Phew! How did I survive?
I was wrong the other day when I said the hardest gig was playing first up at the Festival. Sorry David, but Dingle-based Ríona had an even tougher job opening the Sunday. Clearly many had not yet got up after Aldoc and whatever after that, but this was a shame for them as they missed a great new voice with her own heartfelt songs and lovely understated guitar. How do you find these gems, Conor?
Then two of the real stars of Clare music got together to revisit their seminal album ‘Setting Free’ released over twenty years ago. Cyril O’Donoghue and Tola Custy. For Tola this was back to his roots and very different to recent explorations such as Guidewires and Tradivarious. But we were reminded what a good traditional fiddler he really is. And Cyril’s magic voice! we hear it so rarely these days in sessions around Ennis.
What a treat, the virtuosic mandolin of Brendan O’Regan. And the inspired combination with Floriane Blancke’s harp and Dermot Byrne’s exquisite box playing transported us from an Irish pub to a French café, to the drawing room of a stately home, to ‘Deliverance’ country and then back to Ireland. There is no other word for it – delicious!
Stone the Crows! (Aussies will know what I mean). Sligo boys, No Crows were a revelation. I had never heard them before, though I had heard of them during my visit to Sligo last year when I had the interesting experience of playing with Seamus Tansey at Shoot the Crows. With the amazing Steve Wickham and two other extraordinary fiddlers their music defies pigeon-holing. Celtic meets gypsy jazz with a dose of Jimmy Hendrix! I was absolutely blown away when I heard Steve sing. What an extraordinary voice. And his inspiring narrations of tales of the Aran Islands made for riveting listening. I almost forgot to take photos.
How could you beat that? You bring on Paddy Keenan and Daoiri Farrell. And then you get Paddy to invite his mates onto the stage: Eddie Lee (amazing bass player with No Crows), Katie Theasby, then Conor Byrne. Then you bring Flo and Dermot and Seamus back and you lift the roof off the tent. Great songs from Daoiri and those wonderful old favourite tunes such as Jenny’s Wedding and Craig’s Pipes and then Paddy on the low whistle with A Stór Mo Chroi seamlessly blending into The Boys of Tandragee.
Then we had Luka Bloom’s most recent carnation Oh! Sahara, a trio with Jon O’Connell and Quentin Cooper. Their set built up after a mellow start until by the end they were rocking and the audience was belting out the lyrics. I won’t say anymore as I reviewed them at a previous concert they gave recently at Kenny’s(https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/osahara-at-lahinch/). Was this their last gig?
The tent then swelled in expectation of Stockton’s Wing. Their wings were unfortunately clipped with the unfortunate absences of Maurice Lennon and Steve Cooney (speedy recovery guys) but the replacements who included Tara Breen on fiddle stepped into the breach magnificently. The light continued to shine in the western sky and the audience loved it. I reviewed their recent concert in Ennis in March. Check it out at https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/stocktons-wing-concert-ennis/
And to finish the night and the Festival, and what a great choice, Arum. I know little about them but that mattered not. The crowd that was left after midnight did and they were all there to see the amazing flute of Conor Crimmins. Unfortunately I had hit the wall and left soon after 1 am. I have no doubt the party went on till the small hours became large.
Well done Conor, Lisa, Hana, Roisin and all the other nameless helpers that worked so hard to put on this Festival.
I have one more blog to come. Keep an eye out for it.