The return of gigs is music to my ears

Restrictions have been lifted, including some of the more ridiculous guidelines regarding live music, and while it's miles behind other countries let's try to be optimistic, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
The return of gigs is music to my ears

Roaring Forties at Soul in the City festival

Festival season is winding down and despite our heavy government pandemic restrictions, many music promoters have made the best out of a bad lot. The Government, thankfully, did support some of these events and brought a little life to the music scene.

The return to full nightlife has been a big talking point and this week some restrictions have been lifted, including some of the more ridiculous guidelines regarding live music. More are to be lifted soon, but we are still miles behind other countries, and the frustration continues as summer becomes autumn. But let’s try to remain a little optimistic!

This weekend’s Soul in the City festival brought some welcome joy to the city streets. Musicians and sound engineers and security guards got some much-needed work.

Added to some wonderful live shows in the Triskel and Marina Market, Soul in the City, with some innovative programming, brought the party to many who wouldn’t even have heard of the festival. Their human soul train travelled through the city on Sunday, and cheered up many Cork City revellers, before they held a big open-air block party on Cornmarket Street to finish it all out. Live music by Art Crimes Band, Quangodelic, and The Roaring Forties drew huge crowds to this free event, and I was lucky enough to round things off with a DJ set, too.

It was a great party and, again, it was great to see the streets being taken over by the people, but in a well-organised, responsible way. The music ended at 10pm and the crowds dispersed quickly, and that’s important, bearing in mind that there are city residents living nearby.

Soul in the City made strides this year, and it has the potential to make a bigger mark, with a unique celebration of soul food and music. It was all local based and community driven, and, crucially, the on-street activity made it more accessible to everyone. Roll on 2022!

‘Magic Nights by the Lee’ was another recent huge success in Cork. Run by Cork City Council and the Good Room in a number of city centre parks — some not traditionally used for music events — its huge variety of artists and events livened up some late summer evenings. My own event in Fitzgerald’s Park was a terrific showcase of young Cork music talent, including Sam Healy, Blakkheart, Minnie Marley, King Koko, Jena Keating, and Meghan Murray. I went to another couple of the shows, too, including Mockie Ah, and I was impressed by not only the shows, but the settings. Again, it’s wonderful to see people enjoying music in our parks.

Doneraile hosted a music-and-arts festival this weekend, too, while the Great Beyond takes place in Kinsale. Mitchelstown is hosting a number of well-known Irish acts in a spinoff from Indiependence, while the Good Room are preparing for the It Takes a Village festival in East Cork. Levi’s, in Ballydehob, and Connolly’s, in Leap, have both been busy running shows, and it is wonderful to see some of our venues being used.

Sadly, many have been pretty idle because of the restrictions, but there’s finally good news. The Cyprus Avenue venue previously announced a huge autumn and winter series of shows, which have been selling well.

Now, they have added a hip-hop and R&B weekender in October, and they will be welcoming some big names. Jyellowl, Lethal Dialect, Carrie Baxter, Bobbi Arlo, Hazey Haze, and many more will be on stage, including some artists well known to us here in Cork, such as Outsider YP, Spekulativ Fiktion, JayRonic, and Cutting Heads Collective.

This all takes place on the first weekend of October and day and weekend tickets are now available. Some of these artists, such as Bobbi Arlo and Carrie Baxter, have really blown up during the pandemic, so it’s great to finally have them performing in Cork.

Cyprus Avenue is one of our best-equipped venues and it’s great to finally see some shows there. They have been restricted largely to streamed shows over the last 16 months. By the end of October, there’s a possibility full restrictions will lift, so, hopefully, we can get back to enjoying gigs and clubs properly again!

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