Live Reviews - Reviews

Other Voices 2023

Other Voices drew the best of Irish music to Dingle, Co. Kerry for three days of intimate performances, secret sessions and a vibrating air of magic. Now in its twenty-second year, it maintains its position as a stand-out music festival full of surprises, facilitating close access to unique performances by and for music lovers. Lines are blurred between musician and music lover, bringing a special element to the weekend that differentiates it from any other music festival. Renowned for creating a pocket of magic in Dingle every December, this year’s festival was no different. 

With lit streets and pub doors flung open, this year’s outing kicked off on Friday, 1st December with the sweet tones of Niamh Bury, Megan Nic Ruairí and Lucy McWilliams opening the musical element of the festival. Kicking off the line-up at the esteemed St James’ Church was BC Camplight, who brought a heavy rock-soaked energy to the sacral space, while Julie Byrne and Catrin & Aoife offered a sweet and lyrical twist as a counter. Before The Murder Capital closed out the first night with a haunting rendition of The Pogues’ ‘I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday,’ Friday night saw the scene make a noisy and triumphant entrance to the tiny Dingle Pub, with a stacked line up featuring Belfast bands Problem Patterns and Chalk, a surprise set from Dublin mosh pit assemblers Gurriers and closing with electro-noise newcomers YARD

On Saturday, early-rising Music Trail attendees were treated to a surprise set from The Murder Capital who descended on The Dingle Pub. Watching the band incite a mosh pit at 3pm while drinking a coffee is an experience that could only happen at Other Voices, and exemplifies the unique, utopian escape from reality that the festival creates. At the same time, Nealo, Negro Impacto and Morgana brought flairs of hip-hop and party spirits to the Dingle Distillery, christening its first year as a venue. 

Interspersing a healthy variety in genre, Megan Nic Ruairí took the day from loud and languishing to angelic levels. Watching in awe while sitting on the floor in a packed-out O’Sullivans, Nic Ruairí of Big Love made her mark as a solo performing gem, with just her voice and a piano bringing the audience to silence and tears. Singing in both English and Irish, Nic Ruairí’s intimate performance stands out as a festival highlight. 

Matching jumpsuits and curly hair galore, Really Good Time made for a really good time in Geaney’s Yard. The post-crunk four-piece outfit explore modern plight through an eclectic catalogue of lyrics and electrifying live performances. Rounding off the night in the rowdily crowded Marina Inn, they Time solidified their place as a fun, slightly silly and masterfully inventive live act.

The church saw a special Saturday line-up. Villagers opened with some masterfully reinvented classics, while Griff brought an angelic presence to the stained glass room. Meanwhile, newly formed experimental doom folk outfit ØXN played their fourth-ever gig, leaving the crowd watching from Benners Hotel in awe. Closing out James’ Church, Gurriers shone their rowdy light on the church. With camera work that perfectly encapsulated their energy and frontman Dan Hoff bringing noise into the pews, it’s a performance will go down in Other Voices history.

Day three of Other Voices began with the sweet, dulcet tones of De Carteret, with a band of violin and guitar to accompany. Still Blue played two sessions, opening the Dingle Distillery at 2pm and later bringing pure, dance-pop joy to the Dingle Pub despite a shortened set. Elsewhere, Dylan Flynn and the Dead Poets played their Other Voices debut, drawing a crowd of existing fans while enticing some new faces in to watch their set. Their catchy chorus lines and Flynn’s charming presence as a frontman established the Limerick band as one deserving of a spot on the line-up. 

Ending on the highest of highs, Sunday at St James’ Church was host to the legendary Mick Flannery, Dunboyne sweetheart and self-proclaimed international superstar – a deserved title – CMAT, spoken word artist Kae Tempest and radiant South African quartet The Joy. While Tempest ended their church debut with a highly emotional rendition of ‘Rainy Night in Soho’, paying tribute to the late, great Shane MacGowan, surprise sets from Mick Flannery and Annie Mac, brought Other Voices 2023 to a joyous end. 

As a microcosm of the Irish music industry, Other Voices stands out as one of the most unique experiences a music lover can have. In addition to the music trail, it presents art and light workshops for Cogar, promotes voices from the industry with Ireland’s Edge and leaves room for comedy sets from Ireland’s very best. With stand-out performances from Really Good Time, Gurriers, Big Love and Still Blue this time around, the future of Irish music is in safe hands with high expectations to follow. Ciara Byrne

Photos by Celeste Burdon