Festival Review: The Doolin Folk Festival 2015

Photo Credit: Nagle Snaps - https://www.facebook.com/NagleSnaps
I loved everything about The Doolin Folk Festival. It was intimate, friendly and relaxed for the whole weekend. The organisers brought together a line-up consisting of national folk stars along with local trad/folk legends and for the first time brought The White Horse Sessions to Doolin from it's home in Kenny's of Lahinch. The festival became a celebration of Irish Folk music. 


First up on The White Horse Sessions stage was Galway multi-instrumentalist Tom Portman with a solid set of tunes to open a folk festival. On the main stage David Hope brought his brand of mid song humour and charming songs to the gathering crowd. I'll never tire of hearing songs like 'Daybreak Someplace' and 'Hell or High Water' or indeed of hearing about the origin of these songs. Following David were local trad act 'Fiddle Case' with special guest Christy Barry. The large crowd were hugely receptive when Christy Barry was awarded the Doolin Festival award for lifetime achievement from Luka Bloom. The Evertides performed a great set on The White Horse Sessions stage and were one of the finds of the weekend. The all female, all harmonising three piece make awesome music to swoon to, move to and sing to. There's elements of pop, ragtime and soul infused into their folk sound and they are as refreshing as them come. Listen to The Evertides here now ....

Next up for us following the angelic voices of The Evertides was the demon voice of Elder Roche whose picture you can see above and below this review. There are not too many acts playing a mid evening festival spot who are called upon for two encores but such was the intensity of Elder Roche's performance that the crowd responded in kind to a wonderful artistic display. Old and new songs sounded wonderful with 'Kerry Black Mountain' being an earworm of mine for most of the weekend. We caught the last 15 minutes ofSharon Shannon's set and wow is an understatement. Sharon and her band were suitably outstanding, in command of the crowd, genre hopping in an instant and most importantly were bundles of fun. The headliner of The White Horse Sessions was Marc O'Reilly. Marc and the band brought energy and a good amount of psychedelic folk n roll to Doolin. We're big fans of Marc with huge expectations that were met by this wonderful three piece band. A suitable end to the first day of the festival.


Fiach Moriarty kicked off proceedings on Saturday afternoon with a solid set of songs and mid tune banter to entertain the early crowds. Many of the songs performed can be found on Fiach's most recent album 'Revolution'. Was great to hear the song 'Married to Music' again. The traditional music of Bryan O'Leary & Friends delighted the early dancers on the main stage. On the The White Horse Sessions stage I got to hear the opening songs from American troubadour 'John Francis'. His version of 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' was perfect. The main stage with Colm Mac Con Iomaire called and I was delighted to hear the new songs performed by his 11 piece strong band. Colm's music is textured, layered and meaningful and the performance from this seasoned band was as expected top quality. The trad act 'Four Winds' took to the main stage next for a fun filled jaunt through reels, jigs and slides galour. I loved their enthusiasm and their intensity throughout the whole set. One of the best trad bands we seen at the festival. The Ludlow Massacre was a particular highlight for me. The Lost Brothers began their set with a tale of getting lost on the way to Doolin by accidentally heading for Sligo. Charming old time tunes are the order of the day from The Lost Brothers with Mark's lead acoustic guitar playing majestically accompanying Oisin's old time vocals. Colm Mac Con Iomaire took to the stage once more to join the brothers on a couple of tunes which went down well with the large crowd. It was my first time catching 'We Banjo 3' live and they were another massive revelation for me. Their high energy, enthusiastic performance could only result in toe tapping and smiles from the appreciative crowd. If you've never listened to We Banjo 3 before now is your chance:

The final band we caught on The White Horse Sessions stage was 'A Band Called Wanda' who began their set with a rallying trumpet cry on the balcony outside the second venue to entice punters upstairs. It worked and 'Wanda' performed a fine set of tunes taken from their debut 'Green' album and their debut 'Red' EP! We finished Saturday by catching a few songs from Mick Flannary. Everything good that Sharon Shannon did on Friday to turn the festival into a party, Mick and his band sadly did the opposite. 


The White Horse Sessions shone brightly with a fantastic line-up on Sunday. Sean's Walk, a young three piece consisting of cello, guitar, piano and fantastic lead vocals. The songs range from radio friendly pop to well written thoughtful tunes. A band to watch out for now and into the future. The Niall McCabe band from Cork were absolutely outstanding performing an acoustic set of soulful heartfelt tunes that drew you in and entertained thoroughly. I heard a number of great covers of the weekend but Nialls take on 'Every Breath You Take' was really special for it's originality. Niall's vocals are spectacular as well .... check out this song to hear what I'm on about: 

NoCrows on the main stage brought all kinds of gypsy folk music to the festival and it was great fun yet again. Folk music like this from the Sligo based band can get people moving, dancing and singing like no other. Back upstairs was another Cork band 'Nothing New Under The Sun'. The two lads performed a solid set of folk pop tunes which have massive potential to be huge. Finishing the weekend for us was Dublin based folk rock band Mongrel State who rocked the White Horse Sessions stage. Their performance was hugely entertaining with lead vocals alternating between Claudio and Darren making for a varied sound throughout their set. Finishing with Mongrel State resulting in us hitting the road home on a quality high from the Doolin Folk Festival.

Top 5 performances:

1. Marc O'Reilly
2. We Banjo 3
3. Elder Roche
4. Niall McCabe Band
5. The Evertides

Photo Credit: Nagle Snaps - https://www.facebook.com/NagleSnaps