AS live festivals and outdoor events continue to get announced in the South, festivals and concerts have begun to return to the North.
First off, the boots on the ground stuff. The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival has announced a full music, comedy and art line-up that will take over the gentrified area of the city for ten days in early September. One of Belfast's best-run and best-quality festivals, the line-up include Irish talents such as songwriters Ciaran Lavery and Luka Bloom, the LP launch of rapper Leo Miyagee, performances from Robocobra Quarter and Amy Montgomery and folk singers Reveal and Brigid Mae Power. With autumn fast approaching, get back out there and experience some of the best that the city can offer.
And just before that, their cultural neighbours at Custom House Square hosted two of the biggest evenings in two years. Tom Jones and Gavin James headlined stages that played to sold-out crowds of 5,000 citizens each, North and South. Credit to organisers and crew, who’d demonstrated that proper planning and coordination, when paired with Covid testing and vaccinations, can lead us back into brighter times.
And, of course, Féile an Phobail pulled in the crowds yet again with a series of hugely popular outdoor events in the Falls Park.
This is on the heels of the tenth anniversary of Stendhal Festival in Limavady, which featured a diverse range of native talent. I enjoyed performances from NewDad, The Magazine Club, Jordan Adetunji and Lonesome George (amongst others). A fitting way to cap off a decade of Ireland’s biggest small festival.
Meanwhile, Irish government inaction in creating a roadmap for events on this scale faces growing (and fully deserved) criticism. There are still no plans for large scale outdoor performances, even with the likes of PCR and lateral flow tests becoming more abundant than ever, and it won’t be the 3Arenas of the world that will suffer – it’ll be the hard-working, tax-paying working-class crew and venues of the industry that feel the brunt of the Dáil’s feet dragging.
On the subject of these exemplary, essential components of the entertainment that we all rely on, there have been several announcements. First off, the Summer Of Love socially-distanced festival was announced for the end of August in Meath. Taking place over the 27th and 28th and with tickets on sale now, headliners such as Krystal Klear, Boots & Kats and R. Kitt will scratch that dance itch you’ve had all this time. This news was followed by the announcement that my favourite southern festival, the wholesome It Takes A Village, returns to Trabolgan in East Cork on Sunday, September 19. Famed for the great care shown to both patron and artist, if you make one staycation this summer I highly advise you to check out this festival.
Taking place in a community of self-catering accommodation and with amenities that include a beach, spa facilities, a sauna and a number of bars, it's idyllic compared to the normal muddy slog of Glastonbury. And with a killer line-up of John Francis Flynn, Yenkee, Aoife Nessa Frances and more, there's plenty to be excited about come September time.
And while we give a special shout out to both Fontaines D.C. and For Those I Love for their Ivor Novello nominations, we end the article as always by shining a spotlight on releases from independent artists in the last week.
First off is the brand-new EP from F.RU.I.T.Y. Their namesake EP blends lo-fi hip-hop with a self-proclaimed ‘Anti-Pop’ to produce a sparkly, idiosyncratically flavoured four-track release. What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in humour, originality, sparkling hooks and alternative rhythms – ‘Orangeade’ is the highlight.
And while not strictly a release, Irish alt-folk star Maria Kelly has announced the release and pre-order of her debut album ‘The Sum Of The In-between’.
Including her brilliant singles ‘Martha’ and ‘Good Enough’, this is sure to be a late contender for album of the year – check her out if you’re a fan of excellent music.