Live Review: Dermot Kennedy at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 26th October 2018

By on Monday, 5th November 2018 at 2:00 pm

I’ve been delayed in writing this, but I doubt it will affect this artist’s meteoric rise. The hottest ticket in town 10 night ago in DC was Dermot Kennedy, making his Washington debut at the main stage of the Black Cat. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Irish singer/songwriter in his early twenties has been receiving plaudits across the board since his awe-inspiring appearances in Austin in March for SXSW 2018, which we previewed with this Bands to Watch. Both Carrie and I were left spellbound at Kennedy’s star turn at Communion’s Friday night showcase at St. David’s Sanctuary, where his soulful voice and booming background instrumentation rang out beautifully, heightened in emotion by the acoustics in the church.

Interestingly, it turns out Kennedy’s reach, so to speak, began much earlier than that. Taylor Swift was an early fan of the Dubliner’s track ‘Boston’, inspired after the city in New England. At age 18, he spent a summer busking, saving money and working towards his first record release. The Tay Tay endorsement likely explains the relative youngness of his fanbase, doesn’t it? Seven years later, he’s on his first significant North American tour, selling out in most markets, and this is merely the touring leg on our continent. Crazily, come January, he’ll be touring in Australia, accompanied by Newcastle’s Sam Fender. You couldn’t find a better pair of thoughtful, young artists, both willing to touch on tough topics in their music, to tour together.

Regardless of how his many fans in Washington found out about him, it was clear from the time I arrived at the Cat that they were very, very enthusiastic. Halfway towards the stage, the bodies were all pretty much packed in like sardines. Shoulder to shoulder, the lack of air got so bad I had step back out of the crowd, something I have only done on a handful of occasions.

As part of an ongoing transition to culminate in the closing of the Red Room Bar and downstairs smaller event room at the end of 2018, the main stage area has been renovated to include a VIP seating area where one of the bars used to be. We lucked out with two chairs in the relocated second bar, which afforded us a view up and over the heads of the assembled crowd. As weird as this felt – I haven’t sat in the back of this space since I was forced to by a friend who came with me to see We Are Scientists in 2008 – it gave me a different, unique perspective from which to enjoy the show and people watch. In honour of my friend Robin who runs the exemplary Breaking More Waves and who likes this format for festival reporting, I’ve written my ‘what we’ve learned’ list from this show:

1. Kennedy hasn’t released a full album yet. However, that hasn’t stopped his fans from learning every word from every song that he’s ever played live. ‘Glory’, which has passed 19 million streams on Spotify, garnered the most fervent reaction, Kennedy extending the song out in response.

2. Some fans who wanted to be closer to a source of alcohol (ha) stood behind us in the bar area. They took photos and videos and screamed and shouted overtures of love, as if we were at a One Direction concert. I repeat: Dermot Kennedy has enthusiastic fans!

3. A lot of couples decided to move back from the crowd, too, but to make out, and quite enthusiastically. I hadn’t thought that Kennedy’s music ran to the amorous end of the spectrum, but there you have it.

While this was only one of Kennedy’s many live appearances on his current Keep the Evenings Long tour, it was without a doubt a very special night for everyone in DC who came out to see him. It’s a memory we will all hold as he moves on his career and to better and brighter things. To read all of our past coverage on him here on TGTF, including a post highlighting his NPR Tiny Desk Concert earlier this year, go here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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