"Moving in between the three stages, live music both followed and greeted you everywhere you went."
You’re never quite sure what to expect from a free festival. Is it going to overcompensate with extortionate drink prices and low quality performers? What if the crowd is going to be diluted with non-fans that are only there for the free-in?
This was not the case at Whelan’s during their annual Blues, Roots and Brass Free Festival held for the second time. With three stages, front bar, main venue and the upstairs stage, you're always spoiled for choice at Whelan's, but if that's not enough, this festival saw the inclusion of the Opium Rooms as an added venue on Friday and Saturday, giving Blues fans even more. The superb music quality ensured that moving in between the three stages, live music both followed and greeted you everywhere you went.
As one of the attendees said to us, before finishing a cigarette and rushing back in, “it’s all about the music” and Whelan’s proved this to be the case - act in, act out. Front bar held the loudest and most vibrant acts, designed to attract people to come in from the streets and join the party – while the main stage allows space for movement. It didn’t take long for people to start spinning each other and dance to all types of music from country, 50's era skiffle, to roots and of course solid blues standards.
"After their gigs, artists would mingle freely with the crowd, blending in with the revellers in their anticipation for the next act."
Sometimes, during the country set of the Louisiana 6, the main venue seemed like a strange and mismatched Hollywood movie. There's square dancing all around you and hoots from the crowd that one could associate with a western, except set in the centre of Dublin without a cowboy hat in sight.
Blues and roots fans from around the country as well as tourists attracted by the lively music reaching all the way down the street let loose in showing the upcoming talent their support. Even on the final day of the festival, Sunday, with the working week looming over the crowd and in no doubt some of the performers, there was a real sense of “movement” for the blues, roots and brass scene in Ireland. After their gigs, artists would mingle freely with the crowd, blending in with the revellers in their anticipation for the next act. The music bridged age and culture gaps, bringing together country with blues fans, brass and some odd skiffle, as well as more modern forms of blues such as R'n'B.
The night saw some inspiring originals played from the harmonies of Sonnets and Sisters to the bopping and upbeat instant-classics performed by Grand. The artists were triumphant in producing a buzz amongst the crowd that lasted well into the night, last acts finishing well past midnight.
Fresh from KnockanStockan, Grand are charged with electrifying the crowd (link to their soundcloud). Speaking with Phil Kermode, front man of Grand, he shared his excitement for the upcoming unofficial EP launch on the 19th Aug in Sin É. I tried pressing his less humble side to hear about his expectations for the EP, but he says its all in the name of the 'craic'. Grand’s violinist, whose bow was in tatters by the end of their rumbustious performance, seemed fresh for another round if given the stage. We will look forward to their EP launch for that!
"...a hint of echo, guttural emotion and self projection that is trademark of the blues".
Sonnets and Sisters is a four member Dublin-based band that played a mellow set of R’nB tunes. Their harmonies were well executed and haunted the stage with a sombre resonance. They had the energy and drive, but little stage movement resulted in little crowd participation with most doing more than swaying or tapping their foot. Their set was a mellow rendition, or ode more like, towards an era that saw the evolution of blues from Muddy Waters-esque grittiness to the overproduced cuddliness of Destiny Childs “Say my name”.
The main organiser of the event and social media manager for the night could be seen popping in and out of the venues, keeping digital eyes pleased with up to date coverage of the event. “The promoter of drink with a music problem” as he was called by the lead man of the Markas Carcas, a three man band with a Motörhead feel that is also just back from KnockanStockan. Markas Carcas plunged into another solid performance, with singing that carries a hint of echo, guttural emotion and self projection that is trademark of the blues. The modest light shows, mainly in hues of purple and blue, added to the electric atmosphere.
All in all, we’re already looking forward to next years Whelan's Blues Roots and Brass festival.
With great bands playing all weekend, you’re guaranteed a great night.
It’s inspiring to see such a solid foundation of blues artists in Ireland, and greater still has given us a chance to support them by having a great time ourselves.
SameRock will see you there next year!
Written by Eugene Markovski and Nicole McCormack, August 2016, SameRock
Eugene Markovski, born in Moscow, Russia and raised in Ireland, is an English and History major from UCD and a Master in Business and Management from Trinity College Dublin.
Together with Nicole McCormack, who is currently finishing her M.Sc. in Psychology in UCD - they formed SameRock Media Ltd. with the aim of doing things differently.
SameRock is a start-up from Trinity College Dublin providing a collaborative platform for media content creators and editors: from videographers, photographers, graphic designers, copywriters, playwrights, actors, models and entertainers.
“Because we’re all standing on the same rock”.
B.A. English and History
M.Sc. Business and Management
M.Sc. Psychological Science
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