Sound and vision combine this weekend in a new festival-first for county Donegal in a celebration of “Psych” music and art in Letterkenny.
The first ever “Distorted Perspectives Music & Art Psych Festival” will take place in the Regional Cultural Centre, just off Letterkenny’s Port Road.
While the launch of the four-day event takes place this evening (Thursday), the art exhibition that accompanies the event will continue until May 24th.
Festival founder, Jeremy Howard, a well-known face on the local arts and music scene, said the main event takes place over the next four days and there is a stellar line up of left-field artists and musicians taking part in the region’s first celebration of the psychedelic art genre. Often termed Psych for short, it covers a range of popular original music styles and genres, which are inspired by or influenced by psychedelic culture.
Jeremy said his vision was to start small and offer an intimate, fun event with top-class music and art.
A true grass-roots event, it is being put together largely by a volunteer collective with a wide range of skills and interests to offer something unique on the local music landscape.
Jeremy explained how the event came to be.
“I’m running the event in conjunction with the Regional Cultural Centre and the Earagail Arts Festival. Myself and Paul Brown, the director of the Earagail Arts Festival, noticed there were a lot of these festivals popping up around the world, particularly in places like Liverpool, Austin, Paris - different locations - and it’s music we’re both very much into. So we thought the least likely place to have one of these is Donegal, but we also decided there was no reason for it not to be in Donegal, so we decided to set up one.”
The aim is to start on a small scale with the hope that if the event proves popular among the audience they may be able to grow it into an annual event.
“We have kept it pretty small for the first year, just to be more realistic. We have got four very good bands playing over two nights in the RCC, and then an opening night and a closing night, consisting of a lot of local bands and Irish bands who are just willing to help out for basically no money and just to be here and help out. They have been great. They ring up every couple of days asking can they do anything more. We’ve sent posters out to them in Belfast, Dublin and Cork and they have distributed them for us,” he said.
Among the main acts are two of Ireland’s top psych groups, including Wild Rocket and fresh from their European tour, The Altered Hours.
The much-heralded, Brooklyn-based Japanese punk trio, ZZZ’s, endorsed by music legend Thurston Moore as one of the most exciting acts of the last ten years, also play on Saturday night.
The organisers have even managed to secure the services of a bona fide music legend in the form of Damo Suzuki, formerly lead singer with German rock band ‘Can’. He will perform his unique improvisational style along with a host of local talent on Friday night at the RCC.
“Damo was in the biggest German band of the 60’s and 70’s called Can. He’s been so easy to contact and work with. He just wants a minimal fee and his bus ticket, or to be picked up, and another friend is doing that, again for free.”
He said the spirit of volunteerism among those helping organise the event is what drives it and has given the project a real grass-roots feel, born from the love of music and art.
“It has to be that because there is no money in running festivals. Unless they are absolutely huge successful events, you’ll never make a penny. So really you’re just trying to cover your costs. Wild Rocket are a Dublin-based band and have been with us from the beginning, trying to organise it to see if we could run something with them. The ZZZ’s are from Japan and they are just starting to make a noise and have been based in America this last year.”
On the art side of things he says given the host venues’ versatility, they have a number of exciting events planned.
“On the art side, because we are an art gallery as well as a venue, we also saw it as a great opportunity for us to have the two things together. The exhibition almost fell into place. We had been working with Ed Devane’s community project. He’s from Dublin but lives in Limerick and what he does is holds workshops with adults and kids on how to build musical instruments. We were building zitars and xylophones and he showed me a plan to build an instrument that 12 different people could play at once and they didn’t need any musical ability.”
This, he says, is like a 12-person, round table “jam“ that has the capability to sync up with another ten musical instruments in the room, where up to 22 people can play along together.
“So Ed’s project is going to be great. It really is a community project and we’re also going to have music therapists come in classes with disabled kids and adults from St Conal’s Garden Centre. This goes on for the whole month, until Ma 24th, and we’re actually looking to work with groups, so if anyone is interested get in touch. There is no point in putting this up on just one weekend -- we’re going to get good use out of it.”
Another exhibitor at the event will be local man, Alastair Hay, who has been making a name on the world stage for his amazing skills making the musical instruments he creates in St Johnston. “Alastair makes guitars out of carbon fibre for people like Steven Vai and Leehom, who is the biggest musician in China at the minute. He is going to be showing a lot of his different guitars as well and I think there is going to be a video of him interviewing Steve Vai and also playing one of his guitars.
“Cian McGannety, he’s a local fella as well who makes guitar pedals and instrument pedals. In fact a lot of the bands playing this weekend will be using his pedals,” he said.