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Streetwise - In The City
Last month saw the biggest festival of the year hitting Dublin. Formally Mancunian, the In The City festival is devoted to provide a showcase for unsigned bands. In Dublin signed bands almost outnumbered unsigned ones, and public interest focused on the well known faces. Sorted magazine, alert as ever, tried to sent a team into the urban jungle to bring you the vibes, the moves and the beats off the streets of Dublin City.

Reporting are the streetwise sextet of: Niall Byrne, Donnacha DeLong, Anja Ekelof, Olivia Fox, Kenneth Foxe, and Joan O'Malley.

Saturday - Compulsion, the Driven, Sun & Boomshack. Having spent the morning looking for fellow journalist Niall, and not finding him, we had to go to work. We legged it to the Temple Bar Music Center at around ten and got there just as the first band, Boomshack, finished. A few drinks erased memories of a chaotic day and allowed us to enjoy the rest of the bands. Sun were a fun band who sounded like the Wildhearts. Visually they weren't your normal rock types - clean-cut bespectacled singer, skin-head drummer and hippie guitarist.The Driven were a revelation. It's a long time since we've heard such an original sound from a new band. They were reminiscent of Grant Lee Buffalo and Hüsker Dü's quieter moments, but they had a sound all of their own. Strong, tuneful vocals and punk rock acoustic guitars were the order of the day.Finally, Compulsion were loud, brash and bleach-blonde. Great if you like your punk old-style, not so great if you don't.

Sunday - Heidi Berry & Jack L. Arriving at Whelan's, we were greeted by a long queue, but as journos, we did our usual trick of pushing our way up front and uttering the magic words "We're on the guest-list". Unfortunately, the previous gig had run on and we had to wait like everyone else. So much for journalistic privileges.Of course, we did eventually get in free.Heidi Berry's neo-folk came alive in the intimate setting of Whelan's. This is the kind of thing the venue was built for - strong vocals, lilting violin and beautiful music.We remember her being really good, but the moment Jack L stepped on stage, memories of Heidi rapidly faded. Jack was incredible. With a voice that could fill Croke Park, let alone somewhere as small as Whelan's, he sang a mix of his own material and songs by the greatest song-writers ever - Brel, Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen. Hallelujah was spine tingling, Lockman was unearthly and Jacky had people (OK one person and Jack) dancing on the tables. The hours went like seconds and left us with a thirst for more.

Tuesday - Setanta Night.In a vain effort to recover from the hectic weekend, we took Monday off, but we were still suffering from iTc-lag on Tuesday. Waiting around for 3 hours in the Olympia to interview the Cork-lads from the Frank and Walters didn't help.We finally dragged ourselves to the Olympia around half ten to catch the last two sets. When we got there we found that the magic words "We're on the guest-list" had completely lost their power. MCD had closed the guest-list and the jobs-worth bouncer wouldn't leave his post at the door to find someone to help us.After spending an hour around the back-stage door, two amazing things happened. One, the singer from the Harvest Ministers gave us a backstage pass. Two, one of the Franks, having heard of our predicament, appeared with another. We were in. What we saw of the Divine Comedy at this late stage, after missing all the other acts, was hardly worth the hassle of getting in. Maybe our bad experiences of the day coloured the gig, but Neil did not seem as incredible as on previous occasions.After the gig, we went to the bar to receive the free pints we'd heard about only to find that the free pints cost £2.85.Disappointed with the day, we decided to quench our gig-thirst with some more Jack L. With Ken and Anja in tow, we hiked up to the Da Club only to be told that Jack had laryngitis and had canceled. It was a desolate foursome that shared a taxi home. A rather anti-climactic end to the iTc festival.

Frank - In The Shitty.

This alternative to In the City was staged at the Old China Man in Ship Street. The mini-event sought to ignore and to be ignored. There were no luvvies, no darlings, no VIPs, no false starts, and definitely no turkeys.Striknien DC poisoned a fix loving audience with needle precision with songs like 'Trick or Treat'. Bunny Hoover turned on the power and sucked complacency out of a sleeping city. Cheapskate, Stagnation, Holochrist and Sissy Pinko impressed with their raw talent and industrious work rate. A tad rough 'round the edges, but this alternative festival was always going to be more ambulance than ambience.

Anja & Ken

SUNDAY - GAVIN FRIDAY Back in Dublin after a summer in Paris where my entertainment highlight was dancing in Place de la Bastille on Bastille day to a band that had no doubt been there since 1789. Landing in the middle of the In the City festival made me more than happy, with Gavin Friday playing on my arrival in the Olympia that Sunday.Hyperborea acted as support to Mr Friday. Unfortunately the ambience was not the right one for these ambient tunes. In a different setting - like perhaps somewhere you could dance - Hyperborea would be hyper, but the Olympia worked against them. Never mind. The main musical survivor of the late Virgin Prunes, Gavin Friday looked better than ever, well-clad in a black suit and a very bizarre dance-style. Accompanied by Maurice Seezer on all sorts of keyboards, as well as a celloist and a man who played various wind-instruments, Gavin gave a brilliant show of material mainly from his latest album, Shag Tobacco.

He even hoped the evening would be a "long, slow, sexy shag" - to which the audience consented fully. Mr Friday has a wonderful voice and unlike his pal Mr Bono, he can actually sing live. When he sang his tribute to the late Bill Graham, "The Last Song I'll Ever Sing", I can't have been the only one to be deeply moved.

Gavin Friday is though most of all an entertainer, describing himself as "an acquired taste" but it's not that hard to get your taste-buds round him.TUESDAY - BILLY BRAGG, SETANTATwo days later. We're travelling on the 19A bus going to the Mean Fiddler to see Billy Bragg. The bus is full of intoxicated junior-certers going in for a night on the town, one of them is puking his guts out.

However, the trials of the bus-journey were nothing compared to the trouble of getting in to see Billy Bragg when your name is supposed to be on "The Guestlist" and isn't. We wandered back down to the Olympia for a Setanta special instead.The holy Guestlist worked better in the Olympia and we even got yellow stickers with the word "Guest" which I proudly flaunted to Ken's embarrassment.We arrived in time to see the Frank and Walters leave the stage which was a pity but we blamed Billy Bragg. Next up were A House who I never really liked, last time I saw them live was in a rainy Thurles in 1992. This time I was surprised because they were actually good.After this The Frank and Walters reappeared and played a short but sweet encore. The Olympia was jumping and sweating with a lot of very young people (people that were just about born when Frank and Walters were in their heyday.).The last item on the agenda was the lovely gentleman Neil Hannon with his Divine Comedy. On the stage we now had six identically dressed men looking - as Roxette would put it - sharp. They performed songs mainly from the album (Casanova) reeling off Hannon's latest gems . The sound created by the band was heavier and faster then on the album which was perfect for the occasion. After the gig I concluded that Neil Hannon is in fact a genius. He is a superstar in the making so see him when you can. All in all our In the City evenings can be summed up in the words of Neil Hannon (add posh accent) as "Jolly Good!"


Howard Marks "was Britain's most wanted man. He has just spent seven years in America's toughest penitentiary. You'll like him."

After this you automatically decide that you will not and will never like him. Despite the world's columnists having testified that he is a man dripping with charm; despite the fact he is invariably declared to be an awfully nice chap or a dead nice bloke.Smuggling hash made Howard Marks Mr. Nice. This was one of his forty-three aliases, and the one he ironically deems to suit him most. Marks evaded the Drugs Enforcement Agency for years until convicted in 1988 and sentenced to twenty-five years.In April of last year, he was released to write his autobiography and to give performances such as this vox n' roll thing.

So much for this particular performance; Marks' warm Welsh burr wasn't up to reading, and while the man himself was animated and expressive, spoken word performances aren't quite the same once you've lost your voice.

Was he nice? Hard to tell when he couldn't talk.

by Joan O'Malley.