Pilot Festival at The Royal Hospital, Dublin 3rd July 2021

It’s 2.30pm. Wyvern Lingo hit the stage in precisely one hour, and excitement is brewing at Collins Barracks as scores of people await the results of their antigen tests. For many, it’s the first live music they have seen in over 16 months, and nothing could take away from this important milestone.

A pilot event is unlikely to finish up without a few clangers to its name. In this case, opening the bar two hours after the event began and the complete absence of a single vegetarian option from any food vendor appear to be our main culprits. Everyone is doing their best, but please don’t forget to feed the vegetarians.

The pods themselves are reminiscent of pig pens, but the crowd are unphased. Instead, each pod is like a breakaway session at a house party. The etiquette at the urinals remains the same; everyone trying desperately not to make eye contact, except now there are masks.

Wyvern Lingo – Pilot Festival Kilmainham – 03 Jul 2021 – ©Glen Bollard

Wyvern Lingo take to the stage and rejoice in their first gig to people other than camera crews (sorry, camera crews). Wyvern Lingo opened with Sydney, and at that very moment, the hellish dystopia of a gig-less society crumbled away. Their set was comprised primarily of songs from their sophomore album ‘Awake You Lie’listed earlier this week in the Irish Times top 10 albums of the year. Denise Chaila joined the Lingos for a song in the middle of their set, which they followed with Don’t Say it and later a fantastic performance of Aurora.

The 2 Johnnies are MC’ing the event and conducting interviews with each act before their performance. Sharon Shannon is up next, and she plays a genre-bending set, fusing elements of traditional Irish music with surf-rock guitars and classic blues numbers. There is an obligatory performance of Galway Girl, and as she ramps up the tempo throughout the final chorus, the crowd are primed for the rest of the evening.

Denise Chaila – Pilot Festival Kilmainham – 03 Jul 2021 – ©Glen Bollard

Denise Chaila hits the stage with a 10 piece entourage of performers, including Wyvern Lingo. The event has not yet reached full capacity, and there are still some empty pods, but it’s still the biggest gig Chaila has ever played, having garnered most of her fanbase throughout the lockdown.

“What’s Irish rap, It’s something you can’t predict,” they chant on stage. Jafaris joins Chaila to perform her single, Anseo, this and her latest single 061 go down very well with the crowd, and they finish their set with Chaila to rapturous applause.

Freed From Desire plays over the PA, and the entire crowd break into dance and sing along; nature is healing. Wild Youth is up next, and David Whelan, dressed like a member of Wham, delivers some impressive falsetto vocals throughout their set. Can’t move on, is a big hit with the crowd. During this set, the event reaches full capacity, with the exception of pod G77, who never arrive.

From West Cork, Lyra takes the stage and delivers a powerful set in her unique style, which nestles somewhere between Florence Welch and Kate Bush. Falling was a standout song in this set, and Lyra’s eccentric dress and floral arrangements added an element of theatre to her performance.

Gavin James tops the bill and delivers a solo acoustic performance before bringing on his band. His vocal dexterity is second to none, and it’s clear that this is his crowd. The bar has been open for a few hours, people are having a good time, and all of the strangeness surrounding the day has fallen away.

Gavin James’ set finishes with a firework display, a mark of celebration for all that everyone has endured and all they have left to enjoy. Is this the epoch of a new type of gig that’s here to stay? Probably not, but it’s a start.