Great music and gripes about Irish radio featured at the first incarnation of Doolin’s new festival, writes Ellie O’Byrne
Organisers Simon O’Reilly and Peter O’Brien were delighted with the response to the first year of their day-long festival in the Co Clare village and said they plan to expand to a three-day format in future.
Word amongst the punters was positive too. Workshops were mostly attended by musicians and people in associated creative industries.
By evening, a line-up including Katie Kim, impressive electronic duo Solkatt, Kilkenny multi-instrumentalist Rarely Seen Above Ground (RSAG), and David Kitt’s electronic side project, New Jackson, drew locals as well as festival-starved fans from further afield, delighted at the chance of an out-of-season winter bash.
An estimated 400 festival-goers filled up The Barn, a good-sized venue at The Doolin Hotel, where artists were performing, or gathered around fires outside, where the intimate scale of the event made the atmosphere friendly and relaxed.
With the day-time focus on workshops and panels, the festival kicked off with a workshop by cellist Alec Browne, who has worked with Dé Danann and Emma Langford. An Arkansas native who fell in love with Irish music and who now lives in Limerick, Browne demonstrated his use of looping and effects in projects including a live score of the 1934 film Man of Aran, most fitting with a glimpse of the coastline towards the Aran islands just visible through the window behind him.
Workshops in music documentary making and live visuals ran concurrently in The Piper’s Chair café and bookshop close by.
True to that famous saying about the limits of language to describe things musical, when Kila frontman Rónán Ó Snodaigh took to the stage for what was billed as a talk on his fusion of primitive beats and modern technology, he clearly felt a demonstration was more appropriate than too much chat.
He debuted a freshly written song and attendees were treated to almost an hour of music, interspersed with brief and practical snippets of wisdom on the durability of equipment to sustain what he described as the “constant collision” of touring.
At the IMRO-backed panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for Irish musicians, there were strong words about the role of Irish radio stations in failing to give air time to Irish acts.
Panellist Emmet Condon, a DJ and band booker for Another Love Story festival, got a heartfelt round of applause when he slammed 2FM in particular, saying it’s an “outrage” that “we have a state broadcaster who isn’t looking after Irish music.”
Fellow panellist and former No Disco presenter Donal Dineen, once a 2FM employee, said young people were discovering new music on Spotify and Soundcloud and had abandoned radio in part because of its bland offerings.
David Kitt, who made headlines last summer for lashing out at Dublin property prices, and saying he’d have to leave the country as he couldn’t survive on a musician’s wage in the capital, confirmed during his workshop that he was still living in Dublin and would do so for the foreseeable future.
There was a vaguely support-group feel to several of the afternoon’s workshops and discussions, where aspiring musicians asked for career tips and expressed frustration at the difficulties of making a living in music.
If there was a certain irony to that, at a festival where many workshops were focused on using gadgets that electronically replicate the jobs of countless live musicians, it was overlooked. Music Minds’ electronic-heavy line-up had just one three-person act, the intriguing Co Clare band the Mud Bubble: the rest were solo apart from double act Solkatt.
In all, the seven acts that performed were comprised of just 10 musicians; in the guitar-band era, this could easily have been over three times that number.