GLOW (and Netflix New Additions)

It seems like every few days there’s another fifty things added to Netflix and my list gets longer and longer. Have you watched GLOW yet? It was released a few weeks ago and I watched all eight half-hour episodes over the course of four evenings. It’s based on a real-life phenomenon, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a women’s professional wrestling promotion that debuted in America in 1986.

Alison Brie stars as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress down to her last few dollars and desperate for work. A casting director tells her about the GLOW auditions and despite her initial aversion she tries out. Dozens of women turn up for the first audition and they are whittled down to fourteen, all of whom must create compelling personas for the ring. Well, maybe not so much compelling personas as egregiously offensive stereotypes. An African-American woman becomes ‘The Welfare Queen’, there’s a Indo-American character called ‘Beirut the Mad Bomber’, and a heavy-set girl is given a quick Peruvian makeover and cast as ‘Machu Picchu’.

Ruth’s former best friend Debbie Eagan (played superbly by Betty Gilpin) is cast as the main attraction ‘Liberty Belle’, the all American girl. She needs an antagonist and GLOW’s director decides to capitalise on the fraught relationship between the two girls so Ruth becomes ‘Zoya the Destroyer’. Given the Cold War was still in effect when GLOW began, you can see he didn’t reach far for inspiration.

As a series GLOW has a lot going for it: well-written characters to root for, a great soundtrack, cheesy training montages, moments of pure hilarity and moments of genuine emotion. Although the original GLOW was clearly created for the male gaze, the TV show focusses on female empowerment, demonstrating that women can get just as much of a kick out of wanton (albeit completely staged) violence as men. (And in fact Betty Gilpin wrote a fascinating and funny article for Glamour magazine where she talks about the body confidence she found in playing her character.) GLOW is definitely one to watch if you haven’t already and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that series two is green-lit.

And if you’re looking for a movie to watch this weekend there are new additions to Netflix that I’ve already reviewed, all of which I’d recommend: Bernie, While We’re Young, Chef, and Trumbo.

DJing at the National Gallery Reopening

On 14th June I did a gig that will be one of the highlights of my career; the re-opening of the National Gallery after over six years of refurbishment. It’s always been one of my favourite places in Dublin, and DJing in the Miltown Wing between a Rubens and a Rembrandt is an experience I’ll never forget.

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When I was booked for the gig, the musical references I was given included Max Richter and Mica Levi; a world away from the usual party playlist requests. And so over the course of two-and-a-half hours I played music that I never usually get the chance to play – Steve Reich and Bernard Hermann and Agnes Obel and Mahler among many others – and it was a lot of fun and a great privilege.

‘Sound & Color’ couldn’t have been a more perfect title for the night in question. The song is soulful and layered, sonically blurry and vivid at the same time.

This haunting mash-up of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ with Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto II was on my playlist from the get-go.

‘Angelica’ from Lamb’s Between Darkness and Wonder with the unmistakable sample from Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ is stealthily beautiful.

There’s a great documentary available on the RTE Player about the refurbishment of the gallery.

Whether you spend fifteen minutes in the new portrait gallery, or an hour in the gorgeous cafe, or all day marvelling at the paintings and the craftsmanship, just go! It’s one of the most beautiful places in the country.

Good Life – Soulé

The unbelievably good weather calls for a feel good tune. Even though ‘Good Life’ by Irish artist Soulé was released back in February it has summer written all over it! I love the positive energy of this song and her vibe in general.

Pronounced Soul-A, she was born in the UK and raised in Balbriggan where she’s now based. She cites her influences as Erykah Badu, Macy Grey, ASA, Chrisette Michele, and Nneka. She says she only got serious about singing a year ago but it looks like she’s already set for huge success with her latest single ‘Troublemaker’ racking up 500,000 plays on Spotify in two months, and a Choice Music Prize nomination for ‘Song of the Year’ in 2016.

Diffusion Lab are behind this video, as they were with the Jafaris video I posted recently.

Here she is chatting to Stuart Clark from Hot Press after her set at Forbidden Fruit. You can catch her live at Sea Sessions this weekend and on the Other Voices stage at Electric Picnic.

Room Little Darker – June Caldwell

There was a moment last week when I was reading on the bus and I angled the pages away so that the person beside me wouldn’t accidentally cast their eye over them and move seats in outrage. The book in question was June Caldwell’s collection of short stories Room Little Darker and the story was ‘Leitrim Flip’. It’s about a couple who are into kink and so they meet with a like-minded couple to enjoy swinging and S&M. However the tables are turned when the second couple imprison the first and force them to behave like pet dogs. It sounds creepy and bizarre and pretty close to the edge, and it’s all of those things, but it’s also very very funny.

Caldwell takes on many subjects in the eleven stories included in the collection. ‘The Glens of Antrim’ is more S&M, with salty descriptions of kinky sex amongst virtual strangers. ‘Imp of the Perverse’ depicts how a woman unravels as a result of rejection by her manipulative lecturer: ‘Cheek of that philistine citing my behaviour as inappropriate when he uses the course as fanny fodder all the time and no one blinks an ethical eyelid!’

‘SOMAT’, previously included in Sinead Gleeson’s Long Gaze Back anthology, is one of the strongest and most emotionally affecting of the stories. It is told from the point of view of a foetus and was partly inspired by the death of Marlise Muñoz as well as our own Eighth Amendment.

Caldwell has a way with language, a style of writing completely unlike any other Irish female writer I’ve read. It’s acerbic, confrontational, hilarious, very sexual but not in a coy or titillating way, and it’s filled to the brim with idiosyncratic vivid descriptions: a loved one’s mouth with a ‘seagull-in-flight upper lip’, a laugh ‘like he’d swallowed an antique television full of static’, an old man described as a ‘sack of crumpled grey maudlin’.

Room Little Darker is Caldwell’s first book. She worked as a journalist for many years and is a prize-winning short story writer with a raft of achievements to her name. She’s just signed up with Rogers Coleridge and White, one of the biggest agencies in London, so I’m sure Room Little Darker will be picked up for international publication and will mark the start of a long and brilliant career.

Mo Kelly’s exhibition ‘Contrast, Light + Illuminated Dusk’ at The Red Bank

Mo Kelly is currently exhibiting her most recent work in The Red Bank on Dublin’s Duke Street. ‘Contrast, Light + Illuminated Dusk’ marks Mo’s twentieth solo show, a huge milestone. Brava!

Mo’s work is inspired by opera, literature, film, and especially travelling. Her other hugely successful career as a DJ also plays a big part (she’s played at clubs, events, private parties and festivals in Ireland, Europe and Dubai). DJs tend to be night-owls (if anyone knows, I know!) and this influence is clear in her paintings: shadows at dusk and twilight trickery, city nightscapes, pale trees illuminated by silver and gold moons. I went to the exhibition opening and loved her new work, especially the vivid red lanterns suspended in the night sky inspired by her recent trip to Thailand.

The exhibition is running for the next few weeks so pop into The Red Bank and check it out. If you see a painting you like and it’s sold, give Mo a shout as she has other work available outside of the exhibition.

Totally Irish and Jafaris

Last Sunday the lovely John Barker asked me to be a guest on his show Totally Irish on 98FM. As the name suggests, the show is focussed on Irish music, from up and coming and established artists. Ham Sandwich did a live acoustic set followed by a set from Rocstrong. After that I joined John, together with Martin Byrne from Other Voices, to talk about three tracks from three Irish artists: James Vincent McMorrow, Jafaris, and The Fontaines.

I already knew and loved James Vincent McMorrow, I wasn’t such a huge fan of The Fontaines, and Jafaris was by far my favourite track of the evening. You might recognise Jafaris from his role in the award winning Irish movie Sing Street. As well as being an actor, he’s an accomplished rapper and has just released a four track EP called Velvet Cake available on iTunes. My favourite track from the EP is ‘Keep Your Head High’.

Jafaris is working with Diffusion Lab (who are doing some amazing work with Irish hip hop artists) and they have created a couple of videos for this EP, including this gorgeously shot one for ‘Love Dies’.

If you want to check out the whole podcast of the show, here’s the link.  I’m on in the last half an hour. Hope you enjoy!

Vinyl Love for Repeal

I’m very proud to be DJing this Sunday May 14th at Vinyl Love for Repeal, a charity gig with all proceeds going towards the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The Vinyl Love collective has brought together DJs and music lovers to play eight of their favourite vinyl records in eight different cities on Sunday May 14th. The cities and venues are South William/Wah Wah Club in Dublin, 40ft Brewery in London, Gulp’d Cafe in Cork, Mojo Lounge in Waterford, Ormston House in Limerick, Roisin Dubh in Galway, Tricky’s McGarrigles in Sligo and Common Edge Street in Manchester.

There’s a suggested donation in each venue but you can donate whatever you can afford. It starts at 2pm and continues on until late. Hopefully the weather will be gorgeous and we can all enjoy a drink and great tunes in aid of a great cause.

Here’s Nialler9 explaining a bit more about the event.