The Olllam at Whelan’s – Review
The Olllam – Whelan’s – July 23rd
At Whelan’s last night was what I can only describe as Celtic-Post-Rock band, The Ollam. Fronted by John McSherry (one of the founding members of Irish Trad band Lúnasa), on uilleann pipes and tin whistle, with Tyler Duncan and drummer Michael Shimmin. Duncan and Shimmin, both hailing from Detroit, teamed up with Belfast native McSherry to record their debut album ‘.the ollam.’ in 2012, with rehearsals done online with the use of online video chats and shared studio tracks over email for each to add their own individual parts.
Support on the night came from the 2011 International Six String Theory Competition Winner David Brown Murray (DBM). With his uplifting acoustic instrumentals and even making covers, including one of Britney Spears’ Toxic sound like it was classically composed! With other good covers of ‘Get Lucky’, ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ and a quirky version of the Inspector Gadget theme tune. DBM also played one original which was the intricate ‘Vending Machine Lottery. I wish that more than the mere 20-30 people in the room could have heard this set.
Joining the trio on stage was Sean O’Meara on guitar, Martin Atkinson on keys and the extremely talented Joe Dart on bass. At the start of the night McSherry let us know there was to be little or no talking from the band and they would just get on with the music. Perfect. The night kicked off with the opening track to the album ‘Prolllogue’. The wonderful harmonies of the tin whistles of McSherry and Durcan were mesmerising. The first few songs drifted into one another seamlessly with the guitar knitting it all together. A few songs in and the guys were switching back and forth between their whistles and the uilleann pipes mid-song giving a completely different sense of sound. The six piece were joined on stage by accordionist Peter Browne for a rendition of John McSherry’s own composition ‘The Wave Sweeper’.
Durcan thanked the crowd for a wonderful night and announced the final song of the night which was the sombre closing track on the album ‘Prayer for Tears’. They left the stage for little over a minute and told the crowd ‘We can’t leave this on such a dark note’ and proceeded to play as Durcan described as Spanish party songs.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this jazzy, post rock sound with a hint of 3 or 4 more genres thrown in for good measure. With its toe-tapping, head nodding sound, you couldn’t help but appreciate it. The place filled up a bit more than it had been earlier in the night but it was far from full which was disappointing as it was certainly worth it. The album tour continues tonight in The Pavillion in Cork followed by Dolan’s in Limerick and The Mac in Belfast the following 2 nights.
You can find out more about The Ollam on their official website.
Review by Pat Byrne