Testing, testing. One two, one two. A lot of sound systems will be getting fired up right now for the first time in 18 months as Ireland’s music venues prepare, finally, to reopen next week. But don’t expect miracles. A limited number of small performance spaces may be able to get up and running within a few days, but it will take longer for most of the larger ones to prepare: booking artists; rehiring staff; selling tickets; and generally getting rid of the cobwebs before they can open.
Then there are the logistical specifics of the Government’s reopening plan to consider. From Monday, September 6th, indoor venues are permitted 60 per cent of capacity, based on entry for vaccinated people only. For outdoor events the limit is 75 per cent if everybody is vaccinated, or 50 per cent with no vaccination checks. Indoor audiences must also be fully seated. It’s worth noting that the industry has been arguing that anything less than 100 per cent is not commercially viable.
Venues will have to take on the added costs of checking vaccine passes (hardly the most onerous task for ticketed indoor events). Outdoor events may also decide that it’s a good idea to offer the reassurance of a fully vaccinated audience to prospective ticket-buyers. Some people who’ve already bought tickets on the basis of the previous regulations may now need to be informed that proof of vaccination is required.
Can we expect a surge of enthusiasm from music-deprived punters or will there still be hesitancy? The indications from the many countries that are ahead of Ireland in reopening are that audiences are more than ready to take the plunge
These are all temporary considerations, though. The main focus will be on the ending of most restrictions, in seven weeks’ time. Here you can see the cumulative impact of the delays in publishing a roadmap. Promoters have been conservatively betting – as they did unsuccessfully last year – that the pandemic would all be over by springtime at the latest, so that’s when the big international names are due to return to the likes of 3Arena, in Dublin, and SSE Arena, in Belfast.
Now that we finally have the roadmap, and we know that capacity audiences will be permitted – barring catastrophe – from October 22nd onwards, it’s reasonable to expect a flurry of announcements for the last couple of months of 2021, which still have a bare look about them. Yet another Nile Rodgers visit seems inevitable.
In the meantime a host of open-air events have been optimistically scheduled for the Indian summer that we surely deserve, but probably won't get this month. The organisers of those festivals will now be able to release a lot more tickets, and it will be intriguing to see how well they sell. Can we expect a surge of enthusiasm from music-deprived punters or will there still be some hesitancy? The indications from the many countries that are ahead of Ireland in their reopening schedules are that audiences are more than ready to take the plunge. – Hugh Linehan, Arts and Culture Editor
Coming soon to a stage near you
All events will adhere to capacity and social-distancing requirements in line with Government regulations at the time of staging
Sunday, September 5th, Doneraile Estate, Co Cork; and Thursday, September 9th, Emo Court, Co Laois, schweppecurtisnunn.com/events
From the people behind Electric Picnic's MindField, Trailer Park and Salty Dog stages, these day-long festivals feature lots of words and music. Acts at Doneraile Estate include JyellowL, Dublin Gospel Choir and Jafaris; acts at Emo Court includes Cathy Davey, Hamsandwich and Paddy Hanna.
Fall Right into Place
Wednesday, September 8th, to Sunday, September 12th, Claregalway Castle, Co Galway, fallrightintoplace.ie
Presented by the Róisín Dubh-based Strange Brew crew, the line-up across five days is a masterclass in smart Irish music curation: Villagers, Bitch Falcon, Jape, John Francis Flynn, Saint Sister, Paddy Hanna, Maija Sofia, The Mary Wallopers, Ailbhe Reddy, And So I Watch You From Afar, Soda Blonde, Kynsy and Junior Brother.
Wednesday, September 8th, to Sunday, September 12th, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, universe.com/autumnair
This initiative of the Indiependence festival, of which Mitchelstown is the spiritual home, features gigs in a variety of pop-up venues attached to the town's pubs. Performers include BellX1, The Coronas The Frank & Walters, Aslan, Tolü Makay, Jerry Fish, Emma Langford, Hermitage Green, Stephanie Rainey, Something Happens, The Blizzards, The Scratch, Wild Youth.
Friday, September 10th, and Saturday, September 11th, Beaulieu House and Gardens, Baltray, Drogheda, Co Louth, vantastival.com
Presented by Vantastival, this pair of woodland one-day line-ups focus on what has been a constant for the indie promoter over the years: eclectic and superior Irish acts. Acts performing on September 10th include Brian Deady, The Bonny Men and Farah Elle; acts performing on September 11th include God Is an Astronaut, Thumper, Bitch Falcon and Elephant.
Clonakilty International Guitar Festival
Friday, September 10th, to Sunday, September 19th, Clonakilty, Co Cork, clonguitarfest.com
The festival that celebrates "the virtuosos, the three-chord heroes, the freak-out noiseniks and the bedroom noodlers" returns in extended form with an eclectic line-up that includes John Spillane, Windings, John Francis Flynn, Pretty Happy, Dani Larkin and Myles O'Reilly.
The Great Beyond
Saturday, September 11th, and Sunday, September 12th, Ballinacurra House, Kinsale, Co Cork, coughlans.ie
A beautiful festival site – an 18th-century mansion, surrounded by 40 acres of woodland and lawn – hosts two days of music (with a side order of comedy). Acts include The Frank & Walters, Wallis Bird, Lisa Hannigan, BellX1, The Scratch, Laura O'Mahony, Ultan Conlon, Cry Monster Cry, Robert John Ardiff and Bernard Casey.
Tuesday, September 14th, to Sunday, September 19th (excluding Friday, September 17th), Great Northern Hotel Garden, Bundoran, Co Donegal, universe.com/septembersessions
A mini-Sea Sessions festival, no less, taking place in its usual surf'n'turf hometown. Music acts across five nights – in a covered outdoor setting with a capacity of 200 per gig – include The Coronas, Gavin James, BellX1, Lyra, Thumper, Róisín O, Royseven and NOAH.
It Takes a Village
Friday, September 17th, to Sunday, September 19th, Trabolgan Holiday Village, Co Cork, ittakesavillage.fm
A welcome return for one of the best compact festivals on the calendar. Let's pray for decent weather, however: there will be no indoor venues. A superb line-up includes Aoife Nessa Frances, House Plants, Nealo, Strange Boy, Blindboy, John Francis Flynn and Those Nervous Animals.
Meet Me at the Castle
Saturday, September 25th, and Sunday, September 26th, Claregalway Castle, Co Galway, hibernacle.ie
Another outing at this beautiful venue, and another very fine line-up to bring September to an end. Acts include Lisa Hannigan, Wallis Bird, Nealo, Jape, Tolü Makay, Daithí and DJ Sally Cinnamon.
For Those I Love
October 1st, Olympia Theatre, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
David Balfe's conceptual tribute – encompassing spoken word, hip-hop and electronica – to a dearly missed friend should be one of the more profound audiovisual experiences of 2021. Do it.
Throughout October, various venues, nealo.ie
This time last year the Dublin hip-hop/soul artist Neal Keating released one of 2020's best albums, All the Leaves Are Falling, and across five shows (Galway, Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Belfast) in October he plans to celebrate his debut record's first birthday.
October 10th, the Academy, Dublin, selectivememory.ie
Art rock and electro-pop come in many forms, none more enjoyable than from these fusion fiends. Tunes from their recent album, Glowing in the Dark, will be hurled at you, make no mistake.
October 14th-17th, various venues, ticketmaster.ie
The UK-based Stavely-Taylor sisters have always been diehard fans of Ireland, and vice versa. To see them play venues in Limerick, Dublin, Galway and Belfast on the back of a profoundly emotive new album, Good Woman, is a clear indication of a win-win.
October 29th, Dolans Warehouse, Limerick; October 30th, Liberty Hall, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
The former Super Furry Animals frontman has forged an oddball but inventive solo career. He really has to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.
November 19th, Olympia Theatre, Dublin; November 20th, Black Box, Galway; November 26th, Dolans, Limerick; November 27th, Cyprus Avenue, Cork, ticketmaster.ie
The Dubliner brings his deft blending of musical styles to some of Ireland's best venues. Inventiveness and passion to the fore here.
November 21st-28th, various venues, ticketmaster.ie
The harpist and arranger Gemma Doherty and the vocalist and songwriter Morgana MacIntyre have, in the space of several years and two very fine records, morphed from contenders to fully established, as shown by their new album, Where I Should End.
November 10th-December 9th, various venues, ticketmaster.ie
One of Ireland's most popular bands dispense with their electric guitars and embark on a nationwide tour delivering songs in a stripped-back, acoustic fashion. The tour culminates with two gigs at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, on December 8th and 9th.
December 11th-13th, Vicar Street, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
Hot on the heels of their latest album, Fever Dreams, Villagers (as always, steered by Conor O'Brien) play three nights here. He and his band present what can only be described as a virtually flawless back catalogue.
December 14th-December 22nd, various venues, inhaler.band
Gigging in the US and the UK throughout September and October, Inhaler return home for a brief nationwide tour that starts in Belfast, at Limelight, and concludes with four nights at the Academy in Dublin.
January 19th, 2022, Vicar Street, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
The Canadian musician and songwriter Dan Snaith makes a welcome return to Ireland, but it won't be the last time we'll see him in 2022, as Caribou also play the Iveagh Gardens, in Dublin, in July.
March 18th, 2022, 3Arena, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
Two years after the release of her debut album, Sucker Punch, the pint-sized powerhouse singer from Norway shows no signs of stopping. Pandemic? What pandemic?
April 5th, 2022, 3Arena, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
With a basic music pitch of guitar and drums, UK's Royal Blood mix and match the brute force of Black Keys with the blues legacy of White Stripes, and throw in granite-hard rock for good measure. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
April 10th, 2022, Vicar Street, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
The Mael brothers know a thing or two about mixing idiosyncrasy with certified pop nous, and to expect anything less than a banger of a show simply isn't on. Seriously.
May 10th, 2022, 3Arena, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
Big-hair metal hasn't gone away, it just took some time off for a shampoo and a blow-dry. This gig also features Europe, so it is, effectively, a triple bill of 1980s hard-rock bands – still gigging after all these years – that will deliver classic songs such as The Final Countdown, Here I Go Again and Waiting for a Girl Like You.
May 11th, 3Arena, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
Despite the fact that it features two men of a certain vintage, this gig will be one of the best you'll see in 2022. Why? Electro-pop songs, people. Vince Clarke and Andy Bell are masters of the form, and have been for more than 35 years.
June 3rd, SSE Arena, Belfast; June 4th and 5th, 3Arena, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
One of the most significant gigs of next year from one of the world's most lauded teenage acts. In a ridiculously short space of time, Billie Eilish has made an indelible mark with a compact collection of songs across a mere two albums – 2019's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and this year's Happier Than Ever – that have positioned her in the top tier of pop culture. Eilish is 20 in December, so where it can go from here is anyone's guess.
June 26th, Fairview Park, Dublin, ticketmaster.ie
The US indie alt pop star Annie Clarke is one of the more intriguing songwriters and musicians around, and to see her in a large tent on the outskirts of the city is fine by us. Roll up, roll up: the circus has come to town!