Fine folk and top-class bluegrass

Living

Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival to set the town alight this weekend

Ciara Moynihan

Arguably the best little festival in the west of Ireland, the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival takes place this weekend, from June 10 to 12. Back from the virtual world and chomping at the bit to entertain live audiences once again, the festival see the town once again flooded the with banjos, fiddles, mandolins and more, as multiple venues fling open the door for the finest folk and buckets of top-class bluegrass.
Ten different venues will host over 25 official concerts – while spontaneous sessions will spring wherever there’s a seat free and an appreciative ear. Sixteen different acts from five different US states (California, Colorado, Kentucky, Chicago and Oregon), as well as from Germany (Munich and Berlin), the Czech Republic, the UK and all over Ireland, will converge on the town, each with their own brand of musical prowess, from traditional to contemporary.
Each day, performances will start at 12.30pm with pub gigs and sessions, while on the Friday and Saturday nights, the festival will host two gala concerts in Westport Town Hall Theatre.
The Friday night concert will celebrate American Old-Time music with The Horsenecks and SLO County Stumblers (US).
The Horsenecks from Portland, Oregon, have wowed the Westport crowd a number of times in different band variations over the years. Their hard-hitting and heartfelt Old-Time, classic bluegrass and original roots music is centred around the pairing of the signature rhythmic Appalachian fiddle style of Gabrielle Macrea and the driving, yet subtle, banjo playing of Barry Southern.
California-based SLO County Stumblers’ play hard-driving Old-Time fiddle tunes and spirited songs, heavily influenced by the golden-era string bands of the 1920s and ’30s. Expect humorous stories and banter throughout.
The Saturday night concert will be all about bluegrass with Stillhouse Junkies (US), Johnny & The Yooahoos (Germany) and Henhouse Prowlers (US).
Colorado’s Stillhouse Junkies play a delirious, head-spinning mixture of original roots, blues, funk, swing, and bluegrass music, while  Johnny & The Yooahoos’s sound is ‘a mixture between indie folk, Americana pop & retro-bluegrass’. The Chicago-based Henhouse Prowlers, meanwhile, bend and twist traditional bluegrass music into a sound all their own while respecting the roots.
Sunday night, which has become affectionately known as ‘The Folky Thing’, will see Irish traditional music star Seamie O’Dowd and local folk hero Tony Reidy take to the stage in the Clew Bay Hotel and wind down the weekend. The Sligo man and the Westport man have worked on number of projects together and are planning a special night of folk music presenting both of their unique talent.
On Saturday afternoon, as well as the many gigs taking place around the town, there will also be a mandolin workshop, hosted by Dan Beimborn, in association with the world-renowned Mandolin Cafe. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dan has been a frequent fixture in American folk and Irish music communities since the late 1980s. Mandolin players may recognize him as the creator and founder of The Mandolin Archive, a digital archive of thousands of vintage Gibson Mandolins that inspires luthiers and collectors all over the world.
The festival has also commissioned a special and unique performance called ‘Footwork & Fiddles’, which will explore the similarities and differences between Irish and Appalachian music and dance, and will feature Carla Gover from Kentucky and Bernadette Nic Gabhann from Co Meath.
This year will also see the return of the record fair, the Luthiers’ Showcase, the square dance, the Gospel Hour in beautiful Holy Trinity Church and the much-loved ‘mystery gig’ at Matt Molloy’s Yard Bar, which will see three acts play an acoustic set at the fabled venue.
Speaking ahead of the weekend, festival producer Uri Kohen said: “We are so excited to be able to host a live and in-person festival once again. We kept the flag flying over the past two years with our online editions, but nothing beats being in a venue and feeling the energy of the musicians and the punters. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to Westport and we’re confident that this year’s festival will be one of our best yet!”

For details more on all the acts, the festival programme and tickets, visit www.westportfolkbluegrass.com.