Saturday, February 24, 2007
Grotto Apple of Our Eye!
Off The Record by Mike Farragher, The Craic
If you were shopping for a new iPod or a Mac book in an Apple store last week, you might have brushed up against an amplifier belonging to Dublin's Guggenheim Grotto.
iTunes has begun staging in-store concerts at their Apple stores, and that coveted spot last week was given to the band, which did Apple gigs in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York to promote the release of an EP version of their single, the addictive "Told You So."
Perhaps you might have heard them on either 6 Degrees or Brothers and Sisters, two hot dramas on ABC. Or, like me, you might have caught one of their fantastic gigs at Mo Pitkins in the Bowery last week, where the industry honchos dropped by in droves for a drink and to see what the fuss was all about.
The rich red leather booths that sat below the brick facing of the Mo Pitkins Lounge (Avenue A in Manhattan) provided a pitch perfect cocoon for the lush sounds that the trio produced. Kevin May, Shane Power and Mick Lynch traded instruments at a dizzying pace throughout the evening, each of them moving from violin to bass to keyboards to percussion with starling virtuosity.
They played cuts from their debut CD, 'Waltzing Alone...', including the brawny "Wonderful Wizard"? and the beautiful countrified ditty "I Think I Love You."?
The harmonies between May and Lynch are particularly noteworthy, on full display during the gorgeous "Philosophia,"? providing a spine tingling effect that I haven't experienced since I heard Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends album for the first time many moons ago.
They also took the opportunities within this Manhattan showcase to debut a new song, "Her Beautiful Ideas."? 'She has the lips of a saint and the hips of a whore/I can't get out of bed anymore,'? they sang. As if the wild experiments within their jazzy acoustic arrangements weren't crafty enough, they are also adept and turning lyrical phrases to their advantage to a thrilling effect. For the band, which has enjoyed only modest success in Ireland, the American media buzz has them spending a lot more time on this side of the Atlantic these days.
"In Ireland the music scene revolves around the pubs,"? explains drummer and Wexford native Power. "Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's where we come from.
"But here in America, there is this coffee house culture where music is played in listening rooms. In these listening rooms, people are really paying attention to the words and what you're playing. It's just fantastic! We don't have that at home, and I think that's where our music works the best."
The trio got their start in Dublin around 2003, right about the time when Damien Rice, Damien Dempsey and the Frames were cutting an independent streak through the sugary pop of the Irish music scene at the time. In fact, a casual comment from Rice in an interview sparked the interest in the Grotto here on this side of the Atlantic.
"It all started when Rice was asked to name his favorite CDs in Mojo (a U.K. magazine)," explains Power. "A number of influential people here in America, like Nick Harcourt of KCRW (a programmer of the famed Morning Becomes Electric program), sought out our MP3s and played them way before we had anything released in the States. We got even more airplay as a result."
"During this visit, we played the World Cafe in Philadelphia. David Dye hosted us on his show, and then we played the huge hall attached to the radio station studios. There was this huge audience waiting for us. It was really daunting."
"I paid $35 for this disc on some U.K. record site,"? gushed one fan, who was clutching the band's CD in his hand as we waited for our cars in the cold February night. "I just bought two more of them to give to my friends!"
I'm confident that fans in places like Apple stores, TV production studios, the Irish Voice, and cold Bowery parking lots will make sure that the Guggenheim Grotto buzz shows no sign of abating. You can download their CD and single EP on iTunes, or log onto guggengeimgrotto.com for more information.
Source: The Craic