PØRTS, The Ard Ri Band, Malojian, Rebecca Mulhern & Quentin Wylie
The Sandwich Co., Derry – Saturday 29th November 2014
Saturday night saw the welcome return of the mighty PØRTS to their home turf of Derry, as part of the Foyle Folk Festival, for their only headline show of the season and the last of the year. And what a year it’s been.
Opening the evening’s entertainment is 17 year old Quentin Wylie. Having arrived in the back door just in time with a white shirt and a pair of Levi’s, his Fender Kingman slung round his back, Quentin didn’t waste any time and got stuck right in with his melody driven blend of nouveau folk and rock ‘n’ roll.
‘I’ll get on with it.’
This young singer songwriter has ardently done the rounds in Derry for the past two years and is well on his way to making his name as one of the most hardworking and determined young, original musicians in the town. His repertoire of strong, languishing laments and radiant melancholy has a poetic quality wise beyond his years.
His latest tune ‘The Unknown’ is a sunny and wistful stroll through nostalgia.
Foyle Folk Festival workshop student Rebecca Mulhern was next to the stage. Rebecca is sleek and soulful; her music radiates youthful innocence and honesty. At only 15 years old, her astute and perceptive grasp of the gritty realism that folk music draws so much from is stirring.
A charming and impassioned performance, Rebecca’s folk tones stretched finely to the back of the long room of the Sandwich Company. Past carpeted pillars and deer heads, hand painted walls and handmade stools, the venue provided a quirky setting that Marty Doherty commented was ‘Too clean for the Foyle Folk Festival’.
To conclude the set, fellow Folk Festival friends Kevin Quigley, Ruari O’Doherty and Paddy Nash took to the stage to perform a song they had co-written only the previous week. ‘Honest and Open’ saw the graceful coming together of the talent from the city, old and young and upheld that atmosphere of contemplative sincerity that was so prevalent throughout.
The crowd were beginning to get quite excited as Malojian took to the stage. The one shortfall of a bring your own event, especially at an intimate gig like this; it does get a bit noisy. But, Stevie Scullion AKA Malojian and his percussionist rolled with it and fed on the electric atmosphere.
The background noise continued to grow and there were failed attempts by audience members to quieten the crowd, but to no avail. And then they started whistling. Smiles and jovial exchanged glances all round, there was a slight yet sudden hush and the crowd desisted. Malojian’s bright and rhythmic indie-folk burst radiantly through the hubbub.
A bottle of champagne pops and the crowd sway back and forth on the velvet sofas that line the inside wall. ‘Are there any Beatles fans here?’
A charming, engaging cover that had the patrons singing along. Impeccable Simon and Garfunkel-esque harmonies to rival the Lennon/McCartney classic, there was no 40 piece orchestra but they pulled the massive sound off faultlessly.
Made up of Conor O’Kane AKA Teknopeasant, Ruari O’Doherty (Little Hooks/ Cuckoo), Marty Doherty of Here Comes the Landed Gentry and Jonny Nutt and Philip Wallace formerly of Red Organ Serpent Sound, The Ard Ri Band were the first to overpower this rowdy audience.
This was the energy the crowd were looking for, the energy this crowd needed. Joyous cries and drunken yelps were heard as the band ploughed through their edgy, vocal driven set. The Ard Ri Band exude power and raw energy, the heart and soul of the Foyle Folk Festival. Here we have four fellas in it for nothing but the sheer love of music. Every song as thunderously exhilarating as the last, Ard Ri’s pure folk and Irish charm set the bar for the euphoric PØRTS; quite probably the only band in Derry capable of quietening this crowd.
Although perhaps still better known in the city for their previous name, Little Bear, PØRTS are a band revered and adored by their fellow townsfolk and loyal fan base and it is plain to see why. Their signature blend of goosebump inducing smooth pop and surreal, ethereal falsettos is both emotive and powerful and leaves the entire room in a daze of mutual appreciation.
They had struggled, apparently, choosing a cover for a recent BBC programme (airs 5th December, if you’re wondering) but their rendition of Moby’s ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’ felt so right. They turned this electronic gem into something real, something heartfelt and physical. Songs like ‘I’d let you win’ and ‘The Devil is a Songbird’ had the crowd in the palm of their hands and their fingers on everyone’s pulse. There were standing ovations and quiet contemplations all round.
It is the band’s progressive diversity which I especially admire. What at times begins as loose and luxurious can build and leap to an extraordinary and over powering chorus that always feels fresh and new. ‘Few and Far Between’ is the perfect example. Majestic and stirring, the chorus of ohs resounded and reverberated all the way down Bishop Street. The applause was tumultuous. Deafening, untoppable, I thought. But then came the inevitable chants. ‘Two more tunes,’ I even hear at a stage.
‘Second in Line’, fittingly, and rejuvenated applause brought a close to the evening’s show and a satisfied audience milled slowly out on to Pump Street.