Other Voices: A Beginner’s Guide
The “intimate” music festival turns on the lights and cameras this weekend. (pic via OtherVoices.ie)
Other Voices has become a pilgrimage of sorts for musicians and audiences alike, with hundreds of people heading to Dingle for a weekend every December. The main attraction is of course the venue where the RTE TV show is recorded: gigs in St James’ Church in the town, which this year include Agnes Obel, Asgier, David Gray, Hozier, Lisa O’Neill, Willis Earl Beal, John Grant, David Arnold, Josef Salvant, Lulu James, Mogwai, Patti Griffin and Rosie Carney.
So what can you expect from a music event on the edge of Europe in the depths of winter? This is my seventh Other Voices, so here are my tips for first-timers.
Don’t stress about getting into the church
Seriously. Don’t. It’s worth heading down even if you haven’t got tickets because you can soak up the atmosphere, randomly end up finding a spare ticket (although they are very hard to come by) and see loads of other gigs around the town. It’s unusual for anyone who isn’t working at the event to get in to all three nights in the church, and when all the tickets are distributed via competitions, it’s impossible to plan unless you’ve already won tickets. Just head down and play it by ear and therefore…
Keep an eye on the competitions
That’s how you get the tickets. So stay glued to this page where all the competitions are gathered. And remember that spontaneous competitions/giveaways do happen down in Dingle on the day of the gigs themselves.
Other Voices is open to everyone
Because Other Voices is good and in Ireland, some people give out about it. There’s a perception that it’s a closed shop or some kind of music media Christmas party. Yes, there are a number of music media and industry people down there, but that’s probably because it’s a great thing to attend as a music fan, an opportunity to check out new acts, and doesn’t involve running from one end of Stradbally to the next frantically filing copy. I don’t understand why some people getting narky on social media see that as something to moan about. But it’s also a festival with free tickets in a country town – so it’s not like there’s a velvet rope, queues and a massive price for passes. All you have to do is go to Dingle. So do that or don’t. It’s your choice.
Watch the gigs in pubs around the town
If you don’t get into the church, you can watch the shows streamed live around the town. Obviously, that’s not the same thing as being in the same room, but it’s still a great way to be part of the concerts. There’s nothing stopping you from feeling involved.
If you’re journeying to Dingle from outside Kerry, it can be a little awkward to get to. A Facebook page has been set up for people who want to car pool or need a lift to Other Voices.
Hit up Banter
Banter added an awful lot to Other Voices last year, and is a brilliant event to check out if you fancy some great conversation from smart people. David Gray, Eimear McBride, Alice Maher, Donal Ryan, Pat Leahy, Gerard Barrett, John Grant, David Arnold and Michael Moynihan will join Jim Carroll in Foxy Johns for Banter, so try to make it to at least one of the events.
Go for a drive
The Dingle peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Slea Head is particularly stunning, so get up early and go for a drive. There’s loads of stuff to check out, but Coumeenoole is one of my favourite places to go. It has to be one of the most picturesque beaches in Europe. One of the reasons I love winter in Dingle is because the light is so spectacular. The sky is vast.
Hang out in Benners
Benners is Other Voices HQ. It’s where loads of the artists and crew stay, and where everyone hangs out before the gigs in the Church and at the interval. Post-gig, it’s buzzing, but make sure you don’t leave it too late to knock on the door, because you’ll need a crew pass or be a resident at the hotel.
Explore the pubs
Dingle has some of the best pubs in the country. Foxy John’s, Curran’s, Dick Mack’s and McCarthy’s, are just a handful of beautiful old pubs to check out.
Eat the local grub
There’s killer seafood in Dingle, and not eating chowder is kind of a sin, but also grab some coffee and ice-cream in Murphy’s, have a pint of Tom Creans made locally in the Dingle Brewing Company, and the light, sweet Dingle Gin.
Check out the Harry Clarke windows
Clarke, one of Ireland’s greatest artists, is the creator of some beautiful windows in the Díseart Centre of Irish Spirituality on Green Street, which are definitely worth a look.
Do some Christmas shopping
There are a bunch of great independent stores in Dingle, so if you’re looking for some gifts, try for surfing stuff at Finn McCool’s, books in the Dingle Bookshop, handmade bags in Leac a Ré, music in Siopa Ceoil an Daingin, and there’s also loads of great knit ware around.
Check out the music trail
One of the best developments in recent years is the addition of day time gigs during the Other Voices Music Trail. I’m Your Vinyl, Leanne Harte, Nicola Maguire, Pinhole, Little Bear, Maud In Cahoots, The Vincents, Silences, Riona, Bouts, Come On Live Long, Hermitage Green, Toy Soldier, Grim, The Clameens, Strange Attractor, Sive, Vann Music, Idiot Songs, Eoghan Duignan, Slow Skies, Nanu Nanu, Conor Walsh, The Hard Ground, The Academic, Jack Talty and Jeremy Spencer are all playing around Dingle over the weekend. As well as that there’s a special teen gig on Saturday.
Stay tuned to the Irish Times
We’ll be providing coverage over the weekend online and off and the following week too. So if you can’t make it down, live vicariously through journalism.
Some pre-Other Voices coverage:
- Jim Carroll talks about the return of Banter.
- Laurence Mackin explores the Other Voices back catalogue.
- Tony Clayton-Lea interviews the awesome Aoife Woodlock, the music producer of Other Voices and explores Dingle further here.