, in fact. The celebrity judges --- huge figures in the Irish music scene, apparently, whcih means they're nobody you've ever heard of --- seemed to have some sympathy for her, so maybe she was just ill-served by the song, but I'd bet money the voting public will be axing her ass. [ed. note --- yeah, I was totally wrong.]

The next woman, one Ann Harrington, had lovely green eyes, a feature she almost succeeded in completely obscuring with a liberal slathering of turquoise eyeshadow, picked to match her top. Her peasant-sleeved top. This she accompanied with a buff, fringed buckskin skirt and knee-high buckskin boots. You may have seen Cher wearing this outfit in the early 1970s.

Her voice reminded me of Cher a bit as well, it had that same quality of power contending with strain. But hers had a smokieness to it; it was really quite pleasent. She had a tendancy, however, to stalk the stage, flipping her hair and shaking her hips, and after her performance one of the judges accused her of "overdramatics." At which point she hissed and four adamantium blades shot out of her knuckles, and she leapt upon the judge. Metaphorically.

I didn't see how any of them fared in the end that night; on Sentana Sport a soccer match between two Italian teams had just begun, doubtless vital to the outcome of some cup or other, and there the channel remained. But I have learned from perusing the You're a Star website --- which had a couple fascinating tidbits --- all the acts I saw made it through.

Perhaps Wednsday I shall post a bit about that.

Posted by Diablevert at January 31, 2005 12:40 PM | TrackBack

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