With the Tall Ships Festival 2012 happening literally outside where I work, it was inevitable that the lure of free gigs would be too much for me to resist. Unfortunately for various reasons, I missed most of the impressive line-up that had assembled for the four day fest (some due to already having plans and some due to scheduling – I think Riptide Movement being scheduled for such an early slot on the first day was strange, with their proven track record as crowd pleasers). But I did manage to get along to see a couple of the acts on the first day.
Foy Vance has been on my “must see again” hit list since he hugely impressed with his acoustic set at Arthur’s Day 2011 in Whelans. When I arrived just as he started, I was so disappointed. Sound problems meant that he sounded, well, awful, initially and I hated to think that this was a portent of things to come. But with the sound issues being sorted out before anyone lost an eardrum and his easy style with the crowd, coupled with his ability to laugh off his initial woes, Foy eventually drew a respectable crowd and settled in for an enjoyable set.
Next up was Duke Special. Now Duke wouldn’t be my usual style and I will admit that I have never seen him live and have never listened to his albums, and when I see him I get an uncontrollable desire to take a scissors to his hair. But I will admit that his easy listening style was a pleasure to see and kept the crowd engaged despite the arrival of the rain that had been threatening all afternoon. His set also contained a moment that for me seemed to sum up the spirit of the Tall Ships festival. He introduced us to Jakob, who played trumpet on one song. Jakob was a Polish sailor who had basically blagged an onstage jam session with Duke and who was pretty spectacular as a musician. Duke’s impromptu walkabout in the crowd left Jakob to man the stage alone and he was more than able to hold the fort. For me this was a perfect example of the vibe of the whole festival – a pile of Irish determined to give a pile of international sailors the welcome they deserve.
A stroll around the quays to soak up the atmosphere kept the energy levels up so next we were off to Whelans to catch The Bambir’s pre Electric Picnic set, supported by Gypsy Rebel Rabble. Rebel Rabble have yet to disappoint me, and kept my foot tapping throughout their hectic set with barely a pause to draw breath between songs. It was a pity the Tall Ships and Marlay Park gig had kept the crowds away though.
The Bambir slightly flummoxed me – maybe there is one word in the language from their native Armenia to sum up their sound, but despite wracking my brains for the last few days to find a single word in English or even Irish, I have drawn a blank. Rock edged folk with lashings of flute and incoherent lyrics is approaching their sound but doesn’t do it justice. They intrigued me enough to want to catch their set at E.P. if I can, and maybe by then I’ll have figured out how to describe them. My advice – go see them, and then you’ll see what I mean about this crazy quartet!
*Originally posted on www.gigaholic.tumblr.com on 26/08/12*