If the call had been made half an hour later, it might have been a very different story for the band Little Bear. The act scheduled to headline the third and final night of Other Voices in Derry/Londonderry last Sunday was Two Door Cinema Club – the hottest band to have come from Northern Ireland for some time. (Their recent album, Beacon, topped the Irish charts and went to No 2 in the UK.) But on Saturday afternoon they pulled out, with singer Alex Trimble citing a nasty case of laryngitis.
Other Voices normally takes place in Dingle on the west coast of Ireland. Acts including the late Amy Winehouse have headed there for more than a decade to perform to 70-odd souls in a church – with everything then turned into an Irish TV show. (Or, latterly, a live stream on guardian.co.uk.) But it shifted last weekend to celebrate Derry’s status as the first UK city of culture, taking up residency in the Glassworks, a former church with a capacity to hold a couple of hundred people, for three nights.
Appropriately, a Derry native who had also played in Dingle in December opened proceedings, the 16-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson, aka SOAK, who has already been the subject of a major label bidding war. It was easy to hear why: her songs are startlingly mature and arrestingly tender.
In between came two contrasting acts, intense Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey and Savages. The latter’s pummelling post-punk answered in the affirmative one other question: would just this sort of act succeed in Derry, as in Dingle, because of the contrast between the intimacy of the surroundings and their noisenik shtick?
The second evening saw Little Green Cars, who are increasingly threatening to turn into an Irish version of Band of Horses; Bronagh Gallagher, who might be most familiar to English audiences as Bernie in Alan Parker’s film The Commitments, and who sang with all the soul of the Derry girl she is; Jesca Hoop; and Marina and the Diamonds. The latter dazzled without necessarily convincing (songs such as Hollywood sounded a bit too pleased with themselves in this context).