Folk holidays festival in Namest nad Oslavou, Czech Republic, is one of a kind. You don't see many festivals like that. It takes place in a small town and you get the impression you just came to a gathering of an extended family. The town comes alive, you keep meeting the same people and the barriers between performers and the audience almost vanish. The Irish cult band Interference fell in love with Namest on their first visit in 2005. They came back two years later and the long gap of 11 years followed before they were finally able to return. This return was highly anticipated but also very emotional. The lead singer and co-founder of the band, Fergus O'Farrell, passed away two years ago. He's dearly missed by all who loved him but they also know his presence is constant even though invisible.
Even though it was the start of Folk holidays festival in Namest nad Oslavou, Czech Republic, one of the highlights came on Monday July 30th. English songwriter John Smith (some might say there is no name more typical for an English person) performed in the Czech Republic for the very first time but the reputation of master guitarist and an author of powerful songs full of raw emotions was already there. Then add collaborations with big stars like Waterson:Carthy, Joan Baez, Lisa Hannigan or Glen Hansard and the unforgettable experience is guaranteed.
There are musicians that were simply meant to play together and create that magic which happens only between like-minded souls. Irish band Sliotar and Tradish from Denmark are clear example of such connection. When they get together, the audience are surely able to witness that magic being created. The traditional Celtic evening in Kurim castle held on Thursday July 26th was no exception. This party is held annually in the courtyard of the castle. Sliotar have made it almost their home as they have been coming back year after year, with a different musician friends joining them on the bill each year.
Cork City has a vibrant music scene full of extraordinary talents. The aim of a new festival called Right Here Right Now is to showcase some of these talents. The event takes place in Cork Opera House and presents gigs of all kinds. After a great success of the first edition last year the festival continued this June again with schedule packed of not-to-be-missed nights. One of such nights was one originally meant to be the festival opener but later moved to the festival closer. Jack O'Rourke played at the festival also last year, with Anna Mitchell and the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra at that time. This time he returned with his band and they were joined by Anna Mitchell and her band.
Glen Hansard returned to the Czech Republic again as part of his European tour for new album Between Two Shores released in January. Czech Republic feels like home for the charismatic Irishman and everyone knows it. He was scheduled to play two gigs in the country and the first step was Divadlo studio Dva in Prague. For some, the location might be surprising, the regular concertgoers are used to Divadlo Archa but sometimes the change might be a good thing.
Homecoming gigs are always very special. Tallaght musician Shane Ó Fearghail (currently based in Vienna) returned to play on the Irish soil on Thursday December 14th in a breathtaking location of St Maelruian's church. Right at the start of the gig Shane said he feels like he should say a mass. The congregation was cosy and the atmosphere warm. Decent lights only added to an intimacy of the night.
These weren't the ordinary gigs you go to. This was something else. Pure spiritual experience. Lead by the perfect leader. Two nights set in breathtaking small church right in the heart of London, you couldn't ask for a better place to see such an incredible artist that Duke Special is. The candles lit up the room to capture the atmosphere and one couldn't help but feel amazed. No wonder both gigs at St Pancras OId Church had been sold out for long time.
Is there any better feeling than playing for your home crowd? To know there have always been people who have cared about you, have always supported you? Even though you're living abroad for years, your roots are still there. These might be the feelings of Kerryman Brendan O'Shea who came along with Jenna Nicholls to play upstairs in Whelan's, Dublin, on November 4th. Jenna is an American but finds Ireland very welcoming and the audience has always embraced her like one of their own.
Gifted singer/songwriter J Eoin surely knows how to treat his audience and how to engage them in his songs. He spent nearly thirty years living in London before moving back to his native Ireland. To mark the occasion a farewell London gig took place at Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith on November 3rd and the night promised truly magical experience.
They say dreams come true when you have faith in your goals and you are willing to work hard to make your dreams come true. Danish singer Rune Herholdt has been dreaming of coming to the Czech Republic and playing there together with The Gospel Brothers for a long time. He himself has been to Czech Republic and particularly to Brno, 4 times before but never with his fellow musicians. Now the time has finally come and his dream has been realized.