- 11 Aug 19
Once upon a time, we were blessed with a brilliant night of female-dominated music at one of Dublin’s best stages. Lo and behold, the We’ve Only Just Begun festival was only just warming up. And on day two it got hot!
Earlier this year, when Hot Press’s Brooke Weber sat down with Cherym, the topic quickly turned to a discussion about what it’s like to be an all-girl pop punk band in a male-dominated scene. "In Derry at the time, it was a bit of a boy’s club,” recalled lead singer and guitarist Hannah Richardson. “We were like, ‘I wonder what would happen if we all just started playing?’ We just really enjoyed it and it worked out.”
It worked out, indeed. With a stellar and energetic performance to open up day two of We’ve Only Just Begun, Cherym established that they’re not to be forgotten. The girls brought badassery and a new kind of cool girl vibe: don’t mess with them. Their performance of ‘Telepathic Kelly’ had Richardson screaming like Stephen Tyler. Everyone – including Naomi Hamilton who was set to perform later that night – was bopping and swinging along. The girls continued with equally badass performances of ‘Take it Back’ and ‘Pretty Boys’, then shut down the night when bassist Nyree Porter jumped into the crowd and threw her bass back onto the stage.
After a stupendous set at Indiependence last weekend, ROE set the bar high for herself coming into Whelan’s on Saturday night. Luckily, this girl really has her set down to a science. She moved with ease between her bright red electric guitar, an electric drum pad, and a keyboard, with the help of a loop pedal to make it all into a cohesive song.
It was the relatability and vulnerability she allowed herself to have with the crowd, though, that really captured their hearts. Before going into her 2019 single, ‘Down Days’, she talked to the crowd about how she wrote it. “I was frustrated and angry and I just didn’t know what to do with that energy,” she admitted. For ROE, writing this song was her way to work through that negative energy in a healthy way. Before starting, she reminded the crowd that everyone feels that way sometimes and told them: “If you’re gonna do one thing tonight, ask someone if they’re okay and make sure they get home safe.”
It was that interaction that brought the crowd to the front of the stage and dancing along for the rest of the set. Her hit, ‘wasted.patient.thinking.’, drew loud cheers. And after the final note of the vocal showstopper, ‘Playground Fights’, the crowd only roared louder. If someone had just walked in, they probably would’ve thought she was the headliner.
Lucky for the Whelan’s crowd, the night would still only get better. Jealous of the Birds lead Naomi Hamilton, known for her outlandishly stylish pantsuits, did not disappoint with the orange-lined leopard print one she sported last night.
The band's hit ‘Parma Violets’ featured a great bass solo and kept the audience swaying along. “We feel right at home here,” Hamilton said to the crowd as she reached for her acoustic guitar for an intimate rendition of ‘Clementina’. The band then picked the mood right back up, with the funky bop, ‘Blue Eyes’ which got everyone swinging their heads. Jealous of the Birds rocked their set to a close with ‘Plastic Skeletons’ which brought their lead guitarist to his knees and almost falling off the stage during his solo. Their energy was infectious and drew them big applause when they strummed their last note. If the night had ended there, people would have gone home satisfied with a night of great music.
But, gladly, nobody did because Pillow Queens truly made the night unforgettable. Fans packed in like sardines and sang along to every word of every song. Bassist, guitarist, and lead vocalist Pamela Connolly asked the crowd how they were doing, but it was really a rhetorical question. Her raspy, rock-like vocals in ‘Wonderboys’ had everybody swooning and the floor was thumping beneath everyone’s dancing feet. This is the kind of song we could hear in an arena one day.
During a quick break to rewire her mic, Connolly mentioned, “There’s a lot of women up here, what’s the story about that?” The crowd, filled with all genders, went wild in response. Although never explicitly advertised, the We’ve Only Just Begun lineup was intentionally selected to showcase female talent. The crowd was graced with the brilliant women of Pillow Queens who gifted them with not one but four songs off their upcoming 2020 album. Pro tip: when the album comes out, start with ‘Liffey’, which is sure to be their next pop rock anthem.
Before starting ‘Rats’, Connolly admitted she forgot some of the words and had to look them up before coming on stage. The solution, she realised, was to simply have the audience sing for her. When the verse came up, the stage went black and all four girls stopped playing. The room was just as loud as it was a split second before, though, because the crowd delivered a thunderous rendition, proving they knew the words better than the Queens themselves. To close out the night, they played their famed song, ‘Gay Girls’ which filled the room with love and celebration for LGBTQ+ and female liberation. It was the perfect end to the night that celebrated the diversity and talent that made We’ve Only Just Begun possible.