Wexford Grooves Weekend

June 14, 15, 16, 17 2007



Wexford Grooves Weekend Comes Early This Year


The 9th Wexford Grooves Festival happened in glorious sunshine on the weekend June 15-17, 2007.  The event, brought forward a few weeks, was timed to coincide with the final weekend of the special one-off Summer Wexford Opera Festival.  All in all it meant that Wexford had one it’s busiest weekends on the cultural front in a long time with opera, classical recitals, choral concerts, art exhibitions plus all the gigs on the Grooves Trail.


And the Grooves Trail did not disappoint. With over fifty gigs throughout the weekend there really was something for everyone. The highlight for most was folk legend Paul Brady at White’s Hotel on Saturday night.  Accompanied by piano and guitar Brady had a rapt audience hanging on his every word as he delved into the more popular end of his enormous back catalogue.  Even Arthur McBride got an airing!  His between song banter suggested a man at ease with himself. Special mention should be made of the really excellent sound – something one does not always get in Wexford.


Wexford Arts Centre were very much to the fore on the Saturday with Spanish classical/flamenco guitarist Agustin Maruri charming a lunchtime audience and the Zrazy/Carolina Herrera double-header delighting an audience with a mix of jazz, bossa nova, Cuban and South American music. Zrazy’s Carol and Maria opened proceedings with a beautifully laid-back set before handing over to the Colombian Herrera. The latter’s whistle-stop tour of the music styles of Central/South Americas was awesome. The full Zrazy band finished out a marathon evening’s music in fine style.


 Prize for “Most Full-On” band of the weekend must surely go to Los Langeros (from the Cork “langer”!). Described as a “ska-tinged punkabilly” band the five piece produced a sound which was very definitely not operatic. How to describe? Take a piece of country, bring it up the mountains – Appalachians probably – and kick the shit out it but just before it expires give it a death metal heart transplant, a Bible and a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories and a goat’s horn of bat’s blood. And serve!


Cajun band Two Time Polka had their annual festival jamboree on a packed Charlotte Street Sunday afternoon. The sun shone, the children danced and the beer flowed. Probably the best fun of the weekend.


Brian Meakin returned to the Westgate Tavern to give a Blues master class. That voice, that guitar … something raw, elemental and truly captivating about the guy.  If you ever saw Rory Gallagher live you will know where I’m coming from.


Moonshine featuring Johnny Moynihan, Frank Hall and Lena Ullman graced the weekend with two gigs, the better of the two being a Saturday afternoon gig at The Wren’s Nest on the quay front. The band plays trad and folk that started here and in Scotland, crossed the Atlantic and travelled inland from the American coast past the Appalachians and into the backwoods of the American South.  Songs like Cotton-Eyed Joe (traditional) and Worried Man Blues (Carter Family), and tunes like the traditional Lost Train Blues and Jenny On The Railroad (Carter family) show where they are coming from. Effortlessly entertaining.


Al O’Donnell, another former member of Sweeney’s Men along with the aforementioned Johnny Moynihan, shared the bill with Niall Toner’s band at the intimate Maggie May’s. I had never seen him in action before and was really taken with his guitar playing and his singing. Like Moynihan he is as happy singing folk songs from either side of the Atlantic. Dick Gaughan rates his Al O’Donnell 2 album from early 70s as one of his all-time favs.


The Niall Toner Band followed Al with what seemed like a natural progression. Niall, Clem and Dick are the best bluegrass band in the land. They perform a mix of self-penned numbers and old standards and traditional songs. Highlight of the evening was the audience assisted Ledbelly song Irene with which Al O’Donnell helped out.


And another act sharing an interest in both Irish and American folk is Noel Shine & Mary Greene. Their Sunday brunch session in the sun (with Carolina Herrera) at White’s Hotel was sublime. Indeed Mary and Carolina were superlative in their compliments for the other’s singing!


 Lots of other highlights on the Grooves Trail ... Wexford big band Some Like It Hot had ‘em dancing and jiving at the Riverbank House Hotel … Swinging Bluecats brought the house down at the tiny Thomas Moore Tavern … Fean & Travers shoed their class and pedigree with a feast of celtic rock and r’n’b at La Speranza … “B” and the Honey Boys introduced Wexford audiences to the Amy Winehouse-like blues/soul singer Miss “B”. … Dylan Bible Band wound up a big weekend’s programme at The Sky & The Ground ... Hollywood Slim and The Fat Cats made their first visit to Wexford ...  likewise young funk/soul rebels Hipple Street … hip-hop band Messiah J & The Expert and local rock band TASC made Shooter’s very much the place to be Saturday night ... celtic/reggae/blues collective Butterfly Band stuffed The Crown on the closing night.


Til next year!


Bands on the Grooves Trail: http://www.wexlive.com/grooves/groovesbands.htm


Printable weekend schedule: http://www.wexlive.com/grooves/images/bandtable.pdf


Wanna become a friend? http://myspace.com/wexfordgroovesweekend


Festival supported by Diageo, Wexford County Council and Wexford Borough Council.