Foyle Folk Festival
The massive success of this year's Glasgowbury has whetted ATL's appetite for local music and outdoor celebrations. And there's no better place to satisfy that appetite than at the fourth Foyle Folk Festival in Derry. It's a one-day musical jaunt in the urban surroundings of Cafe del Mondo, the perfect setting for such an event. Accommodating a couple hundred people, it's a right wee suntrap, which thankfully it gets a chance to prove today.
With 14 acts performing over a 10-hour period on one stage, it's a marathon showcase of local, regional and national talent. Here Come the Landed Gentry are today's roadies with the mammoth task of setting up the stage between acts, which they do with the stealth and speed of a Formula 1 pit stop team.
Festival organiser, Phillip 'Wally' Wallace, sets the bar high, casting Cashier No.9 in the opening scene and they are every bit as brilliant as expected with a sound that hints of Spiritualized and Alabama 3 in places throughout their 45-minute set (Bruce-y bonus for the cowbell). Cashier No.9 are a tough act to follow but Teknopeasant (Conor O'Kane) bears that weight well. He delivers a set of banjo-accompanied poetry before treating the crowd to a few traditional Irish-style songs. Next up, and one of this reviewer's favourite performances of the day, it's the Shambelles aka Tina McLaughlin and Amanda Healy. The two-piece has reformed specially for this event and thank heavens they did, because their American country groove sits perfectly in today's (otherwise male) line-up.
The dancing starts in earnest during a compelling bluesy performance from John Deery and the Heads. They throw in some easy listening tracks as well to give the legs a rest, after which it's the turn of Ciaran Dwyer from Newbridge, Co. Kildare.
Act 8 of the evening is Junior Johnson who has a very mature voice for one so young. His laid back, easy listening folk music calms things down and provides some sublime background music to the chatter that's building as the crowd grows.
Dublin act, The Mighty Stef, is a superb addition to the line-up with his fusion of country soul and lamenting blues. Seasoned, gruff voices are the name of the game today and with Tom Waits and Nick Cave are easy to make. The sold-out event is building to a crescendo and Little Hooks carry the 'Act 13' mantle well; unlucky for some, but not these guys, as they're sounding better than ever. New tracks are well received by the crowd and the old ones are particularly appreciated.
By the time headliners, Here Comes the Landed Gentry, make it to the stage, the dance floor is rammed with revellers; if there were a chandelier in this place, the crowd would be swinging from it. They bring the festival to a very climactic end with their own distinctive blend of rockabilly country blues.
Red woolly hats off to Wally for organising such a belter event that has provided a fabulous festival experience from start to finish - perfect atmosphere, talented solo artists, wonderful bands, fantastic venue, lovely people, tasty food and great craic. And there's a taxi rank right outside. All in all, a recommended festival experience for the whole family.