28 August 2015

The Bluegrass Ireland Blog: still alive

Although the editor retired from proactive bluegrass blogging on 15 February 2013, the Bluegrass Ireland Blog (BIB) is still alive, keeps its calendar (the most important part of the BIB) updated, and publishes news received. Send in news by e-mail; and please also e-mail it to Wendy Connolly for the 'Bluegrass in Ireland' Facebook page.

Thinking of touring in Ireland? Have a look at the BIB's THINKING OF TOURING IN IRELAND? page. The BIB's background and purpose are explained here, and tips on using it are here. To reach both, click on the 'Welcome' label below.

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27 August 2015

Niall Toner on the air, on stage, and on film

As mentioned yesterday in the BIB post on the coming Omagh bluegrass festival (4-6 Sept.), the artists playing at the festival will be featured on Niall Toner's Roots Freeway radio show on the national station this coming Saturday night (29 Aug.). More detail is on the Niall Toner Band Facebook. The NTB will be among the acts on the Omagh programme.

The BIB also mentioned (17 Aug.) that New Decade TV will very shortly begin filming on a documentary on Niall's life in bluegrass music. Yesterday the NTB Facebook announced that the first filming will be at the band's next show after the Omagh festival: on Saturday 12 Sept., at the Riverbank Arts Centre, Main St., Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Niall writes:

Be a part of the documentary on my life in music, as the camera team from New Decade Media TV will be on hand! Fame and fortune could be yours!

- and adds a link to the Centre's booking office.

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26 August 2015

Coming broadcasts about the 24th Omagh Festival

The Claire Lynch Band: (l-r) Bryan McDowell, Claire Lynch,
Mark Schatz, Jarrod Walker

Thanks to Richard Hurst, head of the organising team of the Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone (4-6 Sept.), for news of radio features on the Festival which will be on the air in the next seven days. Richard writes:

We hope to welcome and expose many thousands of people to artists such as Claire Lynch, Viper Central, Whiskey Deaf [John Kael and Annie Staninec] as well as the home-grown talent...

Listen out for interviews with Claire on RTÉ Radio 1 next Thursday morning (3 Sept.) and tune into Niall Toner this coming Saturday night (29 Aug.), when he will do a feature on the Festival acts.


The Claire Lynch Band will also be playing this coming Sunday at the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, in the festival's first ever ticketed concert. Claire's RTÉ Radio 1 interview next week will come the morning after the band's show at the DC Music Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 2.

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A week of music and learning in sunny Spain

Autumn, or possibly winter, seems to be already here in Ireland; so thanks to Kate Lissauer for this message about the next Old-Time American Music Week, which will begin a month from today in the idyllic surroundings of La Fuente de Musica, Andalusia, Spain:

Everyone who has been there says it’s their favourite holiday week, and if you love old-time country and bluegrass music it could be yours too. La Fuente music workshop week is coming up, 26 Sept. to 3 Oct., and there are still places available. You will learn fiddle, banjo, guitar, song, dance, and beginners’ instrumental from the finest teachers in the world. This time it’s Beverly Smith and John Grimm from Georgia, our very own Joff Lowson [see the BIB post of two days ago], Johnny Whelan, and Kate Lissauer.

This wonderful week takes place on a beautiful remote oasis in south-eastern Spain, where all of your needs are taken care of so you can play music, learn, explore, eat great food, swim, hike, visit the beach, or relax all day and night. It’s a non-profit project and so your costs are very low! Contact us through the website or via e-mail for information and enrolment.

The photo above was taken at a previous workshop week at La Fuente. Kate's Buffalo Gals are the UK's premier old-time string band, with their own 'Stampede' Appalachian dance team.

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25 August 2015

What made it so special

On 11 March the BIB drew attention to two anniversaries this year of significant events in the history of bluegrass music. One of them has now taken place: 14 August was the 55th anniversary of the first all-day show composed entirely of bluegrass acts. Still to come is the 50th anniversary - coinciding almost exactly with the Omagh festival weekend - of the first bluegrass event to be called a 'festival': the three-day 'First Annual Roanoke Blue Grass Festival' presented at Fincastle, VA, on the Labor Day weekend (Friday 3-Sunday 5 September) of 1965 by Carlton Haney, with Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, the Stanley Brothers, Don Reno, Red Smiley, Clyde Moody, Howdy Forrester, Earl Taylor, Bill Emerson, Mac Wiseman, Doc Watson, and more.

Some people, well qualified to judge, had thought beforehand that such an event could not be achieved; others, afterwards, thought it could never be repeated. But from that point the term 'bluegrass festival' became increasingly popular, and the number of such events rapidly grew to where the festival circuit became an important factor in musicians' careers. The festival had also reinforced the perception of Bill Monroe's central place in the music through Carlton Haney's 'Bluegrass story' part of the programme.

We're delighted, therefore, that the Prescription Bluegrass Blog has published news of a commemorative celebration including a compilation of memorabilia assembled by bluegrass historian and general Renaissance man Fred Bartenstein as well as other concerned citizens. A foretaste can be seen on this link to strongly evocative documents from Fred Robbins, who was there in 1965; they include video and audio recordings. We recommend the link to the 1973 Muleskinner News illustrated article by Mary Greenman Green, which shows how and why the Roanoke festival was recognised as a historic event just eight years later.

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Westport brings Demolition String Band to Ireland, 28 Aug.-6 Sept. 2015

Thanks to Uri Kohen, leader of the organising team for the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival at Westport, Co. Mayo, for this news:

Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival presents:
The 3rd Irish tour of US duo Demolition String Band

The band will play fourteen shows in Ireland, including two at Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival and six at Omagh. All the dates are on their website.

The band's last visit was very successful and included a performance at the Balla Bluegrass Festival.

Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2016, will be touring and promoting several international acts in the coming year.
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Dates are shown on the poster image above as well as on the band's website. They are:

Fri. 28th Aug.: Levi’s, Corner House, Main St., Ballydehob, Co. Cork, 9.00 p.m. [not Ballinacurra, Midleton, as previously shown on the BIB]

Sat. 29th: Blackrock 'Rockies' Hurling Club, Church Rd, Blackrock, Cork city, 9.00 p.m. (with Hank Wedel and company)

Sun. 30th: 21st Guinness International Bluegrass Festival, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, 4.00 p.m. at Azzurro, 10.00 p.m. at Spinnaker (DSB acoustic trio)

Mon. 31st: Charlie’s Bar, 2 Union Quay, Cork city, 9.00 p.m.; +353 21 496 5272 (Hank Wedel and friends, long-running Monday night session)

Tues. 1st Sept.: Matt Molloy’s, Bridge St., Westport, Co. Mayo, 7.00 p.m.

Wed. 2nd: McGing's, High St., Westport, Co. Mayo, 9.00 p.m.

Thurs. 3rd: Beehive Bar, Ardara, Co. Donegal, 8.00 p.m.

Fri. 4th-Sun. 6th: 24th Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival, Ulster American Folk Park, Mellon Rd, Castletown, Omagh, Co. Tyrone; Fri. 2.00, 6.00 p.m., Sat. 7.00 p.m., Sun. 2.30, 4.30 p.m. (DSB acoustic trio)

Demolition String Band: Boo Reiners, Elena Skye

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24 August 2015

Free online banjo lessons from Joff Lowson

The BIB mentioned Joff Lowson recently (15 August) as a member of the Buffalo Gals (UK) old-time band, and as one of the organisers of the old-time music workshop weeks in Spain. Thanks to Joff for the following news, received today:

I'm running a banjo instruction website offering two-and-a-half hours free video lessons. It's a great resource for complete beginners and I have many testimonies from people who've succeeded in learning to play from my materials. I was wondering if you would be interested in posting a link to my site?

Happy to oblige! NB: Joff's website holds much more than appears at first glance. It has an introduction to the 5-string banjo for absolute beginners, with demonstrations and further instruction on strumming, frailing, and finger-picking; separate sections teaching how to play 'Cripple Creek' and 'Duelling banjos' in detail (with practice audio tracks at different speeds); and over forty short videos showing how to play the melodies of easy, familiar songs. Split screens show left and right hands up close (as in the photo below). Audio examples include renditions of 'Cumberland Gap' and 'Little rabbit' (the latter with fiddle) that are well worth listening to. And both in the videos and in the accompanying text, there is a great deal of good advice.

Joff is an accredited Wernick Method teacher - the 'Dr Banjo' website features a Jamming Class he led at the Tamworth Bluegrass Festival in the UK back in June. Click the label 'Kernagis' at the bottom of this post to access what the BIB has published on the Wernick Method Jam Camp that Larry Kernagis will lead in Co. Cork in early November this year.

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23 August 2015

Wookalily on the Big Screen

Congratulations to Wookalily, whose song 'Ghost' won the Best Live Performance award in the 'Undiscovered' competition run by the #LovetoSING organisation in Northern Ireland last winter, and who could, as a result, be seen and heard on this big screen in central Belfast for three days this month. Read the whole story on the Voluntary Arts website.

From among dozens of entries three winners were chosen and had their videos featured on the Big Screen outside Belfast City Hall. All three videos can be seen through links on the Voluntary Arts feature, and in Wookalily's case also here on YouTube. Wookalily tell more about the award, the recording, and the video on their Facebook.

PS: Wookalily's album All the waiting while has been nominated for the Best Irish Album 2015 award on the Pure M online music, art, and culture magazine.

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22 August 2015

Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival, 25-7 Sept. 2015

The BIB is always glad to post news about the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival; this year's event will be five weeks from now, on the weekend 25-7 Sept. Yes, it's in south-west Scotland, but quite a number of bands from Ireland have been on the bill in the past. Congratulations to C. Paul 'Dobroman' Lyttle (who also presents the Criffel Creek radio show) for organising and growing the festival since 2009.

This year's lineup comprises Bluedust (Milan, Italy), the Corn Potato String Band (Detroit, MI, USA), the Dude Coopers (East Anglia, England), the Daddy Naggins (Glasgow, Scotland), Okenfenokee (Edinburgh, Scotland), Red Herring (the Netherlands), and North Atlantic Project (Scotland). Performance videos and internet links for bands are on the Festival website.

The Corn Potato String Band made a welcome tour here last year (including the 2014 Westport Folk & Bluegrass Festival) and will be back in these islands from early September, playing in Britain for a month and then coming over here for eight days that include the Bunratty Bluegrass Festival. Dates are on the BIB calendar and the band's online schedule.

Your editor saw and heard Bluedust at the European World of Bluegrass Festival (EWOB) in the Netherlands two years ago, and enjoyed them very much indeed. When it was first announced that they would head the bill at Moniaive, the BIB promised to post news of any other dates by them in these islands. Regrettably, it appears from their online schedule that their appearances at Moniaive are all they will be playing before going back home.

The band consists of Perry Meroni (guitar, lead vocals), Dino Barbè (banjo), Josh Villa (mandolin, vocals), Tony Spezzano (guitar, vocals), and Marco 'Fisherman' Centemeri (double bass, vocals), and they're a solid, driving band whose music comes from Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse, Jimmy Martin, and others of the founding generation of bluegrass. BIB readers who enjoy that vintage of bluegrass might consider a trip to hear them at Moniaive.

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21 August 2015

Late extra

The BIB just happened to see this on the Dublin Bluegrass Collective Facebook:

If you are in town tonight you can catch Aran Sheehan (DBC mandolin) and Hugh Taggart (WEA guitar) from 9.30 in Sin É, Dublin, to support the most excellent MuteFish and it's totally for free in a great bar...

'DBC'= Dublin Bluegrass Collective; 'WEA'=Well Enough Alone. MuteFish (also on Facebook) is a multi-cultural progressive techno folk band.

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20 August 2015

EWOB lives!

After the concern expressed in the BIB post of 17 May this year, it's good to be able to reproduce the following announcement on their Facebook by the organising team of the European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festival. As one leading member of the European bluegrass community has commented, this means that the twentieth EWOB will take place in 2017:

Dear Bluegrass lovers,

It gives us GREAT PLEASURE to announce that, despite the concerns we raised earlier this year, we will continue the EWOB tradition in 2016. The festival location ‘t Trefpunt will remain available until 2017 and our aim is to continue until then, while looking into other options for the future.

An important function of EWOB remains uniting and professionalising the European bluegrass scene by providing a unique platform and enabling a musical experience exchange. Our ‘drive’ to continue is mainly fed by this conviction and your warm reactions each year.

Several factors do force us to carefully consider our ability to organise the festival each year. We still need to enlarge our team to help ensure continuity. With the support of our dedicated national and international sponsors we still manage to ‘balance the books’, meaning that the festival is still able to sustain itself.

Earlier this year we announced that EWOB would reconsider its format. For 2016 some minor changes will be made. We have decided to reduce the number of performing bands from 42 to 33 without changing the festival duration. This means that the duration of the performance of each selected band will be increased to 40 minutes (incl. setup-time). Band applications can be submitted shortly. The procedure will be announced separately and the application form will shortly be available on our website. Also we are currently looking into ways of expanding the horizon for the ‘European Bluegrass Band of the Year Award’ and will keep you posted on any developments.

We hope that sufficient volunteers will once again make themselves available and help us realise a great bluegrass experience, May 5-6-7, 2016 in ‘t Trefpunt, Voorthuizen, The Netherlands!

Hope to see you in May!

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Ralph Peer and the making of popular roots music

Barry Mazor's Ralph Peer and the making of popular roots music was published by Chicago Review Press in November last year. Peer's influence from the 1920s onwards on country music - through recording, publishing, the opening up of markets, and the development of artists' repertoires - is incalculable, and Mazor shows how he had much wider effects on popular culture.

A full review appeared yesterday on Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, books, and brainstorms blog. Readers in Ireland may like to know that Ralph Peer's grandfather Benjamin came from Crookhaven, Co. Cork - though Benjamin's own father, Andrew, was from southern England, and Ralph's mother's parents also came from England.

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The Cabin Sessions - next on 27 Aug. 2015

A reminder from Gerry Fitzpatrick of the next show, a week today, in the Cabin Sessions series, 'Acoustic Music at its Finest', at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dundrum, south Dublin (not far from Dundrum Luas station in the city direction):

The next Cabin Sessions will be on Thursday 27 August - the full Cabin Crew with Spats Davenport, Con Butler, and Gerry Fitzpatrick, featuring Cathy McEvoy (fdl), Christian Volkmann (hca), Richard Hawkins (bjo), Dave Hardy (sax/clt). Special guests are Martha Keenan (contemporary) and the fabulous Lands End (bluegrass). 9.30-11.30 p.m., and admission is FREE. Hope to see you there!

This appearance by Lands End (below) is the first by a fully functioning (and acclaimed) bluegrass band at the Cabin Sessions, and not to be missed by BIB readers.

If you or someone you know would like to perform at the Cabin Sessions, let Gerry know by e-mail. The Sessions are particularly interested in featuring local musicians and singers.


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18 August 2015

What are Red Wine up to?

Quite a lot, as can be seen from their summer schedule; three weeks ago our friends from Genoa (or, as they will have it, 'Genova') played at the big La Roche Bluegrass Festival in France, and they have six dates in the present month.

Red Wine have played more than once in the past at the Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Unfortunately for us, that's not possible this year - they've also toured regularly in the USA since 1995, and when the 24th Omagh festival is on (4-6 Sept.) they'll be playing at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival in Woodstown, NJ, as part of a US tour lasting a further week. Read this preview on Ted Lehmann's 'Bluegrass, books, and brainstorms' blog.

A fine photo of them with the legendary Peter Rowan heads the new EBMA website. Mandolinist and lead singer Martino Coppo is on the EBMA board of directors, with special care for the awards system; and banjoist/luthier Silvio Ferretti remains (for the BIB editor's money) one of the best and funniest writers in English anywhere in the world on bluegrass music. Silvio's son Marco Ferretti, guitarist in RW, also plays banjo in 0039 - Bluegrass Made In Italy, where one of his bandmates is Luca Bartolini, the previous RW guitarist.

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'Hard Rock City' from Stefan Behler (correction)

Thanks to Stefan Behler in Switzerland for news of his new CD, Woanders & Elsewhere ('Woanders' is the German for 'Elsewhere'). Stefan was in Ireland in June, playing guitar and mandolin as a member of the trio Mala & Fyrmoon at the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival and other locations.

Stefan has just posted on Facebook and YouTube a preview of track no. 4 on his album, 'Hard Rock City', a song that came to him at the Hard Rock Café in Copenhagen, Denmark - though he stresses that Copenhagen is nothing like the hard city described in the song. He also calls the style 'grassy folk' rather than bluegrass; but it's not hard to imagine the song being played by - for instance - the Del McCoury Band.

The track features Stefan (lead vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass), Martin Burza (fiddle), Mark Lavengood (dobro), and Stefan's bandmates in Mala & Fyrmoon, Mala Gassmann and Vincent Zurkinden, on harmony vocals. The album, which was financed by a 'crowd funding' campaign, is due for release in November 2015. More details are on Stefan's Facebook.

Correction (18 Aug.): When this post first appeared yesterday, we mistakenly stated: 'Last month, back in Switzerland, he was playing in concert with Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley.' The concert will in fact take place on 1 November. Stefan writes: 'It's my CD release in the first part, and a concert by Dale Ann and Steve in the second part. Mala and Dale Ann will also sing a song together.' Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley are both featured in the current issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

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17 August 2015

Niall Toner's life in bluegrass - a New Decade TV documentary

Very shortly, filming will begin on a documentary on Niall Toner's life in bluegrass music, made by New Decade TV. Thanks to the Prescription Bluegrass Blog for the news.

According to the PBB report, filming of interviews and live performances will start in early September and continue through November 2015, with plenty of in-depth conversation about performance, touring, songwriting, and more.

The New Decade TV website also reported back in March that the feature film Keep it country is in development, featuring the hit song 'Past the point of rescue' and original music from Niall and Mick Hanley. The blurb gives the comedy's plot as: 'Country music artist Frank "The Yank" must choose between the bright lights of Nashville or [sic] the love of an Irish truck-driving woman!'

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15 August 2015

Old-time music under a Spanish sun, 26 Sept.-3 Oct. 2015

Thanks to Tracey Ashford for a reminder about the next Old-Time American Music Week in the idyllic surroundings of La Fuente de Musica, Andalusia, Spain, which was briefly mentioned on the BIB on 28 June.

The workshop week, which will be held from 26 September to 3 October 2015, is the next in a series of 'learning holidays', presented twice a year (spring and autumn) as a non-profit enterprise by Kate Lissauer, Joff Lowson, and Johnny Whelan of the Buffalo Gals old-time band based in the UK.*

A La Fuente workshop week always includes acclaimed old-time musicians from the USA as instructors, and this year the American tutors are Beverly Smith and John Grimm (left and right respectively in the photos below). Full details about them are on the web page. A week spent playing and learning old-time music in an Andalusian villa sounds a good idea at any time, and especially after a 'summer' like this one. Find out more here!

* Find out more about the Buffalo Gals from their website, from the band's promo video, a 2014 video of the band with their 'Stampede' dance team, and a photo album with audio of them doing 'Daddy's little Lulu' from their Won't get trouble in mind album. The Buffalo Gals have played in Ireland at Dunmore East and Sixmilebridge, and another visit by them is long overdue.

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14 August 2015

The EBMA sets out on a new course

A week ago the BIB checked the Facebook page of the European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA), and discovered its new logo. Moreover, the EBMA website has been completely redesigned and reorganised, indicating that a major programme of radical renewal in the EBMA is under way.

Back in March the BIB reported on the new EBMA board of directors, who had then announced an outline of plans for the EBMA's future progress. These plans have now been announced in detail, and appear in a report by Richard Thompson, published yesterday on Bluegrass Today. This includes an interview with the new chairman of the board, Eugene O'Brien, born in Dublin and resident in Brussels. Eugene belongs to the highly regarded Sons of Navarone band, who tour often in Britain, and is also the new international representative of the British Bluegrass Music Association, which fits in with the EBMA's plans for closer links with national bluegrass associations.

Four of the EBMA's board members: (l-r) Richard Cifersky, Susie Bowe, Stu Vincent, Eugene O'Brien

The EBMA's new programme includes youth scholarships, band support, developing the festival network, improved consultation with fans, a new annual gathering at Waldkraiburg, Germany, and other features.

This is an exciting development in European bluegrass, and the BIB recommends Richard Thompson's report - with which our only major quibble is its title, 'EBMA seeks new direction.' It looks to us as if the EBMA already knows its new direction and is stepping out on the route in no uncertain fashion.

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13 August 2015

JigJam joining the Dunmore East lineup


Thanks to Karen Cheevers of B2B Communications for the news that JigJam, who have been making their mark on music festivals throughout Ireland, the Continent, and the US, will make their debut at the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival in Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, when they take part in the 21st Festival in two weeks' time (27-30 Aug. 2015), playing the Strand Inn on Friday 28 August at 9.00 p.m. Karen's release states:

JigJam, based in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, consist of Jamie McKeogh (guitar, tenor banjo, lead vocals), Daithi Melia (5-string banjo, vocals), and Cathal Guinan (double bass, fiddle, vocals). As Karen's release states, they have 'developed a new, exciting, energy-fuelled live sound, blending the best of Irish folk music along with bluegrass and Americana while delving into new realms of acoustic music.'

Mick Daly, organiser of the Dunmore festival, adds that 'for such young men they have a wealth of festival experience and have played alongside big names such as We Banjo 3, the Riptide Movement, and the High Kings', and JigJam themselves are excited to be on the Dunmore East bill and playing alongside US acts that have influenced and shaped them. (In November they'll be taking a further step along this road when they share a concert with the phenomenal Kruger Brothers; see the BIB for 28 July.)

For ticket information and bookings for the Claire Lynch Band show at 2.00 p.m. on Sunday 30 Aug., e-mail or find out more on Facebook and Twitter.
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As can be seen from their Facebook, JigJam will be playing at Hugh Lynch's bar at Tullamore this evening (Thurs. 13 Aug.) from 8.00 p.m., supporting the Wolfe Tones as part of the Canal Quarter Festival.

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