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Folk Column: Festival fever
Folk festivals coming up in Sligo, Dundalk, Belfast, Clonakilty, Waterford and Camden Town...
Greg McAteer, 03 Oct 2005
The last big bank holiday of the year is looming on the horizon at the end of October, and you’re going to be spoilt for choice musically, with a number of festivals vying for your attention.
Now in its third year the Tain Rhythm and Roots Festival in Dundalk broadens out its bases and embraces comedy in an attempt to keep the festival as vibrant as last year’s. Jason Byrne will be performing at the Spirit Store in what is sure to be a capacity busting show.
The line up of musical acts includes a number of return visits with John Spillane, Duke Special and the Redneck Manifesto all building on the reputation they established locally last time round.
There are also some major headliners on offer with shows from Sharon Shannon, Lunasa, Mundy, The Saw Doctors, Martin Hayes and Denis Cahill, Katell Keineg, Gerry O Connor and a whole host of others over the weekend of October 27 – 31.
Lunasa and the Saw Doctors are in for a busy weekend as they will also be headlining shows at Sligo Live, a fresh out of the box festival established in Sligo and making its debut over the October Bank Holiday Weekend. Capitalising on Sligo’s background as one of the most significant sources of traditional music, the festival aims to revive the spirit of the Sounds ’71 and Boys of Ballisodare festivals from the 1970s, and to build a revolutionary folk festival which will bring the best of folk and world roots music to the North West each year.
Although the first fully fledged festival is slated for the June Bank Holiday Weekend 2006, this year’s ‘taster’ promises to be one of the best events you’ll get the chance to see. In addition to Lunasa and the Saw Doctors you’ll also get Teada, Anuna, Bell X1 and Damien Dempsey, as well as Sligo’s own traditional powerhouse Dervish.
Dervish’s accordion supremo Shane Mitchell has been working closely with the festival committee, bringing years of festival experience to bear on the programming. With experience of playing at festivals as varied as Rock in Rio and Tonder Folk Festival, his input has ensured that the event will attract musicians and fans alike, with instrumental workshops during the day, and the biggest ever Pub Traditional Session Trail for those who like to see trad played in its raw state. Advice has been sought and aid enlisted from the promoters of some of the world’s premier festival promoters (such as Terry Wickham from Canada’s Edmonton Folk Festival and Karsten Pandula from the Tonder Festival) to ensure that the production values match that of other significant festivals across the globe. With a heavy hitting committee in place and support from both local authorities, there is every reason to believe that this will establish itself as one of the key points of the year’s musical calendar.
Also happening over that weekend, the Belfast Festival at Queens, which is a much more broadly based affair, boasts some top attractions kicking off with Dervish in the Elmwood Hall on the Thursday night. There is a distinctly international flavour to the folk and roots programme at this year’s festival with Shooglenifty coming over from Scotland, Carlos Nunez from Galicia and Martin Hayes and his American cohort Dennis Cahill making a trip to augment the line-up.
I’m not finished yet either. The October Bank Holiday sees the South East make a last stab at impressing us as the Imagine Festival takes flight in Waterford. Again this is a broadly based festival with a visual arts focus as well as theatre and music, but with Edel Dooley from Beat FM programming the music we can be sure the standards will be flying high.
And, as if that wasn’t enough to fry the brains of an Einstein, the Return To Camden festival takes place over the same period in London. This is a veritable trad-a-thon and lasts a whopping ten days, kicking off on October 21 and winding to a close on October 30. Opening the festival are Matt Molloy, John Carty and Arty McGlynn appearing with Collette O’Leary and Paddy Gallagher. One of the highpoints of this year’s festival will be the return of Mary McPartlan and her band to an English stage, as she plays the McNamara Hall at Camden Irish Centre on October 26.
Taking place from September 22 to 25, the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival hopes to establish itself as one of Ireland’s most important guitar events. With a line up including Louis Stewart, Eric Bell, Bill Shanley, Luka Bloom, Arty McGlynn and my own personal favourite Clive Barnes, it’s certainly getting off to a great start. Its programme will embrace all styles of music, attracting audiences, students and performers from all over Ireland, the UK and even America. From traditional to rock, blues to country – whatever your taste, it’s all going to be catered for over one weekend. Building on Clonakilty’s rich tradition in music and all things cultural, the organisers, including Clon’s own guitar maestro Bill Shanley, hope that this new festival will further Clonakilty’s long-established reputation as the music capital of West Cork by presenting some of the best names in world guitar over a period of three day’s. In the long term, the organisers are hopeful that this festival will continue to grow and develop to encompass many other styles of guitar playing and to attract the world’s foremost musicians. As well as the concert programme, there will also be plenty of scope to get down to the nitty gritty, with workshops by many of the key performers where an intimate group of people will see at first hand the way in which they create their music.
Blue Sky Sunrise, the new Nashville recorded album from Kieran Goss, is now out on release courtesy of the good folks at EMI, and after carving out a very large niche for himself as an independent-nik, Kieran must surely be hopeful that the major’s backing will see his brand new star turn into a supernova. To celebrate the release of Blue Sky Sunrise, Kieran will be touring in Ireland throughout the autumn with some new dates being added to supplement those already announced. His special guest on these shows will be the wonderful Texan singer/songwriter Kimmie Rhodes (excluding Cork). You may already be familiar with Kimmie’s songs which appear on albums by Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd and Merle Haggard, to name just a few...
The tour gets going on September 23 at the NEC Killarney and stops off at Armagh, Waterford, Galway, Derry, Tullamore, Limerick, Dublin and Belfast before wrapping up with a show in the Opera House, Cork on November 23.
With the Dublin date taking place in Vicar Street, Kieran will be one of the first artists to take advantage of the venue’s expensive revamp.
Celebrating the new, improved Vicar Street experience, Aiken Promotions have announced a goody-filled Autumn schedule that includes Anthony And The Johnsons, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Alabama 3 as well as a strong world music contingent including Mariza (Portugal), Tord Gustavsen Trio (Norway), Savina Yannatou (Greece) and Algeria’s answer to Johnny Cash, Rachid Taha.