Moira Calling | Review
Tracey Hanby • Photos: Tremaine Gregg
What is a girl to do with post Electric Picnic blues? After being overwhelmed with all the excitement & variety of a festival of such grandeur it will be hard to compare to right? Or maybe, just maybe, a mini festival is the cure? Having been invited along by the organisers of Moira Calling to review their new & exciting mini independent festival I had high hopes indeed.
Brown Lemonade Ltd established in 2015 set about planning a new festival that would “promote all that is good in the Northern Ireland music scene” kicking festivities off in 2016 with 14 handpicked acts performing on 2 stages in the picturesque village of Moira.
I set about my two hour journey up north on Saturday 09 September, mostly taking that long due to my confusion over the speed signs in MPH, and this time not forgetting my festival wellies as my pink converse are now retired. Set in Moira Demesne I was lucky to get parked up in the adjacent car-park which was nearly full by 1pm. A good indication that there will be a good early turnout despite the wet start to the morning. On my arrival I kid you not the sun shone for the remainder of the event. Can I take the credit for bringing the sunshine with me?
This year, their second year, was truly special to have been a part of. First impressions always count & speak volumes especially when the organisers make their way over to meet you & welcome you into their unique gathering of likeminded people. One of the first things that struck me was their ethos of using raw materials to provide adequate seating & signage. Their merchandising stand was the first stall to meet and greet people providing you with all the fun extras whilst branding Moira Calling. The stand even hosted the latest copy of Culture Hub for guests, another welcome surprise.
Immediately you know this event is for families especially with children in mind. Ample space & seating, family entertainment with magic & trickery from Sideshow Ramone & John Mahood, face painting & stall competitions. One of the highlights for me personally was the samba drumming parade led by Mick Brady from Three’s a Crowd Music with the Magheralin Community Samba Band. This for me evoked recent memories of my dad’s memorial event Drumbeat on the Hill of Tara in June 2017. It was like I was back there & perhaps a sign that dad was with me in Moira. Mick has kindly accepted my invitation to next year’s Drumbeat bringing drummers across the border in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation.
Ample stalls serving of gourmet food were available be it oriental, Burgers, Hotdogs, BBQ, Pizza, Jams & pickles. I did however opt for the Spanish Bulldog Hotdog’from the stall Street Dogs a family led business headed up by Denise Brown which was hugely satisfying alongside my half pint of craft lager from The foxes Rock. A genius idea was to serve all craft beer in a take home Moira Calling branded plastic glass for refill limiting plastic glass waste that occurs at most festivals. Also a mention must go to Ruby Blue Spirits who invited me up onto their converted vintage horse box to sample their unique Vodka Bellini (flavoured vodka with prosecco) which now has me searching for it in my local Supervalu anticipating the next social gathering or party. Also worth a mention was the Tayto Craft stand for the unique crisp tastings and a free bag of Vintage Irish Cheddar & Onion that was big enough for sharing.
And now finally let’s talk about the music. Each act selected brought their own very special performance to each tent making for a strong collective of very talented artists that only a festival like this could bring together. There were 2 tents, All the Little Lights stage & the Maine Stage taking turns to provide the music allowing for great movement around the venue throughout the day & night. Here is a little about each talented artist in order of their performance;
Matty Rea hailing from Belfast, a very talented singer songwriter with a new single ‘Paperclip’ engaged the early crowd. Not always easy to open a festival as the first act to grace the stage. A big responsibility for one so young. He handled it like a pro.
Franklyn another Belfast band with recent single ‘Friends’ took to the bigger of the two stages bringing the noise & energy to the festival.
Dandy’s Loft from their hometown of Lurgan, describing themselves as “Indie Gloom” but most definitely far from doom as they lit up the stage with their music.
Brand New Friend travelled from Castlerock to perform a gritty set commending attention & audience participation. They took no prisoners for ones so young proving they are already seasoned musicians. I particularly enjoyed the female vocalist’s stage presence.
Rebekah Fitch from Belfast evoked comparisons to a mix of UKs singer Birdy & Irish producer Daithi except with a flute instead of a fiddle. This surprise festival find is most definitely a one to watch for the future. Having just finished her music degree her dad tells me to stay tuned for an exciting single release this October. 100% Irish awaits this release with anticipation.
Stomptown Brass, a brass band I have seen live several times in Dublin, brought their big sound to the Maine stage of Moira. This 10 piece aims to impress with their big brass pipes describing themselves as an outrageously energetic street funk band. Warning for the faint hearted they are very loud!
Brash Isaac headed up by Andrew Cameron, a Belfast band currently on a busy tour around Ireland, UK & Europe with their new single ‘In the Dark’ released just before their appearance at Moira Calling.
Girls Names having returned after a short musical break with a new female drummer who joined the band to play a great first gig on the Main stage.
Silences from Armagh, a band I’ve previously seen live & interviewed a few years ago have matured into owning their set & stage performance. Great to have seen this development for myself.
The Emerald Armada loving their sound again after recently seeing them in their hometown of Belfast supporting Walking on Cars. The lead singer reminds me vocally of Bry or Rainy Boy Sleep RIP+ & looks a bit like Bee Mick See. These guys are another One to Watch for the future.
Orchid Collective a Dublin band I have meaning to catch live for quite a while so I was very happy to see them on the line up. They played to a full tent with a very engaged crowd loving their music. Describing themselves as creating rousing alternative folk influenced rock, they are a must see band for the future.
Flyte are an English alternative pop band from London. Sometimes it’s a real treat to hear a UK band especially when I’m so immersed in the Irish music scene & spread my musical reach a little further afield.
Ryan Vail from Derry reminded me again of Daithi as another talented producer with his trusty keyboard at his hand. He brings his own haunting vocals to his world of electronica, folk & classical experimental music. The accompanying light & smoke show did add to his performance all be it a little harder to photograph. Creating a whole new tent of unexpected delights resulting in us all up & dancing along. I did feel I was back at Electric Picnic which pleased me a lot. Ryan was a real surprise act for me & will be looking at his catalogue of music to feature on a future 100% Irish show.
Eliza and the Bear the UK band you’ve never heard of before but you know that they have to be good because they are headlining the Maine Stage. You are there listening to pretty much unknown music trying to find a comparison to say The Script or any other familiar Irish band. But then you hear their last song and think “Ah that’s who they are” as you sing along word for word to ‘Higher’ and start dancing at the top of the stage like a long-time fan of their music. Yes that was me!
The event itself was well supported by many local sponsors & county councils which with no doubt also made this event happen for the organisers. I’m looking forward to attending again in 2018, so make sure to put Moira Calling down on your calendar of events next year.
Big thanks to the organisers for inviting me along to their fantastic showcase festival. Yes this is probably how Electric Picnic started before it became the monster of all festivals that it is today. But please stay as small & rustic as you can for now as you are special indeed.
Written by: Tracey Hanby Music Promoter ‘Gigs Ireland’ & Dundalk FM broadcaster ‘100% Irish’ & ‘Gigs Ireland presents The Takeover’