Wednesday 17 January 2018

Cheers! It's whiskey on the rock 'n' rollers

Fussy eaters and hard-to-please diners have a saying that you should never go out for a meal during December. Discerning gig goers could offer a similar theory. By now, most international touring acts are winding down after a long year on the road. Venues clog up with the usual suspects and tried-and-tested box office draws. Sometimes, a venue's seasonal bill fare is almost interchangeable from one year to the next.

This afternoon, the Workman's Club on Wellington Quay in Dublin hosts a very special one-off event featuring oodles of live music, spoken word, whiskey tasting and a seasonal Christmas market, as local promoters Dolittle Presents and Harmonic join forces with Scotland's Fence Collective for something truly different.

This is definitely the best escape option from getting your head seasonally wrecked hunting for pressies you can't afford amidst the hordes on Henry or Grafton Street.

The Fence Collective describes itself as "a collective of musicians, artists, craftsfolk, chancers and slackers based in Fife, Scotland". It features some high-achieving names, as well as slackers, amongst its alumni, namely KT Tunstall, The Beta Band and King Creosote.

In addition to being a label, it has hosted Fence Nights at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Glasgow's West End Festival. Dublin-based Galwegian/Maltese songwriter Adrian Crowley has also been known to get involved and curated his own mini-festival in Dublin called Homelights, which was partly inspired by the group's activities.

The Collective's leader of sorts is founding member James Yorkston, who will perform on the Workman's stage this evening. John Peel championed his first solo single that was entitled 'Moving Up Country, Roaring the Gospel', which the late BBC DJ proclaimed as the song title of the year.

More recently, Radiohead drummer and long-standing Samaritans ambassador and volunteer Phil Selway sung Yorkston's praises.

"For me, listening to James Yorkston's music is like coming across the interesting-looking person on the fringes of a party," Selway gushes. "Before you know it, you've spent the evening listening to their compelling tale."

There will be plenty of compelling tales to be enraptured by this evening. Renowned fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh will be showing why he's considered to be one of the finest in the country, while poet, playwright and all round Dublin character Pat Ingoldsby will be taking a break from his customary patch on Westmoreland Street to give a reading.

In addition to market stalls selling records, zines, cakes, books and heaven knows what, there'll be complimentary whiskey tasting in the Bison Bar next door complemented by story telling. The wonderful Irish folk singer Lisa O'Neill and Seamus Fogarty will also be treating Prosperous Market goers with live music staggered from 3pm this afternoon.

It's an astute move on behalf of the organisers and fits in with the Workman's Club remit during its first two years in business. The venue also hosts cinema clubs, photography and art exhibitions and delightfully quirky little events such as this afternoon's Prosperous Market, which is essentially a bit like a mini music festival, arts event and market rolled into one.

It is simply not good enough to book a few bands and sell beer these days. This is an era when so many folks are opting to save money and drink at home. While a debate rages on whether there should be a levy on off sales, the substantive issue is that promoters must offer punters a good reason to get off their couch at a reasonable and affordable price.

The slump in ticket sales from large-scale festivals to toilet venues has been well documented, but like any doom and gloom talk, this can be somewhat exaggerated.

Events like this are thriving, as promoters and punters alike seek out events that are imaginatively programmed and rewarding.

Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, sums up the Fence ethos with a philosophy that is very pertinent for the times. "The most important part of any business is ideas," he says. "If you don't have new ones, then you're f***ed. It doesn't matter how uncommercial or how weird the idea is. As long as you're consistently trying to innovate the way you communicate with people, you'll do well."

These may not be prosperous times, but today's Prosperous Market is bound to stimulate the mind, soothe the soul and be a festive hoot to boot. Happy Saturday.

The Prosperous Market takes place today in the Workman's Club from 2pm until late. Tickets €20.

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