Has it really been 17 years since Other Voices first started its mission to take a stance on giving those on the periphery a piece of the action? Indeed, it is, and that provides (we’re shrewdly guessing) a number of the younger acts performing in Dingle across the weekend no small amount of serious thought. Some of them (and yes, we’re looking at you, PowPig) were barely out of Pampers when Other Voices first pitched its tent in the centre of Dingle. Many other acts and musicians were probably still in primary or secondary school. The former, it is fair to say, knew little of the transformative power of music. The latter crowd quite likely had some idea of what music could do – how it could change you as a person, how it could shape your thoughts about certain things, how it could make you feel.
It isn’t too much of a stretch of the imagination that to say that these musicians grew up with Other Voices; it was part of their cultural landscape in the same way that the Internet has been part of their lives since they were born or from a very young age. For them, there was no ‘before’ Other Voices – it has always been there. This was referenced in a recent article in the Irish Times’ Ticket magazine, when Other Voices Music Producer, Aoife Woodlock, told Una Mullally that young musicians are “citing Other Voices as an influence on them when they’re 13, 14, and they’re on the show in their 20s. It’s a nice nod, that you’re doing something right.”
Things change as years pass, however, and Other Voices is no different to the many other events that have gone through transformations of varying kinds. And yet, despite (or because of) such alterations, Other Voices has kept itself on its toes. Only the die-hards remember its early years, when it was virtually a secret, known only to those working in the media and the music industry. It had, as Una Mullally pointed out in her Irish Times article, “the curious intimacy of a festival that wasn’t a festival.”
Over the past five years, however, the notion that Other Voices is a secret shared only amongst clued-in media and music industry people is now nonsense. The extension of music acts performing only in the calm surroundings of St. James Church proved to be the first game-changer. For starters, the arrival of the IMRO Other Room provided a crucial impetus for more bands and musicians to head down to Dingle to tender their wares. After this, the gates were opened a bit more with the emergence of the Music Trail, the first year of which had just over a couple of handfuls of emerging music acts playing across the weekend. Now, the Music Trail is (controversial view alert) arguably more of a music fan magnet than the gigs in St James Church. If it isn’t (controversial view balanced with measured comment), then it is certainly a considerable contributing factor to the reason why more and more people have been travelling to Dingle each year.
But sure, lookit – here we are! Another year, another reason to have a blast of a weekend, catch up with your mates, have a meander around the town’s pubs and bump into people you haven’t seen in ages.
Today (Saturday) is when IMRO plays its part, of course. As you know by now, IMRO has been a supporter of Other Voices for many years, with IMRO’s Other Room an integral part of Other Voices that recognizes the talents of emerging Irish musicians and songwriters. In a second blog post, which will be online via the IMRO website from tomorrow, I’ll be reviewing all of the IMRO Other Room acts that are performing at An Chonair Bar from 1pm: I Have A Tribe, Mango & Mathman, Kitt Phillippa, Columbia Mills, and PowPig (who were definitely in playschool when Other Voices started!)