Recently a documentary about the Irish DIY & independent music scene was launched online, tracking the history of the scene from it’s birth till today. Below is a review of the doc plus an embed of the doc from YouTube
Just over a fortnight ago the Community of Independents collective in association with Dublin Community Television launched a documentary entitled ‘A Joyful Slog’ online. The hour long feature is a fascinating and illuminating insight into the world of the Irish DIY and Indie scene over the last two decades. It tracks its fledgling stages, back to the days of Fugazi’s time in the country and the impact which they had. Not to fully accredit that one particular band with establishing everything that exists today, but the tireless work ethic of Ian MacKaye and Dischord records definitely seemed to highlight the possibilities as to what can be achieved by a reliance on oneself as opposed to a corporation to ensure both a level of reasonable success and musical freedom.
The documentary charts the popularity and essential nature of both zines (Devil on 45, Nosebleed and Loserdom in particular) and record stores in nurturing, supporting and encouraging bands who would never get a chance on a major label. It also very astutely examines the limitations and restrictions which arise upon signing a record deal with one of the larger organisations. It also charts the struggle which independent record stores faced when the recession hit Ireland hard in 2008. This particular section was especially affecting for me as between the years of 2006-2008 I was operating an indie record store in the west of Ireland which unfortunately bowed under the pressure and changing nature of the market and was forced to shut its doors forever.
It was because of this fact that I found myself particularly moved when I saw the footage of bands playing instores and rallying to support the places which had shown them so much love as they began to go under. The tale is, however, a bittersweet one, with a current resurgence in popularity and a show of solidarity within the second hand / independent retail market. One band gives their opinion that it will be the giants such as HMV that will fall first, whilst the smaller more passionate stores will persevere. Here’s hoping that this will be the case.
There are interviews with the founders and operators of some innovative labels such as Sargent House, The Richter Collective and Popical Island. They examine their close working relationships (and sometimes direct involvement) with the bands. The sense of community which is portrayed would stir even the coldest heart, especially when compared to the callous, disposable and exploitative nature of the big leagues.
The first thing that strikes the viewer is the absolute lack of pretension from all involved. There is a genuine sense of ‘We’re in this together’ which is incredibly refreshing after so many years of egotistical self importance emanating from over-privileged and over-hyped artists.
The music itself is as diverse and varied as one could ask for. Straight up punk and hardcore are represented by the likes of Kidd Blunt, Puget Sound and Baccus. Experimental acts such as The Redneck Manifesto and The Jimmy Cake are featured, as are Villagers, No Spill Blood and The Ambience Affair.
One of my personal favourites And So I Watch You From Afar get a well deserved amount of screentime. ASIWYFA are one of the genuinely hardest working bands out there, existing on a seemingly perpetual tour and who only last night (22.05.12) played with a full symphonic orchestra in Belfast (see footage below). It’s a long way from when I first saw them 7 years ago, in front of twenty or so people in the Derry bar in Portrush.
Touring is alluded to frequently and in particular, the availability of new areas to bands which would have been unimaginable under previous circumstances or label restraints. We are shown footage of the chaotic and sublime Adebisi Shank bringing their mayhem to the shores of Japan. The aforementioned Puget Sound tearing it up in Brazil and Hands Up Who Wants To Die in the Ukraine. ASIWYFA make an appearance at Brighton’s Great Escape, but this is a mere day trip compared to the bands recent excursions throughout Russia, Europe and the USA. We are also treated to a great deal of live footage from bands in venues around Dublin, such as a storming recent performance from the exceptional Wizards of Firetop Mountain.
The utilisation of tools such as Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Tumblr are all accredited for the ease of use and assistance which they offer bands and labels. There is a strong focus on vinyl and respect is paid for the innovative creation of the digital download coupon.
This is a fascinating documentary for anyone who is either unfamiliar or interested in discovering more about the real Irish music industry. The overall sense is one of determination, hope and enthusiasm. It’s heart warming, passionate and will hopefully instill desire, passion and support for not just the bands involved, but for the DIY / Indie scene in general.
A Joyful Slog ”â Relevant Links:
The Jimmy Cake
Wizards of Firetop Mountain and here.
And So I Watch You From Afar and here.
The Ambience Affair
The Redneck Manifesto
No Spill Blood
Hands Up Who Wants To Die
Devil on 45
The Richter Collective