There’s a brand new festival in town this year and Pier Head is the perfect host. Feis Liverpool is bringing some of the very best performers the beautiful island of Ireland has produced to the city and no matter if your tastes are traditional, modern or just rocking, there’ll be something to excite you no matter how tall your father was. By Alan O’Hare.
The word fèis, of course, has a definition. But really it’s an excuse to have fun, listen to music and dance. The inaugural Feis Liverpool arrives at the Pier Head landing stage this July and is well on the way to a sell-out. With a line-up including Van Morrison, Imelda May, The Chieftains and Hothouse Flowers, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. But there’ll be plenty to surprise the day trippers at the big event. “I have always wanted to do an Irish music festival here – Liverpool is a great city with such strong ties to Ireland,” says the man behind the event, promoting legend Vince Power. “Pier Head is the perfect location because of its powerful and emotional significance.”
He’s not wrong… listening to Shane MacGowan sing his homesick laments and watching Van the Man seek to be born again under a Mersey moon will be emotional for music fans. But there’s a lot more besides the main events: “We have a fantastic line-up and this event will bring together the finest, most celebrated Irish musicians,” reveals Power. The strong supporting cast add all kinds of color and shape to the programme and there’ll be something for everyone with the likes of Hudson Taylor, Foy Vance and Mary Coughlan performing throughout the day.
Here at Etc., as you know, we take music as seriously as anyone and thought we’d provide you with a guide and playlist to six of the best who we think will make Feis Liverpool fly… sláinte!
The man is the perfect headliner for a summer day out down by the river. The music maybe a little lighter these days, and suit family festivals filled with chilled wine and craft beer, but the legendary singer and songwriter is still capable of moments of transcendence on-stage. With three records released in the last eighteen months or so – all reworking his (and others’) classic songs in that place where jazz and soul meet that he’s made his own – Morrison remains as restless as ever… and just listen to him blow that horn on this under-the-radar belter from 2016’s ‘Keep Me Singing’.
What can you say about MacGowan that hasn’t already been said? I’ll just focus on the music and say that if Van Morrison is in touch with the Holy Spirit, then The Pogues’ main man has got the Holy Ghost on speed dial. Fearless and peerless as a lyricist, the Christmas Day-born singer stands alone in a field of one as an artist. The tribute concert held in honour of his sixtieth birthday in Dublin at the start of this year was the catalyst for the ‘main stage finale’ he’ll headline down by the Mersey at Feis. Let’s hope the all-star band know this one…
David Bowie changed his sound and vision with every new release, but when a female artist does it her motives are often questioned. Imelda May released the sizzling and slow-burning ‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’ last summer and it struck a chord with music lovers everywhere. The rockabilly singer found a new direction on album number five and her already-great live shows have benefited from that newly-found light and shade. The Dubliner owns every stage she steps on and this brilliantly-sung perfect pop song from her last album will get toes tapping down the Pier Head…
Dempsey is a firm Liverpool Etc. favourite and the greatest traditional singer out there right now. But he’s not just that… Donaghmede’s finest has written and recorded some of the very best music to have come out of Ireland this century and remains a roots star. He stole the show at the aforementioned tribute to Shane Macgowan in Dublin back in January and the (Liverpool) Irish Sea Sessions veteran’s set at Feis 2018 is one of the most anticipated.
There are no more adventurous musicians than Sharon Shannon. It’s over twenty five years since her debut album helped redefine traditional Irish music and the accordionist and fiddler hasn’t looked back since. From the County Clare, Shannon is an instinctive performer whose accompaniment raises the game of those around her – witness her work with the likes of Dónal Lunny, Nigel Kennedy, Steve Earle and The Waterboys. Let’s hope she breaks out one of those famous collaborations down by the river at Feis – this is one I’m hoping for…
Merseysider Ian Prowse records for Learpholl (look it up) Recordings. It’s no accident, as the former Pele/Amsterdam singer and songwriter is a renowned Hibernophile with an MA, BA Hons in Irish Studies. He also happens to be one hell of a rabble rouser and one of Liverpool’s favourite performers, packing out the city’s venues and hosting the indefatigable ‘Monday Club’ at The Cavern. Christy Moore covered his song ‘Does This Train Stop On Merseyside’ on 2009’s ‘Listen’ and other fans of the Irish Sea Sessions veteran include Elvis Costello and late, great John Peel. His most famous song will hopefully ring out at the Feis finale in front of the Liver Buildings.
Feis Liverpool 2018
Saturday July 7th, 11am-11pm
Pic by Roger Deckker