My Back Pages: I saw The Fontaines DC in concert and interviewed them before they were famous

This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. I’ve been meaning to share old things from my archives. Things I wrote early on. So don’t be surprised if the writing isn’t my best, it’s all part of the journey and there are many cool stories. I hope you enjoy them! Of course being a classic rock fans and being on a bit of a Byrds and Bob Dylan kick lately, why not name this series “My Back Pages” – thinking of this lyric: “Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”. Not sure what it has to do with my writing, but I always loved that lyric.

This is one of the coolest parts of my lore as a classic rock journalist/historian/storyteller/commentator/what have you. While my main focus is on classic rock, I also enjoy listening to newer bands that are classic rock influenced. Sometimes people wonder if I’ve ever met famous people or been backstage at a concert, and my answer is yes to both. This is the story of how I talked my way into going backstage at a Fontaines DC concert, interviewed the band, and got a photo with them. At the end, I’ll include the article I wrote for a student publication about the concert. The headliner were a Dublin garage rock band called The Urges and the opening act were The Fontaines DC, at the time known as simply The Fontaines.

Moral of the story: Don’t sleep on the opening act!

Whenever I go to gigs, I always make sure to get there early so I get be right at the front. I’m short, okay! I always make it a point to give my undivided attention to the opening act. Not just because I paid for this concert and I’m gonna get my money’s worth, but because I like giving new music a chance and as a person who has studied classic rock history I understand this simple concept: everyone starts somewhere – every headliner was once an opening act. Plus I like to respect all the musicians and show support for the opening act.

I often lurk on Reddit and other discussion forums in my free time for fun and I remember once reading threads of people talking about opening acts: what did they think of them, which ones they saw that went on to be famous, and if they regretted skipping the opening act. I definitely found stories of people sleeping on the opening act and later regretting that because they went on to be famous. There’s definitely some bragging rights in saying you were an early fan and knew about the band before they were big.

My Story: How the hell did I talk my way into going backstage?

It was the autumn of 2016 and I had just arrived in Ireland. Life was so different then and if you told younger me that within months, Donald Trump is president and I’m engaged, I wouldn’t believe you, but that’s another story for another time. Why did I come to Ireland in the first place? Well, that’s because my then-boyfriend, now husband is from there. We started going out when I was studying abroad at the University of Limerick and we weren’t ready to marry yet so I came back to Ireland on a student visa and enroled in an MA in journalism programme. As part of that programme, you were expected to do a lot of writing and I sought out many opportunities to write about music because that was my passion. None of my professors really believed in me, but I kept going because I love writing about music and writing about current events and politics was boring in comparison.

I was listening to some classic rock inspired music and I came across a band called The Urges and found that they were playing a concert in Dublin in October and I decided to go because I love concerts and it was an opportunity to write about something I liked. And so I travelled up there by myself.

I had no journalism credentials like a press pass and I was and still am a very shy, anxious person and I still have no idea how I managed it but I started a conversation as I was buying my ticket. I mentioned to the person selling tickets that I am a journalism student and I wanted to possibly interview the musicians and they said well, you wanna go backstage and I was like “yeah that would be awesome!” Moral of the story: You never know until you ask. Or as my mum will say in Spanish “El que busca encuentra”, which translates to, the one who looks for it will find it. The worst thing you’ll get is a no. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. As a writer, you always have to take chances. Take risks. Take chances. You only live one life so you might as well take those chances and who knows, something cool might happen. One more Spanish saying “uno nunca sabe” – you never know!

I can’t remember a lot of details, but I found The Fontaines DC were very friendly and both bands played great shows. I remember being told that The Fontaines DC were going to go far and to keep on the lookout for them. I even got a picture with the two bands as you can see at the top of the post.

What became of The Fontaines since 2016?

And go far they did! In 2016 they were only getting started. They went from a group of friends who met at BIMM (a music school) opening for an independent garage rock band from Dublin and self-releasing singles to playing festivals and concerts around the world. The band didn’t forget where they came from and added DC to their name, which stands for Dublin City, when they found out there were a group from LA with the same name and their latest album Skinty Fia, is an Irish phrase which translates to “the damnation of the deer”. You can easily hear lead singer Grian Chatten’s accent in his singing.

They released three albums: Dogrel (2019), A Hero’s Death (2020), and Skinty Fia (2022). Here are just some of their accomplishments:

  • Over a million monthly listeners on Spotify
  • 200,000 followers on Instagram
  • Performed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon in 2019
  • Played festivals such as SXSW and Glastonbury
  • Toured with The Arctic Monkeys
  • A Hero’s Death nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2021
  • A Toronto publication called Spill Magazine named Skinty Fia a strong contender for album of the year for 2022 – “an important album”
  • Named Best Band in the World at the BandLab NME Awards in 2022
  • Launched a music scholarship at their alma mater, BIMM in Dublin

Wow! No doubt they’ve made Irish rock history. From my time living in Ireland, I know that Irish people love seeing their fellow countrymen succeed in the arts and because of their loyalty to Irish musicians, most Irish bands will make it a point to extensively tour their native country as a thank you to the fans who were there from the beginning.

The Article: A Throwback from 2016

The Urges and The Fontaines D.C. in 2016 in Dublin

The Urges and Fontaines backstage at the concert. Photo by me, Angie Moon.

Dublin based band The Urges played a show at The Grand Social in Dublin to launch their first album in nine years, Time Will Pass, on October 28th. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jim Walters explained the nine-year gap as simply “The ebb and flow of life.”

During those nine years the band have kept busy, touring and releasing singles. “We were always playing, that’s the thing. We never managed to settle on anything,” Jim Walters said. 

Of the album’s sound, Walters said, “I suppose it’s an evolution in sound. No more chords since then, the very base of things. It’s hard to say. There’s more layers, there’s more depth, but still within a three-minute pop song.” 

Jim Walters and drummer Ken Mooney cited bands such as Love, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The Doors, and The Pretty Things as influences, describing their creative process as a distillation of all of these influences into their own sound. 

Their psychedelic garage rock sound incorporates sound effects such as distortion and reverberation, taking listeners to the mid 60s. 

Most of the songs played at the gig were from Time Will Pass. Highlights of songs from that album played at the show are “Passing Us By” and “Echoes Softly,” which was released as a single this month. “Passing Us By” has a very Doors/Ray Manzarek vibe. “Echoes Softly” beautifully mixes the ska brass sound with psychedelic organ by Thomas D’Arcy. 

Fans of their garage sound on their previous album will love the song “Strangers”.

“Now I See” is the best example of the way they put a modern twist on 60s psychedelic music with poppy vocals, definitely a song not to skip on the album.

Up and coming Dublin based band The Fontaines opened for The Urges with an energetic punk inspired setlist. Their sound is inspired by The Arctic Monkeys, The Smiths, Shane McGowan, Buddy Holly, The Pogues, and The Ramones. “It’s kind of a collaboration of all our listening from probably the last few years. Kind of just threw it into a melting pot and see what we wanted to do and lyrically we wanted to go our own way with it,” guitarist Conor Curley said. 

The Fontaines have yet to release an album, but are gaining a following in Ireland through their live gigs. “After our first single, we’re gonna do hopefully a tour of Europe or maybe the world. Whichever one claims to be our oyster,” lead singer Grian Chatten said. 

The band describe themselves as “dancehall punk” and they want the crowd to dance and have a good time.  

Fans of classic rock, garage rock, and psychedelic rock will love their music and play their new record loudly, as it should be played.

Photos from the concert:

Mind you these aren’t the best quality, but here you go:

The Fontaines D.C. in 2016 at the Grand Social:

The Urges:

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