It's the eternal quandary of the muso - what to do when your favourite band becomes popular? Do you denounce them for, evil of evils, selling out, or do you stick with them?
All week the prophets of doom had been telling us that the day was going to be a washout. Hurricane Charlie, they informed us in hushed tones, was on his way. Not a man, woman, or child would be left standing. If we looked closely we might see Noah sail past, sails full of the mighty winds that would rage all day, if the rain hadn't got us first. *At this point adopt Alan Partridge voice* Well there was a localised hurricane in South Dublin last Saturday, a 'Hurricane Marlay', if you will. And we got so blown away... *end of Partridgeisms, honest*
In fairness, this wasn't the best gig the Frames have ever played, it wasn't even their best Irish gig this year (that honour goes to Whelans of course). But it was certainly the most important. From the opening bars of 'Lay me Down' the crowd started singing, and kept going through Revelate. Happy was, unfortunately, one of the few new songs to make it into tonight's set, the lads obviously deciding that to fill Marlay Park, you're going to need a lot of noise. And so they delve back to Fitzcarraldo, for the title track, and rare outings (these days) for 'Angel at my Table' and 'Monument', along with the more frequently played 'Your Face' and 'Red Chord'. Dance the Devil was well served too, with 'Hollocaine', 'Star Star', 'Rent Day Blues' and 'Pavement Tune' all getting an airing. 'Hollocaine' became one of the unexpected highlights of the evening, the track being lifted from quite an ordinary song into something else by the rapping of, to my knowledge anyway, the only rapper in the world to trade under the moniker 'Berny'. He then forced the band into playing the timeless classic..Bananaman, and may now face legal action as all of those bananas flung into the crowd could have taken someone's eye out. Star Star was it's usual brilliant self, Colm's violin sending the music soaring and sweeping into the night sky, before we got a helping of Deus' Hotellounge, and an all too brief taste of Sparklehorse's Prettiest Widow.
During the brief respite from the music, I just took the opportunity to look around me . and I was amazed. There was a sea of faces behind me, all waiting expectantly for the lads to come back onstage. I thought back to the first time I saw The Frames live, in the Funnel. And the second, a couple of weeks later in the DCU canteen, with about 60 others, shortly before the release of Dance the Devil. They put as much effort into those couple of shows I saw 6 years ago as they did on Saturday. There really aren't any maps to show how a band can get from playing to a couple of dozen people in a canteen in DCU in 98 to headlining their own show in front of 15,000 people 6 years later, with no financial backing from labels.
Returning in triumph onto the stage, we got Glen solo doing The Blood, replete with audience chorus. The Blowers daughter heralded the entrance of Damien Rice, wearing his 'interesting' poncho-stylee top. In fairness the man can sing, and he lead the audience through his song admirably, with a verse of Creep thrown in for good measure. Glen returned to the stage to remind us that, whilst the bands rise has been swift in the past couple of years, there have been dark days too. With video footage of Mic on the screens, he sang Heyday like he really believes it. So did we. It was a fitting tribute to a life cut tragically short. The traditional nod to the Pixies came in the form of Where is my mind, Colm's violin again proving the focal point of the song. There could only be one song to round off the night, the sprawling epic that is 'Red Chord'. As the crowd roared cathartic 'yeea-aahs' into the night sky, the band formed a huddle and took their leave.
As I started on the seemingly endless path out of the park, I though back once again to those early shows, and the conversations I had after them. We all agreed that if there was any justice in the world, this band would be massive. Saturday, for me anyway, proved that The Frames have finally made it, prove that sometime the good guys do win. It marked the end of a chapter in their lives, which is why I think there were so many old songs. So, goodbye to all that, and we wait in expectation for the release of 'Burn the Maps', and the live shows in Vicar Street. I also thought of the bands they'd led me to, through covering their songs, like Sparklehorse and Deus, and also the artists they'd given a helping hand to by giving them support slots - David Kitt, Damien Rice, Bell X1, Turn, Jubilee Allstars, Mark Geary. Paul Noonan's image of The Frames being a giant sow who allow other artists to suckle at their breast is one that sticks in the memory, but it is accurate (well metaphorically anyway, I don't know what goes on behind closed doors..)
So, to return to my original question, what do you do when your favourite band go from cult status to genuine mass popularity? When the band is this good, you have no option - you stay on the train, and see where they'll take you next. I love it so far.