Photos: Katy Turner
Mongrel State have been all over national TV and radio in the lead up to tonight’s album launch. They’ve been bubbling under for a number of years now and it appears that all that groundwork is about to pay off. Whelan’s main room isn’t sold out for their album launch but it isn’t far off.
An Introductory tape loop of an atmospheric instrumental leads directly into ‘Quiero Volver’ from new album, Mestizo. It’s a Western style tune like a dimestore version of Ennio Morricone. One punter refers to it as “the Alamo Funeral song”.
The set proper starts with ‘Monster’ and ‘Ten Steps Ahead’, showcasing the band's cosmopolitan range of influences and tight vocal harmonies. They are joined by Kev Foran on trumpet for next song, ‘The Little Boat’. It even comes with a bongo solo from multi- instrumentalist Guillermo Gonzalez Rodriguez.
The band are noticeably nervous about their biggest headline gig to date but settle in with a trio of oldies from 2013 Tall Tales EP. The significant Italian contingent in the crowd are dancing up a storm and old favourite, ‘Man of Habit’, wakes up anyone who isn't already moving.
Mestizo is graced by members of popular American folk group, Kicking Bird, on backing vocals and two of them are here tonight to sing with Mongrel State. The pair come out for a stirring rendition of last year’s single, ‘How Many More Times’. It’s a song that really comes alive when played live. Sebastian Jezzi’s kick drum driving it with a dancey ‘four to the floor’ beat.
There’s plenty of hand clapping and air- punching from the crowd and Darren Flynn acknowledges the new faces in the audience before introducing ‘Zombies’. It gets their biggest reaction of the night. A live classic that has gone unrecorded until now, ‘Zombies’ is the aural representation of Quentin Tarantino directing Mad Max. With zombies.
Mongrel State tone things down for set closer ‘Rainy Day’, a slow- burning ‘OK Computer’ style song and leave the stage before returning to answer the call of “one more tune”. They end the show with the triptych of current single ‘Stray Dogs’, the Tall Tales era ‘Running Fool’, and debut single ‘2000 Horses’. As Darren reminds us that he’s “got 2000 horses/ and Jesus riding shotgun”, it’s sobering to think that that was released five years ago.
It’s a triumphant night for the band and a vindication of their relentless nationwide gigging schedule throughout the last half- decade. It's not for nothing they've earned a reputation as one of the most entertaining and professional bands in Ireland. Vamos!