When you think about the capital of 'live' music in Ireland, your thoughts might turn to Dublin or perhaps even Belfast. But take a trip to Derry and you will be surprised by the talent you find there.
Derry or ‘stroke’ city as it’s often referred to, is no stranger to musical success stories. You only have to look at the some of the names that have come out of Derry to take their place on the wider international stage: Phil Coulter, Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud, Peter Cunnah the singer with D:ream, Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy fame and the Undertones to name just a few.
So it should come as no surprise that Derry, which celebrates 2013 as the UK City of Culture, has also just been chosen to host the All-Ireland Fleadh the same year. After all few cities in Ireland can claim to host a jazz festival every year consisting of hundreds of bands in tens of venues across the city. But then Derry has always been a hotbed of exceptional musical talent.
The influence of music is evident everywhere you go. At night, the bars, clubs and venues are full of bands playing rock, blues, jazz, indie and traditional Irish music. Indeed, Derry is home to one of the best venues in Ireland called the Nerve Centre, which has hosted big name acts such as The Coronas, Ash, Bell X1 and Snow Patrol. No mean feat for a city with a population of less than 100,000. It would be fair to say that the Nerve Centre came about very much as a result of the city’s musical heritage. Incorporating rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, a live venue, renowned for its excellent sound and facilities, and a meeting place in the form of Café Nervosa, the Nerve Centre is very much a priming ground for the town’s musical talent.
That’s not to say there’s any shortage of other venues. Masons consists of two separate venues hosting a wide variety of homegrown acts, from tribute acts such as the Jeannette Hutton band to up-and-coming Irish bands and local heroes. Resident cover bands take the stage in the nearby Gweedore every weekend and, right next door, there’s Peadars, the scene of many an impromptu trad session. In fact, there are so many venues, that the town can easily accommodate the 100s of jazz and big bands that descend on the city for the jazz and big band festival each spring.
Such is the surfeit of musical talent that the town even has its very own record label. Smalltown America boasts the likes of Lafaro, Fighting With Wire, and Our Krypton Son on its roster. Of course, it’s not just original acts that make for a great night out and Derry has always enjoyed a reputation for tribute bands that are the best in the game. Hardly, surprising, the town is also home to one of Ireland’s most sought-after wedding bands The Hitmen. Clearly, Derry’s a good place to look if you’re looking to book a wedding band or other live band for a special occasion.
Whether a long history of high unemployment meant people had little else to do but play music or there really is something in the Derry air that brings out the musical talent in people, who knows? But if you love live music and a good night out, then Derry is certainly worth a visit.
by Liam Carey @Bandpages