LOCAL legends return to their old stomping ground for a summer celebration and punters look ahead to the winter months with announcements of new shows and releases flooding in this week.
Downtime Summerfest, the Downpatrick-based arts festival, announced this week that hometown band and chart toppers Ash would headline this year's main stage. The three-piece emerged from the town in the mid-nineties and make a rare appearance from time to time. But this is their first in years and attendees are justifiably excited.

Also in attendance on the indie stage are the likes of local songwriter Charlie Hanlon and the Speedy Mullan Blues Band. Festival Chairman Philip Campbell said: “It is our aim to accentuate the positives of Downpatrick and Ash are something to be proud of. We wanted to mark their achievements with the unveiling of the Girl from Mars mural and when the band expressed their approval of that, we thought, let’s see might they be willing to play a gig in the town?”
This summer also sees the 10th iteration of the EastSide Arts Festival which takes over venues, squares and studios in the eastern bloc of the city. With cultural pop-ups like the Vault Arts Studios and Banana Block, there's plenty to see and do on a normal day. ESAF simply brings a multitude of workshops, comedy, food, fashion and, of course, music to the forefront.

Stuart Bailie, editor of cultural magazine Dig With It, has curated a night of indie music headlined by New Pagans, fresh off their European tour, and supported by Lemonade Shoelace and Winnie Ama. But for those with a dance mentality, indie-promoters The Night Institute have secured the likes of Optimo as well as local producers Timmy Stewart and Jordan Nocturne for several nights of club music across the quarter. With songwriters Ciaran Lavery (who we’ve discussed at length in previous columns, one of our favourites) and Owen Denvir taking the stage alongside a full programme of events, this is a fest not to be missed.
Meanwhile in Dublin, one of the most iconic venues turns 10… plus two. The Workman’s Club has been host to a huge variety of names over the years but missed out on its 10th birthday due to Covid-19 restrictions. Now, two years on, the gig that was supposed to be is finally happening, with 10 artists booked to headline the iconic stage. Names such as Villagers and upcoming bands like Skinner and Pretty Happy will ring in the 10th/12th birthday of one of Ireland’s independent music pillars.

New Pagans are to the fore in a night of indie music curated by Dig With It editor Stuart Bailie

New Pagans are to the fore in a night of indie music curated by Dig With It editor Stuart Bailie

In further live news, we received word that the Boyne Music Festival would return this year with events across Drogheda. Venturing further from the indie world and more into the neoclassical composers, this year's festival explores the theme ‘Beauty, Love and Justice’.

Performers include singers Naomi Louisa O’Connell and Joshua Stewart, violist Paul Cassidy, cellist Jacqueline Thomas, clarinettist Jessie Grimes and pianist Deirdre Brenner. Stunning renditions of contemporary and classical instrumentation will be on display in the festival's home centre of Townley Hall, as well as the Highlanes Gallery and St Peter’s Church of Ireland. Coupled with news of BICEP and Le Boom’s 3Olympia headline dates and Sorcha Richardson’s headline UK and Ireland announcement (Limelight 2, be here or be square), it's been one of the busiest weeks in live music of the year.
And as always, we end this week's column by shining a spotlight on some of the best independent releases of the week...
Singer Maija Sofia wowed me with her performance on Sorbet’s ‘I Heard His Scythe’ and I’ve been a fast fan ever since. Her newest, ‘O Theremin’, is a gothic, murky take on indie folk and songwriting. With vocals that could carve marble, this new track is a dreamy, iridescent trip through Sofia’s world.
And bringing up the rear, we have the debut from Echo Northstar, the fuzzy ‘Someone Else’. The brainchild of Paddy Hennessy, formerly of HappyAlone, this new rock tone is an understated, textured debut. Living on the softer side of the scales production-wise, the synthetic haze on the vocals and acoustics give this track a real alternative feel.