It’s been a turbulent but memorable year in the realm of Irish music.
The city altered substantially, facing great pressure on its floundering live venues, but nevertheless also excelling in spawning quality bands and memorable scenes.
Here are our best (and worst) trends and musical outcomes of the past year…
High: The rejuvenation of Irish rock
Music’s always gone in cycles, and while 2017 was the best year in the young but fast-developing area of Irish Hip-Hop, 2018 was all about Rock.
Liberties art-rockers Fontaines D.C. going international was accompanied by the breakthrough of vibrant punks, Vulpynes; melodramatic guitar-bashers, The Murder Capital; and vibrant punks, Silverbacks. Abstract politics is back.
Low: The Dublin club scene bottoms out
It seems a long time ago that the likes of Tripod, Twisted Pepper and Crawdaddy gave the Irish dance scene some genuine – if limited – kudos.
Enthusiasts have long known that Dublin’s clubbing scene is a weakness, but the death this year of Hangar, Club 92 and the pending closure of District 8 at the Tivoli are big losses.
The need for a better late-night scene could hardly be clearer: recent stats show that Dublin has only a fifth of the number of nightclubs found in Sheffield – and Dublin is three times Sheffield’s size.
High: 8Radio’s continued progress
Irish music radio took a real battering when it comes to any kind of alternative music offering when Phantom (later TXFM) closed its doors in 2016.
Nova offers some alternative tunes, but they’re mostly drawn from the big names, and delivered with all the imagination of a rock fan picking from a pile of chart smashes.
8Radio is still largely online, with only the occasional stroll onto the FM dial, but in terms of introducing quality local music and attempting to do something different, the young upstarts are setting the bar.
Low: Gig prices
This might have been the year that Noel Rock’s anti-touting bill finally offered some (admittedly limited) protection to those looking to attend popular gigs, but Ireland’s culture of pricey gigs shows no sign of letting up.
In music, rip-off Ireland is endemic – in fact, Spice Girls tickets cost €90 or so in Dublin, and the equivalent of €67 in the UK.
Post Malone is €56 in Ireland and the equivalent of €39 at some UK dates.
Ennio Morricone clocks in at a whopping €107 in Dublin, and starts at €57 in Birmingham.
It’s hard not to feel a little disheartened by it all.
High: Big name locals soar
Hozier absolutely nailed the political zeitgeist with his brilliant new single, Nina Cried Power.
Delorentos’ emotive new album has seen them step up to playing big shows at The Olympia.
The Irish Rap scene continues its metamorphosis from comic punchline to genuinely outstanding.
Picture This and Keywest are taking Irish Pop-Rock to another plane of popularity, and the likes of David Keenan and Gavin James have become household names.
In short, there’s plenty to appreciate amongst Ireland’s bigger sellers.
Low: Phones continue to kill the concert buzz
Call us old fogies, if you must, but we’ll never get this trend.
Why pay for an expensive night at a gig and then spend it pointing your phone at a stage, recording dubious concert footage that on no level compares to what you can find professionally online later?
The atmosphere at gigs has collapsed off the back of this habit, which reduces shows into an exercise in ‘I was there’ celeb spotting.
What a massive shame!
High: Quirky little event promoters are killing it
Homebeat, Bodytonic, and Choice Cuts are three Dublin promoters that particularly stand out.
These folks have taken the slow road, building niche reputations in specific areas where their expertise has become a mark of quality.
If you’re into imaginative indie, Homebeat gigs, for example, are very rarely less than brilliant, curated mainly with a clever collection of international and little-known acts.
Choice Cuts are transforming the feel of the wonderful Sugar Club, and Bodytonic might just be the best beat-based bookers Ireland has ever had.
Who knows what 2019 might bring…