September’s quickly becoming my favourite time of year. Firstly, we say goodbye to that oppressive (slightly warm) Irish summer rain – there’s a crispness in the air – and mince pies start appearing in shops.
There’s also the small matter of the Open House Festival in Belfast. This little music festival in the city has been trundling along for exactly 12 years now if you can believe it – celebrating all that’s good about session music, big hats, cold beer and chilli. It had always attracted an incredible flux of hairy hidden talent to the city for one week a year – tempted by Northern Ireland and Scotland’s very old connection to appalachian bluegrass they came far and wide from the States and Europe.
Then a little something happened called a folk revival, and all of a sudden it was cool to play the banjo for hours outside the pub after your gig has finished, drinking beer and generally staying up late – and with that Open House became the coolest thing in town.
For the past 3 years the festival has had a phenomenal line-up – hosting the likes of Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling while they were still unknowns. This year brought Wilco, Modest Mouse, Old Crow Medicine Show and Seasick Steve to Belfast – as well as an amazing lineup of the next Wilcos, Modest Mice, Old Crows and Seasick Steves. And its to these acts that we turn your attention today.
First up, a trucking company employee turned good. Nathaniel Rateliff was just hanging around for the whole week of the fest – no one pestered him – if they’d known he could have held daily concerts in the living room of his crashpad. Next year he will folks, next year..
Another exciting act that people are starting to make wee noises about – mostly due to this Hank Williams cover you’re about to see/hear here. I literally had 6 minutes with Lissie before they (they? She? either?) jumped on stage, so this is the entirety of that time on tape for you now. Amazing band. Amazing sound. Amazing festival for bringing her (them? both?) over.
After 3 or 4 days of music, more beer and chilli, everyone was a bit tired out. I’d arranged to see Andrew Davie at some point during the festival (no exact date given) so we met up on the Friday. It turns out that he, as with most of the support acts, were all crashing in a house all together, cooking, drinking beer (spot a theme here) and playing music all together. God I LOVE THIS FESTIVAL. What you’re about to see is just a snippet of the day. Andrew Davie. Remember you heard his name here.
Once you put a guitar in this boy’s hand he can’t stop putting out melodies each more beautiful than the last – he’s like a beautiful song machine. I thought bringing him to the beach and letting him out of the car to run around might calm him down – and it did perhaps have an effect. We drove up the coast, walked on the sand, played a few songs, and, well, what you’re about to watch is… simply put.. stunning.
Camera: Will McConnell
Filmed in Belfast, September 2010