Analog: An Urban Festival For Urban People.

The Analog festival, which was held in Dublin’s Docklands the weekend before last, was that rare beast: a sophisticated, trouble-free, imaginative and well-run event that I hope will become a mainstay on the Irish music festival calendar. What strikes you first is the location: Grand Canal Square, which is slap-bang in the heart of the new shining city-within-a-city that is Dublin’s Docklands. The concert area is situated within residential apartment blocks, corporate, glass-fronted structures and a one or two unfinished buildings. Here and there, cranes rise up into the sky like odd, alien-like creatures. With construction work halted for the weekend, they appear strangely forlorn and useless. The cranes are transient structures of course but one permanent fixture are the strange red poles sticking out of the ground at curious angles to each other. As evening descends, they light up, flicker and glow.

The music on the first night was provided by Hal Willner’s Rogues Gallery, featuring a redoubtable rag-bag of rock and folkie types plus one major Hollywood actor in the shape of Tim Robbins, all providing their own interpretations of various pirate ballads and sea-chanteys. Oh, and Lou Reed was there too. Come to think of it there were a lot of quite interesting people up on stage. Linda Thompson and her talented offspring Teddy and Kamila, Shane MacGowan, Martin and Eliza Carthy, Chris Difford of Squeeze, Neil Hannon, Rachel Unthank and the impossibly beautiful Langley Sisters, among many others. It is here we must mention the Virgin Prunes, who played their first gig together for twenty five years, renamed tonight as ‘Three Pruned Men’ . They were strangely unforgettable by being so dreadful but from what I’ve read, they were dreadful twenty five years ago also, so no change there then. Guggi, Gavin ‘I’m Bono’s pal,me’ Friday were joined by their old cohort Dave Id Busaras who is clearly insane. He stalked, pranced and growled his way around the stage like a man who had been released from a mental institution that very day. Maybe that’s where he was for the last twenty five years. Poor Tim Robbins didn’t know where to look. Nurse!

Saturday night featured some explorative-rock fare with a triple bill of Liars, Efterklang and Tortoise. Liars though did little for me, their unconvincing Krautrockisms proving mightily tiresome . The band I was really there for were Denmark’s Efterklang (above) who released one of my favourite albums of the last few years, the remarkable ‘Parades’. It’s a gorgeous, otherworldly and utterly uncatergorisable piece of work. Tonight they look a little daft though, dressed as they are in a curious set-up of white britches, white shirts and neckerchiefs, presumably a sartorial nod to the country of their birth. They are more energetic and Arcade Fire-like than I expected but ultimately they don’t disappoint. After this, we are treated to a rare outing from Tortoise but an hour or so of their experimental, freeform jazz-rock is over too soon. Blame the curfew. 

Roll on Analog 2009. 

Some nice photos here…


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