Not much sparkle in the showcase

THE showcase mentality is slowly dying out in Irish rock, but the Irish Music Rights Organisation is trying to keep it alive …

THE showcase mentality is slowly dying out in Irish rock, but the Irish Music Rights Organisation is trying to keep it alive with its annual series of gigs in various venues around the country. Showcasing is often another word for self glorifying, but with fifty different bands sharing the bill on these dates the temptation to grandstand is thankfully avoided.

This year's IMRO Showcase Nights kicked off in Whelans of Wexford Street last night and it continues throughout the month with gigs in Limerick, Wexford, Galway, Bray, Waterford, Cork, Castlebar, Clonmel and Belfast. It's the fourth live outing for the national society for composers, authors and publishers, and it provides an opportunity for A & R men to see a large number of bands in a short space of time, should they feel inclined to.

The first night featured four bands - Blush, Mockin' Bird, Oblivion Junior and The St. Judes - and although each group put its best foot forward they didn't stand much chance of getting the chequebooks waving.

Oblivion Junior were a trio of American slacker wannabes, but they aspired more to Neil Young and Crazy Horse than to Pearl Jam. They played it pretty fast and loose, trading Ride style twin vocals and sticking firmly to the familiar Seventies riffs. The band has a single, Dedicated, which shows that Obl. Jr. at least put a bit of effort into it.


Mockin' Bird were eager to prove that they were right on song, and they belted out their first number, Crooked Man, with all the dedication of a serious rock act. Songs like Teenage Head and Downhill, however, showed that the band lacked the imagination to match their enthusiasm. In the end, it seemed that we were listening to just another variation on an Aslan/Emotional Fish theme.

The last band, The St. Judes, also made a strong start, but quickly lost the momentum with some awkward, insipid tunes which the singer's over sincere intonation couldn't revive. Again, the problem lay not only with the songs, which were nondescript and noncommittal, but also with the delivery, which was cliched and dated. Why Can't I Be As Cool As You? was typical of the band's jangly, trainspotting style, and showed them up as just another bunch of reckless pedestrians.

All fifty band on the IMRO Showcase Nights will have their demo tape sent to three major record companies in London, and the organisers claim that every tape will be listened to. If last night is anything to go by, then the London A & R men will hear an Irish indie scene which slayishly follows recent trends in the US and the UK and still clings to the old dream of getting a record deal without actually having any great ideas.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist