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Cardinals @ Windmill Brixton

Cardinals @ Windmill Brixton

Cardinals at Windmill Brixton


– go see that small band in the small venue 

– accordions are the new keyboards 

It’s not often you buy tickets to see a gig from an artist you don’t know after hearing 2 songs. However, that was the case with Cardinals. As the Spotify algorithm jolts me out of my mundane workday by blasting out “Unreal” I find myself nodding along to the upbeat, rocky tune that I’m hearing for the first time. Then the following series of events take place: 

1) Immediately queues another song “Roseland” (another banger)

2) Notes from their bio that they’re from Cork (big green flag)

3) On my return to queue another song, realises they’re playing a gig at Windmill Brixton in a few weeks.

4) Adds to cart. (Not my most productive day in the office but finding a cool new band you like doesn’t happen every day so it’s honest work)

Now I’ve had Windmill Brixton on my radar since moving to Brixton last year so this also played a factor in wanting to attend. It had been sold to me as “dingy”, “tiny”, “dark” but also “absolutely bursting with talent” so obviously I had to experience this myself. As I walked in, I was greeted with exactly that, in the most endearing way possible. With a ‘stage’ that ensured you were making awkward eye contact with the frontman the whole time, it had that inspiring silver streamer backdrop that you’ll often see in the background of big artist’s photos from back in the day when they were still trying to make it.

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I was almost losing hope for live music in Brixton. After a long St Patrick’s Day of bar hopping what felt like 100 bars and narrowly missing the live music in each spot, I was desperately in need of a fix of good Irish music. That’s exactly what I got from Cardinals. Not in the Molly Malone’s/ The Shamrock / [Insert Irish Pub name here] way of some guy in the corner murdering Luke Kelly’s greatest hits. But in the rich, original, emotive way of artists like The Cranberries, Sinead O’Connor or Christy Moore that are so deeply rooted in their Irishness. It’s no secret that the Irish are brilliant storytellers and Cardinals are no exception to this. Their songs take you on a journey, with that magic combination of lyricism and melody that you can’t help but pay attention to. 

Now onto the show. As a new fan, I didn’t know quite what to expect, but somehow the mismatch of Fred Perry’s and velvet shirts along with diamante sunglasses seemingly borrowed from one of their mum’s made perfect sense when they came together on stage. As I cop my matching Claddagh ring with Euan Manning, I know we’re in for a treat. They let the music do the talking with little chat in between. The captivated crowd were led through a charming setlist hitting both ends of the spectrum from the soft and slow “If I Could Make You Care” to heavy hitters like their new release “Nineteen”. Their togetherness as a band was striking and somehow I feel like even if they were playing a sold out arena it would still feel intimate.

I’ve never seen an accordion as part of an indie punk band but it really changes the mood of a gig. For an instrument that I feel gets put in the same basket of annoying along with the bagpipes I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. It was unexpected, cheery yet also somber and full of warmth.  Bringing a maturity and almost nostalgic aura to new songs, Cardinals make you feel like you’re watching a band from a different decade. 

Like that first flicker of a match being struck, I believe we’re only at the inception for the greatness that is to come from Cardinals and I’m glad I get to say that I got to see them at this scale. I’m still shocked they don’t have more monthly listeners but I predict it won’t be long until this number skyrockets.

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