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Rubberbandits take Manhattan

But as Barack Obama was being greeted by cheering crowds on College Green on Monday, Ireland's own ambassadors were loose in Times Square.

We're talking the Rubberbandits: the Limerick rappers who nearly took the Christmas No. 1 but haven't been heard of since that "difficult second single".

Till now, that is...

This week, the hip-hop collective were not in Moyross, or Monaleen, but in New York and New Jersey, filming everywhere from Times Square to Jersey Shore for a new MTV pilot.

Last night, they ended a week of filming with a sell-out show at the Dominion Theatre in East Village, shifting 350 tickets in less than 24 hours after they went on sale.

Tonight they play a second gig in club Kenny's Castaways on Bleecker Street, where Bruce Springsteen played his first New York shows, and on the guest-list are LCD Soundsytem, fans of the 'Bandits since seeing them perform at the Electric Picnic.

But even more important is that MTV, which set up the two shows, has invited everyone from local free sheets to the New York Times to attend.

Yet, despite cultural differences which include references to NCTs, it seems the Yanks are getting the Rubberbandits.

And the 'Bandits only touched down in the States last Sunday.

"It started in January when MTV came over to Ireland to interview us when 'Horse Outside' took off. We heard back they got a really good reaction from viewers to the feature they did with us. Next thing they wanted to do a pilot called The Rubberbandits' Guide To New York.

And so it was this week that the Blindboy Boat Club and DJ Chrome found themselves with an MTV crew filming inside the Rockefeller Centre, exercising with a yoga class in Long Beach and hanging out with some of the city's Hasidic Jewish Community.

All with the obligatory plastic bags on their faces.

Although the Rubberbandits have filmed over 20 hours of material, just 25 minutes will end up in the pilot, expected to be screened later this summer.

Whatever about the Rubberbandits, the MTV special could make Limerick politician Willie O'Dea famous in the US, as the TV audience of millions will see band sidekick Willie O'DJ wearing a face mask to resemble the ex-Defence Minister and self-confessed 'Bandits fan.

"The Americans love Willie O'DJ.

"He'll be getting his own show the way things are going," said a group spokesman.

Returning to Ireland next week, the Rubberbandits will perform at the Lattitude, Reading and Leeds music festivals before launching a new stage show at the Olympia in October.

Meanwhile, watch out for book The Rubberbandits' Guide To Life, which could well see the group topping the book, rather than music, charts at Christmas.

Indo Review