Foy Vance and Bell X1 dazzle as Other Voices returns to Derry

The Music Trail brings 60 bands to venues, bars and churches in the city


Outside on Great James Street in Derry, the rain is lashing. Inside The Glassworks venue last night Foy Vance is pouring his heart out with equivalent drama. Other Voices, the music festival which started as songs from a room in Dingle and expanded north to Derry and east to London in 2013, has returned to the city, positioning itself as part of the legacy of the City of Culture.

Vance is local enough, growing up in Bangor, County Down, but his career has taken on an international streak. He’s been plugging away for the best part of a decade, and began 2013 by signing to Glassnote Records, the American label that has form with Irish acts, signing both Two Door Cinema Club and Little Green Cars (alongside big hitters such as Phoenix and Mumford and Sons). Walking off the stage after a beefy folk-rock set, he leads the audience in the refrain, “When I need to get home, you’re my guiding light.”

Upstairs in the Glassworks, RTE Two Channel Controller Bill Malone, a passionate music fan, is nodding along to the tunes, his presence alone indicating what is a new-found enthusiasm for arts programming on RTE television in 2014.

Other Voices main man Philip King introduces Colm Mac Con Iomaire as defined by “tradition, translation and transmission”, and the violinist taps all three for a mesmerising performance. The last time Mac Con Iomaire was on the Other Voices stage in Dingle, his Frames bandmate Glen Hansard swung his guitar around, accidentally knocking the bridge off Mac Con Iomaire’s violin with near disastrous consequences. But there’s no such drama during this performance, as he utilises a loop station and accompaniment on cello, bouzouki, guitar and piano to craft pristine songs such as ‘The Finish Line’ and ‘Sappho’s Exit’, with the delicacy of a dawn chorus.

Bell X1 have six studio albums to their name, yet source this performance from their latest, ‘Chop Chop’, a record loaded with great tracks. With frontman Noonan strolling between piano and drums, there’s an enjoyable nonchalance to their set that finishes appropriately with ‘The End Is Night’.

Today is all about rock and roll, with Little Matador, The Amazing Snakeheads, The Bohicas and Walking On Cars playing at the Glassworks, performances which are broadcast live on both RTE and the Guardian’s websites. The Music Trail brings 60 bands to the city, performing in venues, bars and churches. There’s a particularly talented clutch of female singer songwriters on the Trail; Leanne Harte, Cat Dowling, Gemma Bradley, Eve Murtagh and Niamh McCay amongst them. Last night, youngsters (one member has just turned 16) The Clameens impressed an audience at Sandinos.

Tomorrow, Irish Times journalist Jim Carroll is hosting his series of Banter talks at The Cottage on Ship Quay Street, featuring filmmaker Conor Masterson, Love/Hate director David Caffrey, The Guardian’s Music Editor Michael Hann, and a panel discussion on the impact of Derry’s tenure as UK City Of Culture. On Thursday, BBC DJ and presenter Annie Mac gave a rare speaking engagement with Banter before DJing in a local bar.

It’s impossible to recreate the drama, intimacy and magic of Other Voices in the depths of winter on the Dingle peninsula, but this is a different beast, spreading music throughout the walled city, as both the melodies and the Other Voices brand continues to soar.

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