All photographs on this page reproduced with permission of Patrick Brocklebank. Check out Patrick's book of early U2 photographs "Where The Streets Have 2 Names".
24 hour Dark Space Festival
16-17/02/1979 Project Arts Centre Dublin
Line up; Mekons (England), Rudi, Outcasts, Protex, Idiots, Berlin, The Atrix, U2, Revolver, Virgin Prunes, Rocky De Valera, New Version, Phantom Orchestra, D.C. Nien, Gillespie & Gibbs, The Letters, The Boy Scoutz, Modern Heirs, Vultures, Zebra.
At this time the Project Arts Centre was more less a dielectric building, Tony Sheridan and his family had painted the interior walls white, this is how the festival got it's name "Dark Space".
The Project Arts Centre “Dark Space” festival brings together the biggest ever collection of Irish “New Wave” bands under one roof, from both the north & south. After Public Image pull out, the only non Irish band are The Mekons. U2 close the festival on the Saturday night. Their set is stopped mid way through due to late scheduling. There is also no time for a “Live Aid” style finale with all the bands on stage together.
Fan review by Aidan O'Rourke My earliest memory of U2 is from 1978 when they played at a 24 hour music festival at the Project Arts Centre, which had recently opened in what is now known as Temple Bar district. The performance wasn't very polished, but the band had lots of energy.
A new band named U2 had appeared on Dublin's music scene. I first saw them at the Project Arts Centre during 1978. They stormed onto a very high stage - I seem to remember staring at the lead singer Paul Hewson's pointed cowboy boots - & delivered a frenetic & bewildering set.
They had something, though I wasn't quite sure what. The youthful lead singer with his ruddy cheeks, unfashionable medium length hair & tight trousers pranced around the stage yelling into the microphone. The vocals were haphazard - frequently out of tune & croaking in the upper registers. Each of the band members seemed to be pushing the pace of the music.
Hot Press Review by Dave Fanning "Death race 2,000" had passed it's half way mark when U2 took the stage to the hearty applause of the dedicated followers of fashion who had forgotten to bring sleeping bags. And the band's rock 'n' roll breakfast tasted just fine.
With perfect posturing & dynamic delivery, Paul Hewson, straining every muscle & pulling the band forward, was always arresting. While they were always confident & competent Dave Evans (gtr) & Adam Clayton (bass), belied the intermittent tendency to drag the music into the clutches of the age old malaise of heavy metal sludge, especially on the shadily atmospheric "Shadows & Tall Trees". The sound was crisp enough, but Tayto it ain' t. Yet numbers like "Cartoon World" & "Another Time Another Place" they showed enough bravado & intelligence to convince anyone that this young band has hair on it's chest. "Street Missions" was great. Their encore "Glad To See You Go" was energetic but it suffered slightly from it's slower than Ramones pace. Not to worry. Their own numbers & enthusiasm will see them through.
Irish Times Review by Joe Breen In the wake of the euphoria surrounding Van Morrison's concerts in Ireland last week the success of the Project's Art Centre 24 hour "Dark Space" festival may be overlooked.
In fact, it was was a 26 hour event as the music continued until midnight last Saturday week. Aside from the more controversial aspects of the festival, such as the strip tease act, the music, played entirely by leading young Irish bands (with the exception of The Mekons from Britain), was of an unexpectedly high standard. maybe it was the appearance of Britain's leading rock DJ, John Peel, which prompted the energetic performances & it is reasonable to assume he was accordingly impressed.
Prior to the venture, many people feared the worst. The festival idea has strong hippy connotations & it was felt that possibly the New Wave fans & bands would find it all too boring. Allied to that the disappointment over the non appearance of Johnny Lydon & his PIL band & the confusion over whether some Irish bands would play added to the pessimistic view.
However, as events showed, it was probably better that Lydon did not appear as Public Image's star appeal might have detracted from the impact of the local bands. I caught The Atrix, The Mekons, The Virgin Prunes, U2 & many more. They were all enjoyable but I was particularly impressed by U2, who have made great progress in the last few months, & the very promising, The Atrix. The Virgin Prunes very theatrical act was highly entertaining, but the limitations of the music & playing are too severe.
The crowd, John Stephenson of the Project told me, totaled about 800 over the 26 hours, but at the reduced price of £4 a head (owing to the non appearance of John Lydon & Throbbing Gristle) he said that the festival would lose a lot of money. Invariably, there were many small problems, such as the sound not always being correct or the music drowning out the soundtracks of the films which were shown throughout the festival. But these minor cribs amount to little when compared to the peace, the good music & the general good atmosphere which permeated the East Essex Street building. Even the Project workers remained in good spirits at the snacks counter though they were there for 12 hour shifts.
Unfortunately, along with the many unusually dressed people there were (including one fan with a Mohican hair style) I noticed two people wearing Nazi insignia, a despicable trait that I thought the New Wave had dispensed with. They is nothing funny about fascism, as many people of different races & colours have found out, & are still finding out to day.
Incidentally, I tried to find out the meaning of the title, "Dark Space", but nobody seemed able solve the mystery. However at 7am on a Saturday morning "Dark Space", adequately summed up the the state of my head, so maybe that's what the organisers meant.
The Bands Taking Part
Hot Press reviews.........sadley I can find no reviews on The Vultures or Rocky De Valera & the Gravediggers
Bill Graham Hot Press It may have been the most significant Dublin rock event since the Rats left town. Certainly Project’s “Dark Space” momentarily took capital rock out of the doldrums it’s been fighting for the last two years. Van Morrison can provide the motto – it surely is too late to stop now.
In fact, the non appearance of Public Image was a boon. Bereft of their presence and the weekend punks they would have attracted, the flow wasn’t distorted nor energies distracted by that overriding event, instead, but for the presence of The Mekons. “Dark Space” was a completely local event, allowing the bands to sow the seeds of self-conscious community.
It wasn’t just Dublin. The Belfast contingent in their denims & black leather jackets were just as important with Rudi possibly the band who gained the greatest advantage out of the event. The two scenes mixed as they never had the opportunity to previously “Dark Space” significance must include the cross border detents it achieved.
Admittedly Project lost money. But the spirit of the affair appears to have convinced them of the necessity to repeat the experiment & if there were faults in the organization, the lessons have surely been learnt.
The event had to be over-the-top to make the desired impact & the scope of the occasion at least allowed every band to democratically show their wares. None the less few had the stamina to make it through the full twenty four hours. It may be wiser to concentrate the next into an allnighter.
It was the less estimated bands who provided the surprises, D.C. Nien, The Letters, Zebra, The Modern Heirs and, so this non-witness gathers, The Vultures all proving themselves as fully capable as the groups in the lager hall. As for the bigger names, they all performed close to or at the peak of their abilities.
Except for early gobbing & numbskulls at the finale who ripped off the reception desk, the event was never petty. The organization wasn’t always perfect but it invariably coped & was never the shambles some pessimists had previously predicted. If I’ve one grip, it was the closing scene, U2 being cut off in mid set due to late scheduling. Whatever about them, it really should have climaxed with every band or at least a representative on stage. That celebration didn’t come.
No matter, an orphan scene finally found a home where it didn’t have to deal with Fagins, publicans, gangsters, hucksters, and failed star trippers. Those who were there know its importance, in five years time, those who weren’t will be clamouring to pretend they were there and Project will discover they’d had as large audience as filled the G.P.O. “Dark Space” was the first Irish rock gig for the eighties. Jump aboard.
11 P.M. And Revolver are promptly on stage, kunckling down to the unenviable task of opening the night proceedings before a cold, still gathering crowd, much of whose calculated sartorial disarray and penchant activities like pogoing and gobbing recalled the ancient days. Flashback “It’s just like 1977” one teenager observed nostalgically.
From co-starring roles with The Vipers as the viable international contenders at the Project Punk Festival in 1977 to the unwilling role of Grand Old Men in the most comprehensive line up of local New Wave talent yet assembled under one roof – a convenient kind of historical perspective that, but one which to some extent clouds the band’s progression over the same period.
The current incarnation plays with considerably more assurance than of yore, the drafting in of guitarist Pat Hamilton and now excellent bass playing of Kevin Helly in particular contributing to their new found collective confidence. Yet Revolver were sometimes sluggish and not a little slipshod in places on the night.
On the other hand new songs as disparate as “National Hero”, “Stay Young, Stay Free” (nice ‘n’n sleazy and just begging for that sax embellishment on stage) the dervish locomotion of “Tell No Lie” and the glorious “One More Chance” illustrate where they can go.
The first of the rescheduled bands on Stage 2 was Protex, introduced by Good Vibrations main man Terri Hooley. I can’t say I was overly impressed though “I Can’t Quit” and “Don’t Ring Me Up” came over well. They’ve got time on their side.
Protex from Belfast are being touted as another major Northern talent and justifiably so, although it’d take more than a single hearing to properly evaluate their true potential.
Their set housed a plethoria of memorable hooks hung on a framework of snappy, melodic chord sequences, which brought to mind the Ramones of say, “Don’t Come Close”. Exuberant and contagious in a quintessential “pop” fashion, they finished with an apposite, if endearingly chaotic “Teenager In Love”, with fellow Northern band The Outcasts and others aboard.
With the M.C. having completed his Peter Cook flak catching routine, Berlin stepped forward to weather the most concentrated gobbing thus far, opening unspectacularly while viewing with unsympathetic P.A. distortion, and even a temporary power cut, before finally surmounting the obstacles sufficient to impress this previously unconverted observer.
At their worst Berlin attempt to compensate for lack of melodic invention with an onslaught of speed and volume, “Gang Bang” and a disastrous reading of the Small Faces’ “All Or Nothing” falling into that department. But on their best creations, they stretch out, accommodate individual expression but not indulgence, replace full frontal assault with subtlety and understatement, and in the process turn up gems like “Tube Talk” and “Waitin’ For The Future” – the kind of insidious songs that inexplicably enter the mind two days after the event. Liam Mackey
Photo taken next too the Dublin to Wexford train, the picture was taken by Patrick Brocklebank, just before Berlin split up.
Friday evening on the smaller stage was a succession of surprises. If words are shorter than desired, it’s down to the impossibility of catching every instant. The Letters were a proficient synthesis of mainstream punk and R & B, accurate and adept but a more un-distracting setting will have to wait for a band who appeared a capable addition to the scene.
D. C. Nien
D.C. Nien are the latest art rockers. Unique for Ireland in their points of reference – Bowie and Roxy – they’ve a visually impressive double act in their smooth never alone with a Strand singer and his skinheaded accomplice on guitar. Swimming synthesizers, bleating sax from the singer and abrasive rhythms, D.C. Nien are a band we’ve tended to ignore and can’t any longer.
The Boy Scouts
Ireland's only female "Punk" band
As for The Boy Scoutz, they won’t win any prizes from the Academy of Music but their doggedness and courage in the face of scorn shames more spoilt outfits. The Boy Scoutz could lecture most geriatric bands on attitude. Still persevering, they don’t want to be a freak show. Mainly, these women need the work. Giving them some faith and charity might no longer be necessary.
The Modern Heirs include two H.P. contributions in Pete XIX and Stan Erraught so you’ll understand unbiased comment isn’t the easiest; Instrumental experiments, catalyzed by Pete on a circuit of keyboards, a rhythm machine, and disturbing vocals, they played long past dawn. Bands like The Modern Heirs hardly get an opportunity to perform in Dublin let alone exist. Their presence was the most of “Dark Space’s” adventure.
The Virgin Prunes, with a neat line in choreographic poses proved a bizarre but fascinating choice for some early morning madness with Dik (guitar) and Warren (bass) providing a more accomplished version of the standing still than any Wyman or Entwistle.
Up front, lead vocalists Guggi and Gavin offered a convincing case for the band’s wholly unique projection. It’s not so much theatre and music as theatrics and drone rock and with so much room for obvious potential in the general concept, their “Big In ‘84” tag in not as silly as it sounds.
With a tight drum, guitar and bass backline both vocalists with some hard work and considerable elan (and a daffodil for Algernon) challenged the apathetic and especially with “Art Fuck” broke through the threatening air of sanguine goofiness. Just as the set has no extras. (“Thank you very much. The band don’t do encores,” squeaked Dave Id, the happy narrator), so we’ll just have to see them again. Have to, because they’re worth it.
I’ve seen them close on six times and their early instrumental inadequacies have progressively been eradicated. I won’t advocate them further than to say they’re a damn important band who can’t remain a Dublin secret any longer. Prune power will soon be upon us.
The Phantom Orchestra weren’t exactly allotted the most prestigious slot of the 24 hours – at 11 o’clock on the Saturday morning most of the populace in the Project were just coming back to their senses after the various excesses of the previous night – but nevertheless they made the most of it and more.
As soon as they got up on the stage you could see the bemused looks flickering across the faces of the predominantly punk audience. Whispers of “shiiiittt, look at that – two violinists, two acoustic guitarists, a flautists (Ha Ha Ha) and a ................ Jaysus......a double bass”.
As soon as the first notes were struck and the punks realised that the boys weren’t playing purely for laughs there was more or less a mass exodus out to the disco – leaving behind the apparently senior members of the audience. But they began to trickle back into the theatre as the applause for the band got bigger and bigger.
Meantime The Phantom Orchestra turned on the heat with a mixture of excellent musicianship and warm humour. A version of “Reelin an’ A Rockin” like you’ve never heard; fabulous versions of “Fever”, played with just double bass and voice accompaniment; a couple of their own songs which encompassed some excellent solos from the violinists and the flautist (who also played a demon harp) and finally a couple of Dylan songs thrown in for good measure. The final high spot was the encore of “Johnny B. Goode” – I’ve never seen anything like it. Catch them if you can. Declan Colley
The Phantom Orchestra
Zebra are “Ireland’s first reggae band”, a five piece which apparently had its genesis in the UCD Bar – a story possibly confirmed by the very un roots looking lead vocalist.
But didn’t he have his West Indian blas off to the language? A bit self conscious here and there, though. The band almost inevitably cemented itself to an unvaried chugging along to familiar themes, with songs from people like Steel Pulse, Matumbi and Third World: “Police in the streets/ Frightening the people with their guns ………… All the peacemakers turn into war mongers”.
They held the interest of a large segment of the partly bedraggled crowd as Gillespie & Gibbs attempted to commence in another corner of the ravaged Project shell.
“No Woman No Cry” was their encore, note perfect Marley from our persevering student friend, Jamaican by musical adoption. Zebra are fun. Julian Vignoles.
The great white (music) hopes, The Atrix, were playing meanwhile on Stage 2, turning in a very tight solid set, with special praise due to their excellent drummer. The Atrix proved themselves a band capable at once of attack and dexterity, with real all round ability. It was noticeable, though, that the more young of age and heart – (including Mr Peel) were watching Rudi. A pity, as for different reasons both bands were excellent; the overlap of playing divided their potential listeners. Still as was pointed out, there is just so much you can do with 24 hours. Steve Rapid
Back at Stage 1, Rocky DeValera had resumed his set of classic rock and R & B followed by Rudi (after allowing a P.A. cooling period). Whatever it was, the smaller room, the clearer the P.A. or what – Rudi were much more enjoyable than their contemporaries Protex, playing a neat line in ’78 post punk pop; a type of band sadly lacking (so far) down south of the border.
Lurching in from Rudi with their maliciously exuberant revision of “Yummy Yummy” – Northern bands have perfect taste when it comes to covers – and Good Vibes’ Terri Hooley 15 minutes of fame with “Laugh At Me” (glass eyeball askew and both Rudi and Protex forming his G.V. showband – the funniest moment of the whole show), it was clear The Virgin Prunes, then on Stage 2, had stiff competition in the outrage stakes.
But it was getting close to midnight and all but the stayers were departing for last buses and well deserved rest. A hardy few remained for U2 whose set bore the marks of rush and tiredness, capable but below the high level of the previous morning. The close was anti climatic, we didn’t get “Street Missions” as finale as a Project organizer stepped in to thank all who participated. A candle had been burnt at both ends, some had flagged by the wayside but for all the untidiness of the closing moments, the “Dark Space” was filled.
And will be again and again and.....................The melodies won’t be for the status quo. Bill Graham
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