Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Great news, we have now relocated to South Korea and moved our topics discussions into the realm of travel.  If you would like to learn all about things to do in Seoul, we highly suggest that you visit www.sevendaysinseoul.com. Thank you so much for all your support over the years and we look forward to receiving your visits in the future.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Best Air Mattress For Festivals

Hey Festival Fans,

We’re back after a long hiatus. Where have we been? Well we’ve been everywhere!
Electric Picnic, Bonaroo, Burning Man, Coachella, you name it — we’ve pitched a tent there, both literally and sometimes figuratively, thus our deep love of music festivals.
A lot has changed since we last checked in with you. The recession is a thing of the past, concert ticket prices are through the roof and tent technology just keeps getting better and better. You might remember that we often brag about our Vango Dart 2 Man that pops up in 3 seconds, a piece of kit that makes us king of the campsite, but one thing we can’t seem to crack is the air mattresses.
We’re not talking about the type of tat that you buy at the campsite shop, we’re after a reusable high quality mattress that’s worthy of €100-200 investment.

The contenders

Here’s a few options that we think you should consider for the 2016 festival season.

Trespass Double Flocked Air Bed

At €27 it’s hard to be picky with this solid effort. It doesn’t come with a pump, internal or external but it does have a double locking mechanism and a repair kit. You might get multiple uses out of this one if you are doing traditional camping but we don’t see it lasting long in a festival environment.

Bestway Double Height Air Bed with Travel Bag - Kingsize.

We’re approaching the cusp of our budget but we still can’t seem to find an integrated pump at this range either. The Bestway is perfect if your biggest consideration at a festival is having a comfortable lie in. Keep it out of the sun though as it’s all black all the time and will attract serious heat. It does have a built in pillow though, the one thing everyone seems to forget at a festival.

ReadyBed Blue Air Bed

At last an inflatable bed that also has a built-in duvet. It’s a bit on the small side, but it does have a built in pump. You need big dirty C batteries though, so bring cash or be prepared to barter at the campsite for this one.

Smart Mattress

We thought our prayers had been answered when we saw some lunatic wants to bring the mattress online with this Balluga bad boy, but alas it’s a prototype and it’s not fit for the outdoors. Who knows though, maybe ten years down the line. Read more about it here.

AeroBed Active Raised Double Camping Air Bed with Pump

Now we’ve found our Holy Grail, but it’s not a wooden Chalice guarded by a medieval knight, it’s a two person Aerobed you can get in Argos.
·         Now we are sadly talking about 190 Euro, but this is what you get for it: 
·         Internal coil structure for enhanced support.
·         Inflates in 180 seconds, deflates in 30 seconds.
·         Pump.
·         Waterproof.
·         Airtight system.

We wish you well on your airbed journey and hopefully you’ll let us know how you get on this Festival season. See you in the trenches. In the mean time you can talk to our friend Owen Sweeney about all things music and digital marketing.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Declan O’Rourke at Killary: Sailing off into the sunset

The Killary Sessions with Declan O’Rourke

Throughout his critically acclaimed career, Declan O’Rourke has been no stranger to some of the more peculiar performance venues in Ireland. From the chilly Grafton Street busk each Christmas to the unique setting of RTE’s Big Music Train, it’s clear to his devoted audience that the singer-songwriter is certainly not shy of a musical challenge. With this in mind, few were surprised when on a bright Saturday night this July O’Rourke happily agreed to entertain more than 100 guests on a cruise ship that set sail on the Killary Fjord in the West of Ireland. 

After an up and down week weather-wise, there were no doubt a few smiles when  attendees of the ‘Killary Sessions’ saw the sun in the sky over the picturesque surroundings of Killary Harbour and Leenane. The captain and crew of The Killary Fjord Boat Tours were buzzing with the presence of their special guest and helped set the tone for what would be a wonderful evening, with a pleasant and efficient boarding process from Nancy’s Point at 8pm. 

The audience, who had access to beautiful views on both port and starboard sides, made use of the ship’s full bar while waiting for the main act and respectfully listened to the musical offerings of a crew member, another Declan, before O’Rourke took to the stage. 

30 minutes or so into the voyage the bearded stowaway O’Rourke descended from the upper deck and greeted both familiar faces and new guests, before promising an entertaining evening for all parties. Technically speaking, the sound system performed adequately but it was O’Rourke’s masterclass in crowd control that ensured that everyone could hear his generously long set of songs throughout the evening. In an act that can only be described as ‘flirting out‘ to those at the back of the inner deck who were making a bit too much noise during some of the quieter numbers, O’Rourke convinced some of the rowdier folk with his cheeky smile that it would be worth it if they lent him their ears. 

Hits such as ‘Whatever Else Happens‘, ‘Sarah (Last Night in a Dream)‘, ‘A Little Something’, ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea’,  and the timeless ‘Galileo’ were intertwined with a new collection of songs about the Irish famine and a special commemoration piece about children who died during the Easter Rising of 1916.
Despite the heavier subjects of the newer songs O’Rourke kept things light with non-stop banter with the audience throughout the show. During the energetic ‘Lightning Bird Wind River Man’ he joked that his guitar was following the rhythm of a woman swaying at the back of deck.The pressure got a bit too much for the lady in question and when she then subsequently dropped her pint following his attention, she joined O’Rourke and the rest of the deck in fits of laughter.

More brevity came with the introduction of a new tune that discussed the tribulations of Irish immigrants and their voyage to Canada in the decades long ago. O’Rourke joked that he hoped “We won’t be abandoned by our captain Colm tonight”, a few bewildered looks followed when from the audience Colm, in his captain’s uniform, replied‘ “It’s grand lads I’m right here”.  

The Killary Fjord Boat Tour, which has been one of the most popular attractions in the West, for the last fifteen years, diverted from its usual 90 minute long return journey up the Fjord and  dropped anchor just off the harbour after a quick up and back to the nearby Killary Adventure Company. There were none of the usual dolphin sightings this evening, perhaps they were scared off from ripples caused by the rapturous applause and buoyant sing alongs that O’Rourke’s audience contributed throughout the night.  

The sun set shortly after 10.10 pm and before the boat returned to shore, new friendships had been forged, new fans had been earned by O’Rourke and a love for the breathtaking Leenane and Killary landscapes had been renewed.

All in all, an unforgettable and intimate experience that was enhanced by the beauty of the local surroundings.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

David Gray, Bryan Adams, Bell X1, Mundy, Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Westport Festival of Music and Food 2014

The sun was the guest of honour for two consecutive days as 15,000 revelers made their way to Westport House for the third annual Westport Festival of Music and Food. The blue sky was a fitting backdrop for the 70-plus acts and events that performed across six stages, all of which prospered thanks to the high quality lineup and the record attendance.

Day One   

David Bridgeman got things off to a nice chill start on Saturday, with the Wicklow native delivering an acoustic blend of hits from the likes of Newton Faulkner, Lorde and Foster the people, among others, as the venue started to slowly fill. Bridgeman was soon succeeded by Paddy Casey who quickly broke into a collection of hits, most of which carried with them years of radio airplay. He delighted those parked in front of the Main Stage with their fold-up chairs with renditions of ‘Living in this town’ and ‘The lucky one’, which unintentionally doubled as an adequate description for the sun-blessed fans and the picturesque setting that is Westport House.

Over on the Marquee Stage, the first act to really get things going, while simultaneously proving that the festival’s second stage had a lot to offer, was the Hot Sprockets. The five piece blasted out an energetic blues-rock set that captured the interest of many first-time listeners who will no-doubt welcome the band as a new addition to Spotify playlists. 

Some time later in the same tent, the impeccably-dressed Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain surprised fans with a setlist that presented a version like no other of Daft Punk’s ‘Get lucky’ and a “spooky” presentation of ‘Misirlou’, known to many as the theme tune to the movie Pulp Fiction.

This year Norah Casey made a welcomed return as the MC of the Chefs’ Kitchen and kept a collection of the country’s most well-respected chefs on their toes for the weekend. Festival alumnus Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain was one of the first chefs to highlight the central theme of the food tent – locally sourced ingredients. Although some of his ‘material’ was somewhat familiar from last year, Clarke’s onstage charisma with Casey set the tone for the fusion of light entertainment and culinary presentations that has come to be expected at the festival.

Saturday’s Comedy Tent line-up featured the exciting back to back billings of David Mc Savage and Ardal O’Hanlon. Most of Mc Savage’s ‘laugh until you cry through sheer mortification‘ set cannot be repeated in print, but rest assured the people got both what they expected and wanted. O’Hanlon then delivered a masterclass in standup comedy that was rich with both thought-provoking and observational humour. Meanwhile on the fantastic new RTÉ Radio 1 Off-Air Tent,  Oliver Callan gave an uncanny impression of the Taoiseach that left a few fans hoping that access to sensitive government information isn’t verified by voice recognition software.

By now, Croatian Cellists Luka Sulic And Stjepan Hauser, also known as 2Cellos were thrilling the slightly-sunburnt Main Stage Crowd to string renditions of Guns N’ Roses
and ACDC hits, the absence of vocals deterring few fans from a fully fledged sing along.

Soon after, Shane Filan, formerly of Westlife showcased his solo offerings with a sprinkling of more well-known hits with his new band. ‘Flying without wings’ and ‘Coast to coast’ were delivered in a quasi-karaoke style with many young men in the audience happy to attempt the vocal duties of the absent Mark Feehily.

Little Green Cars headlined The Róisín Dubh Stage on both nights of the festival, giving festival goers who were determined to avoid line-up clashes a second chance to hear the harmony-soaked hits such as ‘Harper lee’, ‘Please’, ‘Big red dragon’ and the beautiful ‘My love took me down to the river to silence me’.

Reports suggest that the Marquee Tent headliners, The Divine Comedy and front man Neil Hannon, suffered slightly from the crossover sounds from the Main Stage, but Hannon’s experience and showmanship shrugged this off soon enough.

Saturday came to a close with a captivating performance from David Gray, that saw thousands singing along to the familiar sounds of ‘Sail away with me’, ‘Every time I look at you’, and ‘This year’s love’. Louder and larger than life, perhaps at the expense of another stage or two, Gray’s performance and Saturday night climaxed with a well-received rendition of ‘Babylon’.


From behind some much-needed cloud cover the scorching sun greeted fans on the second day, shortly after the Clew Bay Pipe Band took to the Main Stage. One of last year’s favourites on the Marquee Stage, the popular band invited Mundy, Matt Molloy and Pete Williams from Dexys Midnight Runners to join them in their ascension to the centre spot.

One standout performance from Sunday came from Sophie Ellis-Bextor who debuted the first live airings in Ireland of her new album Wanderlust  at the festival. Half way through the set, the London-born singer, who was delighted to be at the Westport Festival of Music and food, emerged from behind a changing curtain to reveal a costume change that expressed with no uncertainty it was time for disco. Ellis-Bextor wowed fans with chart hit ‘Take me home’, a Nu-disco melody which included her own ‘Groovejet’, all topped off  by ‘Murder on the dancefloor’. She could be seen enjoying a well-deserved relaxing stroll through the festival grounds following the performance.

Mundy experienced some technical difficulties at his own set on Sunday afternoon, but nothing stopped the chorus of loyal fans that happily assisted with the likes of  ‘To you I bestow’ and ‘By her side’. Mundy joked that he had been out until 6 am with David McSavage on Saturday and then “woke up with a ‘savage eye’”. Anyone who encountered McSavage wandering around on Sunday might have questioned if it was indeed a joke.

A visible increase in festival goers on the second day of the festival put some pressure on the food stands around the arena, with large queues forming in the late afternoon. Once again the Saba stall proved to be very popular with revelers and the Cadden family were well equipped to meet the demand.

People were unsure what to expect from Sinéad O'Connor’s set before 6pm on Sunday, but a tweeted photo of O'Connor with bandmates shortly before set, which included Relish members Kenneth and Carl Papenfus, offered fans a notion of stability. What followed was a solid performance of songs such as ‘No man’s woman’, ‘Lay your head down’, and the warmly welcomed ‘Nothing compares 2U’. Not quite the singer she was in her prime, but a respectable performance nonetheless.

Back at the Chef’s Tent, Westport’s own Seamus Commons of Knockranny House Hotel proved, to me at least, that he would as been as comfortable in the Comedy Tent as he was in the culinary demonstration arena. Commons, who wasn’t short a sense of humour, demoed, among other things, the correct procedure for cooking rabbit in an almost full tent of audience members who hadn’t been lured away by the high-billed acts who had taken to the other stages.

Jack Lukeman, or Jack L as he is often known, closed out the nearby RTÉ Radio 1 Off-Air Tent with passionate performances of ‘Paint it black’ and ‘Georgie boy‘ to the delight of a few hundred fans who were determined to make the radio showcase tent a proper rock and roll stage before sunset.

As many of the crowd strolled towards the Main Stage to take their places for Kool and the Gang and Bryan Adams, the hotly tipped Daithí Ó Drónaí entertained an impressive sized crowd at The Róisín Dubh Stage on his own before being joined with guest vocalists  Liza Flume and Elaine Mai.

A delay from Kool and the Gang carried over into Bryan Adams setup time which ultimately saw the Canadian headliner’s set pushed back 20 mins. This gave many attendees the opportunity to pay a visit to Bell X1 at the Marquee Stage and bask in the crowd fueled chorus chants of ‘Rocky took a lover’, ‘My first born for a song’, ‘Four minute mile’, ‘Next to you’ and ‘The great defector’. The band got through most of this list before Adams had even got on stage. 

After a weekend of waiting, Bryan Adams rocked through the crowd favourites of ‘I do it for you’, ‘Best of me’, ‘Cloud number 9’, ‘Summer of 69’, ‘When you’re gone’ and ‘Run to you’. An over correction of sound in the aftermath of the David Gray performance meant that tonight the Marquee Stage was infringing on the Main Stage, causing Adams to joke if the band headlining there might be more comfortable playing on his stage. Adams impressed his many hardcore fans that had bought a sunday ticket just to seethe Ontario rocker and provided a suitable close to the weekend for others. The Westport Festival of Music and Food 2014 was topped off with the now signatory, lavish fireworks show that could be seen all the way from the Ballinrobe Road. As the last spark ignited the night sky, a question undoubtedly pondered by many spectators was ‘How on earth could this be topped next Year?’

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mime Dancing -- Mick Jagger and David Bowie -- doing a mess about for Dancing in the Street without playback

A gift from the gods of production

Mick Jagger and David Bowie doing a mess about for the Dancing in the Street video without playback

Big nod to Graham Linehan for finding this

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Strange Exchange With Bryan Adams

Recently I was granted the pleasure of interviewing Canadian musician Bryan Adams on the build up to his Irish headline performances.
I was told that it had to be email and Q and A format at the request of his management. The responses that followed some months later shed a light on the previously unknown part of Bryan Adam's 'unique' sense of humour. I wasn't ready for the word 'twerk'.

1.       You headlined the world famous Slane festival in Ireland a number of years ago. With that experience in mind, how do you find playing for an Irish Crowd?

BA: you turn left at Scotland

2.       There’s criticism that US and Canadian audiences don’t sing along at concerts? Have you noticed this difference when you are playing European dates? How do you get the crowds going?

BA: Yes it’s true, but it’s probably because they don’t allow alcohol at most shows in N. America.

3.       You have obviously had a long and successful career. Looking at how saturated the music market is now and how easy it has become to release music with social media etc., how well do you think you would do if you were just starting off now?

BA: Since I’m shite at twerking, I’d probably be forgotten at the bottom of the dustbin of time

4.       How does it feel to still play songs like summer of 69, cloud number 9, I do it for you? Can you enjoy them as much as you did back when they were first released, or is it a case of just doing it for the fans?

BA: I love those songs, are you kidding? Without them in the show, you might as well stay home

5.       What pre-show rituals do you have?

BA: We do a group tooth flossing, a series of star jumps, followed by a Madonna prayer ritual. If it’s a big show, we do all of them at the same time

6.       What music are you currently listening to?

BA: My new album called “Tracks Of My Years” which comes out in September. 

7.       Are you a fan of, or are you familiar with any other of the bands on the lineup? 

BA: Kool & the Gang, David Gray? Of course, how could you not love them? I just asked my 3 year old daughter what she thought of them and when she didn’t respond I asked if she thought they were cuddly, and she said Yes. So there you have it.

The Head Villager

A look back at a classic interview from 2008 with Conor J O'Brien conducted months before he embarked on a successful solo career

“I wrote my first song when I was twelve and it was called ‘Psychic’ and it had the line; ‘when I’m walking down these streets I feel like a monkey in the arctic’. I could play six chords back then.” Says Conor proudly. You can tell straight away that Conor O’Brien is a person who was set on his rightful path from the start. Now 13 years after his school boy music days he is a professional musician at every sense of the word. Around the comfortable living room a Vintage made acoustic guitar stands up straight, ever ready in case inspiration hits. “This is what I always wanted to do”, Conor continues, “My parents weren’t musical at all but they let me play music very loud from a young age. I think because I was the youngest of three in our house in Dun Laoighre that I got away with it At one stage I had a full blown band with drums and all in our bungalow, I shudder to think what the neighbours thought.”

After receiving a coveted nomination for the Choice Music Award with his band ‘The Immediate’ in 2006, Conor has now found himself responsible for another nomination this year as lead guitarist and joint song writer with the successful Irish artist Cathy Davey. Conor had been writing the album ‘Tales of Silversleeve’ with Cathy while he was still touring with The Immediate. At the time he managed to help write a top selling album with Cathy, and still drive his own band ever forward towards success. The band split in early 2007 due to musical differences. “Back then I didn’t think the band was going to end at all”, explains Conor, “I reckoned we (The Immediate) would go back touring and she’d (Cathy) be doing her own thing”. He sits relaxed and casual when answering questions of ‘what could have been’ if the band had stayed together. He has no bitter feelings and assures me that there are no personal problems among the band members as a result of the split. 

The current tour with Cathy Davey is going well, with tour dates sold out across the country in Cypress Avenue in Cork and Whelan’s in Dublin. Although he’s not the front man in this band his song writing and guitar playing skills are currently being displayed on a national level as he performs with the lovely Cathy Davey. 
Conor has already had a busy new year representing the Irish music industry in Holland at Eurosonic, the European music exchange alongside Cathy Davey. The choice music award is not the only De-Ja-Vu for Conor this year. Once again he finds himself performing at the Meteor Awards show in Dublin. “Ireland seems to be a bank for some of the world’s biggest musicians” he shares “The Meteors has great marketing potential to release albums and acts”. As Conor answers my questions, a content and peaceful expression stays on his face. He isn’t afraid to admit he doesn’t know the answers to some questions, and offers as much of an explanation as possible to every open ended question I throw at him. He willingly talks about The Immediate, despite  his band  coming under spotlight again before Christmas when a former band mate wrote an article in The Irish Independent detailing his reasons why the band split.     

Even though The Immediate dissolved without any hate or bloodshed its hard not to imagine what level of success they would have now. The band were a long time in the making starting back when David Hedderman, Conor O'Brien, Peter Toomey, and Barra Heavey attended St Conleth’s College in Ballsbridge. While Conor and fellow Immediate front man Dave were at school, their knowledge and taste of music was influenced by their school care-taker who taught them about ‘The Kinks’, ‘The Velvet Underground” and ‘Pink Floyd’. “At lunch time me and two of the other guys would organise concerts and stuff in empty classes”, Conor reminisces. It’s clear that developing The Immediate was a full time job. The band thrived on the idea of ‘making it’ and attempted various methods including throwing their demo up onstage at a Manic Street Preachers gig, as well as dropping a copy into Folk rapping legend Beck Hanson’s shopping bag while he visited Dublin. The Immediate released their first single ‘Never Seen/Say This’ on Fierce Panda Records in 2005. The single was picked up by famous English rock stations BBC Radio One and XFM. Television spots on Channel 4’s show: “Road to V Festival” and a place on Hotpress’ ‘Murphy’s live tour CD’, showed progression in the right direction. The lads entered Jacobs Studios in Surrey to record their debut LP with US producer Chris Shaw a talented music guru who has worked with the likes of Wilco, Super Furry Animals, Public Enemy, and Bob Dylan. The first recordings from this session were released in April 2006 as the acclaimed ‘Make our Devils Flow’, which was a four track EP on CD and 7" double-pack. The album In ‘Towers & Clouds’, released in the same year, was nominated for the Choice Music Prize. The band famously swapped instruments during shows. Everyone did their part. “At the start we all wrote a bit. When the band progressed Dave and I wrote more and more, but we kept the template or formula of swapping instruments, just because we always did. For years we had to make up reasons why we did it in when asked in interviews.” reveals Conor.

 Conor bounced back well from the split of the band many DJ’s said to have ‘unlimited potential’. He is still touring and working closely with Cathy. Despite this new exciting partnership in music, he admits that some tedious aspects of being a professional musician never change. “The worst is after a sound-check in a random place and you have to fill blank hours before the gig.” Conor’s smile drifts for a millisecond as he no doubt remembers a time when he forgot to bring an I-pod or a book on tour. As we discuss directions of music and formats of song release, the impression that Conor is an old soul, wise beyond his years is ever present. “It seems that as the technology gets better with mp3 etc. the quality of the music compared to the old 12 inch records seems to go down.” He continues; “but at the same time we can listen to more music and transport even more music with us but that’s kind of bad too, ‘because you won’t be obsessed with one band like you used to be when you were a kid.”
  With Cathy’s album ‘Tales Of Silversleeve’ released this year, Conor spent his time between tour dates, home, and travelling to various media and press outings as well as  radio slots on Ray Darcy, Ryan Tubridy, and Rick O’Shea. 2007 was a busy year for albums and Conor admits that he was taken aback by an artist called ‘Grizzly Bear’. “I respect bands like this really making a specific sound purely ‘because they feel they need to make it, as opposed to chasing after album sales. I also love Cathy’s album, even if I didn’t help write it I’d still love it.” He jokes about cult bands sacrificing good song-writing when they make it onto mainstream labels, (namely Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon’s 2007 releases), but then admits that he may have prematurely judged both respectively because he; “recently heard some songs of the new albums that blew me away”.
     The topic of travel arises and Conor hopes that one day his music will take him to Africa and explains how a taxi driver recently set him up with a huge list of bands to check out for when he makes it that far. “I’d love to experience that complete opposite end of music”, despite his old soul these words hint that he has many years of travel and musical adventures ahead.