Ciaran Lavery live in Belfast
Open House Festival has returned to Belfast having been known in the last few years more for their regular jaunts down to the Bangor seafront and as always Kieran Gilmore and the team have put together a stunning programme of indie-folk, Americana and trad music down on the cobbled streets of the cities bohemian Cathedral Quarter. One of seven in the city, it proves that we can have more quarters than sense and with Ciaran Lavery and band, Kate O’Callaghan and Silences gracing the stage in the Black Box tonight, it seems we have more talent than just about anything else.
Silences are up first. From the Cathedral City of Armagh, featuring Conchúr White on guitar and vocals these relative newcomers have tapped into that sound that’s served the likes of Hozier and Passenger so well in recent years. ‘Cops and Robbers’ and ‘Santa Cruz’ are stand out moments in a slick set of delicately crafted tunes but the big applause is reserved for ‘Chase Me Home’, a recent single, radio friendly, momentous and memorable.
Donegal based folk duo Kate O’Callaghan and Seamus Devenny take centre stage amid some violin feedback and take a while to get the sound back on track. Despite the technical mishaps, there are beautiful moments in there with Kate mastering guitar and ukulele accompanied by Devenny who’s undoubtedly a hugely talented string player. Luckily, we’ve been fortunate enough to catch this duo before and know that when the gremlins aren’t at mischief, the songs really come out to play.
Regular readers here will be no stranger to the works of Craigavon man Ciaran Lavery. We’ve been enjoying the new EP ‘Kosher’ on repeat and tonight sees the record get a launch party down in The Black Box. Lavery’s on stage with a full band, the bass and drums pounding out a steady four-four, driving along the Americana openers ‘A Ragtime Song’ and recent single ‘Left For America’. Barely pausing for breath before launching into ‘Sophomore Rising’, a tune that would be a stand out on anyone else’s record but somehow manages to be outshone by Ciaran’s own high quality writing elsewhere on the EP.
Slowing it down some, the band find their groove and ease effortlessly from one track to the next. A gapless interlude between the beautiful folk tinged ballads ‘Awful Love’ and ‘Turning To Rust’ only highlights the dexterity of the live performers. With tenderly finger-picked guitar and wailing harmonica it may well be early Thursday evening but it’s the sound of a Sunday morning coming down as Lavery enjoys a solo song on stage.
When you drop a tune like ‘Left for America’ so early in the set you give yourself quite a mountain to climb but luckily there are a few more aces up this man’s sleeve. Going back to last year’s LP ‘Not Nearly Dark’, we’re treated to a fairly upbeat version of ‘Shame’ and a rowdy hoe-down stomper in ‘Orphan’. The latter being a real alt-country stormer; the sound of spilled beer on the straw and someone smashing a chair off the bar while the band segues into one of the most compelling and oddly beautiful Lionel Richie covers imaginable.
With toes still tapping to the faint strains of ‘Boxer’ we step out into the cool night air, onto stubbed out cigarettes on stony streets leaving America and heading for home.
Buy ‘Kosher’ by Ciaran Lavery on Bandcamp.