Journalistiekstudente Liessa De Decker liep stage bij Hot Press Magazine in Dublin. Ze kreeg er de kans om als volwaardig reporter en recensent mee te werken aan een van Ierlands meest gerespecteerde muziek- en cultuurbladen. (Foto: Creative Commons / Dena Flows – Mike Scott (The Waterboys) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Voor Hot Press Magazine trok Liessa afgelopen herfst naar de Ierse westkust om verslag uit te brengen over Sligo Live, het ‘folk, roots & indie’-festival dat jaarlijks plaatsvindt in de concertzaal, de coffee shops en pubs van het havenstadje Sligo aan de westkust van Ierland.
Hieronder leest u het integrale festivalverslag dat Liessa De Decker schreef voor Hot Press Magazine.
The Waterboys take Sligo live by storm
Sligo Live is a wonderful festival based on a simple, but charming concept: gigs all over town in a wild variety of very different venues. It’s not just about the main acts playing in the Knocknarea Arena. It’s also about the music scene in Sligo, a social gathering of musicians, and a celebration of music in general.
Even if you’re an outsider, you’re immediately made to feel welcome. Everyone knows everyone, which isn’t surprising, given that half the population of Sligo are musicians – or so it seems! – and play together in various projects.
My Sligo weekend began on Friday night, in the legendary pub Shoot The Crows where The Troubadour Mules played their own mix of Spanish folk music with an Irish twist. It was an utter joy to watch them play: their energy was infectious, as
all the pub-goers seemed to bring out their best dance moves, swinging their hips, pints in hand
trying and succeeding in not spilling one drop! The band played well into the night – and even then the crowd wanted more.
By now, I had realised that Sligo is unlike any other town I’ve ever been to …
Saturday morning began in the smallest coffee shop in town, Hearts Desire, where the Sligo-based duo, Jim & Amy, played an intimate set of traditional covers, mixed with their own material. It was music to warm the soul – sweet and joyful, with just the right amount of lyrical humour. Songs about cigarettes and calling ex-boyfriends ‘wankers’, made the laughter echo throughout the packed coffee shop.
On to the pub next door, where Hot Press favorites Rackhouse Pilfer strove to bring down the house. And they succeeded: the crowd were up and dancing, and clapping along, from the first note to the last. Even the stoics in the crowd were spotted tapping their feet in time to the music. Covers of songs by Hank Williams, Neil Young and even The Waterboys were thrown in, alongside their own material. I have to admit that they lost me when they folked up ‘I’m On Fire’ by Bruce Springsteen: some songs you just can’t make your own.
Having only just released their fifth studio album, The Jimmy Cake – Mike Scott’s “favourite Irish band” – opened for The Waterboys in the Knocknarea Arena. Some might say that they were a surprising choice, but by now everyone knows to expect the unexpected from The Waterboys. It’s not easy to be a support act, but with their experimental instrumental music, The Jimmy Cake just about pulled it off
Quiet anticipation could be felt through the arena after they finished their set, with everyone eagerly awaiting the moment the lights would go out and The Waterboys take to the stage.
Opener ‘Destinies Entwined’ set the tone for the entire gig: The Waterboys were on a mission to charm their way into Sligo hearts with their Modern Blues. The song built up to the moment Sligo’s own Steve Wickham finally walked on stage to loud cheers: he brought the song to its electrifying conclusion with a blazing fiddle solo. Clearly the band were up for it, in a big way…
Songs from their new album Modern Blues were mixed with classics such as ‘Medicine Bow’, ‘The Glastonbury Song’, ‘We Will Not Be Lovers’ and ‘A Girl Called Johnny’. With a beautiful stripped-down version of ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’ as one of the many highlights of the show, you somehow felt that, if only for a moment, you were party to the unique magic between Steve Wickham and Mike Scott, which is one of the key elements of the sound of The Waterboys.
To say that they were in good form on Saturday night would be a gross understatement. Mike Scott has yet again managed to surround himself with some of the best musicians in rock ‘n’ roll, and it shows in how easily and effectively they adapt the songs to the band’s current blues-ier mood. ‘The Song Of Wandering Aengus’ got the modern blues treatment, as applause rippled through the arena when Mike sang the first line of the famous poem by W.B. Yeats. The organ solo at the end was an absolute joy to hear and see, Paul Brown putting his heart and soul into the performance.
‘Nearest Thing To Hip’, an ode to all things lost and replaced, is another example of the humour you find in Mike Scott’s songs. This time it was dedicated to Sligo’s Keohane’s Bookshop, which had to close down because of “the twisted grace of the law of supply and demand.” It prompted everyone to sing along, the word ‘shithole’ rolling easily off everyone’s tongue.
‘The Whole Of The Moon’ got everyone on their feet, Zach Ernst’s funky guitar riff giving the song a refreshing new twist.
There aren’t many bands that can make a thirty year-old song sound as if it was written only yesterday.
It’s clear that they still relish playing it, even after all these years.
The epic ‘Long Strange Golden Road’ closed the set, Mike beginning solo, and showing again how comfortable The Waterboys are with trying different things – ultimately succeeding in keeping the songs new and thrilling. Guitar and organ solos brought the song to its pinnacle, leaving everyone begging for more.
After much cheering and clapping, the boys returned, to end the night with ‘Fisherman’s Blues’. Surprisingly Mike played the piano, a slight nod to the first ever band recording of the song and in doing so completely banning acoustic guitars from this tour. The classic got everyone up on their feet again, wishing they were a fisherman.
With smiles, a slight bow and words of thanks they left the stage, leaving Sligo with a feeling of astonishment. There’s no doubt about it, after all these years The Waterboys still got it.
Liessa De Decker