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Bell X1
Photo thanks to Diana Broeders

As we walked into Het Paard last night it was practically empty. Are these the only 12 people that got tickets for the concert we wondered? By the time support act The Postmarks started playing we might have made it to 20. They played a suitably sullen few songs until for some reason the lead singer cheered up and the band made us all come closer to fill in the big awkward gap. Much better.

By the time Bell X1 took the stage the room had just about enough people in it to not be embarassing. Thankfully, what we lacked in numbers we made up for in enthusiasm. There was a warm reception for all the songs, particularly from a small but noticeable Irish delegation of ladies. The band played a diverse setlist, making sure to play their better known material such as Flame, Bad Skin Day, Rocky Took a Lover and of course their modest Talking Heads soundalike hit The Great Defector. Even the song that first brought the band to my attention: Eve the Apple of my Eye.

I went to this show because friend and Bell X1 advocate CoR invited me. I know and like a few of their songs, but was never properly grabbed by the Bell X-bug. I would have to say that this remains the same after the concert. In a way that’s odd, because I can’t fault the band. Paul Noonan has a good voice and puts his soul into his performance, the band is solid and their songs are decent. Maybe it’s a classic case of “It’s not you, it’s me” for me and these Dublin boys.

I really enjoyed the show all the same. The intimate setting was a nice change from some of the overcrowded sardine tin concerts I’ve recently been to. Highligts for me were the frenzied performance of Tongue, and Noonan’s very impressive attempts to speak Dutch! Hoofd, schouders, knie en teen!

In keeping with my last post I’m sticking with “exciting things from Ireland”. As it happens, the boys from Bell X1 had a very creative year in 2007. Besides releasing Tour De Flock they came up with an excellent idea to raise money for Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign: they called up everyone in their little black book of who’s who in the Irish music scene and put together a collective called The Cake Sale.

The Cake Sale

The result is an interesting mix of predominantly Irish musicians, writers and vocalists, with members of Bell X1, The Frames, The Thrills, Snow Patrol and singer songwriters such as Lisa Hannigan (singing the wonderful track Needles, penned by Damien Rice despite their ‘artistic break up’), Gemma Hayes and Neil Hannon. Read the full story on The Cake Sale’s MySpace.

One of the stand out tracks is the sweet and innocent Some Surprise, with vocals by Lisa Hannigan and Gary Lightbody. They recorded their vocals at different times and in different countries, but judging by the end result it was worth the gamble. The track has already appeared in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in the US.

Ireland saw the release of The Cake Sale in November 2006, UK and North America followed in 2007, with all royalties being donated to Oxfam. Sadly it’s not available on Dutch shelves yet, but it can be ordered online.

The full list of Cake Vendors:
Rob Bochnik (guitar The Frames)
Ollie Cole (solo & guitar Turn)
Brian Crosby (guitar Bell X1)
Conor Deasy (vocals The Thrills)
Dave Geraghty (multi instrumentalist Bell X1 & solo)
Emm Gryner (singer songwriter)
Lisa Hannigan (singer, previously with Damien Rice)
Neil Hannon (vocals The Divine Comedy)
Glen Hansard (solo & vocals The Frames)
Gemma Hayes (singer songwriter)
Graham Hopkins (drummer, previously with Therapy?)
Kevin Horan (piano The Thrills)
Colm Mac Ion Iomaire (violin & keyboard The Frames)
Padraic McMahon (guitar & bass The Thrills)
Gary Lightbody (vocals Snow Patrol)
Matt Lunson (singer songwriter)
Paul Noonan (vocals Bell X1)
Nina Persson (solo & vocals The Cardigans)
Dominic Phillips (bass player Bell X1)
Damien Rice (singer songwriter)
Ken Rice (Irish Chamber Orchestra)
Josh Ritter (singer songwriter)
Daniel Ryan (guitar The Thrills)
Nick Seymour (producer & bass Crowded House)

Over Christmas I paid a flash visit to my family in Ireland, my home away from home. Even though I was just there a few days it was wonderfully relaxing and loads of fun, compiled of the main ingredients carbohydrate, alcohol and wrapping paper.

As I sat blissfully slumped in a corner of a downtown pub surrounded by some of my cousins and a collection of empty bottles of Bulmers, I quizzed them about anything up & coming on the Irish music front. They agreed I should listen to a band called Bell X1.

At first I thought I’d never heard of them, but then I realised this is the remainder of the band Juniper, in which Damien Rice used to be the vocalist. Apparently after his departure the band did a shuffle, with drummer Paul Noonan taking on a new rol as lead singer. They’ve already released three studio albums: Neither Am I [2000], Music In Mouth [2003] and Flock [2005]. Currently the band have a live album out, recorded at The Point in Dublin, called Tour De Flock.

Their last single Bad Hair Day, about wollowing in self pity but promising yourself one day you’ll do better, was a good introduction to the band for me:

But when I found the video for their 2004 single Eve, The Apple Of My Eye, I was sold. Judge for yourselves:

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