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The Fishbowl Sessions

BelloBar, Dublin, January 24th

Written by Elina Filice

It’s a Friday evening at the BelloBar, the occasion is the very first of what I’m sure will be many Fishbowl Sessions. The sessions were started by Dublin based rock band, Fishbowl Horizons. I spoke to one it’s founders, Owen, before the show about the history of the band and the sessions.

Elina: Tell me a little about the Fishbowl Sessions and where the inspiration for the idea came from!

Owen: We’ve been playing as Fishbowl Horizons for the last two years, we’ve noticed that in Dublin a lot of the nights you really have to commit to numbers, sell tickets, or else put on your own night. So what we decided to do to encourage other new music like ourselves is to put on this night, get other bands in, and support each other. We want to keep bringing more and more bands in, encourage them to bring their friends and fans, and our friends will get to know them. We want to grow the nights that way, and grow the bands that way. Our goal is to connect musicians, artists, and fans to new local music that might not otherwise have a platform.

Elina: Tell me a little bit about the band!

Owen: Myself and Declan have been playing music together since we were about 16. We’ve been writing music since then but never really did anything with it, kinda just us plugging away in my bedroom. About two years ago, we met two of the lads who had a real interest in joining a band so we took all our old songs and started to arrange them properly and make them bigger, developing them for the band setting. We’ve really enjoyed it and we’ve kept writing and developing since then.

Elina: What do you hope the Fishbowl Sessions will grow into?

Owen: Hopefully we can create a bit of a community or a collective with other up-and-coming bands, and will just keep growing the nights. We want to build up the name, get more people in to see the bands, and get in bands that are on the rise, which would grow the nights further. Already tonight is looking good!

Elina: Do you notice a lack of spaces for up-and-coming acts in Dublin?

Owen: I suppose we have, we’ve noticed a pay for play situation, and we’ve decided that our culture is to pay the acts, even if we make a loss. We’re not in it for the money, everything we make goes back into the nights. We would have to put on nights for ourselves anyway, so why not build something and try and grow it!

Elina: Views on the Dublin music scene right now?

Owen: There's awesome music around Dublin all the time, there’s loads of really good bands. I think for a lot of bands starting out it can be difficult. But there are lots of bands that have been able to catch that wave and have grown exponentially.

First up is Rebecca Locke, an American singer/songwriter based in Dublin. Like most sets from this rising artist, it was a journey in itself. She started out with a few songs on her own, just a girl and her uke. Big eyed and blue haired, her haunting vocals are complemented by the innocence of the ukulele sound.

She sings songs about drugs and loneliness, with darkly funny lyrics and emotive melodies. She left the stage to her band to entertain the audience for a few songs, before emerging again with clown makeup to finish her set, joined by her producer and two backup vocalists. A personal favourite quote of mine from Rebecca was “Welcome to all those who just walked in to see a girl singing about pretending to cum while wearing clown makeup on stage” (yes that is a direct quote).

Next up was a band I’m annoyed I’ve never seen before, MERO. MERO have been playing together in various guises since 2017 and have appeared on festival stages and venues across the country. Frontwoman Angel Hannigan leads the lot with powerful vocals and expressive stage presence.

She is joined by a band that includes mandolin, backing vocals, and a reliable rhythm section, and each tune continues to prove the high level of musicianship and cohesiveness of the band. The group delivers intricate and well-crafted folk- rock, the kind that feature everything good about folk-rock, with sprinkles of soul, indie, and even folk revival in the mix. It was reminiscent of KT Tunstall meets Fleetwood Mac, and MERO-fied covers of songs like “Wicked Games” were the cherry on top of the set.

To finish off an already lively night in the BelloBar basement, Fishbowl Horizons enter the stage to shouts from the crowd. They play feel-good rock and roll, with strong vocals from main songwriters Declan and Owen. From their well-tuned harmonies to developed songs, the chemistry between the pair is obvious. It’s not a surprise that the two have been making music together since their teens! Paul and Ronan in the rhythm section and Fiona on synth bring the songs to life, and several of the tunes are sing-along anthems that got the crowd singing.

No two songs sounded the same from this bunch. Fishbowl Horizons swam between straight ahead rock and roll, classic rock, psychedelic rock and even songs audibly influenced by nostalgic bluesy grooves. They finished off the night with an Elvis-esque tune that got the crowd to their feet. With patterned pants and flowing hair, Owen ditched the guitar for the mic and carried it home.

It’s safe to say that the first instalment of the Fishbowl Sessions was a great success. Great bands, fantastic production with lights and sound, and a fun and energetic crowd. I can’t wait to see what this bunch get up to next!

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