Dingle's Other Voices music festival plays on despite Storm Desmond

Dingle’s celebration of music continues to charm whatever the weather, writes Joe Leogue

Dingle's Other Voices music festival plays on despite Storm Desmond

ONE of the hundreds of the weekend’s unsung heroes stood sentry in flourescent waterproofs next to the ‘Road Closed’ sign as the rain and wind pounded the West and the resulting floods clogged Tralee’s arteries.

“You must be the hundredth car to ask me how to get to Dingle in this,” he said.

“There must be something on.”

Despite his late, unwelcome addition to the line up, Desmond failed to halt Other Voices’ momentum.

Now in its 14th year, what began as a television show filmed in the intimate surrounds of St James’ Church off Dingle’s Main Street is now a fully fledged music festival in its own right.

Other Voices has branched out beyond its roots, and while 90 or so lucky souls squeeze into the church for the main attractions over three nights, scores of music lovers walk up and down the town’s streets, hooded heads buried in smartphones and schedules, as they navigate from pub to pub to take in free performances from emerging Irish acts.

By 7pm on Saturday the lobby of Benner’s Hotel is jammed. The Other Voices production centre has people sitting on the floor and standing wherever there is room to watch a live feed of the second night of performances from St James’.

Mahalia
Mahalia

Across the street, Glen Hansard powers through a repertoire of solo material interspersed with anecdotes, including a story of his happy tow-truck driver who made a killing in Friday’s weather.

“You don’t go through Dingle, you make an effort to get here,” he says.

Richard Hawley clearly enjoyed Dingle’s hospitality before taking the stage and stuns with a stripped-back set, including a sublimely simple ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’.

As the waves crash outside, Low bring the noise inside the church, but as is always the case with Other Voices, the platform is set for emerging artists to shine.

Bleeding Heart Pigeons’ expansive indie fills every inch of St James’, while the charismatic, confident and astonishingly talented Mahalia is the revelation of the weekend.

The pop singer draws an audible reaction of disbelief from the audience when she reveals that she has just turned 17, a collective recognition that the assured talent before us is already bound for greater things at such a young age.

Mahalia wasn’t even born when ‘Alright’, Britpop’s defining celebration of youth was released, but on Sunday night former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes shows he has left his band far behind as he treats the church audience to reworked versions of material from his recent solo album Matador.

Gaz Coombes
Gaz Coombes

Gavin James displays the vocal range that has propelled him from busking the streets of Ireland to the nation’s radio playlists.

A rare live performance from Keaton Henson is one to savour. Despite his well-publicised stage nerves, which gets the better of him during one new song, the London singer-songwriter draws in a captivated audience with a stunning falsetto and beautiful, vulnerable melancholy.

Dublin band Otherkin clear any cobwebs with a foundation shaking noise underpinned with catchy hooks before Ane Brun closes proceedings with a stellar performance of her left-field beat-driven Scandipop.

However the real star of Other Voices is Dingle, and the free shows at a variety of unlikely venues.

Sleep Thieves rock a windy tent in a beer garden. Saint Sister deliver a suitably ethereal early Sunday set in the chapel of a Centre of Spirituality. Cry Monster Cry pack the District Court while North Sea belt out indie tunes in large, cold, brewery warehouse.

There are talks, too, and through the door beyond the front of the pub, past the bar on the left and hardware for sale on the right, Foxy John’s hosts music and a series of discussions on whatever you’re having yourself.

What Philip King and the Other Voices team has done is something both easily replicated yet impossible to copy.

The novel use of existing spaces to host intimate gigs is an idea gaining traction at other urban festivals across Ireland.

None of these, however, can offer the romanticism of taking in life- affirming tunes on the edge of the world in a dark and windswept Dingle.

Other Voices will broadcast on RTÉ in the spring

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