Stevie G: Get set for a super soul fest in Cork 

This weekend there’s a soul music festival in Cork, with a jam-packed programme of soul and funk, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Get set for a super soul fest in Cork 

Karen Underwood will perform in Cork City Hall on Saturday night as part of the Soul Fest programme.

This weekend there’s a soul music festival in Cork, with a jam-packed programme of soul, funk, food, drinks, and more on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. ‘Soul Fest’ was formerly ‘Soul in the City’, and it takes place in more than 20 venues throughout Cork. Before we get to some of the highlights, let’s look back at some of the previous efforts to do soul festivals here.

Our Jazz festival remains top dog, and in the next few weeks I’ll preview this years Guinness Jazz Festival, which launched earlier this week. There’s no real reason why soul music also can’t have it’s moment in the sun, and the impending Soul Fest will attempt to further establish itself in the coming years.

In the late ’90s, some of the local promoters behind the successful Mór Disco club-nights, started the Southern Soul and Disco Festival. This was one of Cork’s most influential festivals and it saw legendary acts such as Basement Jaxx, Rae & Christian, Jocelyn Brown, Jungle Brothers, and many more visit Cork. Built around a very impressive pub trail, where many big name DJs from Ireland, the UK, and beyond joined local spinners, the Festival also used the Cork Opera House, Sir Henrys, and the Metropole for late night shows that will live long in the memory of those of us who were there. It really was a highpoint of the ’90s.

This festival was at the apex of the peak times for Cork club culture really, at a time when we had loads of great venues and club nights. The bar scene which fed these nights was very strong too and Cork DJs and promoters had a great relationship with some of the best labels, DJs, artists, and promoters from elsewhere.

Visitors loved coming here, and Cork was the place to be, in a similar way to what happens during the jazz festival. Sadly, the financial backing wasn’t enough to keep it going, and the festival never really had time to become profitable or break even in its short few years. It left it’s mark though, and will always be remembered by those who were around then.

There have been other attempts too, and Soul Function ran some impressive weekenders in the Sextant in more recent years. Again, like the Soul and Disco festival, the line-ups brought many great specialist DJs to Cork, and paired them with the best local talent. Soul Function gave us some great nights and music and memories, and it’s impossible to look back at these gigs without remembering the late, great Mister Fork who sadly departed us last year.

Soul in the City is now Soul Fest, and it’s always been more about live music than DJs. It’s a very accessible festival and should appeal to lots of people.

The organisers have always highlighted the food and drink offering that Cork brings too, and they hope to build on last years successful festival, which had some great events. The ‘Soul Train’ and the huge soul ‘Block Party’ return, as do some of Corks finest soul singers, such as Karen Underwood and Laoise Leahy, for big shows in Cork City Hall.

Other groups in action this weekend include the Roaring Forties, The Papa Zitas, Quangodelic, The Arts Crimes Band, and Cosmic Funk, so it should be a fun weekend in Cork. It’s important first and foremost to showcase local talent, and there’s no reason why this festival can’t build up some momentum in the next few years. We certainly need a few more music festivals in Cork so I hope it goes well.

Elsewhere this weekend, Belfast rappers Kneecap are hosting a Michael Collin’s revenge party in West Cork, with a trip to Connolly’s in Leap, featuring a big line-up. It takes place on both Saturday and Sunday in Connolly’s, and Kneecap will be accompanied by the likes of Arveene, Jelani Blackman, Mango, Lisa Oh, and John Francis Flynn. Kneecap have been drawing huge crowds to gigs and festivals all over the country these last few years so it’s a good opportunity to see them in Cork, at one of our most established and esteemed venues.

Meanwhile, Andrew Philpott and Kevin Murphy bring their new live project Aisle of Night, to Coughlans this Friday.

This should be a good gig for those of you who are fans of electronica and live music.

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