Review: Other Voices 2016

Other Voices returned to Dingle on the edge of County Kerry again this year bigger and better than ever. 2016 marked the year when the quiet weekend transformed into a fully fledged winter festival. The music trail was expanded to include plenty of new venues and a stellar lineup of Irish and international artists that went on into the early hours of the morning.

Dingle is one of the most charming villages in Ireland to visit and the perfect setting for the unique event. This year the town was packed to capacity as crowd numbers noticeably surged from previous years. The atmosphere was different as a result but retained it’s characteristic vibe and there were many more pros than cons. Food trucks at many of the late night venues were a particularly welcome addition to the weekend, keeping everyone fed with a delicious selection of gourmet foods.

But we’ll move swiftly on to the most important part, the music! First up on Friday was Farah Elle in the packed out Nellie Freds. The Dublin singers colourful tunes and off kilter lyrics were the perfect start to the weekend, with subtle harmonies and driving rhythms that never overpower the music-box innocence of the melodies.
Orchid Collective belted out tracks from their excellent Courage EP in the Marina Inn. The band started life out with a singer songwriter oriented sound but have since developed their arrangements to include a litany of guitar effects and metronome perfect polyrhythms.Distinct vocal harmonies feature throughout and the songs often swell to meteoric crescendos before easing back to earth. Expect to hear a lot more from this Dublin 4 piece.

Next up were Strange Attractor, the first local band on the trail. They’ve been making waves up in Dublin recently but hail from Dingle. Their funk sound is packed full of latin rhythms and walking basslines reminiscent of James Jamerson. They’re great at what they do, each player is brilliant as individual instrumentalists and when brought together as a whole they’re super tight and smooth as hell.

Then it was time for the first broadcast from St James Church, streamed live into venues all around the town. We settled into Foxy Johns, a hardware store/pub to watch. The first act was Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh and Cormac Begley on violin and concertina. Lots of trad standards and improvisation, made it feel like we were all packed into one big Dingle-wide snug.

Next up Margret Glaspsy. The Californian singer showed off her tremendous vocal range with serious jumps in pitch and dynamics. Highlights were the excellent ‘You & I’ and a surprise cover of Lauryn Hill’s  ‘X factor’ from her seminal debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

After a short intermission Kojey Radical kicked us back into gear with an energetic set of smooth R&B and poetic rap. His band are fantastic and the drummer in particular looked absolutely giddy to be there, enjoying every second.

Next up, Pixie Geldof who let loose with a torrent of raw emotionally honest rock songs. Her band really new how to shred and gave the songs an edge.

After the church it was straight back out to the music trail to see Fangclub, the Dublin 3 piece who are making serious waves with their hard hitting grunge sound. These guys really know how to bring the noise, producing a wall of sound that hits you right in the chest. Talk about HEFT!
Sticking around after Fangclub we we stumbled across Damola, a young rapper out of Dublin and member of the Backshed Inc. collective. This guy had serious flow and an incredibly tight band. It’s great to see the Dublin rap scene flourishing and providing itself a voice. It’s even better that festivals like Other Voices are providing them platforms to be heard.

Soulé ended the first night with a set of R&B floorfillers. This girl oozes talent and is definitely one to watch. Her cover of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools’ is pretty awesome too, check it out below.

Saturday got off to a groggy start, with a few visibly sore heads. The remedy came in the form of Dublin group Moon looks on, whose beautifully crafted original folk rock songs  were complimented by some great piano and violin work. Lead singer Stephen Gormley has a great natural vibrato that really stretches his vocals out, remaining interesting throughout the entire set.
Armagh’s Jealous of the Birds hit the new and improved Dingle Brewing Company stage and blew us away. A little bit Lana Del Ray, a little bit Lorde. Their sparse use of instrumentation results in an atmospheric sound that can go from soft spoken to rocking out in the blink of an eye. The set was punctuated with covers of Nirvanas ‘Heart Shaped Box’ and Foster The Peoples ‘Pumped up Kicks’.
Malojian brought their Americana tinged alt-folk from Belfast to the Dingle District Courthouse. The venue was so packed we listened from around the corner until someone squeezed in to give us a look . Soothing vocals lyrically explored life’s difficulties with a sunny side up outlook. They informed us all they’d visited 4 provinces in 4 days, arriving in Dingle via Belfast, Mayo and Dublin .”We arrived at 3 in the morning, it was like dawn of the dead, but the party version!”By far the biggest crowd of the weekend was for Dublin post rock wizards Overhead, the Albatross. They were down a member with pianist Dave away on backing duties with Kodaline, but you wouldn’t have noticed any dip in quality. They blew the crowd away with a blistering set of 3 songs, all the guys could fit into their 40 minute set(Their songs are looooooooong). If you want the full experience you can catch them tonight(Friday 09/12) in Vicar St with the mighty Bitch Falcon. There are still a few tickets available from Ticketmaster and if they don’t sell out, on the door.

Next up, round two in St James Church. An almost unrecognisable Imelda May was up first. She’s undergone a total musical and physical make over. Gone are the rockabilly qiffs and tunes. She’s reinvented as a straight up rock singer with some beautifully personal songs. ‘The Girl I used to Be’ was a highlight, written about her youth in Dublin.

Lisa Hannigan’s beautiful ethereal voice set the night alight with a lovely set of songs from her latest album ‘At Swim’. “Coming to Dingle feels like coming home” she tells us, we couldn’t agree more!

Girl Band might have scared some birds or locals away or, from looking at the faces of some of the onlookers in Benners, desecrated the church! It was a perfect representation of the band. Half of the people in the room were lamenting the fact they weren’t inside the church, the other half were holding their fingers in their ears. Brilliant!

Rejjie Snow had a challenge trying to fill the stage with just himself and his DJ. The Dublin rapper has been turning heads internationally, including that of the aformentioned Kendrick Lamar. He never properly hit his stride in the church though, seeming to find it hard to fill the large stage.

Saturday night was filled with lot’s more music, but bopping between so many venues I never stayed long enough to get a good enough impression of any to review here. I blame the pints.

First up were Dublin 3 piece Swords who stunned the crowd with a set of songs from their new album Tidal Waves. They seemed super confident and really comfortable with the new songs. Swords seem to have really settled on their sound.

Next up Stephen James Smith brought the goosebumps with some truly evocative poems out the back of Currans bar. He wasn’t one to hold the limelight though, passing around a book of quotes for people to choose from and then share with the group. He even managed to squeeze a song out of Ruby Sessions organiser Ger Murphy!
Thumper brought their bouncy, energetic, frantic and LOUD sound to Nellie Freds. This set was a lot of fun, a playful take on all of life’s little problems. After finishing a 2 – 3 minute song, they played the same song again way faster trying to beat yesterdays record of 44secs. 43! Yes! Pop melodies fed through an overdrive circuit. Class.

Æ Mak brought their impressive live set to the Other Room next. Full of infectious world rhythms and epic displays of choreographed interpretive dance, this was really a sight to behold. Check them out at the first chance you get.

The incomprehensible Meltybrains? brought their fantastic live show to the same venue next and really made an impression on the crowd. It feels a little like the secret is out about these guys and anyone not yet on board is eager to find out what all the fuss is about. The major highlight was the whole dingle crowd learning their signature dance during ‘The Vine’.
On the way out, the families and children of Dingle paraded around the town with homemade lanterns for the annual Festival of Light, ending at a beautiful Christmas tree where they hung their lanterns as decorations.
Things drew to a close with the 3rd night in St James Church featuring showstopping performances from Saint Sister, All Tvvins, Le Galaxie and Rusangano Family as well a suprise performance from Glen Hansard.

The team at Other Voices pulled of another incredible year of music. Here’s to 15 more years!

P.S The drive home wasn’t half bad either….