- 05 Jun 12
Our summer has been well and truly ruined with two of our favourite festivals cancelled. Boo, and indeed, hiss.
I don’t come down off the mountain much, so occasionally my good friends at Hot Press will tie a bundle of CDs up in brown paper and bailer twine and send them up here. Which is nice, because in this day and age of Dropbox and YouSendIt, I don’t get very many CDs. I miss them. I’m a sentimentalist at heart and I love those little round shiny plastic critters. Also, I like to listen to a new record uninterrupted in the car, and I’m a long way off being able to afford a modern enough car to boast an MP3 player.
One thing is for sure: my take on what constitutes folk is seriously out of date. Either that, or people just have no notion as to what on earth the genre is about. Some definitions, admittedly, are straightforward.
Traditional music is, and should be after all, traditional. What I refer to as folk music does not necessarily include, for the record, any band which happens to have an acoustic guitar or banjo. Mumford & Sons are not folk, they’re Evanescence with a banjo. I feel better getting that off my chest!
Good folk doesn’t have to be lavishly put together or obsessed with perfection. Stand up and take a bow Vickers Vimy: your vocals may occasionally quake, but you write some lovely songs and you exude a gorgeous vitality.
Theirs of course isn’t the only record I’ve received recently that has lifted the furrows on my brow. I’ve mentioned Rose Cousins before. She pops over on a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ mini-tour late June with gigs in Galway’s Roisin Dubh (June 28), DeBarra’s in Clonakilty the evening before and what promises to be the jewel in the crown, a Monday night gig in Whelan’s in the round with Juliet Turner and Orlagh de Bhaldraithe.
Gigs by Ms. Turner are now something of a rarity, and Orlagh de Bhaldraithe takes it to an entirely different level as she readies herself to put her second album onto the market after a gap of a mere 11 years. In the interests of fairness I should point out that she’s not exactly Rip Van Winkle, she does have a job as musical director of Macnas to keep her busy.
I’m never exactly in the mood for obituary writing, but for me the stuffing has been completely knocked out of the year by the news that two of my favourite festivals have been forced to cancel. Of course, the Flat Lake Festival was much more than a festival. Where else could you find Ireland’s greatest living novelist broadcasting from a caravan while several of his peers gathered in a byre and a band of 14-year-olds headlined a tent? With another festival starting up only a couple of miles down the road and only three weeks away from them, they’ve decided to cancel this year’s event and re-examine their direction.
Scarcely had I steadied myself from that news than Belfast’s Open House Festival announced that it wouldn’t be running in 2012 either. With Belfast being branded as the ‘City of Festivals’ it seems the heat in the kitchen has knocked one of the best cooks for six. Without the Open House Festival in his corner, Seasick Steve very likely wouldn’t have a career worth talking about at all. Resourceful beyond their limited resources, the Open House team have decided to eschew the brief glory of staging some attempt at a festival and instead have booked a number of bands over the course of the year. On the afternoon of Saturday June 24, for example, you can have the pleasure of seeing the rather wonderful Otis Gibbs at Belfast’s John Hewitt.
The last time he played the North was in the Black Box as part of the 2009 Open House Festival where he brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation. He was that good. Those that were there will probably remember that gig forever. The Duke & The King also made their Open House debut that Sunday afternoon. There really was something very special happening onstage that day.