Other Voices festival – review


If the call had been made half an hour later, it might have been a very different story for the band Little Bear. The act scheduled to headline the third and final night of Other Voices in Derry/Londonderry last Sunday was Two Door Cinema Club – the hottest band to have come from Northern Ireland for some time. (Their recent album, Beacon, topped the Irish charts and went to No 2 in the UK.) But on Saturday afternoon they pulled out, with singer Alex Trimble citing a nasty case of laryngitis.

Reading this on mobile? Click here to view video

That day, Derry locals Little Bear – purveyors of emotionally literate rock – were finishing a fringe gig in the minuscule church of St Augustine on the city's ancient walls. Then they retired to the pub to toast what felt like a triumphant show long into the night. When the organisers rang, asking them to step up for the big gig the following evening, the barman was ordered to stop serving the Guinness mid-pint and taxis were ordered so the boys could be put to bed post haste for what could prove to be their biggest break ever.

Other Voices normally takes place in Dingle on the west coast of Ireland. Acts including the late Amy Winehouse have headed there for more than a decade to perform to 70-odd souls in a church – with everything then turned into an Irish TV show. (Or, latterly, a live stream on guardian.co.uk.) But it shifted last weekend to celebrate Derry's status as the first UK city of culture, taking up residency in the Glassworks, a former church with a capacity to hold a couple of hundred people, for three nights.

Appropriately, a Derry native who had also played in Dingle in December opened proceedings, the 16-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson, aka SOAK, who has already been the subject of a major label bidding war. It was easy to hear why: her songs are startlingly mature and arrestingly tender.

Reading this on mobile? Click here to view video

SOAK is too young to have had direct experience of the Troubles, ("It didn't look fun," she told the Observer in January),but the same couldn't be said of Neil Hannon, who finished the evening with the jaunty likes of National Express and other Divine Comedy staples such as At the Indie Disco. But not before the city's prodigal son had played Sunrise, the story of how he fled Derry, asking: "Who cares what name you call a town?" It felt as touching a way of addressing the past as it was necessary, and pointed to the brighter future that the festival and wider celebrations have set out to foster.

In between came two contrasting acts, intense Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey and Savages. The latter's pummelling post-punk answered in the affirmative one other question: would just this sort of act succeed in Derry, as in Dingle, because of the contrast between the intimacy of the surroundings and their noisenik shtick?

The second evening saw Little Green Cars, who are increasingly threatening to turn into an Irish version of Band of Horses; Bronagh Gallagher, who might be most familiar to English audiences as Bernie in Alan Parker's film The Commitments, and who sang with all the soul of the Derry girl she is; Jesca Hoop; and Marina and the Diamonds. The latter dazzled without necessarily convincing (songs such as Hollywood sounded a bit too pleased with themselves in this context).

Reading this on mobile? Click here to view video

The final night – discounting the pub sessions and other gigs elsewhere throughout the weekend – brought the turn of James Yorkston and the hugely promising Daughter the hugely promising Daughter (who make palatable the phrase "a bit like a folky version of the xx"). Beth Orton captivated at the top of the bill with the evergreen She Cries Your Name. But coming in at the bottom were Little Bear. And they were excellent.


Caspar Llewellyn Smith

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Other Voices festival comes to Derry

The 2013 City of Culture hosts Other Voices with a lineup including Beth Orton, Neil Hannon and Savages, before the festival moves to London in April

Caspar Llewellyn Smith

05, Feb, 2013 @5:28 PM

Article image
Other Voices festival goes to Derry – day three in pictures

The last day of the Other Voices festival featured performances from Beth Orton and James Yorkston

11, Feb, 2013 @4:21 PM

Article image
Other Voices – review

Superb sets from John Grant, Dexys and Matthew E White in beautiful Wilton's Music Hall gave Other Voices a London debut to cherish, says Kate Mossman

Kate Mossman

09, Apr, 2013 @4:59 PM

Article image
Other Voices 2013 – review

John Grant and Lulu James move and shake respectively at the tiniest fest in the west, writes Nadia Khomami

Nadia Khomami

15, Dec, 2013 @12:05 AM

Article image
Other Voices festival goes to Derry – day one in pictures

Day one of the music festival sees performances from Neil Hannon, Damien Dempsey and Savages among others

Antonio Olmos

09, Feb, 2013 @1:50 PM

Article image
Other Voices, Ireland's 'secret' festival, expands to Derry and London

For a decade, Other Voices has been attracting big names to a tiny, 85-capacity church in Dingle. Now it is taking its magic to Derry and London, reports Sean O'Hagan

Sean O'Hagan

25, Nov, 2012 @12:04 AM

Article image
Other Voices festival, Derry 2014 – review

Public Service Broadcasting were dreamy and the Gloaming jigged and reeled effortlessly at the conclusion of a thrilling weekend, writes Michael Hann

Michael Hann

16, Feb, 2014 @12:05 AM

Article image
Fence Records: a fond farewell

Last week's Green Man festival featured the final gig by Fife's Fence Records collective. It marked the end of an era, writes Laura Barnett

Laura Barnett

24, Aug, 2013 @11:06 PM

Article image
Other Voices festival in Dingle: watch the livestream
See John Grant, Mogwai, David Arnold, David Gray, Patty Griffin, Agnes Obel and others perform intimate sets from 6-8 December on Guardian music

Guardian music

05, Dec, 2013 @11:42 AM

Article image
Other Voices festival comes to London

Wilton's Music Hall hosts Other Voices with a lineup including Laura Mvula, John Grant, Dexys and Matthew E White

Alex Needham

05, Apr, 2013 @2:53 PM