Many voices make light work of weekend of music in walled city
Soak said her heart "was going like dubstep" during her performance at Other Voices music festival in Derry. photograph: rich gilligan
After 11 years nestled snugly in Dingle, Other Voices is branching out. Over the weekend, the celebrated music show headed north to Derry.
On paper, a tiny Kerry peninsula and a sprawling walled city don’t have much in common, but the links quickly became apparent.
The weather, for a start. In Dingle, the slanting rain is constant and on Friday night as bands geared up to play Derry’s Glassworks, the drizzle was a reminder of the Kingdom.
The Derry venue is a former church, like St James’s, but it fits a lot more bodies. The trademark coloured hearts – adorned with song lyrics including “Shut your Eyes and Sing to Me” – surrounded the stage, as Damien Dempsey opened the weekend of music.
Despite rumours of illness, Dempsey sang his heart out, earning a standing ovation from the balcony. Local talent on the bill included the much-lauded 16-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson (aka Soak).
She said her heart “was going like dubstep”, but there was no faulting her voice. Her quiet acoustics were followed by the primal post-punk of London’s Savages.
After finding themselves on the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll, the all-girl four-piece have yet to release an album, but have been rightly tipped for big things given their explosive live work-out.
Neil Hannon rounded off Friday’s bill backed by his Duckworth Lewis bandmates. Hannon was born in Derry and lived here for 11 years. Earlier in the day he found himself experiencing some extreme deja vu.
“When we lived here, my dad was minister of Christ Church, and I ended up doing my TV interview there today. I don’t get sentimental about these things, but it was interesting to see it after all this time. Derry, for me, is a weird one. It was a rubbish time here in the 1970s, but there’s such a change now. It seems completely revolutionised to me, everyone is very chirpy.”
As well as a handful of daytime gigs around the city, there was chatter and debate in the form of Banter, the brainchild of Irish Times music critic Jim Carroll. Panels tackled Gangnam Style and the future of the music business post-HMV, while Prof John Naughton discussed how much privacy we give away online.
Local girl Bronagh Gallagher (who was also filming for the BBC and played live on Saturday night) talked about her home city, while a panel of culture experts discussed Derry’s City of Culture designation.
Saturday night opened with a pin-drop a cappella track from Dubliners Little Green Cars. Also shortlisted for the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll, the band have fond memories of Other Voices, long before their debut appearance in 2012. “I remember watching the first episode when I was really small and Damien Rice was playing, so we were really excited to play here,” says Stevie Appleby.
When the band played in Dingle, they found themselves at a late gathering in Curran’s pub, harmonising with singer Cold Specks (they later sent the bar owner a copy of their EP and a thank-you note). “Nothing changes just because it’s in Derry. Other Voices isn’t the standard musical show . . There’s a real love of music and people who play really bond over that,” says guitarist Adam O’Regan.
Women dominated Saturday’s line-up with resounding sets from Jessica Hoop and Marina the Diamonds.
Next stop: London in April.