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Saturday night, Focus, Mullingar, July

Ostensibly, an event held in conjunction with the Bachelor Festival in Mullingar, Focus also served as a showcase for indigenous talent to strut its stuff. Featuring a combination of the unknown and the well-known, the local and the international, it seemed like a good opportunity to check out the state of Irish dance music. First up was Soul Surgin' who played full-on techno to about 10 people and it was a pity he was billed so early because he was far better than most of the acts who took the stage after him.

Locals, Joymonkey, were next and as a homage to Orbital they weren't that bad. They do, however, lack originality and annoyingly kept the bpms at a constant pace rather than keeping them in a state of flux like their heroes do. Ambulance, meanwhile, managed to keep my attention for spurts of 30 seconds but, in general, their turntable twiddling left my thumbs twiddling in anticipation of the next act. Rohan enlightened the mood somewhat with an excellent set as far away from the anal retentiveness drum n' bass too often provides as Third Eye Surfers is from being called "talented".

Third Eye Surfers is an attempt at an Irish hip-hop crew, but is in reality a cliché-ridden pastiche with zero talent and even less charisma. Influx should be embarrassed to be associated with them. Their rhymes are poor and they can't freestyle. What they do spout is largely a regurgitation of dated phrases. When they left the crowd response was non-existent. No clapping, no cheering… just silence. So when one member said "Mullingar, you've been great," I was left wondering whether they usually get stoned off the stage. At this point, the night seemed destined to be a major letdown, but redsettaz came on and things started to change. Realising that everybody wanted to dance they served up funky beats with a techno vibe, playing it at a far faster pace than is normal for them. It worked and this was undoubtedly the best I have ever seen them. More importantly others thought so too.

Andy from 808 State continued the night's renaissance and, in stark contrast to their performance in Vicar Street, served up a superb set. Finally Gedge and Warren K came on and did their thing. Starting slowly, within twenty minutes they had moved into prime form and the temporary flooring was bouncing to the effect of stomping feet. Focus, thus, proved to be a night of contrasts. We probably arrived too early because, if we had come during Rohan's set, the night would have seemed superb. As it was, too many of the early acts were just not up to scratch, while Third Eye Surfers should have their microphones taken away for noise pollution. Still, the last three hours made up for it with the potential shown by redsettaz worth seeing in itself.

Neil Callanan

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