Loaded: An old castle for a new Emperor
This is shaping up to be a quite a year for music fans in Offaly. Not only do Biffos have Castlepalooza in Tullamore to look forward to, now there's the inaugural Astral Plains festival in Birr on Saturday, June 26.
Like Castlepalooza, which is set in Charleville Castle, Astral Plains will take place in an Anglo-Irish manor -- Birr Castle, home to the Parsons family, who have been in the area for 400 years and whose influence was such that Birr was known as Parsonstown before Independence.
The line-up includes Cathy Davey, below, who will be promoting her excellent third album, The Nameless, Dublin rock outfit Delorentos, local singer-songwriter Roesy, that venerable grump Paul Brady and rising Waterford band O Emperor. Further names are set to be announced in the coming weeks. Interestingly, HMV are putting money into Astral Plains, marking their first involvement in the live scene in Ireland. In recent years, the record store has become heavily involved in live music in the UK. With the way that sales are declining, that comes as little surprise.
Tickets for Astral Plains cost €49 and according to one of the organisers, "are selling strongly". Next year, they are planning to make it a two-day event, so watch this space as Castlepalooza and Astral Plains scrap for ultimate supremacy in the Faithful County.
I will be giving away free tickets to Astral Plains in the coming weeks, so keep a look out.
- Fans of the legendary guitarist Rory Gallagher, right, are in for a treat on Thursday. RTE will be screening a new documentary which looks at his life -- tragically cut short after he developed complications following a liver transplant -- and his lasting influence on a new generation of guitarists.
Ghost Blues -- named after one of Gallagher's more celebrated songs -- is on RTE One at 10.50pm on Thursday and features contributions from the guardian of his estate, brother Donal, and nephew Daniel. It is being screened to coincide with the 15th anniversary of his death at the age of 47.
Meanwhile, a bronze statue to honour Gallagher was unveiled in Ballyshannon, the town of his birth, on Wednesday. It marked the launch of the annual Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival.
This year's bill includes Bernie Marsden, Dave Levy, Rich Newman and Jim Kirkpatrick who play the Rory Gallagher Theatre tomorrow night. Also appearing on the festival bill are the highly rated Dutch-based band Wolfpin, who took the festival by storm last year, as well as Norwegian Monica Heidel.
"Rory was one of the true heroes of Irish rock," according to Hot Press editor Niall Stokes. "He was a magnificent guitar player, a brilliant songwriter and a performer of enormous dedication, energy and magnetism. But, for all the remarkable success he achieved, Rory never lost touch with his roots. He was true to himself, true to his music and true to the people, with whom he shared an extraordinary kinship. If there is a higher compliment, I don't know what it is."
- Belfast post-rock instrumentalists And So I Watch You From Afar have received a boost in their quest for recognition outside this island. The band -- whose debut album enjoyed several glowing reviews on release last year -- have been selected by hard rockers Them Crooked Vultures to open their shows across Europe.
Last night they played Vienna and next week they are in Luxembourg and Amsterdam. Them Crooked Vultures, in case you've been living under a rock, are a veritable supergroup comprising Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and Led Zeppelin legend John Paul Jones.
- Nearly 300 of you emailed me last week with answers to the Bruce Springsteen competition. Thank you. The following win copies of the book Land of Hope and Dreams, which documents The Boss's shows in Ireland from his 1985 Slane appearance onwards: Laura Hayden, Naas; Tiernan Brennan, Dublin 14; and Claire de Lacy, Dublin 15.