‘By the end of the set, he’s whooping away, and the half-full venue chants for one more tune in a way that Dublin crowds don’t really tend to since everybody became cool.‘ – Joss Moorkens on This Is The Kit‘s recent gig in Whelan’s. This evening’s concert was This Is The Kit‘s first ever performance in Dublin, with two well-chosen supports, so naturally it was mostly empty upstairs in Whelans when we got in. Touring can be grim when the venues are empty – during her set, Kate Stables of This Is The Kit mentions their audience in Limerick (one lady called Erin who teaches yoga) – but thankfully the room filled out a little for an evening of very fine music played by people who you’d quite like to have a cup of tea with.
We arrived halfway through Mossy Nolan, who was without his usual wingman Colm McGowan. The hush of the room suited a solo bouzouki set of doomy trad folk, interspersed with speedy intricate instrumentals, and finished with a great version of Willy of Winsbury. Probable tea: black, with milk and one sugar.
Twin-Headed Wolf are charming and goofy inbetween songs, then slightly unnerving, like the tricycle dream sequence in The Shining, during them. They are also very impressive. Their voices ululate in harmony like the De Zurik Sisters, the 1940s feel exacerbated by the use of sawn-off metal horns as a makeshift vocal effect. Various saws, pots, and jugs are employed during several murder ballads. These could also be handy for probable tea: dandelion and arsenic.
One of many reasons I am grateful to Road Records is This Is The Kit. Since their recommendation of Krülle Bol in 2008, that album and follow-up Wriggle Out The Restless have been on constant rotation in our house. With This Is The Kit, Kate Stables has created a distinctive musical idiolect of deceptively simple, warm, and lovely folk-ish songs lead on fingerstyle guitar or banjo, with wee descending vocal arpeggios and lyrics about nature and domesticity, that mention things like dubbin. The first few songs this evening feature a six-string banjo, held in position via a money belt. Creeping Up Our Shins is perfect, and then the band mooch on for Easy Pickings. The entrance of the guitar, bass, and drums is impressive. But then the whole backing just seems too smooth for the quirky sound of the banjo, and the night-long distraction of superfluous guitar solos kicks in. There aren’t many solos on the records, and they could have been reined in tonight.
The first time things really pick up is after Kate moves to semi-acoustic guitar for Moon, and everything gradually gets louder. Earthquake really works with the band, the nimble drummer moving from mallets to sticks, and Spinney is a massive highlight. During that song, the guy beside me is nodding away like a massive fan, but then he turns to me and says “who are they?” having evidently wandered in randomly. By the end of the set, he’s whooping away, and the half-full venue chants for one more tune in a way that Dublin crowds don’t really tend to since everybody became cool. The band seem actually touched by the reaction, and Kate and Jesse Vernon return for a beautifully-harmonised Trick You. Then more chanting, and a final encore of Waterproof, which ends everything on just the right note. “We’ll be at the shop down the back for a chat,” Kate finishes. Presumably with some ginger tea.