Music Minds a three day multi-genre festival returned to Hotel Doolin, Co. Clare last weekend for it’s second year. The festival programme included workshops, debates, films, and guest speakers for those interested in developing themselves in the Irish music industry. There was also an eclectic line-up of live performances including Saturday night’s headline showcase in the wonderfully appointed Barn venue.


Opening the night’s entertainment is Susan O’Neill (SON) who most might know from her many impressive performances with King Kong Company. Here it’s just her on her own, alternating between her guitar and trumpet. Despite her protestations to the contrary her excellent use of her loop pedal proves for a mesmerising cacophony of sound which provides the perfect backdrop to her voice of soulful beauty.

Her set is one continuous highlight with Do You Care At All ? setting the a high standard early on, which is followed by the gorgeous yearning love song You Are, along with an ethereal but brooding melancholic lament about healers being killed because of their herbal knowledge. O’Neill is later joined on stage by her brother hip-hop artist Eoin for two tracks including the excellent When the Light Shines On before the finale of her set Do You Realise? a bursting protest song packed with emotion which she channels through her voice and her trumpet, never has that instrument provided such feeling and anger all at once as O’Neill rages about the needless ravaging of the planet.


Ships, winners of the Choice Music Prize 2018 for their album ‘Precussion’ are next up delivering a set full of filthy synth goodness. They start with Nothing But the understated final track from that album before they really get things kicking with Where We Are and Around This World. Their set finishes up appropriately enough with Round & Round which asks the question when is it all gonna stop?


Bringing some class beats to Hotel Doolin is Bantum who’s big energy mixes get the sizeable crowd moving right from the onset with his opening track Move. The festival’s theme of collaboration and innovation is showcased perfectly in the middle of his set when Susan O’Neill joins him on stage and it’s joyous to witness the wondrous interplay between both artists as they deliver a gloriously improvised version of Dice from Bantum’s debut album ‘Legion’. His performance is backed by stunning visuals and is a sublime success, with a delicious version of Already There setting the scene nicely for the final act of the night.


That act is Daithí who is accompanied by drummer Alex Ridley and they kick straight into Take the Wheel from his majestic album from last year, ‘L.O.S.S’ whilst Mary Keane’s Introduction is a total crowd pleaser, working the assembled revellers into a joyous mass. It’s then the turn of Galway multi-instrumentalist composer Anna Mullarkey (easily the best dressed person in the place with her very stylish & colourful jumpsuit) to join the fray and her playful and intricate work on the keys is a sight to behold, with both musicians bouncing off each other to superb effect.

It’s a wonderful buoyant set and the perfect way to finish off a night that certainly illuminates the soul, on a cold Saturday in January on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: Martin Byrne