The music industry is big business. But for every headline act announced at another sell-out festival there is a dedicated individual running a small club introducing unsigned artists to real music-lovers. One such individual is Phil Dearing who tirelessly showcases artists across several addresses in south-east London including Lewisham, Hither Green and Blackheath at The Icarus Club.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the latest showcase held at the grandiose Blackheath Hall. Among the artists that night were Magee, Maria Day and The Michael John McGlone Band.
Andrea Magee is a Belfast born singer-songwriter who has been gigging in small venues across the south-east accompanied by Gary Lucas on acoustic guitar & piano. But tonight she debuted a five-piece band including two backing singers, percussionist, Gary on acoustic guitar & piano and Gary Barnacle on saxophone & flute. Barnacle has been a top session players for the past 30 years and has played with too many artists to mention, but The Ruts & The Clash spring to mind!
Magee showcased five of her own songs starting with ‘Beating Of A Drum’ with its Gaelic flavour with Andrea beating out a rhythm on the bodhrán – an Irish frame drum. With a full band, Magee’s music comes alive and her stage presence and lively, upbeat music had the audience shuffling in their sits. She is currently working in the studio on new material, forging a new path for her musical talents, but said her folk roots will always be close to her heart and be heard in her music.
Maria Day took to the stage armed only with an acoustic guitar and performed some of the most dark and hauntingly beautiful songs I have ever heard. Her soft, mesmerising guitar style and sound reminded me of Nick Drake; and she sings from her soul, expressing words with such intensity, meaning and emotion. Her voice is simply haunting and beautiful. Her performance left me speechless.
The Michael John McGlone Band were last to perform at tonight’s Icarus Club showcase on a small makeshift stage. A five-piece alt folk band that included bass, guitar, mandolin and a young but very competent Michael John McGlone at the helm steering the ship through some well crafted, foot-stomping tunes with insightful lyrics from someone so young.
“Just gather up my family, And any friends I’ve made.
Drink a toast to my memory, then smash the bottle on my grave.
See, life’s been pretty good to me, more than I deserve.
So the least I can do is give my body back to the earth”
Fortunately The Michael John McGlone Band err away from any comparisons with the flat, shallow contemporary folk of Mumford & Sons et al by way of the true grit & spit of McGlone’s delivery, which is more akin to Jamie T and the spirit of Pogue Mahone.
Whether it be American, Irish or English, there is a current wave of interest in anything likened to folk music, and plenty of groups playing contemporary-spun folk music to choose from. But like the punk/garage folk of Medway’s Singing Loins, The Michael John McGlone Band are spot on with a blend of dirty, grunge-infested garage that gives their folk songs an added spice and appeal.
I look forward to seeing all three of these artists again as much as I do supporting the hard work of Phil Dearing & The Icarus Club.