Read Kieran’s account of Bowerbird Day 2 here
Under the banner of Bowerbird, and as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, I was lucky enough to attend the first night of a specially curated folk mini-festival at Triskel Christchurch. The term folk can be hard to pin down in this day and age and the packed crowd in Christchurch certainly represented this notion.
The first act of the night was English harpist Serafina Steer. This was my first time hearing her and she made an immediate impression. Like any good folk musician, she was as skilled at talking between the songs as she was at playing them and I quickly fell for her self-deprecating banter. If I had to label the music I would say Joanna Newsom meets The Unthanks, yet she had a sound all her own, and based on the new tracks she played I will certainly be looking for her upcoming album.
Next was the co-curator of this two-night event, Adrian Crowley. Crowley is one of my favourite Irish musicians and I absolutely relished the chance to see his style of glacial modern folk in the lovely environment of Christchurch. His guitar sound was crisp, with his stripped-back arrangements and clever use of effects pedals being my highlights of the evening.
Fortunately for me, the next act of the evening was American revivalist Sam Amidon. I say fortunately because at this point, after Steer’s beautiful harp and Crowley’s soundscapes, I was craving a bit of hootenanny. I have seen Amidon many times and he seemed to be relishing the wonderful acoustics of the building – one moment hushed spoken vocals, the next a powerful banjo-led yodel, switching between fiddle, guitar and banjo, this was folk music with a historical American edge. Amidon is a fine, fine musician and a talented troubadour and I encourage you to see him next time he is in Cork.
Finally this evening – and clearly the headline act based on crowd reaction – was Irish legend Andy Irvine. This was my first time seeing him in the flesh but straightaway it was obvious what a supremely skilled musician he was. He also knew how to give the audience what they wanted, and soon had us eating out of the palm of his hand. He tore through his greatest hits, only stopping to delight the crowd with a hilarious story or name-drop a few other Irish folk legends, ending with two Planxty classics. The crowd left with smiles on their faces and a greater understanding of the variety of modern folk (as well as a lot of stout-soaked beards).