REVIEW: FLAME festival at the Grand Social

Michael Lanigan

Staff Writer

Friday night at the Grand Social played host to MiXiM’s inaugural culture festival F.L.A.M.E. (Fashion, Live, Arts, Music, Entertainment), with what should appear to be the first in a series of similar events scheduled for the coming year. Complete with an array of offbeat and eclectic sights and sounds occupying all available space in the upstairs bar, the level of energy and intrigue did not let up for the duration of the night. To put it simply, by the time that the first band hopped offstage, the mood surrounding the venue was positively glowing, as if I had stumbled upon an Electric Picnic outreach.

What gave the night its thrill was the noticeable absence of any DJ, sampler, or screen in sight, bar the one downstairs, displaying old photographs of Heather and Amber in celebration of their eighteenth birthdays. Everything besides that was tangible. This much surprised me, considering I have always associated Grand Social and indeed, every Dublin club with that guy behind a laptop, freaking out as he gives the beat a swift right click, or loses himself in the moment when pressing the Any key.

First and perhaps, the most stunning of the attractions came from live-painter Barry Jazz Finnegan. A charcoal sketcher by trade, his performance, if that is what I should call it made the creative process of art an event in itself, rather than merely our observing of a finished product. With a major online following and repertoire including iconoclast portraits of Phil Lynott, on this occasion Bob Marley and cinematic scenes from Hannibal, Breaking Bad and Leon: The Professional, virtually everybody at some stage, or another stopped in their tracks to admire the Dublin based artists deft handwork.

His eye for capturing definitive features, in concise and intricate ways led to my visiting his corner once every ten minutes, simply to marvel upon the same miniscule aspects, which on each viewing would change from broad sweeps, to fine detail and back again. It was almost a disorienting optical illusion in terms of how he attacked the canvas.

Moving about the picture, smudging marks here and there at a violently rapid pace, it was fortunate to find him positioned the middle of the room. To spend even a moment away from the process, I felt as if I might miss out on a decisive stroke, hence, I seldom kept his activity out of eyeshot.

Meanwhile, balancing the realistic charcoal work with a grittier, alternative style of art, on the opposite side of the main room, a young street artist and IADT student, under the nom-de-plume of Crept, armed with markers and spray paint had his way with a large white canvas for different purposes. Insisting that he maintained his anonymity, it was a breath of fresh air to see a graffiti artist staying true to the ethos of taking little credit for a piece, since street art really ought not to have sentimentality, or ego.

Mind you, I have never felt as square as I did when he had to remind me of this unwritten rule, but I will blame Banksy’s brand for my slip up.

On the food front, Rob FitzGerald, from Married with Cauldron, appeared to be going down a hit with those in attendance. I say ‘appeared’, because quantity was not exactly his main concern. Were it not for the fact that he had vanished by nine, I may have been able to consume more than just one mixed bean falafel with spicy ketchup. While not entirely unimpressed with the sample, considering it had the desired effect of heating my insides after escaping the freezing cold outdoors, I know that it would have been much more satisfying was it not for the fact that he packed the recipe into a cold hot dog bun.

Granted, the falafel’s rich and savoury kick complimented the sweetness and the mild spice of the ketchup, but I found myself enduring long treks through that bun before I could locate the good stuff. I don’t think anyone can bear untoasted, sugary sponge bread, when a simple pitta would have sufficed.

Although not completely frustrating to consume, the moments stuck chewing bread alone felt like a slight punishment before the reward. I am not sure, maybe some people adore distaste, contrasted with pleasure. However, personally, I do not want my food to feel like polite sadomasochism. Give me M and S, not S and M.

Once I had escaped the bun debacle, I made my way into the main stage for the first of four music acts, opening with Just Mikey, a local rapper, who had only performed once before onstage, two years prior not that I would have guessed that fact for a moment, given his stunning ability to captivate the crowd. It really is one of those rock’n’roll myths that you read about, wherein the opening act manages to blow almost everyone else off the stage, but on this occasion this was a reality. From the first song onward, the young MC and his acoustic backing band had the hairs standing on the back of my neck as I met with bleak, but hypnotising lyrics about cancer, domestic abuse and depression.

Yes, you might be excused for thinking that sounds just like the Original Rudeboys, but I can assure you that this was the real deal and I quote; “I’m not a rudeboy, I’m just original”. A man after my own heart, thank you, that statement alone merits a five star rating in my book.

Next up was Kapital, a tight four piece, whose Stereophonic mainstream lad rock was never going to win me over, but they certainly made a noble effort to try. Their energy as a unified front and the lead guitarists playing, akin to mid-career Manic Street Preachers was exciting enough. However, frequent self-promotion between songs, flogging singles and pointing out their presence on iTunes was slightly irritating, by contrast to the previous act, which had proven that a strong set would turn heads without needing to resort to advertising. Next time, just play the fucking songs and let us choose to search you out.

Third on the bill was the Ratting Kind, who blended traditional Irish folk music with psychedelic undertones. Jumping from modern Irish ballads, to intense renditions of classics, such as Rocky Road to Dublin, it came as no surprise to find that they have appeared twice on the Love Hate soundtrack. Their lead vocalist was reminiscent of early Bob Dylan at times and his power as a frontman, I rarely spot outside watching archival footage of Joe Strummer’s live performances.

If they follow up on their offering Just Mikey to try a collaboration sometime soon, then I urge you to drop everything you are doing and track down those songs with all your might.

Finally, Leaders of Men took to the stage with their commercial version of Joy Division and post-punk music. Looking the part as dark creative souls, thankfully, they had songs too, oftentimes hypnotic, coming across as if the earliest Sonic Youth albums cleaned themselves up with accessible hooks and vocal harmonies.

In my opinion and I do not speak for the crowd who clearly adored the set, they are to Bauhaus, what Mumford and Sons are to Fairpoint Convention. They might go far in a commercial sense, but they will definitely go as far away from my record collection as I can possibly put them.

That said I must give them praise for sending us off on a high note with chants of ‘Free Justin’, Jeff Buckley-esque wails and an explosive closing crescendo. With the final notes resonating through the woodwork, everybody went into the beer garden, raving about Just Mikey and rightly so. But alas, as with every night, in marched the Zach Galifianakis lookalike competition, tugging at sleeves requesting bro-photos and pills.

If there was any greater signal for me to leave, this was my chance to quit before the night went stale and indeed, it has left me looking forward to MiXiM’s next night in March with great optimism. Showcases are often strewn with a dud, or two, but I must say that for a first effort, the positives of the night outweighed the negatives without question.

Matthew Mulligan

Matthew is Editor for the 62nd volume of Trinity News. He is a Sociology and Social Policy graduate and was previously Deputy Editor of tn2 Magazine.