Local music gets chance to shine as free Dean Crowe gigs begin
What is the current state of Athlone's local music scene? Does one even exist? These are questions that have emerged periodically over the years, despite the undoubted fact that the town produces a generous supply of gifted original artists.
There will be an opportunity to take the pulse of the original music scene in the Dean Crowe Theatre Bar over the next eight days, as it hosts three 'Local Music Platform' gigs.
These are free shows which will feature performances by Rob Irwin (Thursday, June 16), Brian McCormack's 'Brian Mac Band' (Sunday, June 19) and David Dockery (Thursday, June 23).
David, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from Athlone, said there used to be a music scene in the town but he feels like it hasn't been there for a while now.
"When I was coming up, and playing music as a teenager, there were lots of original gigs happening here and in other towns in the country, with tons of bands performing and releasing music. It felt like a community then for sure," he said.
"For whatever reason, whether it's due to small venues closing or changes in the way people consume music, it's been pretty sparse for quite some time.
"There are definitely plenty of great musicians around Athlone, but I think the platform for them to perform generally hasn't been there.
"That's why it's so refreshing to see the Dean Crowe hosting these three gigs. Hopefully they will be the first of many."
The local man has worked as a session drummer and guitarist for the past decade, and currently tours with Moncrieff and Síomha. His 'David Dockery' YouTube channel has a whopping 146,000 subscribers, and includes videos of his drumming set to clips of well-known movies, TV shows, and video games.
Some of the videos, such as his drumming to scenes from King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, have attracted over a million views.
"I really enjoy working on videos but I actually haven't had the time to do so for the last while, as I've been very busy with other projects, so my channel is sort of in hibernation at the moment," David told the Westmeath Independent.
"I think the concept of drumming along with scenes from TV or movies was a new one to a lot of people who saw the videos at first, so they were shared around a bunch and spread pretty rapidly."
David records and releases his own music under the name 'Beechpark' and his style is a mix of alternative rock and a singer-songwriter approach, with influences such as Paul Simon, Beck, Alice in Chains, and the Foo Fighters.
This Friday (June 17) he releases his first 'Beechpark' single, a song called 'Through This Soon' which has a message of reassurance that bad times will pass.
"I wrote it during the first lockdown, when nobody knew what was going on, but I guess it applies to the current state of things too, maybe moreso even," he said.
His gig in the Dean Crowe on the Thursday of next week will be a "stripped-back acoustic" affair at which he will be showcasing a number of new songs.
"I'm really excited about this music and I hope that will come across on the night," he said. "I'd also like to say thanks to the Westmeath County Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media for the funding for these gigs.
"I truly believe we need more events like these to happen on a regular basis and this is a great step in the right direction. I'm really happy to be a part of it."
Brian McCormack, a professional guitarist and singer from Baylough, Athlone, developed an interest in music as a young child when he saw his uncle playing guitar in his grandmother's house.
"Something about it caught me, and still has me," he said.
His 'Brian Mac Band' released a debut EP, 'Zest' in March of this year. A new single, 'Andromeda' is scheduled for release next month, followed by the recording of a second EP in August.
Brian said the upcoming single was "about slowing things down and looking at the bigger picture, which I think is something we all can benefit from."
The dearth of live music during the pandemic resulted in the break up of a number of groups, but he said he was encouraged by the quality of young musical talent now coming through.
"Locally, there's a wide emerging unit of kids playing music at a really good level. The future of local artists is looking stronger than it has in years," he commented.
The Brian Mac Band consists of Mount Temple native Paul Allen on bass guitar and vocals, Robbie McManus on guitar and vocals, and the aforementioned David Dockery on drums, though David can't perform with the group at the gig this Sunday due to a prior engagement.
Brian said the event in the Dean Crowe Bar will be "a cosy evening with a mix of original and cover songs, some being performed for the first time, some familiar favourites, and the new upcoming single 'Andromeda'."
He praised the "warmth and hospitality" of the Dean Crowe, saying its performance space in the newly-refurbished bar was perfect for intimate gigs such as these.
This Thursday, Rob Irwin starts the ball rolling with the first of the three free shows.
The music of the 26-year-old indie singer-songwriter explores themes of "heartbreak, euphoria and redemption with a heavy emphasis on self-reflection," and Rob has been gaining attention with the strength and control of his falsetto singing voice.
His recent single 'Puppets', featuring Leah Maloney, received airplay on radio stations including RTE Radio One and 2fm, and he is currently preparing his next release, 'Before the Rain Began' which is due out this summer.
For more information, see: www.deancrowetheatre.com