The Czech audience had been waiting for a long time to get a chance to see what the director Michael McCormack calls the most important story he's ever told. Folk Holidays festival in Namest nad Oslavou has always been a very special place for Interference and their late frontman, Fergus O’Farrell. It’s no wonder the Czech premiere of McCormack’s beautifully poignant film Breaking Out, capturing the story of the ever determined O’Farrell, his love for his wife Li, friendship with Glen Hansard and the whole community around the band, took place right in the heart of the festival. This presented a great opportunity to get the insight with McCormack’s introduction prior to the screening, mentioning the importance of the festival not just for himself but for the band alike.
A deeply emotional occasion for all involved. Even more so because, as McCormack mentioned, the first place he ever filmed was Namest. The space of the Old Weaving factory was lit with candles, adding to the evocative aspect of the night.
The audience gathered in anticipation, knowing somewhere in the back of their heads this is going to be a remarkable night. The story follows O’Farrell from his school days, sees him form Interference with friends James O’Leary and Malcolm MacClancy. Memories are shared and stories are told throughout by family members, bandmates and friends. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions as you watch not only the happy days but the times of struggle and pain, often quite to difficult to observe. However, everything is sensitively filmed with love and respect.
Viewers get a glimpse of the recording session Glen Hansard and members of The Frames had with O’Farrell at his home in Schull shortly before his death. You not only see him struggling for breath but also producing truly remarkable vocals that leave you in awe, no matter how many times you see the film. Hearing what he’s capable of, despite the condition he’s in, makes you forget about his illness somehow. The most powerful scene where Hansard blows the air into O’Farrell’s lungs ( using a hose) clearly shows the extent of their bond. Potentially dangerous, as The Frames frontman acknowledges, but the approach seems to work. However, Hansard admits he probably wouldn’t let anybody blow into his lungs.
Not long after this session Fergus O’Farrell left this world, leaving all his loved ones heartbroken. Yet they continue to sing his songs, with Glen Hansard leading the way. The funeral was a celebration of Fergus’life, just as he would have wanted. Second Interference album, The Sweet Spot, was released on the first anniversary, February 2nd 2017.
After the Czech premiere there was an acoustic set of free songs (Sail On, American Townland and Gold) as a teaser of the gig the following day that was supposed to close this year's estival.
The band has been to Namest five times now, each time with a different line-up. This time, the line-up included Cal McCarthy on drums, Darren McCarthy on bass and Maurice Culligan on keyboards. Culligan is the original keyboard player and now he got a chance to showcase his talent to the audience in this magical space singing songs like American Townland or Breaking Out. His delivery of lively Cain and Abel is worth mentioning too because the phrasing in this song is really complicated and takes a special talent to be able to deliver the words clearly.
Camilla Griehsel, Swedish opera singer living in west Cork, Ireland, mesmerizes everyone with her voice. She even used her native language, adding a few lines in Vaj Vaj, making the song even more evocative. She especially captured the audience singing I'm Your Man, a song that, according to her own words "needs a hat". It would usually be odd when a woman sings a song intended for a male vocal but not here. It feels natural. Camilla knows what she's doing. If that wasn't enough, she enchanted the crowd with her gentle take of I Owe You Nothing, the last song O'Farrell and MacClancy worked on together. The words seem to be written exactly for that special place "I Owe You Nothing Except Everything I Own" .
Shame that nobody introduced Malcolm MacClancy so the crowd had no idea he's there, watching it all.
You might be asking who's the leader of the band now? Technically it would be Paul Tiernan, the guitarist whom Fergus O'Farrell called his right-hand man. But we feel that in a band like this it doesn't really matter. Because not only they're all excellent musicians, knowing their craft inside out but in a band sharing such a special bond, a bond like no other, the human element is even more important. Once you're a member, you're in the band forever, no matter if that was a few decades ago or if you recently came back.
And being able to repeatedly come back to a place where you're received with love, is a privilege.