As the Covid-19 crisis lurched from temporary measures to a civil-society response, the knock-on effect of extended closures was invariably going to hit Cork’s live music scene, with newer entrants to the cultural calendar likely to be hit disproportionately by a combination of income loss and a sudden disconnect with still-developing communities of gig-goers.
Among those affected were Hope Alo of Cork nightlife collective Dali & Gala, later remonikered Dali in light of their move away from DIY nights and into the formal venue space at the former Pavilion venue on Carey’s Lane in May of 2018.
After nearly two years in the space, characterised by a consistent support of local dance music as well as hosting live shows and other cultural events, the Covid crisis proved to be a breaking point for their arrangements as they were - and an opportunity to refocus on what they set out to accomplish.
“I suppose it was a shock for everyone, when things shut down eighteen months ago. Everyone was told that we were going to be back open in a few weeks, and now it's nearly two years later. Obviously, we (Alo and partner Stephen Byrne) lost our venue, and it didn't end on the greatest of terms.
“But when we look back, I think we both agree that we're happy to be moving on to creating a new venue, because where that venue was, we were next to apartments, so it's hard to run a banging, loud nightclub in a residential area, when there's housing right on the wall.
“It was hard when everything closed, because it seemed like the end of the world, too. But we're working on new projects, and we will be bringing back a new venue - we're just not sure when, because even though we've been told an opening day, I suppose no one ever knows, and things are constantly changing, so it's hard to plan.”
With the PAs off and punters firmly planted at home, Alo & Byrne changed tack, and lent the venue’s name to their online streaming activities, including live online radio and video-streamed DJ sets bearing the distinctive “diamonds” logo debuted on its physical stage.
Alo discusses keeping the name active, and what the crew learned from their foray into the digital space.“I don't think we knew where to go next (after the venue closure), but what always keeps us going is putting ourselves into something creative, and (by then) most people had to move online. So it was just kind of natural to give people a space. That's how Dali started, when we had our first warehouse, was that we just wanted to make a space for everyone to be. We just wanted to promote local music, and like I said before, it could be a creative platform for us.
“It got us thinking again about where we wanted to go with Dali again. It reminded us of where we started, and it was great. We paused it because I actually became suddenly unwell three months ago, and we had to stop everything.”
Alo suffered a stroke - and at a very young age - a life-changing medical event from which Alo will be in the process of recovery for the foreseeable future.
“It was completely out of the blue, and there was a lot of fear going back into work, and I'm still struggling with numbers, my reading and my writing. So Steve has taken over a lot of the work, and I'm doing as much as I can. But y'know what, it keeps me busy, keeps my mind busy from being afraid of everything. I'm like, ‘okay, I have something to focus on, and it's something that I love doing’.
“It's something exciting for me, but I'm definitely not working anywhere near what I used to do. I'm just trying to learn and accept what my limitations are right now, which is hard. But yeah, it's exciting. I have to give Steve a lot of credit for what we're working on at the moment. I'm not what I used to be right now, but they keep telling me it's only been three months.”
Part of this process is helping oversee the re-emergence of the Dali name in the post-pandemic picture as promised - starting with this weekend’s Stay Home three-dayer, running in a West Cork location accessible via specially-chartered bus from the city centre, with directions available to ticket-holders.
With collaboration, and help from the Live Performance Support Scheme, the event promises to be another expansion on the Dali mission statement.
“When we were looking for a venue, we knew that we wanted to do it outdoors, because obviously it'd be safer Covid-wise, just to keep the event going.
“We are working with Natural Events, which is (DJ and event hire specialist) Jack Smiles' baby. He was like us, y'know, we both started off throwing parties in fields, or in any disused location we can find, so it's cool to see, like, two different businesses, that started off doing free parties, to be like "business people", I suppose, it's cool to work with them.
“It's a government-funded event, which is really nice, too - to have the creative freedom, to know that the money is there, to be creative again - it's just lovely to be able to do that.”
The event features a packed line-up across the weekend, composed of guest DJs from across Irish techno and house, as well as Dali regulars, including Yazmin Gardezi, Medhbh O’Connor, and Prospekt collective head Trail of Thought.
It also features Alo’s first DJ sets under her hopedieshere moniker since the outset of the crisis, replete with full visuals on Saturday and Sunday, providing a focal point for her efforts as her recovery continues.“We wanted to make the show a bit different, because I think the club is known for quite heavy techno music. And I think we want to showcase that, like our residents can play different kinds of electronic sounds, or we'll be focusing on a much more deep sound.
“Like, more experimental techno, dub... yeah, we just want to play something different. We don't want it to just be like, 140 BPM, mindless banging, so we're definitely working on a show, more than just people coming and playing music, and then off they go.”
Cork music will no doubt undergo a period of change in the next few months, and even years, as the tremors of the Covid crisis and the public response to it are felt - and with space at a premium in a changing city, Alo insists that maintaining the DIY spirit that shaped Cork during the 2010s recession will be key to pulling it into a slowly-unpausing 2020s.
“I think everyone knows, like maybe 10 years ago, Cork was a ghost-town, y'know, there was really was not a lot going on. There were lots of kind of really cool pop-up places going on. We've lost those places, like we had the Print Shop, Camden Palace, all those kinds of artsy places that were putting on DIY gigs, I think we need to see more of those going back. We need to see more places run by independent owners.
“I think Cork's been really gentrified - it's a really, really creative place, but I think a lot of those people are leaving Cork because those places are lost. So I'd love to see more of that culture come back into the city.”
The Stay Home weekender begins tomorrow evening with a bus from the city-centre to the event’s mystery location. Friday and Saturday tickets remain available as of time of writing: https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/dali-cork-18153752920