Other Voices – Ballina, Ireland

St Michael’s Church & Various Venues, Ballina, 28th – 29th Feb

Other Voices came rolling into Ballina in the West of Ireland on Friday 28th Feb & Sat 29th Feb. The acclaimed music show is responsible for celebrating both emerging and critically acclaimed artists from Ireland and around the world. Other Voices, usually filmed in St James’s Church & local venues around Dingle, County Kerry.

The show has seen some of the most intimate performances from the likes of Amy Winehouse, Glen Hansard, Damian Dempsey, Everything Everything and it goes on and on (in fact check out https://www.othervoices.ie/artists).

The Other Voices production has now travelled around Austin, Belfast, London, Berlin showcasing local music to a global audience. The show returned for the second time around to the beautiful County Mayo town of Ballina.

Friday saw the Music Trail kick off where bands were playing an intriguing mix of venues across Ballina. There was Shookrah, a 5 piece Cork band who describe their sound as ‘Future Soul’. Galway’s Anna Mullarkey brought her ethereal multi instrumental talents to cosy pub venue An Bolg Buí. Waterford native Alex Gough brought his very talented groove rap/drumming vibes to late night venue Bar Square.

The Mary Wallopers were another notable band that played both nights. A a traditional Irish thumper stumping band, that revelled in quirky lyrics with a nice sense of the Dubliners sound.

There were also creative education sessions at Ballina Arts Centre with Farah Elle and Duane Gallagher.

Meanwhile at host venue St Michael’s Church – a wonderful intimate setting was opened by Other Voices creator Philip King. Giving the church crowd great words of inspiration, King focused on the significance of supporting the arts. In addition a nod to young aspiring musicians and highlighting the importance of local music.

Jesca Hoop

Jesca Hoop was a fitting act for the St Michael’s setting. Opening with the mesmerising City Bird’, Hoop’s voice was enchanting and had the crowd totally hooked in. ‘Pegasi’ came next with wonderful spring step lyrics ‘you found a map to my heart‘ rising into the rafters. Free the Feeling followed by The House that Jack Built were well received. Hoop has this incredible knack of drawing you in with a soulful range of vocals. Ending her super set with ‘Shoulder Charge’.

Bang! JyellowL came blistering next onto the Other Voices Stage. In contrast to the soulful sounds of Hoop, Dublin’s JyellowL brought in big game rap. He had the crowd bouncing their heads in beat. Super impressive JyellowL was massive in presence and is sure to be a huge international success. JyellowL (who was also joined by Farah Elle) brought a tremendous rap presence. The artist also had this wonderful combination of guitarist and bassist either side + drummer. The arrangement really gave a different big sounding edge.

The Howl and the Hum brought their Yorkshire indie sounds with singer Sam Griffiths leading the charge. They are a band with huge potential and reminded of an Arcade Fire-esq sound and display. Set included ‘The Only Boy Racer Left on the Island’

4 piece Skinny Living (also from Yorkshire) brought their impressive guitar pop sounds.

Elbow then graced the Other Voices stage to a rapturous reception.

Guy Garvey and the gang were absolutely awesome and very humbled in the church setting. Garvey making references to his youth being an alter boy. After an emotional set Elbow finished off Friday night with ‘Grounds for Divorce’.

Saturday was a jam packed day on The Music Trail with the brilliant and soulful John Francis Flynn playing An Bolg Buí.

Maija Sofia, Rushes, Graham Sweeney, Autre Monde, ULY, Amy Montgomery, Elkin, Junk Drawer and Armagh singer DANI were just a number of exciting artists playing throughout the Mayo town day and night.

David Gray

Elsewhere at St Michael’s Church, the audience settled in to welcome the one and only David Gray. This was a very special 20th anniversary performance of hit album White Ladder.

Gray’s astute performance throughout the night brought back lots of memories for the audience. It just shows what a timeless classic the album still has huge quality 20 years on.

Gray and band covered Silver Lining and White Ladder (Gray admitting they had not played it in a while). Then This Year’s Love, Be Mine, Sail Away, Say Hello, Wave Goodbye amongst others.

Gray also played ‘Falling Down the Mountainside‘ taken from Lost Songs album. The song written about a dear friend and was a real treat.

Please Forgive Me was wildly received and by god how special was Craig ‘Clune’ McClune on drums? It felt like a very special performance but a great celebration in the West of Ireland. Gray, a terrific artist who’s album is still the biggest selling album of all time in Ireland.

Denise Chaila, JC Stewart and Soda Blonde all rounded off terrific performances. Overall a hugely successful Other Voices with the welcome soul of Ballina. County Mayo will hope to look forward to another Other Voices return next year.

Other Voices – Ballina first show airs on RTE2 TV Thursday 12th March.


Chris Watson

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