Is There Anyone Alive Out There?

Why the time is right to turn up your (online) radio

‘I’m interested in how human beings react in certain situations, and what music does to people’s emotions. How we can change people’s attitudes with tones. After I’ve played a good concert, people leave the room happy. This is something we can give back to the world. When people feel down and like it’s all going to shit, at least we can give them some music and change their attitude so people don’t think it’s all shit.’ – Nils Frahm

It’s all a perfectly paradoxical participatory experience, that’s what we seem to be living through right now. Although we have been cut off from the everyday interactions and social activities that normally make up the fabric of our everyday life, we have also all been pitched into a globally shared experience. The first pandemic of the internet age is truly unprecedented; nothing, no war or sporting event, no tragedy or celebration, has ever been experienced with such universality.

Of course, the fact that we’re all in this together- so to speak- can’t really colour the everyday drudgery of it. In the search for connection, for a cure for boredom, or indeed – as is the case for so many involved in the creative industries- a replenished livelihood, cultural experiences have mostly moved online. Everything from cinema to concerts and book launches has migrated to the internet. Even stage plays are now all that bit more Brechtian, mediated between player and audience with an infinite number of ones and zeros.

But one year into this pandemic, the remarkable thing is just how normal much of this shift towards digital life has become for us. Like the slimy traitor in the Matrix who revels in the taste of a meal that he knows is only a simulated sensory experience, so many of us now turn on the computer in the morning and the TV in the evening, accepting this verisimilitude of our previous everyday life.

German playwright Bertold Brecht used dramatic techniques to break down the fourth wall, making the audience directly conscious of the fact that they are watching a play.

Socially, on the other hand, technology still doesn’t really cut it. The zoom calls and the now much ridiculed online quiz have left us pining for the days of real personal interaction. Netflix is one thing but when it comes to the craic, sight and sound just aren’t enough on their own. Like the walk through a suburban park to get a taste of nature or hearing the 26 year old yoga instructor from Southern England tell you how to ‘realign your chakra’ on a YouTube class, it’ll do for now but it’s definitely not the real thing. Still, who amongst us hasn’t found themselves remarking on how strange pre-pandemic social settings appear to us on TV now? And sadly, it seems to run a bit deeper than just remarking, ‘oh look how close they all are to each other!’

Last night, while watching some more interminable dross on Netflix (honestly, I hope they’re putting evil subliminal messages into these films cos at least we would be getting something out of them. I can’t even remember the name of this thing and I watched it barely 8 hours ago), I couldn’t help but feel something more strange than nostalgia when the characters were drinking in a New York bar; I felt alienated from it. In fact, the very idea of New York for younger people- with its attraction largely drawn from an ability to socialise and be entertained – seemed almost quaint.

That was a bit alarming. Societies are, to a large extent, grounded in physical spaces. It’s easy to forget that even at the best of times in this new digital world of ours, but especially now during a pandemic.

A bittersweet truth of this pandemic is that in our attempts to care for and protect each other we are growing further apart, and cities are really suffering in that respect. What are normally such vibrant hubs of activity, integration and diversity have been largely silenced by the pandemic and Dublin is no exception.


Our attempt to respond to this feeling has manifested itself in a new community radio station, Dubx. United by our shared love of quality music, and our local area of Portobello and Rathmines, a small group of us have started a project that seeks to promote quality music, particularly local, female, and underrepresented music, while stimulating progressive discussion and activism in the area.

In some ways, the timing for a project like this is perfect. These days we all have a lot more time to listen and to create, and all of us who contribute are eager to make new friends in any way we can. We also know that many people are searching for more meaningful connection to the music they listen to.

The algorithm domination of on demand music services is merciless and has been only detrimental to commercial radio stations, while these stations have been found to consistently underplay female artists in favour of mind numbingly generic emotion rock (sorry Dermot Kennedy, I’m sure you’re a nice guy but if you release one more edition of that fucking album I’m coming to your gaff and forcing you to listen to it ten thousand times just like every Irish person has been forced to at this stage).

In many ways however, it is also the most difficult time to get a project like this going. The spiritual home of Dubx can be found in MVP bar on Clanbrassil Street, a fantastically vibrant bohemian bar that caters for locals and their canines alike. Although the guys at MVP and at Bodytonic have been emphatically supportive of us, they, no more than us or any other enterprise, can fight the tides of reality that have repeatedly come crashing in on all of society this year.

Everybody is tired at this stage. Some are afraid. Many people have lost their jobs and some have even lost loved ones. Against this backdrop, generating or attracting enthusiasm for activities that can seem trivial can be difficult but of course, it is also against this backdrop that these things are ever more necessary. Back to that paradox, eh?

Participatory experience is like exercise, the less you’ve had the more you need it but the harder it is to begin. When we’re all vaccinated up and the plague eventually subsides, Dublin, like so many cities might look like a bit of cultural wasteland. But like buds coming to spring after a long winter, it won’t be long before the colours of life are ever more astounding.

It won’t be long before we’re back in MVP pumping out the bangers and planning the glorious ecosocialist revolution that we all know Ireland is just primed for; but In the meantime Dubx is going to slowly build our community of gentle hedonists with an ear for soulful tunes.

Come join us, you’re more than welcome.

Article by Tim Sheehan

1 Comment

  • Posted March 5, 2021 10:14 am 0Likes
    Philip Ellison

    Ohhhhh Yeeeaaahhh

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