July brings with it countless festivals and events in all corners of the country to spend your weekends discovering new music and hearing your favourite acts. It is hard to come by a festival to compete with Galway International Arts Festival in terms of programming, diversity and size however. The fortnight-long celebration of Irish and international arts transforms Galway’s streets, venues, galleries and pubs into displays and exhibits of art, creativity and talent. This year and as always, several gigs have already sold out – I’m looking at you Lisa Hannigan. There are tickets left to many shows however and with a line up of acts spanning genre and size, here are our top musical picks for Galway’s biggest festival.
Brian Wilson presents Pet Sounds – 23 July, Absolut Big Top
Said to be the final time the album is performed in this way, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson is set to fill the Big Top with the sounds the band’s eleventh and perhaps their most iconic studio album. Wilson will perform with a fifteen-piece band and once the album has been performed in its entirety, more of the bands’ classic hits will finish the night. Not to be missed for any fans of The Beach Boys.
Lankum – 20 July, St. Nicholas’ Church
One of Dublin and Ireland’s leading young acts in traditional and folk music, Lankum are gifting their audiences with their charming and beautiful sound. Comprised of four musicians on fiddle, guitar, concertina and uileann pipes, they create close vocal harmonies and encapsulate audiences with their fresh take on Irish folk at live performances. Seeing them in the intimacy of St. Nicholas’ will no doubt be an unforgettable gig.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – 26 July, Absolut Big Top
Brought to a worldwide stage with Paul Simon’s album Graceland, Ladysmith Black Mambazo (pictured) combine choral gospel influences with the music of their Zulu heritage. Their focus is on vocals with beautiful close harmonies to create rhythmic, uplifting sound. Prepare for a night of powerful, soulful jams.
Saint Sister – 29 July, Roisin Dubh
Having built a solid fanbase and reputation for themselves in the past two years, Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty of Saint Sister have graced many of Ireland’s festivals and venues with their beautiful, unique sound. Drawing inspiration from Irish harp music and 60s folk, they use synth and vocal harmonies to create dreamy, ethereal sounds. The intimacy of the small venue that is the Roisin Dubh will be the perfect setting to experience their delicate, jarring music.
Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine – 23 July, Monroe’s Live
Grandfathers of Irish folk music, Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine have contributed immensely to Irish music throughout their careers, both on solo projects and as part of acts such as Planxty, Moving Hearts, The Bothy Band and LAPD. To experience the highest level of musicianship in Irish music, be sure not to miss these two play jigs, reels and arrangements you can’t help but sing along and clap your hands to. Foot stomping essential.
James Lavelle presents UNKLE Sounds – 27 July, Roisin Dubh
The English electronic musician and record label owner has created a varying catalogue of work under the banner of UNKLE, collaborating with artists such as Massive Attack, Thom Yorke and Queens of the Stone Age. Pop down to the Roisin for a night of dancing and musical fusion in the presence of perhaps the most groundbreaking electronic act on the festival’s line up.
Galway International Arts Festival runs from 17-30 July. For the full programme and information on tickets, see the GIAF website.