While there’s clearly, clearly a big change in atmosphere when Other Voices goes from an isolated peninsula town in the westerly tip of Ireland to occupying a very small part of London’s vast and densely populated city, there are a few things that remain. The power of a musician to entertain a crowd and the cameras for one. The simple exchange of ideas when two people converse as heard at Banter Salon for another. And the intimacy of being an audience member for the hat-trick.
Which is something that is palpable on the Sunday. Small gatherings come together to hear music or ideas and be inspired and entertained (hopefully). Sunday at Banter Salon was filled with both. The revered music writer Paul Morley was one of the first guests on Sunday to talk to Jim Carroll. Morley helped curate the V&A Bowie exhibition currently running until August (and sold out until then) and that milestone, and Bowie’s career was used as a starting point for a fascinating monologue around art, identity, time, creativity and communication.
Among the things Morley talked about was about the new Bowie album The Next Day (he was top of the list of people not to tell about it), the new album’s artwork (and how takes the great album legacy of Heroes and literally wipes it out), how pop culture is in a brand new phase (“it’s a novel time period we’re in. It’s for everyone from 9 to 90 and that’s a new thing.”) and having a hand in writing a pop culture history for future generations (“we’re all coming into land and it’s important to hand over the best representation of our time to future generations.”) Look out for the full video on the Banter Youtube channel.
The rest of the day at Banter Salon was filled with nuggets of information and inspiration. Ben Watt, formerly of Everything But The Girl and Buzzin’ Fly Records talked about legacy too, that of his parents which he addresses in an upcoming book. “You have to understand your parents golden years to understand who they are,” he says. Eva Vermandel, our own Rich Gilligan and Linda Brownlee talked photography and the art of making people at ease – “like a jedi mind trick,” Rich helpfully explains. Olivia Chaney (pictured), loved by Andy Irvine, delivered a three-song set of English folk with a song each on harmonium, guitar and keyboards and fiddle player Caoimhin O Raghallaigh brought it all back to the start by discussed his role in the band The Gloaming and revitalising the past, as Bowie is now doing with his own career.
Equally enthralled by the past is Dublin singer Imelda May who kicked off the Wilton’s Music Hall’s proceedings with a set of five new songs, some as yet unwritten. The Liberties lady has just had a baby, an experience that led her to sing a lullaby she had written for her newborn. But this is Imelda May, the rockabilly singer with the blonde streak in her hair and there was plenty of rocking out to be had, most notably with new song ‘Hellfire Club’. Special mention to the sticksman who gave excellent drummer face throughout the short set.
After that, it was a victory lap for two of our Derry artists, SOAK and Little Bear. While it’s only been a short while since they both impressed us in Derry. The former seems to be growing as an artist at an accelerated rate. She announced she had just signed a publishing deal with Universal and despite the fast-pace of her rise, there was still room in her set for a song she wrote when she was just 13 as well as one simply titled ‘New Song’ for now. In fairness she’s only 16 now but SOAK is still on the up. A cute and captivating set.
Little Bear looked as flabbergasted to be on stage in London as they did when they replaced Two Door Cinema Club at the last minute in Derry. Their pastoral folk songs are pleasant and performed with a studious presence. It’ll be interesting to see where they go next.
The highlight for many on the last night was a loose set from Matthew E. White. The Richmond, Virginia singer looks like a proper dude in his loud patterned Hawaiian shirt, long hair and glasses. It’s a look that suits the man’s laidback groove-laden songs. Joined by hometown band, his set of songs from the critically-acclaimed Big Inner is filled with percussive breakdowns and space jams. There’s a psychedelic feel to his country-soul music and White himself keeps it all underpinned by a gentle whispery vocal that soothes the song. Though lacking the presence of the horns on stage, White’s set is like a forgiving Sunday set of gospel-tinged lilting rock.
Photos from St. Wiltons: Rich Gilligan.