The last night in The Glassworks was supposed to feature a set from one of the most successful bands in Northern Ireland in recent years, Two Door Cinema Club. Unfortunately, the day before lead singer Alex Trimble completely lost his voice because of Laryngitis. So, it was decided that one of the other local bands who had made an impression on the music trail was to replace them.
After they packed St. Augustine’s Church on the Saturday afternoon (so much so that, fifteen minutes later, there was no room for us), Derry band Little Bear were chosen as the replacement. A tall order for any band to fill in for a band who can sell out Dublin’s O2 and London’s Brixton Academy, but Little Bear were ready and able.
Despite clearly being a bit overwhelmed by their sudden elevation, they quickly showed us it was a good decision. They have melodic pastoral folk songs that sound a bit like Fleet Foxes at times. The employment of two mobile phones as a vocal aid on ‘The Devil is a Songbird’ was an eye opener and they continued in that vein with songs like ‘I’d Let You Win’, ‘The Few And Far Between’ which even featured some audience participation. It just goes to show, a band like this just needed a platform and a bit of luck to impress. The locals were beaming but so were the visitors who got to witness a great new band.
Despite having played larger slots and appeared on Late Show with David Letterman in the U.S, the London three-piece Daughter looked more uncomfortable than the locals under the bright lights, but the band’s shyness between songs was endearing especially as their music can rise to an awesome tumult.
Elena Tonra’s vocals ground everything in a young woman’s emotional disposition; (“All my limbs can become trees / All my children can become me / What a mess I leave / To follow”). She performs through her dark black hair with a transfixing magnetism, often singing lyrics about men who aren’t the right fit or who aren’t around anymore – “I want him but we’re not right” (‘Smother’), “Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong” (‘Home’) “Take your hands off him / cos he’s the only one I’ve ever loved.” (‘Love’).
It’s no wonder that their songs have been used on The Vampire Diaries, their scratched violin-bow on guitar atmospheric tones and arrangements which lap into raging intensity and calm moments of serenity perfectly fit with the transformation of the natural into the supernatural. The song ‘Candles’ even appears to be inspired by the recent vampire pop culture resurgence “That boy, take me away, into the night / Out of the hum of the street lights and into a forest / I’ll do whatever you say to me in the dark.”
Taking a more light-hearted and direct approach to performance, Scottish singer James Yorkston introduces himself by saying he’s the “Daniel O’Donnell of Fife.” Of course, he’s jesting, as he is when he compares Kerry more favourably to Derry and tells a tall tale of a man he met who despised Derry city. Yorkston, of course, being noble in brow, defended the city’s honour despite the man listing off the things he wouldn’t do in Derry – wouldn’t buy a carrot, wouldn’t get a haircut etc etc.
His songs are equally beguiling and despite his apologies for his raspy throat (as caused by the aforementioned Derry-hating man who strangled him when verbal conflict failed), his idiosyncratic delivery was suited to the Glassworks stage. Accompanied by only his guitar and his friend Emma on violin, it was songs like ‘Border Song’, ‘St. Patrick’ and a song about waking up “in a situation” that stood out in their common man experiences.
The last performer of Other Voices Derry/Londonderry, the English songwriter Beth Orton has had a consistent following for nearly 20 years now. Last year’s Sugaring Season album, her sixth in total and first in six years was where the wealth of her Other Voices set was taken. ‘Call Me The Breeze’ was a feel-good old-time folk stomp, ‘Poison Tree’ (a William Blake poem) and ‘Magpie’ evoked revered folk singers of yore while the organ-assisted ‘ Last Leaves Of Autumn’ harked back to a soulful time. She finished her set with her well-known track ‘She Cries Your Name’ from 1996’s Trailer Park album.
Orton was joined by fellow musician and partner, Sam Amidon on fiddle, a man who has a deep knowledge of folk in all its forms, not least of the Irish traditional variety. He was coaxed by executive producer Philip King to perform a cover from his as yet unreleased new album, of Andy Irvine & Paul Brady’s ‘The Streets Of Derry’. It was fitting rendition that married this city’s history with its present.