- 16 Sep 21
Coughlan’s Live and Ballinacurra House help bring us all back to life. Photo: Shane J. Horan
Announced in early August, Coughlan's Live launched The Great Beyond - a new two day music festival in Kinsale, Co. Cork. Partly funded by the Department of Tourism and Culture Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, this intimate festival took place at Ballinacurra House - a stunning 18th-century estate house, surrounded by 40 acres of woodland and lawns.
Following a brief yet entertaining spin from the beautiful town of Kinsale, local taxi driver Barry teased if we were on our way to visit Michael Jackson's famed chimpanzee, Bubbles - who had an extended stay at the estate back in 2007. Arriving at the picturesque site, we were greeted by smiling faces all round. From the crew to the food vendors, everyone was just happy to be there. Featuring two stages with fully covered socially distanced seating areas, it was the ideal festival set-up after 18 months of hibernation.
Cork City Samba Band kicked off the Saturday line up in style, dusting off the cobwebs and getting the crowd excited for the weekend ahead. Dubliners The Scratch took to the stage next with a rousing set of their unique blend of trad and heavy metal. Drummer, cajoner and singer Dan Lang got the crowd on his side with an intermittent singalong of Babybird’s 90s hit ‘You’re Gorgeous’. Traditional Irish dancer Ryan Kelly joined the band on stage with his high-octane toe-tapping talent. Tearing through songs from their debut album Couldn’t Give A Rats, their high energy set left the crowd wanting more. A tough act to follow, we were in safe hands with Wexford’s Wallis Bird. Flying solo, Wallis Bird was a loveable ball of energy, easily coaxing people up from the multi-coloured picnic tables and openly relishing every moment of performing live in front of a crowd.
A stone's throw away on the second stage, Ballydehob-based Les SalAmandas greet the audience. The Irish/French duo of Julie O’Sullivan and Colyne Laverriere woo the crowd with their crystal clear harmonies. Lisa Hannigan graced the main stage for an early evening performance, casting a spell on her onlooking fans. You could hear a pin drop (and the odd bird chirp) as she worked her way through a host of songs from her back catalogue. Meanwhile, Dublin based singer songwriter Robert John Ardiff and his band held their own on the second stage.
Kerry comedian Bernard Casey was splitting sides on the main stage as Ultan Conlon was simultaneously breaking hearts over on the second stage. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, he indeered the crowd with stories of his two cats and a truly intimate set. Up next were the brilliant Cork based trio, Rowan. Their infectious Strokes-like sound and energy had everyone up dancing. Vocalist Dylan Howe oozed the swagger of a seasoned frontman as he worked his way through songs from their 2021 EP Everybody Talks. Hands down one of the best performances of the day. Cork's legendary The Frank and Walters brought day one to a close. They were in top form with Paul Linehan and co. rocking their trademark tangerine shirts.
The weather took a turn for the worse on Sunday but thankfully both areas were fully covered, keeping our shoes dry and spirits high. Cork/Kerry natives Naked Animals got day two off to a flying start. Playing tracks such as 'Good News' and 'Money Shot', their soul/funk blend lifted the mood of a dreary Sunday. Waterford troubadour Marc O’Reilly played a solid set with his band. The gifted guitarist and songwriter played tracks from his acclaimed four albums. Clonakilty singer-songwriter Mide Houlihan enchanted us with her raspy, soulful voice, accompanied by her sticker laden acoustic guitar. Lisa Hannigan returned to the main stage for her second performance of the weekend, visibly excited to be back on stage where she belongs. Corkonians Ceili All-Stars had every ankle swinging, and toe tapping in the tent for their wonderfully upbeat set.
Comedian Laura O’Mahony had everyone in stitches over at the mainstage, while Cry Monster Cry (brothers Richie and Jamie Martin) were thrilled to be playing their first gig since early 2020. Featuring beautifully arranged tracks from their recent album Tides, Richie even wryly dedicated one song to our Tanaiste, stating "This one's for Leo Varadkar. We used to be friends." Paddy Dennehy played to a full tent at the second stage for the penultimate performance of the festival. Dennehy won the crowd over with his self-deprecating humour and powerful set of heart-felt songs. Accompanied by his talented bandmates, Dennehy played tracks 2020 debut album Little Light, including 'Painting of a New Country', 'Strange Wings' and 'Snow Song'
Although it was the final act of the festival, it was the first time I was hit by the emotion of it all. It was neither sleep deprivation nor alcohol that brought a lump to my throat but the sheer normality and wholesomeness of watching everyone dance and sing along carelessly to Bell X1's songbook. It was truly heartwarming. Frontman Paul Noonan worked his charms on the crowd and ensured us all that we were, in fact, allowed to dance on the grass in between the band and the crowd. I was equally amused by his shout out to the mouthwatering massaman curry on offer at the festival. It really was that good. From 'Rocky Took A Lover' to 'Eve, The Apple of My Eye,' the feeling in the air was one of sheer joy and magic. As the set came to a close, the crowd shouted euphorically, "one more tune, one more tune!" Bell X1's welcomed encore included new songs such as ‘Lobster,’ which kept everyone dancing with no last minute dashes to the portaloos. A stellar set that cemented their reputation as one of Ireland's greatest live acts.
Summer may be over but thankfully we have a long winter of live music ahead. Get to a gig as soon as you can, you won't regret it.