Other Voices returned to the woods for a weekend of music and magic at Electric Picnic.
Pied pipers Booka Brass kicked off the festivities on Friday afternoon, leading a merry troupe from the Main Arena into the woods of the Other Voices stage. Arriving at the church, they were greeted by Philip King, Huw Stephens and May Kay, who introduced the band to a packed crowd who were ready to dance and start the party. Fan favourites ‘Legion Of Boom’ and ‘Talk Dirty’ were highlights alongside an infectious cover of ‘Hotline Bling’. Keep an eye out for their debut album, released next week!
To simply call Skipper’s Alley “a trad band”, is to overlook the diversity of what they do. With a set ranging from slow laments, to rousing reels, the seven-piece seriously impressed during their show on Friday afternoon. Casual listeners wandering through the woods found themselves drawn in to a dynamic, imaginative performance, which set us up nicely for an evening’s revelry.
New on the scene My Sweet Beloved showed little by way of festival nerves. Channelling the bluesier side of PJ Harvey with riffs reminiscent of Queens Of The Stone Age, their Other Voices performance was a promising introduction to the Dublin quartet. Watch this space, you heard them here first! Next up was Holly Macve. A dreamy hush descended over the Other Voices crowd when 20 year old Yorkshire songstress took to the church stage. Her meandering melodies have a distinct country sound with a contemporary edge, lulling the crowd into a sweet musical haze. A true sensation in waiting.
It was a good sign to see the church heaving with anticipation on Friday evening. The reason? Heathers. From the moment Ellie and Louise stepped on the Other Voices stage they were in their element. Playing to a packed church, they seamlessly mixed the old and new with recent singles ‘Come Home’ and ‘November’ sitting nicely next to singalong favourite ‘Remember When’. Coming off stage the sisters admitted it was probably their best gig in recent memory – the power of the picnic in full effect.
Saint Sister are one of the most talked about acts of 2016 and on Friday night they showed us why. Flawlessly fusing R&B grooves with their folk inflected harmonies, the overall effect is subtle and hypnotic.
Old school vibes with a new school energy. Sharp and meandering, this is not the last you'll see from Word Up Collective'sDyramid, Sam Ojo and Neomatic. Watching them was a reflection of an Ireland that is now producing cutting edge hip hop, diversifying a music scene that's growing at a remarkable pace.
On Friday night, Rusangano Family once again proved why their one of Ireland’s most loved trios. Performing material from their recent album ‘Let The Dead Bury The Dead’, MuRli, GodKnows and mynameisjohn never let the energy drop during their Other Voices headline set. From start to finish, the Limerick group delivered a forceful, well-crafted show, which also made room for poignant moments on ‘Losing My French’ and a show-stealing speech from Denise Chaila on ‘Isn’t Dinner Nice?’. Simply put, if you weren’t there, believe us, you missed out.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Dr. Dog brought a touch of US panache to the church on Saturday. The church quickly filled up as the quintet delivered a satisfying dose of 60s inspired power-pop. Just what the doctor ordered first thing on a Saturday morning.
A performer who stood alone in our line-up this weekend - and we mean that quite literally - was Stephen James Smith. It is a testament to the quality of this man’s work that despite the noise and distractions of the festival environment, his powerful poetry made an instant connection with the Stradbally revellers. Finishing his set with the searing ‘Dublin, You Are’, Stephen generated enough energy and applause to rival any band this weekend. Performance poetry at its best.
Sample Answer, aka Maurice O’Connor is also known as the man with the best ‘fro in Stradbally, proved his songwriting chops on Saturday afternoon. Treating us to tunes from his ‘Collision’ and ‘Good Boy’ EPs, the acoustic troubadour seemed at home on the Other Voices stage. A precocious talent with bags of attitude, we look forward to seeing him back in Ireland soon. Our first surprise guests of the day, Ferdia and Sibeal were quite the pairing. Performing a brief, but no less memorable set, the duo's gentle harmonies and subtle phrasing showed a talent beyond their years. Expect to hear much more of these two in future.
Sometimes nothing revives us quite like a dirty guitar riff. To that end, Dublin trio Fangclub were a welcome addition to Saturday evening. Staking a claim for loudest band in Portlaoise, the boys did their best to blow the roof off the church, delivering a hefty slab of rock to keep us all happy.
Taking the stage in matching cowboy hats, Karl Blau and his band quickly proved their country credentials. Tackling everything from Townes Van Zandt to Tom T. Hall, Karl’s set delivered on the laidback charm of his recent ‘Introducing’ album. A perfect soundtrack to sunset in Stradbally.
Make no mistake, Le Galaxie know how to start a party. Playing to packed crowd, itching to dance, the Picnic veterans delivered a barnstorming set made for Saturday night. Joined by our own Maykay on ‘Carmen’, the boys in white kept hands in the air from start to finish.
The first performer of our special guest double bill, Rejjie Snow is originally from Dublin, but has lived in the US since age 17 where he has been honing his craft for some years now. Retuning home to a hero’s welcome, tracks like ‘Blakkst Skn’ and ‘All Around The World’, had a tangible sense of celebration. The perfect warm up for our closing act, Joey Bada$$. In this case, the name says it all. He came, he rapped, he was a badass. The New Yorker was in top form on Saturday night with a performance that got more intense with each passing song. From ‘Haezus View’ to ‘Devastated’, Joy showed us why he’s one of the most talked about young rappers in the world. Earning a mid-set chant of ‘Ole, Ole’, Other Voices was on the verge of a stage invasion when Joey wrapped up on day two. As Saturday night’s go, this one will be hard to beat.
From the opening notes of ‘The Bailey’, Loah had the full attention of her audience. Showcasing a superb voice and knack for genre blending, Sunday’s opening performance was a diverse delight. Although a debut EP is still in the works, this afternoon’s set showcased an assurance and maturity to rival any seasoned singer. Keep an eye out, Loah is someone you need to see.
One of the festival’s biggest draws, Nathaniel Rateliff took time out ahead of his main stage performance, to join us for an acoustic set at Other Voices. This was a special solo set - harking back to the early days of his career - but even without ‘The Night Sweats’, Nathaniel’s thundering voice lost none of its impact, bringing a bit of gospel and blues to the Stradbally church.
Montreal native Basia Bulat radiates joy when she comes on stage. A natural musician, she swaps instruments with ease, be it autoharp, keyboard or guitar. A few technical hiccups aside, the whole thing flows effortlessly, carried by Basia’s powerful voice. A songwriter you should take the time to see when she returns in November to play with Lake Street Dive.
Julia Jacklin makes her Irish debut this afternoon, showcasing tracks from the hotly anticipated ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’. The Aussie singer-songwriter demonstrates a wit and wisdom beyond her years, quickly converting the uninitiated.
American soul with a Mersey beat, Jalen N’Gonda is one to watch this year. The relatively unknown singer quickly makes his presence felt. Possessing a voice that channels the sweetness of Smokey Robinson backed by Hamburg-era Beatles, N’Gonda’s trio blend retro influences to create a sound that is very much their own. Remember where you heard it first.
Margaret Glaspy is not your typical singer-songwriter. A commanding presence on the guitar, she is quick to impress to the Other Voices crowd, taking blues and post-rock influences into a new terrain of her own. A highlight is ‘You Don’t Want Me’, which she introduces as “a duet I like to perform on my own”. Watch her closely, Margaret Glaspy is doing great things.
Sunday night headliners Lynched bring a rough and ready spirit to the evening, putting on a performance that’s hard to resist. With singalongs in abundance, from ‘Salonika’ to ‘Daffodil Mulligan’, perhaps the biggest reaction comes from their own recession inspired tune ‘Cold Old Fire’. Giving new life to old songs, the quartet carry themselves with a charm and passion that spreads through the church. An encore or two later, there is no doubt they are keeping the tradition alive in a way that feels vital here and now in 2016. No better act to finish a magical weekend of music.
Photographs: Tara Thomas
All reviews by Danny Carroll except where noted.
Holly Macve review by Juno King. Word Up Collective review by Molly King.