It’s December in Dingle. For the last 15 years, that means the Kerry peninsula plays the gracious host to visiting musicians of all stripes and sizes, where their performances are captured for a televisual feast some months later. It’s Other Voices time. They might be onto something.
This year’s eir Other Voices festival has grown in scope and stature. 65 bands on a music trail, a conference intersecting art and tech, a vinyl exhibition and a town that offers sanctuary, restoration and something a bit special. We’re here for a show.
Other Voices may now migrate to Austin, Texas or Stradbally, Laois but its heart and home remains St. James' Church on the main street in Dingle. 80 seats, 170 crew, there’s not enough space for the several thousand who make the trip to Other Voices but ten pubs live streaming in HD allows everyone to experience the magic.
Introducing the first night of acts in the church, series producer Philip King spoke of music as a well of talent, a natural resource, to be tended and minded. There’s a respect given to artists performing at Other Voices that is obvious but not as common as it should be in the wide world.
The music of Cormac Begley (a local) and Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh (Dublin) is drawn from the natural resource that we have in spades - our Irish traditional music heritage. On concertina and fiddle respectively, the duo encapsulate that idea of tending, minding and interpreting reels, and jigs of those that came before. They keep the tradition alive but also bring new ideas to it.
Begley’s pitched-down concertina performance of The Yellow Tinker uses the low-end notes to create a swampy blues tone while O’Raghallaigh takes off his shoe to assist in an improvised fiddle performance that utilises electronics and looks at the tradition through a newly-angled prism. The quiet shuffling of feet in the church pews says more than words can about the duo’s performance.
While there might be a great distance between New York and Dingle, singer songwriter Margaret Glaspy spoke of the warmth and welcome she has received of the Other Voices family. Dingle is her third Other Voices show this year after Electric Picnic and Austin. Fittingly for the show, it’s Glaspy’s voice that draws you in instantly on stage in St. James’ Church.
Delicate, rasping, ripping, undulating, and tender, it has range and colour. Songs from her debut album Emotions And Math are delivered with a taut rock band setup. There’s a sense that the late-20s performer, resplendent in a silver jacket, has a career on the up. The decision to cover of Lauryn Hill’s Ex-Factor is a brave one but Glaspy’s expressive pipes are more than up to the task.
Kojey Radical is a London poet, rapper, visual artist and performer who graces the stage in a jacket and hood. He has said that his words came first and the music later. He raps of youth centre closures as his jazzy live band let loose behind. Gallons is a highlight. It's not long before Kojey is letting loose himself, posing and cavorting around the stage topless and in charge, while singing and rapping about community, love, pride and his Ghanian heritage.
In between, he expounds the quality of Dingle fish and brings on a guest vocalist for some gospel-style worship. By the time his short set is over, he's loose and limber, dancing and flailing, messing and smiling. Shortly afterwards, he's buzzing across the road with the band practically leaping into Benner's Hotel for some post-show congratulations.
From a confident and agile performer to one of a much more shy demeanor. Pixie Geldof has grown up in the public eye but as presenter May Kay reminds the crowd in the church, it takes nerve to get up on a stage and turn your public pain and private feelings into art that can be appreciated by many.
Pixie might be nervous on stage but she needn't be. The 26-year-old is joined by an accomplished band and it's clear the music, as heard on her recently released debut album I'm Yours has style and swing. Moving between alt-country, blues with a sheen of pop, these songs are vintage in stock, melancholic glamour with a noir digital filter, like Lana Del Rey. There are moments of dream pop (I'm Yours) and songs that rock (Escape Route) and while Geldof may giggle restlessly in moments of silence between songs, she sings with a command and confidence in the songs, which is what matters most on a televised stage such as St. James’.