if you get a few sound heads pointing cameras you can make Limerick the centre of the world

Lessons learned about the archive from a handful of livestreams from empty venues, some shit I have lying around on my SD card, and Limerick's spirit of defiance.

if you get a few sound heads pointing cameras you can make Limerick the centre of the world
from Operating System: Live From Dolans by Citrus Fresh produced by Nua
South got something to say but instead will go right through me,
give me and my friends some millions to make a movie.

Actualacid - MOVIE

The pandemic's long shadow on Irish music is a running theme at Fourth Best; what it did to streaming, to hype, to the viability of music as a career. The scrambling to build a new music industry in a world without live shows happened at all levels, with some rotten results; from Spotify's pitiful tip jars to a €5,000 government grant being announced for a band that never applied for it. You know what else we had? A hundred sound heads up and down the country pointing cameras in empty venues, from pure DIY setups figuring out the logistics on the fly with a hastily downloaded copy of Open Broadcaster Studio to TV-quality rigs with properly beautiful camera moves. It wasn't an Irish thing alone - some international examples mean the world to me, but there's something to be said for making Limerick the centre of the world. Not the first or last time they've done it.

Like many of the events I'll be talking about, I wasn't actually in the virtual audience for Citrus Fresh's 'operating system' Live from Dolans set, but it's stuck with me for years, and every time I come back to it, it's so much better than I remember. 

The album itself is criminally underrated, peak PX meeting the anxious energy of lockdown - but uniquely, a deep focus on live instrumentation as Citrus, 40hurtz and Danny Lanham spent 11 months "locked in a room making an album together". Citrus makes a clear case for being one of the best to ever do it in this country with clean delivery and phenomenal writing, and the guests are a list of some of the others who want to be the best to ever do it in this country too.

But if you get a few sound heads pointing cameras you can make Limerick the centre of the world.

from Operating System: Live From Dolans by Citrus Fresh produced by Nua

In an empty Dolans with a tartan-patterned couch that I swear half the country had at some point, a keyboard with some drum pads, a few guitars, a few mics, a drum in the corner and a rake of cameras, you can't ever help but feel the love in the room. Radiant through the banter and the performances and half the crew sneaking onto stage still masked up in the end. The production and mixing is absolutely phenomenal - the amount of late night shows and music festivals putting up worse on YouTube is uncountably infinite. 

This one's special. Half the country was up to it.

Some of it doesn't even add up to me. For their release of their fantastic Where I Should End, Saint Sister did two livestream shows from the Complex in one night, at 8pm and midnight. I literally have no idea why you would do that! I assumed the midnight stream was a replay until I actually started writing this piece and realised there are archives of both versions of some songs?

I think a lot about The Archive as a concept, and a Lisa Hannigan fan account capturing both versions of those Saint Sister collabs really illustrates some of my feelings on the subject. I would doubt any artist wants all their work to be a part of it. Live music is ultimately made for the moment, and some artists want to avoid the risk of their work being judged by the shifting standards that come from the ephemeral to the recorded. With the world back open again, Citrus Fresh made the decision to follow up Operating System Live from Dolans with LIVE AT DRY LANE 2 ELECTRIC BOOGALOO the lens shifted - multiple takes interspersed with little breaks and interludes in a more documentary view. He'll murder a verse and with the cameras still rolling ask "I'm happy with that, but if you want to do another one…?"

The thumbnail of this one goes as hard as hell actually.

Both Operating System and Good Grief's live versions are essential - different ways of creating a more intimate views into one of Ireland's most underrated acts. I'm glad we have both, but I do think there's something to be said for capturing a seamless run at a live show.

In June 2020, as the South West All-Stars, a group including God Knows, Aswell, Strange Boy, Hazey Haze, MuRli, Denise Chaila and Krome played the Record Room and the record was later removed from the public internet - as best as I can remember, the set was never intended to go the distance - I'm pretty sure the only reason I bothered to save a copy is that they were quite open about it being intended to be deleted. The likely explanation: it's full of music that was unreleased at the time. (Some of it might still be - to the best of my knowledge, Krome never got more than two tunes out, and I can't find that tune with God Knows on a drill beat anywhere) It's also a little rougher around the edges, a lot of mixing the thing as it's going out, just a couple camera angles. Early on, Aswell gets startled by a background vocal then smirks to the camera saying "I haven't rehearsed ever. Nobody ever has, either, inside the crew. It's always sloppy."

And yet, The South-West All-Stars Special Set is worth writing about. It's an imperfect survey of the depth and breadth of a Limerick scene that was on the cusp of dominance. The mics pick up 10 MCs laughing when Strange Boy introduces the infamously dense String Theory with "It's a freestyle. It's all off the top of the head… it's not like". You see God Knows and MuRli balancing trying to bring the energy with reminding the performers to put hand sanitizer on before touching the mic. 

God Knows the hand sanitizer don. From my copy of The South-West All-Stars Special Set.

And you see the energy rise as the set goes on and it becomes clear that the South West has something to say. One MC puts his hoodie up and with his face completly obscured to the cameras begins riffing "Uhhhh, I'm better than every rapper that's not in the South West… haiii yup yup yup LUKA PALM'S THE BEST RAPPER IN THE COUNTRY EVERYBODY KNOWS HAII YUP YUP LUKA PALM YUP YUP YUP YUP ya big fool ya." 

Not for the archive then. That's that thing I'm struggling with. How do you perform like nobody's watching and let the public watch it as they choose? Anyway, in that moment, Limerick is again the centre of the world. But no smoke for Luka, please, there's been too much beef lately.

There's a lot of good material lost to time, but some of it has actually began resurfacing lately, actually. I remember being asked if I had backups of some bits that are easily found now, so I don't have to worry too much about some of those files on my hard drive anymore. Some stuff remains in the dragon's hoard though, and I don't want to get posting links to stuff that artists don't want to get out in the world.

"I know I'm the chosen one. I'm the one that's making the Choice."
Denise Chaila - Copper Bullet

Denise Chaila would find herself two years out from her debut single with a Choice Music Prize - as she promised. The Go Bravely mixtape was a bit of an unlikely contender, and though 2020 was a quiet year for the industry as a whole, there were plenty of other beloved acts in competition. This is a safe place, right?

The EP that came out after that victory held the name It's A Mixtape. That sums up my feelings too - it's a first act. Flaws in the mixing and the production were easily paved over because the entire nation was seeing her deliver seemingly effortless, charismatic performances on an entirely unseen scale. If you really want to know why Denise Chaila's Choice Prize win wasn't a surprise, you might want to start with the legendary Other Voices performance from the National Gallery. And good luck finding that one! Go look for it! When you find it, you'll see this in the description.

This performance will be coming to you live from The National Gallery of Ireland and will be made available worldwide, free of charge, thanks to the support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Intel and RTÉ.

Available to view worldwide, free of charge, if you happen to find a random tweet with the link to it because Other Voices unlisted it for some reason. Well I did. It holds up! Take the biggest room you can imagine, put two MCs and a DJ in it, and make it feel like it's bursting at the seams trying to contain the energy. The hype comes flooding back, and Limerick is the centre of the world.

The one festival on the island that I keep meaning to go to and keep having clashes against it. Féile na Gréine. I'm going to try and make a commitment to going this year. Every year you see pure love overflowing for the thing. What did they do when the pandemic presents an existential threat to the entire endeavour? Well, you've got cameras and you've got Limerick. Try to take over the world.

title card from Out of Place (2022)

The poster for Out of Place (2022) has the beautiful three word tagline: Music. Community. Defiance. Since the film's premiere, it's been turning up here and there in cinemas across the country; I missed its original tour but was lucky enough to catch it in Dublin late last year. I hope it gets a wider online release soon so people can access it properly but I also think it maybe deserves to hold onto event status. There's an irony to a work born of the pandemic that requires the pandemic's end to function at its highest level. Out of Place belongs to the biggest screen you can find for it. It belongs to the crowds that come to see it curious and leave inspired. It belongs to a screening where you can grab a Beamish afterward and just talk about how class it all is.

The film follows a disparate set of figures - the narolane crew of Denise, God Knows and MuRli, singer-songwriter Hey Rusty, post-punks His Father's Voice, and the film's de-facto main character Post Punk Podge. Named after a Citrus Fresh lyric too, because this article is full of coincidences. It navigates bedroom studios, empty venues, a rooftop, back yards, and, in one of my favourite scenes of the film, The Curiosity Shop.

The film has some absolutely phenomenal performances, but it's so much more about the process of DIY than the output. Often, it will use the audio straight out of the camera mics rather than a proper board mix; in the above example, you're witnessing the crew walking through the set with a Bluetooth speaker. It puts the hard work on display. It brings you into the room, often pointing the camera at a mirror so you can see the hands at work in the formation of the film itself. It really wants to sell you on what makes independent, local music so essential in a time when creating it was difficult. And it takes all perspectives on what DIY means as it stops to speak to artists. From DIY to its own end - making the music with your friends because you like it just so, or the Narolane ambition of being a global force that nonetheless recognises the overwhelming talent within Limerick, to Podge who sees the music as an important anchor for his mental health.

Scrolling through the Letterboxd reviews for it, the overwhelming message everyone seems to take from it is the importance of making the art.

I think there's a bit more to it. Yes, make the art. However, also point the cameras. Capture it, preserve it, archive it. When you see people making light, carry the light to inspire others.

That's what Out of Place taught me.

You could call this a testament to perseverance in a state of emergency, but in reality their drive is not defined by, nor in response to, some new disease or disaster. This is how artists work, whether in the context of Covid-19 or during any other point in history. Their struggle continues.

- the Féile na Gréine team introducing the Out of Place photography book

You better buy that book, by the way.

Out of Place Photobook from Féile na Gréine
Out of Place Photobook from Féile na Gréine

There's a lot of material that I didn't get to speak about here. Junior Brother's Hibernorama, discovering Lankum in 2020, the For Those I Love Other Voices livestream and his eventual concert film, etc. I didn't get into Guerilla Sounds. I didn't get into the stuff that half the venues up and down the country were up to during the pandemic. I didn't even talk about Cyberpub 2077, the virtual venue where I spent one of my Paddy's Days during lockdown or Electric Bricnic, an honest to god DIY festival inside Minecraft. I didn't get into stuff before or since the pandemic that is equally important, like Myles O'Reilly's This Ain't No Disco or A City Under Quiet Lights. You could live in the archive. This website will spend a lot of its time in there.

I have a dream for this website but it's definitely a long way away. I want to grab a cinema screen for hours at a time and let the world in. And I want to show work like this. Livestream gigs, music videos, documentaries, weird little experiments. Some things that mightn't fit in a film festival as it is.

I want to avoid talking about my own work in music and getting too tied into my friends' work constantly on the site, but it's relevant here.

Last year I did my first two DJ sets in a public place in about five years at screenings of Actualacid's I DON'T HAVE EYES ON HIM - a wild thing mostly shot and filmed on iPhones in Cork's liminal spaces to accompany Boredoms 400, the album from which this website takes its name. They were some of the most fun nights of my life. Seeing full rooms react to so strongly to a labour of love like that, another one of those works that is inextricably tied to the pandemic, to bedroom studios, to DIY, is phenomenal. I've seen the hours in Premiere. I've seen the long road to getting it finished, I've seen the man become a pheomenal filmmaker in the pursuit of an audacious idea. Due to a quirk of its length and the aggressive DIY nature of it all, getting it to festivals has been rough. I promised Actualacid we'd try get it back in front of the world again this year though, so maybe the Fourth Best Film Fest is inevitable.

Fourth Best has bought a camera. Find us at gigs around Dublin.
We'd love to start recording interviews soon with our shitty little Temu wireless lav mics.

If you check out the Citrus Fresh live versions and you like them, buy the albums.

Citrus Fresh
Citrus Fresh and or Terry Powder Good Grief 25/08/2023 Music for driving a push bike

Also: since our debut piece A Price To Pay, Curtisy and TCXL have dropped their projects. They are as good as we've predicted. Maybe there'll need to be a follow-up article. Anyway, buy the music. 

Merch from Curtisy
Merch from Curtisy
Trying me best.
Hello. I make my own songs. Enjoy

And sure, look it - Boredoms 400 also, if you don't mind my bias.

Boredoms 400, by actualacid
10 track album

See you in the crowd.