- Live Review
- 09 Aug 22
We've Only Just Begun was revived this weekend for the first time since 2019, and brought a stellar and inclusive lineup.
Friday night of We've Only Just Begun set the stage for an incredible weekend of Irish music. With performances on the main stage by Sprints, M(h)aol, Lucy Gaffney and Banríon, Whelan's could not have had a better energy. We've Only Just Begun strives to spotlight female and non-binary artists through their festival as well as their online directory. It was revived this weekend for the first time since 2019 and brought a stellar and inclusive lineup.
First up were Banríon, a four-piece band from Dublin. Lead singer and songwriter Roísín Ní Haicéid had a soft, comforting stage presence, as she presented their beautifully melodic music. The band also consists of drummer Michael Nagle (who was fitted in a Phoebe Bridgers t-shirt), bassist John Harding and guitarist Ivan Rakhmanin. Banríon are definitely one to watch in the Irish indie rock scene. Their debut self-produced EP airport dads came out in 2020, and they've announced a new EP for this October. They teased their next single 'fooling' for the Whelan's audience, and played most recent release 'end times': a melancholic masterpiece of a song.
They closed their set with 'ouchie', an enchantingly heartbreaking song from 'airport dads'. Ní Haicéid introduced it as "sad, but it perks up at the end," while giggling. The vulnerable lyrics detail a tough breakup: 'you left- it was my fault/ I know I fucked it up/ by being so sick/ I wish I could get over it.' Ní Haicéid's smooth and emotive voice along with melancholy guitar riffs made the song captivatingly beautiful. It did end on a hopeful note, with closing lyrics 'I'll do what the boys do/I'll do it better/I'm feeling better'.
I was able to catch up with Ní Haicéid after the set, and she expressed how much of an honour it was to perform at WOJB. She explained how nice it is not to be the only girl in the greenroom and to not get asked, "whose girlfriend are you?" She was very excited to see the other bands perform over the course of the weekend.
Up next was Belfasts' Lucy Gaffney, making her return to Dublin after three years. She called Dublin her "second home," and was excited to be back. She even began with a song she wrote dedicated to Dublin. The emotion can be heard clearly in her voice, as she often sings in an almost whisper tone. Especially in 'Easy Come Easy Go', where she sings 'If it's hard to breathe/ you can think of me.' The instrumentation paused at times to allow her voice to stand alone, which was chilling. Her passion shone through in her performance, as she emoted through hand movements and appeared to get lost in the music.
She played 'Heartstrings' from her debut EP Easy Come Easy Go, which came out in January of 2022 and was very well received. It was produced by her brother Thom Southern, who joined her on stage at WOJB to play the guitar. She closed her set with an upbeat song about a karaoke bar, which is yet to be released. Hopefully, we'll get new music streaming from her soon. She is definitely on the rise, and can be seen opening for Wallows on a few of their tour dates in the next year.
M(h)aol arrived on stage with a huge vibe shift. The feminist post-punk band from Dublin and Cork rocked the house with their astonishing energy and stage presence. Having disbanded for many years and reunited in 2020, they are back and stronger than ever. The group is made up of Roísín Nic Ghearailt on vocals, Constance Keane on drums (who runs their label), Jamie Hyland on bass (and is their producer), Zoe Greenway also on bass, and Sean Nolan on guitar ("man of mystery" who faced away from the crowd for the duration of the performance). The band's lyrical content is very socially conscious and strives to questions various societal norms. In their most recent single titled 'Gender Studies', Ghearailt sings, 'Why don't you study my gender? Tell me there's only 2." Another song titled 'Asking For It' deals with rape culture. They took a break from music while Ghearailt recited a poem about bisexuality and the anxiety that comes with it.
This act felt more like a conversation at times than a performance, in the best way possible. Lead singer Ghearailt supported the audience, giving trigger warnings for songs dealing with serious issues, and urging them to talk to someone or get help if they're struggling. She offered advice to those dealing with toxic and abusive relationships, as she sang songs about her own. She went on to give a speech about her love for Ireland, urging the crowd to recognise the issues present in the country while also celebrating the good parts. "There are people who in the faces of the brutality chose to do better, people like Bill Foley, Fiona Mulcahy and Nell McCafferty, and we are better for it. It's so important to not just think about the church state when we think of our past, but to think about those people too and to honor them and do your research and to know what a fucking incredible country you come from too," Ghearailt passionately explained.
I asked Ghearailt after the show what her favourite part of their performance was, and she said it was to be able to make that speech and have her band's support in speaking her mind about political and social issues. She explained how important it is to speak out for what you believe in, and how hard that can be sometimes. The band is not shy about speaking out, and prove their dedication through action as well, donating all proceeds from 'Asking For It' to Women's Aid.
Closing out the night were Sprints, carrying on the high energy punk sound that M(h)aol introduced. The Dublin locals emerged to a screaming crowd and a stage fitted with strobe lights. The band is made up of Karla Chubb as lead singer and songwriter, Colm O'Reilly as guitarist, Jack Callan as drummer and Sam McCann as bassist. The electricity could be felt all through Whelans, as Chubb passionately sang 'I wish I was bolder/ I wish I was brave' in 'Modern Job' and shredded the guitar over her head.
Similarly to M(h)aol, Sprints work to "silence the internal doubting voices and to fight against the outdated social tropes that box in individuality." Their song "Little Fix" deals with insecurities, imposter syndrome and gender stereotypes with vulnerably honest lyrics "I say a cog in the machine, they say the cogs do not exist/ because I'm medicated, medicated/ oh they like me better when I'm sedated." Chubb sincerely expressed her gratitude to the audience for listening to and supporting them. It was a lovely end to a great evening, and a power way to kick off the rest of the weekend.
We've Only Just Begun is a marvellous festival and has done an incredible job highlighting gender minority talented Irish musicians. The name is fitting, as all of these bands are truly just getting started – and have bright futures ahead of them.
Check out photos from the night here.