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Critics' guide to going out

Friday January 22

Kode 9, Twisted Pepper, Dublin 1

There is a good case for claiming that Kode 9 is one of the most influential figures currently working in electronic music. A founding member of Hyperdub Records, Kode 9 is responsible for bringing the music of Burial, the best producer of the past decade, to the ears of the world at large. The name on his passport is Steve Goodman and he's also an unlikely academic. Just before Christmas, he published a tome entitled Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Expect plenty of bass-heavy sonic warfare tonight in the Pepper. www.bodytonicmusic.com


Maeve Higgins, Draiocht, Blanchardstown

Should fake tan be swallowed for maximum effect and why won't the Government provide floating plastic swans as a cool new form of public transport? These and many other vital questions will be pondered by the queen of Irish comedy -- Maeve Higgins (right). Presenting her new show, Blabbing Away, Higgins will be mixing fact, advice, recipes, stupidity and a lot of blabbing. She promises not to bore you and will include at least one catchphrase in each show, such as "What's good for the goose is good for the gander". Higgins confirms that, despite much evidence to the contrary, we Irish women can indeed be funny. www.draiocht.ie


Brothers, General Release

It has been five years since Jim Sheridan last directed a film, but he's back with a bang with this weighty and absorbing drama that blends the themes of war trauma and filial tensions. Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal play Sam and Tommy Cahill, two middle-American brothers whose lives have turned out very differently. While Sam has followed his stern Vietnam veteran father into the US Marines, Tommy has drifted into a life of petty crime. But when Sam disappears while on duty in Afghanistan, Tommy begins helping out Sam's wife, Gracie, and her kids. Sam is presumed dead but isn't, and when he comes back, he's traumatised by his experiences and increasingly paranoid about what has been happening while he was away. Maguire and Gyllenhaal are very good as the brothers, and Sam Shepard delivers a memorable turn as their austere and scary father.


Natalie Merchant, Whelan's, Dublin 2

As leader of 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant (below) was at the forefront of the US alternative rock scene that flourished in the 80s. A subsequent solo career enhanced her reputation as an astute songwriter and performer. So, too, did a series of choice collaborations, not least with REM's Michael Stipe. After a productive career, Merchant has been quiet since her 2003 album, The House Carpenter's Daughter, but fans can expect to hear new material at this show. A fifth solo album, Leave Your Sleep, is slated for release on February 26. www.whelanslive.com


Little Gem, Peacock Theatre, Dublin 1

Beginning with a party and ending with a birth and a funeral, the whole cycle of life is served up in Elaine Murphy's award-winning theatrical debut. Living up to its title, it plays out in a trio of interwoven monologues from a daughter, mother and a grandmother. It builds a touching portrait of three women's unremarkable but fully lived lives. Little Gem's narrators are lippy teenager Amber, who enjoys nothing better than a night on the town downing sambucas; her mother, Lorraine, who is a compulsive cleaner who hasn't had sex since she changed the locks to keep out her abusive husband; and her enduringly optimistic Nan Kay, whose days are taken up with caring for her stroke-victim husband. www.abbeytheatre.ie


Temple Bar Trad Fest, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Temple Bar may rarely be short of a session, but Wednesday sees the start of a veritable binge, with the now annual five-day Trad Fest. There's a parade (Sunday January 31) by Buí Bolg, an exhibition of photographs on the history of trad in Dublin film screenings, family events and a pub trail. But the centrepiece, of course, is the music. Among the line-up are Arty McGlynn, the Hounds of Ulster Flute Band, Finbar Furey, Noel Hill, Tony Linnane and the trad girl band, Liadán. January 31 sees the outdoor Céilí Mór take over Meeting House Square, to the sounds of the Kilfenora Céilí Band. Details from www.templebartrad.com


Ardal O'Hanlon, Iontas, Castleblaney, Monaghan

Regardless of how many slithering politicians and mild-mannered superheroes he plays, Ardal O'Hanlon (above right) will forever be Father Dougal Maguire. Mind you, there are many heavier crosses to bear and Ardal is certainly not letting a naïve curate get in the way of his enduring stand-up career. Ardal is part of the very foundations of the Irish stand-up circuit, having established the first alternative comedy club upstairs in the International Bar (ironically called the Comedy Cellar) with a gang of mates. His brand of observational comedy is not controversy for controversy's sake, which makes a refreshing change these days. And this Monaghan date is the first night in a major Irish tour. www.vicarstreet.com

Irish Independent