A busy weekend in Dingle over Other Voices weekend saw us being wowed by the likes of Villagers, SOAK , This Is The Kit and Local Natives in the intimate confines of St. James' Church, Banter-ing in Foxy John's half-pub-half-hardware-shop with a stellar array of speakers, and feeling impossibly lucky to catch the highlight of the Music Trail in the form of David Kitt's set in Curran's on Main Street. Monday has come, bringing an end to the weekend for many as a mass exodus from Dingle ensues - but not for us, thankfully. There's the serious business of the final night in St. James' Church to be seen to - and a delectable stable of acts to wow us all over again.
The last time entertainment.ie saw Gavin James, he was having a sing-song in the campsite of Indiependence with Roisín O, and impressing mightily with his beautiful voice. He has since released his debut EP, Say Hello, and has been invited to Dingle to show off its wares. Kicking off the evening is no easy task but he rises to it, breaking the ice with a cover of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. His insightful balladeering with 'For You' is charming, but it's the EP's title track and current radio favourite 'Say Hello' that stands out, almost as much as his voice - that falsetto just dazzles. One to watch, for sure.
Speaking of 'ones to watch', here come Palma Violets, hailed by many as THE band to look out for in 2013. They've been snapped up by Rough Trade, featured on the cover of NME, and played on Later... With Jools Holland - and they've only released one single to date. They're far from the coiffed and cocky indie outfit we were expecting - within seconds of them kicking off their high-octane set, there's elements of The Ramones, The Clash and even The Libertines to be heard, and we like it. They're certainly an exuberant bunch - the drummer can only be moments away from serious whiplash with that neck of his, lead singer and guitarist Sam Fryers cavorts around the stage in his pink polka-dot socks and even taking an occasional lie-down, and bassist Chilli Jesson is just plain bonkers - but thankfully not at the expense of driving the rhythm, save for a momentary slip whilst clambering atop the drum kit. Beyond the power-trio, stage right sits a zen-like keyboardist who doesn't flinch as the madness of his band-mates unfolds. All-conquering single 'Best Friends' is the obvious highlight, but it's set closer 'Last Of The Summer Wine' that has us eagerly looking forward to the release of their debut album come late February.
The revellers of St. James' Church may be a bit shell-shocked from the Palma Violets madness brand of mayhem, but thankfully folk-rock trio of sisters The Staves are on-hand to lend their calming presence to proceedings. Long-time on our radar, the wait for their debut album Dead & Born & Gone proved worthwhile- it's a stunner. The must-see for many tonight, the excitement is palpable as Emily, Jessica and Camilla set up with their additional personnel in the form of a bassist and drummer. However many instruments they have at their disposal, it's their incredible voices that are the main attraction here though. Jaw-droppingly stunning, the phrase "working in perfect harmony" doesn't even go far enough - they are flawless. 'Tongue Behind My Teeth' is fantastic, as is 'Mexico', and the a capella interlude of 'Wisely & Slowly'. But it's the riveting build of set-closer 'Eagle Song' that stands out proudly, with a massive final chorus to send them off with a bang. A highlight of the weekend.
The Unthanks are an intriguing act. Hailing from Northumberland, they are renowned for amalgamating outside influences with their traditional brand of English folk to great effect. Led by sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, the five-piece have certainly dressed for the occasion, looking very dapper stood in a line across the stage of St. James' Church with, with little more than an acoustic guitar, a violin, and a freshly-tuned upright piano to accompany their vocals. Opening with the magnificent 'The Great Northern River' and adding some in north-English clog dancing to close of the subsequent 'Lucky Gilchrist', we're hooked straight away. As part of their Diversions series of concept albums this year, they share some songs from Songs From The Shipyards - the classic story-telling is gripping, as is a beguiling cover of Elvis Costello's 'Shipbuilding'. The Unthanks are easy to like and it's equally easy to explain why - they completely let their audience in on their art. Their music is derivative of their home, their family, their friends, their traditions - and all is explained with endearing anecdotal banter, as well as teaching their audience chorus lines and encouraging them to join in. The Unthanks just today announced an 11-date tour of Ireland for February and March of next year - we recommend checking them out.
The duty of closing out the 2012 instalment of Other Voices in Dingle falls to Josephine, and no better woman in town. For Josephine encompasses a lot of what this festival has come to represent -seeking out emerging talents and inviting them to take time out from their busy schedules to perform in front of 80 people in a church, the simple concept which has produced so many memorable moments in the last decade of Other Voices. The soulful chanteuse from Manchester has a stripped-back set in store this evening, presiding over acoustic guitar duty with only an electric guitarist (“my mate Steve”) for company. It allows for true appreciation of her songwriting skills as exhibited with debut album Portrait, released earlier this year. 'What A Day' and 'A Freak A' entertain, but the best is saved for last with 'House of Mirrors' - Steve switches to piano and Josephine lays down her guitar, and her voice is all the better for it, filling up the church with its evocative presence.
And so concludes our Other Voices adventures for 2012. For the first time ever, the show will hit the road in 2013, to Derry in February and London in April, linking the three locations as a musical triangle. We eagerly await the next chapter in the Other Voices story - but until then, there's time to reflect on what was a truly brilliant weekend of music in the little ol' town of Dingle.