WHATCHA THINKIN: DAMIAN KILROY, LOUD MINORITY

On November 10th, 2022, Jack White from the seminal alternative rock band, The White Stripes will be hitting the stage at Capital Studios, HCMC with band opener, Skeleton Goode as the opener. The show is organised by Damien Kilroy from Loud Minority, and it’s been a long road to get Jack here. They were offered the opportunity to bring Jack to Vietnam a few years back, but it just didn’t work out. Damien’s 4-year-old son is a huge fan, so when the opportunity arose again for this leg of the tour, Damien knew he had get Jack White here. We’ve caught up with him before the event to get a bit of insight about the event, what’s coming up for Loud Minority and how it all started.

Hidden Saigon (HS): Can you tell us how and why you started Loud Minority?

Damian Kilroy (DK): It was born of frustration, really. When I first came to Saigon, I loved it and wanted to stay but I really missed live music. It was mostly people playing covers in bars, which doesn’t really hit the spot. I started looking at who was touring Asia and when, and then tried to make offers for shows in Vietnam. Finding a venue was difficult, and then I met Rod Quinton, who just happened to be opening a new event space, Cargo, in District 4. We managed to do about twenty shows until Cargo sadly closed.


HS: What was your first Loud Minority gig in Vietnam like?

DK: The first gig we did was with Frank Turner at Cargo. You couldn’t ask for a nicer guy to play your first show. We had over 300 people in. Local band, White Noiz supported and I remember their singer, Ha, asking Frank in soundcheck if they could play ‘Somebody to Love’ with him as an encore, as they’d seen him do it on his Wembley Arena show. He told them he’d love to, but his version was different from Queen’s. She replied, ‘I know, we know your version’. So he couldn’t refuse! It was such a great way to finish the show. There were singalongs, shots, a great atmosphere and it gave us the buzz to follow up and do more shows.


HS: How do you select the artists you decide to bring over?

DK: It depends. Sometimes, I will see someone I like is playing in the region or heading to Australia from the UK, and will ask if they want to stop off in Vietnam. Other times, we get agents approaching us to see if we can add a Vietnam show to an Asia tour. There are a few big artists that we’ve wanted to get over for a while, and who are keen to play but the logistics and fees we can offer make it difficult. We are just waiting for the stars to align on a few of and then we should be able to make a couple of them happen.

HS: Do you have any interesting stories from the Loud Minority gigs you’ve done in the past here in Vietnam?

DK: It’s like a rollercoaster at times. You have moments of short-lived euphoria between sustained periods of anguish and frustration. I can remember the day before the Dengue Fever / Little Barrie gig, Rod Quinton coming into Cargo and telling us the licence had been revoked. Little Barrie were already in the air. Our hearts sank, After some scurrying around, Apocalypse Now said we could do the show there but they had us over a barrel on the deal. However, we would have lost everything if cancelled the gig. It was the only way. It was still the best night I ever had in Apo by far!


HS: What have you seen changed in the live music scene from when you started bringing international bands over to Vietnam till now?

DK: There are a lot more Vietnamese bands now, producing their own music and making a living, which is good. Personally, I still feel there is a lack of bite to a lot of it and a lot of bands try to copy what is popular rather than do something different and ‘swim upstream’. I know there is a pretty vibrant hardcore scene here, which is cool. I guess I’d like to see more variety but it’s hard to expect that within a culture that is fairly homogenous.


HS: What do you think is needed to get more international live acts into Vietnam?

DK: Lots of artists want to come! For bigger acts, it always comes down to finance and being able to make it viable. If someone travels with a crew of 20 people, then that’s a big expense to cover. With production costs so high here, it makes it hard to put these things together at a ticket price that is accessible to all. I hate doing the segregated VIP and VVIP stuff, it’s just not punk at all, but I guess that’s how people make it work here.

HS: How did you start organising music festivals?

DK: It followed on from the Loud Minority gigs at Cargo. It was something Rod and I had spoken about for a couple of years. Rod has always had an affinity for Mui Ne, so we did Mui Ne festival there in 2015 with Perfume Genius and Hinds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t secure the site for the following year. In 2018, we started Coracle in Ho Tram. After losing 2 years due to Covid, we’re back in Mui Ne for this year’s Coracle, so it’s nice to go back to where we started. The facilities at White Sand also means we can have the main stage right on the beach with the sun setting behind the dune there.


HS: What are some of the challenges you face organising music festivals?

DK: These are plentiful! Trying to put together a line-up that includes international and local artists is a headache. Then there’s the licensing procedure. It’s difficult (and not cheap) to bring in international artists, but we always want to make it the best it can be and offer something people can’t get elsewhere in Vietnam. Otherwise, there’s no point. We also try to keep the ticket price as reasonable as possible. Production here is also really expensive, more so than in Europe, and hiring backline can be incredibly frustrating. A desk that costs 200$/day to hire in the UK can cost 800$ here. So for international acts, getting the right equipment can suddenly ramp up the costs significantly.

HS: Can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming Coracle Festival? Any sneak peak you can give us?

DK: We’re excited to be back after Covid, and also to be back in Mui Ne at White Sand Resort, which is the most stunning location yet. Mui Ne got hit badly by Covid, so it’s nice to do something for the community there and get people involved in something positive. We’ll have 2 stages – the main stage right on the beach, and a pool stage. Sunset on the beach, with the dune at the back there will be amazing and the afternoon pool parties will be a great warm up too. Artist-wise, there are still a couple of things to sign off on. We announced our first few artists last week and are excited to have Hem Hem Ska band and Skeleton Goode back, as well as a couple of Burning Man veterans, Dario Dee and Havony (who is originally from the area). We have our first French headliners on the Friday as well, Oxmo Puccino and Demi Portion, which we’re excited about. If all goes to plan, we should be able to announce our Saturday headliner very soon. It will be eclectic for sure. Lots of great music in the perfect setting.


HS: What book/song/artwork has influenced you the most? And why?

DK: ‘This Is The One’ by the Roses. It’s just class - the dynamics, the way it builds and the big crescendo. I remember at house parties as a teenager, there’d always be a few of us hogging the CD player while most had passed out and we’d blast it out. It’s that kind of blissful ‘right here, right now’ feeling. Everyone feels like their music was best but I do feel lucky to have grown up in that era, when there was so much great music around and United were winning league titles!


HS: What’s currently on your Spotify favourite playlist?

DK: I’ve been listening to all sorts of stuff. Danish band, Efterklang - it would be cool to have them play here. A lot of Little Simz. Tkay Maidza’s Last Year Was Weird Vol.2 is brilliant. Lupe Fiasco’s Drill Music in Zion, Black Lips – In the last 10 years I doubt I’ve gone a month without listening to Bad Kids. Seb Lowe – a great young singer/songwriter from Manchester and Jack White, for obvious reasons.

HS: What was your most memorable gig and why?

DK: It has to be The Stone Roses at the Apollo in Manchester when I was 15. I went with a few mates, just before Christmas. Reni was gone by then but it was electric. It’s still my favourite venue. Of gigs I’ve been involved with, it’s hard to say. Most people say BRMC because that was our biggest, but I always remember feeling absolutely gutted that we only got 200 or so people for Wild Beasts. They were amazing and I thought they deserved more from Saigon. We also took a hefty financial hit on that, which is always hard to stomach when a band are that good and you’d worked so hard on it.


About Damien Kilroy

Damien is from Manchester, United Kingdom and has been living in Vietnam for twelve years. Aside from promoting and organising music events and festivals, he’s spent his time teaching English and running a bar.


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