FolkWorld Live Review 04/01:

WhirlyGig at The Shelter

pre Patrick's day gig in Dublin's Vicar Street

By Kathy-Ann Tan

Album Cover With a dress-sense like the British group Madness- yes, hats, suits, shades and all- and the sound of the early Pogues, this band set the venue alight wherever they perform. With a core group of five (Liam Donohoe on vox and guitars, Patrick Quinn on guitar, Declan Quinn on whistles and flute, Eugene Quinn on banjo and mandolin, and Brendan O'Sullivan on fiddle, er-hu and thumb-piano), the band got some extra help that night on stage with Brian Fleming on bodhran and percussion, Martin O'Keefe on double bass, Vyvienne Long on cello, Hugh Healy on concertina and extra special guest Tanya Lowe who came on briefly to sing a duet with Liam called Smokescreen. File the music under what you will- 'urban trad', 'world/folk', 'contemporary.

Irish music' are some of the suggestions on the back cover of their second CD- the tunes were a fine blend of feisty polkas and reels, interspersed with a handful of songs sung passionately by Liam. The band's songwriting process is influenced by everyday experiences; a trip to China in January 1999 for example, enriched their young creative minds with sounds from a more oriental tradition, resulting in track 7 on their second album, 'Ming, The Trip to Beijing' (which is actually the theme from Bertolucci's film 'The Last Emperor', originally written by David Byrne). This album also features a cover of the Beatles' number, 'Eleanor Rigby', and 'An Clár Bog Deal', a sean-nós sung by Liam.

Album Cover The Shelter at Vicar St. is intimate enough as a venue- the embarrassment at being the first one to stroll in with a few other friends was quelled and replaced by a sense of anticipation as the place began to fill up quite nicely. There was definitely a good buzz in the room as the band interacted amicably with the audience. Declan excused himself for his false start- twice!- on the whistle, saying 'It's hard enough to see up here on stage!', to which the crowd guffawed appreciatively. My favourite pieces were probably 'A Romp in F Major' and 'Blues Explosion' which wrapped up the set (ok ok- maybe the lads did look a bit more like the Blues Brothers than Madness.)

What with St. Paddy's Day (even better, St. Paddy's Weekend!) rounding the corner, this was certainly a good start to festivities. Somehow the idea of being squashed in a pub on Paddy's day, sucking your Guinness from a straw because there's no room for elbow movement, does not appeal to me greatly, so the WhirlyGig gig (try that one for a tongue-twister!) went down very well indeed. I hope the lads make it big. And not just because their CD cover shows a picture of a Balie Atha Cliath ('Dublin', for the un-initiated!) reg-ed car with front bumper lodged into a lamppost. I think I'll hang on to this one.

WhirlyGig's debut self-titled release and its follow-up, 'In Bed with WhirlyGig' is available in all good music shops- or order a copy from which is the band's website. The band can be contacted by email at

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 4/2001

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