If you only do one thing this weekend . . . visit the Paris of the northeast
Where do you even start with a weekend like this one? The May Bank Holiday is like the first festive spring of the season, when towns, cities, villages and venues up and down the country let loose their first few programmes and set up a summer of arts and music action.
The next few days are ridiculous. Those of you looking forward to a quiet, relaxed few days – forget it. All sleep is cancelled, all quiet time is null and void, all days-in are verboten. Here are just a few highlights of what is happening up and down the country.
Jazz: There are three jazz festivals on this weekend. The Ballydehob and Derry festivals are essentially a platform for local and Irish acts, but Bray Jazz Festival has a typically adventurous and eclectic programme. Susana Baca (you can read my interview with her here) has already sold out her concert, but tonight (Friday), the excellent Tord Gustavsen Trio will be delivering jazz of a seriously high calibre. Other highlights include Mari Kvien Brunvoll – a really cutting edge vocalist – on Saturday, and on Sunday the stellar New York clarinettist/saxophonist Don Byron will be bossing it Bray style. On Sunday afternoon, check out the Oko/Redivider double bill for free, while Mixtapes from the Underground might not be jazz, but they’ll certainly cap the festival in explosive, hip hop fashion.
Clubs: It’s all about the live music this weekend, and in clubs it’s no exception. You may have to beg, borrow or steal from several people to get a ticket to SBTRKT (sold out) on Sunday at the Academy, but it should be worth it. Aaron Jerome and Sampha’s album is one of my favourite records from last year, and SBTRKT delivered a stunning set at the last edition of Other Voices.
Also on Sunday night in Dublin, occasional club night Bitches Be Crazy has a cracking one-off line-up featuring the infamous Lady Miss Kier of DEEE-LITE fame and her New York friends, Pussy Faggot. It doesn’t get much more alternative than this, and it all takes place in the old ballroom at Top of the Town on Rutland Place, Parnell Square. Expect performances from Gio Black Peter, Shane Shane, Colin Self and more. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Festivals: You could go to Feile na Bealtaine in Dingle. The likes of Dervish, Cat Dowling, the Lost Brothers and We Cut Corners will thank you for it, and the arty offering looks particularly strong.
You could head to the Drogheda Arts Festival, for a solid theatre line-up, outdoor cinema (The Life of Brian in a car-park anyone?), and the brilliant Lebanese oud master and composer Rabih Abou-Khalil, performing his first Irish commission for Louth Contemporary Music Society, with the EQ Ensemble.
But one of the best musical line-ups this weekend is at the small and brilliantly formed Vantastival, which has moved house in Louth to just north of Dundalk. Among those taking to the stage are God is an Astronaut, Frankie Gavin & DeDannan, Ham Sandwich, The Original Rudeboys, Le Galaxie, RSAG, Eoin Dillon, Jinx Lennon and I Draw Slow. Fire up the VW, roll out the sleeping bag and don’t forget to take in the many charms of Dundalk while you’re there. It’s the Paris of the northeast, you know.
If you have your heart set on the North proper, and why wouldn’t you, the Cathdral Quarter Arts Festival might just win this weekend’s musical game of festival poker, though. It has Rubberbandits, St Etienne, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, Death in Vegas, Field Music, Yacht, and Fatoumata Diawara, and right noisy load more. Outstanding.
Start your festival engines . . .