The road to Dingle is long and winding. For many, it involved commutes of over 4 hours; through oft-forgotten towns and across breathtaking coastal roads. Arriving in the dead of night; the atmosphere was no less special and by the time you saw the streetlights of Dingle glisten ever closer, it somehow felt like you’d never been closer to home.

Running since 2001, Other Voices is a staple of the Irish music calendar; steeped in power and romance of music and the history that surrounds wherever our feet may take us. From the silence of 2020 came the bustle of last year’s rendition; where the C-word felt dangerously close to the fore. This year, however, that all disappeared and it was like we’d never missed a moment.

As always, the weekend kicked off with St. James’s Church, and this year the job fell on Inhaler to open up proceedings. “Thanks for letting us be here, it’s a big honour,” Elijah Hewson remarked in his few words between songs. Used To Be Like This is the stand-out moment, full of energy and roaring distortion it encapsulated the set of mostly new material; which acted as a reminder of why the band’s status has risen so much in the past 18 months or so.

Elsewhere on Friday, Khakikid started proceedings in Geaney’s Yard with a high-voltage, high-tempos set thrown to a whole new level with his covers of Since You Been Gone and Soulja Boy, Following him, Bricknasty continued their rise as one of the country’s most inspiring live acts (especially considering their lack of released music) with high technical ability and catchy songwriting.

The next day continued apace; with the opening church performance “Never has so much been lost by so many because of the indecision of so few” London rapper Loyle Carner said through tears, repeating the final refrain of ‘Blood On My Nikes’ for the 60 odd audience packed into the pews of St. James’s Church for Saturday’s first performance. “Sometime when you’re doing a big show you pretend to cry to make it seem like it’s a big deal” he laughs, composing himself, “but tonight, for real, I don’t know why it hit me like it did”.

It was impossible, whether from the crowd or the screens on which his set was streamed, not to be caught in the power and emotion of Carner’s set. Returning to Dingle for the first time since his show in 2014, when he was released his debut ‘Yesterday’s Gone’, his 30-minute set was comprised entirely of works from his latest effort. Regardless, his ability to capture and captivate all who dare listen is extraordinary. Accompanied by a four-piece band, he ran through tracks such as Ottolenghi, Plastic, and Speed of Plight. He closed his segment with a poem, a beautiful moment of reflection that perfectly encapsulated the themes and messages of his masterful set. 

If Carner brought the church to its feet, then Gilla Band were determind to tear it down. With lucky entrants all given much needed ear protection; the post-punk starlets tore through a roaring set featuring Almost Soon, Shoulderblades and Post Ryan. With booming drums and crunching guitars; they stood as the outlier at the church on a night with also featured Sorcha Richardson and the graceful Paolo Nutini (undoubtedly the hottest ticket of the weekend).

As the stream came to an end, the magic began outside in venues across the town. After a brief delay, Cruel Sister wowed in Geaney’s Yard. “We didn’t have a soundcheck, do with that information what you will” frontwoman Faith Nico laughed from the stage before jetting into a grunge-fuelled rendition of Solaris, Hands and my forever.

Earlier in the day, Uly impressed a packed-to-the-rafters Marina Inn with his unique high-tempo, jazz-infused pop, accompanied by his bandmates, all of whom were kitted out in black turtlenecks and shades. Redlight stood out as a highlight, as well as a wonderful rendition of Blink 182’s Miss You; which had everyone up on their feet. 

Another highlight of the weekend was Henry Earnest, who was enveloped by smoke the moment he came on stage. With droning synth, auto-tuned vocals and distorted guitar lines; he marked himself out as a performer of merit; even taking a moment to congratulate audience members on their recent engagements. Such was his level of comfort and ease onstage, he took a moment to turn off his autotune for two tracks; something as rare as it was beautiful.

There’s no doubt Other Voice’s stature and popularity has grown throughout the past 4 years. Unlike 2019, there were lines to secure a place inside every single venue; particularly long in the instance of Emma Langford’s Saturday Dingle Pub show, or any venue Junior Brother reared his head.

It’s brilliant to see homegrown artists rise to such levels, but also had punters needing to plan in advance where they wished to go rather than wondering upon hidden gems as was once the case. Regardless of lines, the weekend’s place in the higher echelons of Irish festivals is much deserved.

Spread out across the gorgeous coastal town; you never know who you may stumble into; or where the night may take you. It was lovely to see old acquaintances reconnected, years-long friendships re-engaged. Dingle, and the ecosystem of Other Voices, is a magical place; and long may the magic continue.