Guitarist Mykle Oliver Smith leant over an art-deco fireplace, pressing his instrument against an amplifier in the hearth to make a two-note riff from the feedback.

As he locked into this atonal loop, the other three members of the band Pôt-Pot hammered away at a minimalist groove of 1960s-influenced psychedelic rock.

A bass drum thumped along. The psych-folk artist Elaine Malone added the groans of a harmonium.

The group’s set bounced against the red walls of the shadowy room upstairs at the Anseo pub on Lower Camden Street. The carpeted floor vibrated. People stood, sat, kneeled, and occasionally, lay supine with eyes closed.

Black blinds were drawn over the windows. Light came from a projector displaying a 1980s supernatural slasher B-movie across the ceiling and back wall.

The quartet all wore sunglasses.

From Cork and Lisbon, the band Pôt-Pot was one of two on the bill on this recent Sunday night. The other act was Lennon/Nolan, an ambient electronic and guitar duo.

Both bands, as is always the case at this weekly session, which has been running since June 2022, had been picked by Andy Walsh, the founder of the record label Little Gem.

Walsh conceived of these regular gigs as a way to highlight underground artists, both national and international. Each night is curated to showcase different strains of experimental music which contrast and complement one another, he says.

“I’d be quite selfish about it because it’s about putting on music I want to hear, experience or share with other people,” says Walsh.

Putting out the indies

Little Gem began life in 2014 as a record store on Cavendish Row, Walsh says. “And then we moved to Kildare Street.”

The shop grew from his studio work, he says. “I was recording artists, but after the process they couldn’t get anything back for their recordings. So they were taking really cheap consignments.”

Its ethos, he says, was to give back to the musical community. “We’d produce their music and out of the €10 for a sale, we’d take a euro, or they could just take the full ten.”

The shop focused on independent artists, Walsh says. “We didn’t really have a second-hand section up until the end.”

“It could be daunting coming in, because people might ask for a Radiohead or Beatles record, and we didn’t have that stuff,” he says, laughing.

“That stuff is propped up to the point where it’s rammed down your throats, but there’s so much more cool music out there that nobody gets to spend time on,” says Walsh.

A Little Gem poster outside Anseo Credit: Michael Lanigan

Walsh closed the shop in 2017. But he kept the label going, he says.

The idea for the Sunday sessions came about in 2020, pre-pandemic. He had booked a Belgian artist, Manu Louis, to perform at Jigsaw, the now-closed cultural space on Belvedere Court. But Covid disrupted their plans.

When Louis eventually got to touring in 2022, Walsh wasn’t enthusiastic about getting back to organising gigs, he says. His life had changed loads, he said.

But Louis convinced him, Walsh says. “By being encouraging and pushy in the right way.”

Still though, Walsh decided if he was going to get back into booking live events, it would have to feel personal, he says. “Just pick people I myself would want to shine a light on.”

Quiet reverence

In the week after the Pôt-Pot gig, Walsh had organised for the Little Gem session to run longer, from Saturday to Monday.

It was a three-day residency for Omni Selassi, a Swiss-German post-punk avant-pop trio, with nine support acts appearing across the nights.

On the Monday evening, as 7pm came around, the upstairs at Anseo was choc with guitars, a table of synthesisers, effects pedals and wires. Three drum-kits took up a third of the room.

Walsh sat at a table by the upstairs entrance, a laptop by his side, quietly observing the set.

There was a little chatter among a group of gig-goers who had just climbed up the stairs. Walsh asked for silence. All of the performances on the night were being recorded, he said.

Many of the recordings that he makes, he shares on Dublin Digital Radio as part of his slot called “Gem Beag Anseo”, he says.

“I’ve done it a few times in more established venues, but to varying results because people are chatting,” he says. “But they don’t talk over the music here.”

A crowd slowly assembles. The atmosphere is of impromptu performances in a living room. People listen, attentive.

Sean Lynch serves as the opening act. Behind the triad of drum sets, he steps up with an acoustic guitar and a stand with a sheet of lyrics.

A singer-songwriter from Brisbane, Lynch performed in bands in Australia during the 1990s and early 2000s, he says. “Then I basically stopped writing, because of years of depression.”

Lynch got to know Walsh when they were neighbours in the Liberties. The pair would bounce song ideas off one another, Lynch says. “He was always supportive of me. He’s kinda like a music therapist, Andy.”

More recently, he says, he has been developing songs that reflect on his years working at a school in Inchicore, observing social issues, including homelessness and poverty.

“There are love songs, and songs about being shat on by the system,” says Lynch.

Towards the close of his 15-minute set, Lynch introduced one such song about Inchicore.

He sang the chorus gently: “Let the world keep spinnin’ ‘round, you can find me in the lost and found. Let the waves come crashin’ down, because you don’t feel nothing more in Inchicore.”

He had been nervous, Lynch says. “I hadn’t performed live in so many years. At least, I think it’d be twelve years.”

Just turning up

After Lynch’s set on the Monday night, the audience was presented with a slew of atypical genres from a range of different performers.

There was acid jazz with glitchy electronics by the band Portamentous, and flamboyant folk songs about the apocalypse by songwriter Tom Smith.

A dreamily sparse solo guitar composition was delivered by Shane Holly, and finally Omni Selassi let loose an hour of kaleidoscopic, jumpy post-punk with duelling drummers and clanging electric harps.

Guitarist Mark Stevens of the band Onion Boys was there. He had shown up for all three of the nights to see Omni Selassi, he says.

Whether he knows an act or not isn’t necessarily important, he says, because he knows whoever is on the bill is going to be interesting.

“I love the way Andy’ll give anyone that room,” says Jenkins, “and it’s a fucking gem of a venue.”

Jenkins recalls an April session, when experimental drummer Jason McNamara collaborated with Japanese ambient electronic artist Nami Sato.

“It was unbelievable,” he says.

The set was one continuous piece with McNamara on drums, pots and pans on a table, and Sato making rising scales and vocals. “Everyone was sitting there with their jaws down,” says Jenkins.

Walsh says he doesn’t go to too many gigs. What he wants from the Little Gem sessions is for them to be a relaxed space free from marketing, the pressure to drink or the hype of one band or another.

“It’s nice to have regular, inexpensive nights where you can just kinda bank on there being someone playing here that you’ll probably like,” he says.

Michael Lanigan is a freelance journalist who covers arts and culture for Dublin Inquirer. His work also appears in Vice, Totally Dublin, and the Business Post. You can reach him at

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