A look at all the highs and lows of music in Dublin in 2019

by James Hendicott

It can feel like a step forward and a step back in the current Dublin music scene.

A great band appears; a venue closes. A new festival appears, an old one – like Beatyard – threatens to disappear off the map.

As culture fights an ongoing battle for space and affordability in our increasingly cluttered city, here are our nods at the best (and worst) of music events from 2019…

HIGH: Rock looks set to be taken a little more seriously

Beyond a few stand-outs, Rock music is not all that fashionable right now – we live in the era of immaculate production values, autotuning, boisterous Hip-Hop and one-off-hits.

The scene has always been strong, however, and is really on the rise in Ireland at the moment.

There’s always been Slane, of course, but the introduction of next summer’s Sunstroke – a first Rock and Metal-specific festival in some time – is a big moment.

There are some great gigs on the horizon, too.

LOW: The end of the Tivoli Theatre, the Bernard Shaw and, possibly, Beatyard

While the cultural landscape of cities has always changed, the slow death of some of Dublin’s key venues is really quite pervasive.

The Tivoli, which closed its doors early in 2019, was arguably at its highest ebb when it did so.

Like the original Bernard Shaw pub, which has relocated but will struggle to regain its original status, it’ll be replaced by a hotel.

Beatyard, a casual, summery festival in Dun Laoghaire, was once a summer highlight and looks likely to depart from next summer, too.

HIGH: The appeal of the music scene is still, clearly, huge

See festivals in particular, but also big gigs selling out time after time.

I’ve been creating the gig listings for this publication all year, and the number of sold-out shows in Dublin is astonishing; the demand is consistently huge.

Electric Picnic expanded, and still sells out. Other festivals aren’t too far behind, and there are more and more of them.

Ireland’s appetite for music is astonishing.

LOW: Ticket prices still feel exorbitant

Sure, tours are the main way that musicians make their money now, and that’s much of the reason why tickets are so disproportionately expensive compared to a decade ago.

With tickets in the three-figure price range not unheard of today, though, it’s hard not to feel it’s all got a little bit elitist and out of hand for the average gig-goer.

That’s not a good thing.

HIGH: The Growth of Dublin Vinyl

For many years, there was no vinyl production facility in Ireland, which – especially for relatively small productions – made the reality of producing vinyl records more difficult for Irish acts.

Dublin Vinyl established itself a couple of years ago, but 2019 has definitely been their best yet, with the launch of subscription service, Loves Vinyl, and, shortly, a new Vinyl Hub online store.

Not a big deal to the consumer, perhaps, but it’s huge for the industry in a time of vinyl revival.

LOW: We’re losing the legends

Yes, simple common sense tells you that when you reach a certain age, people who grew up as ‘part of your life’ (in this case, musically), start to die, but there’ve been some major losses in music this year, ones that it’s hard to contemplate a music scene without.

Keith Flint of groundbreaking ravers The Prodigy stands out, as does experimental legend Scott Walker.

More locally, we suffered the loss of Danny Doyle, who’s ‘Rare Ould Times’ still resonates with heft in the city.

HIGH: New festivals set for 2020

The likely loss of Beatyard in particular is a damaging one, but there are already rumours it might be replaced by something equally impressive in Dun Laoghaire.

A little more firmly booked in are Sunstroke, a new Rock festival, and a Dublin version of Brighton’s brilliant new-music showcase, The Great Escape, both of which should offer lots of colour.

It’s a bright looking year ahead, and who knows what else 2020 might bring…

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