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Reekus In The Years
Having lit a fire under the punk scene and introduced the world to bands as diverse as Aslan, Microdisney and The Blades, Reekus Records’ is celebrating its 30th birthday. Founder Elvera Butler explains what inspires the ongoing adventure.
Colm O Hare, 11 Jan 2012
For over 30 years independent Irish label Reekus has been synonymous with high quality rock’n’roll. Much like UK indies Stiff and Rough Trade, Reekus has specialised in signing talent from across the spectrum of the alternative scene. Their early discoveries included The Blades, Microdisney, Big Self and Aslan, while more recently, they’ve put out albums by Perry Blake, David Hopkins, Saville and superstars-in-the-making Sweet Jane.
A new double CD, entitled Too Late To Stop Now calabrates the label’s 30 years in business and features rarities from the Reekus vaults as well as hot tracks from newer acts. “It was supposed to come out for the 25th anniversary,” label founder, Elvera Butler laughs. “We were busy at the time and it has taken us until now to put it together.”
Reekus started almost by accident. growing out of Butler’s involvement in running gigs, while still a student at University College Cork. She established the legendary ‘Downtown Kampus’ at the Arcadia Ballroom, which – from 1977 to 1981 – was the premier live rock venue in the country. “I was the Ents officer and decided to move the gigs from the College into the Arcadia,” she recalls. “It meant we could run gigs all year round, rather than just during term.”
The venue, which held up to 1,800 fans, was an instant success, drawing huge crowds weekly to some of the biggest Irish and UK post-punk acts of the period including U2, The Undertones, XTC, UB40, The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs and The Only Ones.
“It quickly became the place to go in Cork,” Butler reminisces. “No matter who was playing, you’d always have a thousand people in, which was enough to make the gig viable. It was an amazingly edgy place too. UK acts were always knocked out by the reception they got. We had The Stranglers in a couple of times and they were bowled over. I was talking to Hugh Cornwell when he was here last year and he remembered it well.”
With a guaranteed audience, proper stage facilities and good soundsystem (Joe O’Herlihy, later to work with U2, was the house engineer), The Arcadia became a major venue on the touring circuit.