Alden Penner & Michael Cera @ Hangar, Dublin


Has realisation dawned that the drummer from the support band is the guy – the other guy – from the main band, the guy who’s not in the movies? Probably not. Alden Penner, he of The Unicorns and Clues – both of whose albums are respectively mercurial and wondrous, collaborative and eponymous – and Michael Cera don’t actually seem an unlikely pairing. When tickets for their initial Workman’s Club gig sold out quick smart the gig was duly upgraded; ambitiously it turned out, to Vicar Street, before finally settling in Hangar.

The Adam Brown warms up an already roasted crowd, with Dublin’s fine weather having turned the boxy room into a sweat lodge. The muted response to Brown’s question about Dublin rental prices is indicative of the demographic at tonight’s show – it’ll be a few more years before many of the attendees need to worry about such matters. A queue had already been snaking around the corner in advance of Brown’s slot, with a bouncer moving along requesting ID’s. A few unfortunates don’t make it. Those who do make for a sizeable crowd for Brown’s exuberant indie rock, and his final front of stage guitar solo garners a boisterous response.

We’ve never been this sweaty as a group of people” Cera tells us, half exasperated, half empathetic. The heat and the sweat, and the heat – mainly the heat – is a running joke through the set, where the band fluctuate between a three-piece and a quartet and almost every song involves some form of instrument swapping. It seems a pleasant surprise to the band that so many have shown up, and so vocally, even if the bulk are here to catch a glimpse of Cera. This crowd is split unevenly between those who delighted in Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone and followed Penner to Clues, and those who know yer man from the TV. Cera may have surprised them all. He turns out to be a canny multi-instrumentalist, and shares vocal duties with Penner through the night, albeit a more fragile vocal presence than his buddy.


Penner’s claim that “We have a buffet of songs for you” takes us through his solo material via Clues, to his just-released concept EP Canada In Space. From ‘Breathe To Sleep’ to a more rocking finale, the band finally relent to the heat. “We’re just gonna go towel down heavily” Cera tells us, and momentum is tempered by the ensuing encore. In fairness, though, if it’s this hot down here on the floor, those guys must be demented.

After a fluid set and two encores it seems the collective has won out despite the star name on stage; put Penner in charge of a melody and you’re already onto a winner, and Cera too proves his worth as a multi-instrumentalist. It seems every now and then that the crowd momentarily forgets that their Hollywood hero is up there, and they’re just here to see a band. And that’s all it is, just a band – a decent one that will constantly have to prove themselves in the face of celebrity spotting. Justin McDaid

is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.