Whileaways 3

Best’s heading west to Galway

Lisa Hannigan will be a hugely popular attraction in Galway.


By Colleen Taylor

Summer in Ireland means festival season, but in my book, nothing will surpass the Galway Arts Festival, running from July 17-30. Many of our readers here at the Echo make summer trips across the pond, so I couldn’t risk someone being in the Galway area and missing the incredible music acts the Festival has lined up this year, including many I’ve praised in the column before.

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The Galway Arts Festival, which is celebrating its 40th year, is not just Ireland’s leading arts fest, it’s arguably all of Europe’s as well – and indeed the city will be officially European Capital of Culture in 2020. In July, Galway becomes a mecca for the greatest creative minds of our time: artists, actors, writers, dancers, and of course, musicians. In terms of the music, the songsmiths traveling to Galway to perform this year represent some of the leading musicians in their respective genres’ fields. Here’s a small sampling of some of the people playing Galway next month.

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The Coronas will show off their special talent for harmony in Galway.
DARA MUNNIS[/caption]

First up is none other than Brian Wilson, of Beach Boys fame, presenting “Pet Sounds,” one of the most ingenious albums every made. “Pet Sounds” producer, arranger and writer of most songs Wilson will be there as part the album’s 50th anniversary and final international tour. The thrill of hearing the very American sounding “Pet Sounds” in sunny, seaside Galway will be an unparalleled and literally unrepeatable experience.

In terms of homegrown superstars, two of Ireland’s best modern songwriters will join forces to headline the festival: Gavin James and Craig Gallagher. Winner of the Choice Music Prize in 2016, and original writer of his hit album, “Bitter Pill,” James has been named a Spotify superstar. But more importantly for the sake of the Festival, he is renowned as a live performer. This is why he has been such a success in his international tours, filling venues like the 3 Arena, in Canada, Norway, England, New York’s Highline, and now Galway. James’s friend and co-star, Craig Gallagher, is on the rise in his own right with the release of his stunning EP, “Home.” Gallagher’s songwriting and style is more subdued and acoustic than James’s, which will make hearing them together onstage a dynamic experience.

Brian Wilson is bringing the “Pet Sounds”

tour west of the Shannon.

Other big names in the current Irish music scene are heading west as well, including the Coronas and Lisa Hannigan. The Coronas are a vibrant modern-day indie-rock band who also have a special skill, like their fellow headliner Brian Wilson, for harmony. The band always know how to rock the crowd, and their most recent and most sophisticated album, “The Long Way,” displays the range the band has, from peppy rock to soft ballad. Finally, Lisa Hannigan is going to Galway too. Hannigan, who I’ve dubbed the Joni Mitchell of 21st century Ireland, represents a recent popular craze among Irish music fans. But for me, Hannigan’s hallmark is that she simply writes great songs, without trying to overdo it, as some indie artists are prone to do. Hannigan recently released her third album, “At Swim,” her first in five years, and it’s a great creative achievement for the singer. She will fill the famous venue Roisin Dubh with her exquisite, ethereal voice.

While all these Dublin-based stars are heading to Galway to rock the West, the best of the West will be joining up in their capital as well. As always, Galway will deliver on the top traditional music in Ireland, from Altan to Beoga, neither of whom need any introduction. One of the trad highlights of the festival, aside from the Altan, Beoga, and Stockton’s Wing gigs, will be the collaboration of Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine, two traditional music legends who will join forces exclusively for the Festival. On top of all this, various venues across the city will host regular, free Traditional Music Showcases throughout the entirety of the festival’s duration. It is Galway, after all.

Renowned live performer Gavin James will join

forces with friend and collaborator Craig Gallagher.

Finally, I’d like to highlight some of my personal favorite bands who will be playing in Galway. They might not be as big as Brian Wilson or Gavin James, but they’re just as deserving of a packed audience. Aine Cahill is Cavan’s rising Adele. The young singer belts to heights well beyond her age—a true vocal talent. This young lady is still on the rise of her career, but to see a burgeoning star is something special, and you won’t want to miss her. Finally, one of my very favorite Irish bands, Americana group the Whileaways will be playing at one of my very favorite Galway pubs, Monroe’s, with the Saltwater Ensemble. Noelie McDonnell, Nicola Joyce and Noriana Kennedy are a superhero trio of harmony, riffs, and reels. Because biggest isn’t always best, I predict that the Whileaways at Monroe’s might be one of the best gigs the Festival has to offer.

Finally, the GIAF is offering equally enriching experiences in terms of theatre, art, and lectures. Some of Ireland’s best dramas will be staged, from Enda Walsh’s “Bathroom,” to a modern day adaptation of “Tristan and Yseult,” to Eilis Ni Dhuibhne’s “The Fairy Fort is On Fire,” performed in Irish with English subtitles. There are also special talks and art exhibitions too numerous to list—although one does deserves special mention for an Irish-American readership. Novelist Colm Toibin and RTE’s Washington Correspondent Caitriona Perry will discuss the issue of power in light of the past year’s political events.

The Whileaways will undoubtedly play some tracks from

“Saltwater Kisses” during their star turn at Monroe’s.

It’s overwhelming to consider all the international musicians, artists, intellectuals, and lovers of the arts that will be gathering in what is, relatively speaking, a small town. With this lineup, Galway earns its reputation as a hub of the arts, and the place to be for creativity. See all that’s on at: www.giaf.ie.

Colleen Taylor writes the Music Notes column each week in the Irish Echo.