Right Here, Right Now Festival: “There’s a Lot to Be Proud Of!”

A celebration of the current Cork scene that sees a variety of acts across the genre spectrum take centre-stage on the largest stage the city has to offer. That’s the underlying philosophy behind Right Here, Right Now, a festival co-presented by the team at Douglas Street venue Coughlan’s Live and Cork Opera House. It’s been a labour of love for both parties, as Coughlans’ Brian Hassett explains. “As Coughlan’s Live Promotions, we have been involved in putting on a number of shows already in Cork Opera House over the last few years, and through that we’ve gotten to know the team there. I think we had all been expressing recently about just how much great music was being created and released throughout Cork, and that planted a seed of thought with Eileen, the CEO of Cork Opera House. She asked us to call in for a meeting as she was keen to have an event that we could work on together to celebrate this current scene. Right Here Right Now was born from that, a weekend to focus a spotlight on these songwriters and bands that are currently releasing all these great albums. In Coughlans we work regularly in a very grass roots level with many of these groups and it’s amazing to have Cork Opera House, which is such an iconic venue, wanting to be so actively involved and working to develop that scene within the city.”

The collaborative process behind the festival has seen the operating power of the Opera House line up with the ground-floor knowledge of the Coughlan’s team to provide opportunities for local artists to be part of something truly special. “Well, I would say we have really been working as a team on it, and that everything along the way has been through discussion from both sides. It’s something that we have all really come together on through a shared passion. The main theme of the festival is bringing together lots of groups all under the one roof that have great songs, great songwriters and great performers. So with curating it, we all talked about the tremendous amount of bands throughout Cork that are active right now, putting out new music and touring before we quickly realised that there was likely enough there to fill numerous weekends, really. A major benefit to the festival was funding secured from The Arts Council through Cork Opera House to enable what is going to be the big centre piece of the weekend, Jack O’ Rourke & Band, Strung and Anna Mitchell all teaming up with The Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra for a show in the main auditorium. For both the musicians as well as the audience this show is going to be a pretty thrilling experience and an amazing one off opportunity.”

Friday gets the festival off to a strong start with Interference returning to the Opera House after a sold-out show in January – what are Hassey’s thoughts on the band’s current incarnation? “We’re delighted to have Interference back to open the festival. Their previous show sold out so quickly and left a lot of people unable to get tickets. Fergus’ passing was a massive loss to so many people and it was really special to see the band together performing a stunning show to a packed out Cork Opera House. The band were joined by a whole hosts of guests including Glen Hansard, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Joe O’ Leary, Jerry Fish, Jack O’ Rourke, Mundy, and many others in a night that honoured Ferg and the great catalogue of Interference songs. It was an extremely memorable show and they’ve recently released a stunning album, ‘The Sweet Spot’ so I’m really looking forward to welcoming them back. There’s lots of special guests lined up once again (which is a closely guarded secret for now), but let’s just say you definitely won’t want to miss it!”

Saturday is headlined by Cork singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke with the COH Concert Orchestra, a spectacle in itself, as well as Anna Mitchell and Strung. The preparation for this centrepiece event has been thorough, with a pair of composers adding their work to expand each artist’s sound for the night. “We’ve been really lucky to team up with John O’ Brien who is writing the scores for Jack’s show and Cormac McCarthy who is writing for Anna Mitchell & Strung. John will then conduct and direct the Orchestra throughout the night. Both of them have been incredible with working alongside the artists, adding so much to the music. It’s a very rare opportunity for artists to get to reimagine their music and play with a cast of over 30 musicians so we’re all very excited for this.”

Sunday is the busiest day of the line-up by far, with Mick Flannery, The Shaker Hymn, Shookrah, Hank Wedel and more, a very varied line-out. Hassett takes us through the day and gives a little insight into juggling all the elements of the day. “Sunday sees six different shows in the one day, with twelve acts performing and for this we will be utilising two different spaces: The Right Room, which is on stage at Cork Opera House, and The Green Room which is in the backstage area. The shows will be staggered so that there’ll be very little overlap from one show to the next, with the live music going from one room to another throughout the day. Two of the shows I’m really looking forward to on the Sunday would be both of the late night shows; Marc O’ Reilly & band and John Blek & the Rats in The Right Room; and then also Shookrah in The Green Room, as these will be the final shows of the weekend, running until 2am, and it will feel pretty great to be able to settle back a little and enjoy them fully.”

We’ve seen the Green Room as of late in Cork Opera House events, but The Right Room is getting its debut with Right Here Right Now – what can we expect from this addition to the Opera House?

“As part of the festival, we wanted people to be able to have new and different experiences at Cork Opera House, and we hope that through the different setups and spaces there will be a different participation from the audience also. We’re taking over the backstage area for the weekend, transforming it and inviting everybody to come and share in it. So in The Right Room, the audience actually joins the bands on the stage, for the show. The whole thing happens ‘behind the curtain’, so to speak. For certain shows it will be nice and intimate with seating & tables, and for others it’s going to be much more of a party. Did I mention there’s also going to be a bar on the stage?”

The scene in Cork seems to be going from strength to strength with the development of fests like Quarter Block Party, Coughlan’s Live Music Fest, and now Right Here, Right Now. Hassett is full of enthusiasm for the development of the scene in recent years. It seems there has always been great music coming from Cork but definitely of late there has been a real abundance of wonderful albums. There are a lot of tirelessly working passionate musicians and in the last few years there has been a real growth in more of an industry and opportunities for them. There are festivals, venues. promoters, DJs, booking agents, studios, journalists, etc. all working together with musicians in sharing this wealth of great music. With the scene in Cork, right here, right now, there’s a lot to be proud of!”

The question at the end of all of this is simple – what about the festival going forward? What will the long-term hold? “Right Here Right Now ’17 is a three-day festival, but it could very easily be a week long with the amount of other groups we would have loved to include. We would love for this to become a yearly event in the calendar in Cork, an opportunity for people to come see some of the best music, both established and emerging.”

Right Here, Right Now happens throughout the weekend at Cork Opera House. Tickets are available at the box-office and at corkoperahouse.ie.

Coughlan’s: Going Live for Fourth Festival

September 21st-25th sees Coughlan’s on Douglas Street serve as the epicentre of Cork music during its flagship Coughlan’s Live Festival. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with venue coordinator Edel Curtin.

“Coughlan’s annual festival has become an important event on our calendar, as it marks the anniversary of the venue. It’s always a nice time to take stock of what has happened in the previous twelve months, and to celebrate all the great musicians we have had the honour of hosting. The festival is a chance for us to say “thank you” to the people that have supported us since the beginning, so we try to have as eclectic a mix as possible and keep some of the shows free. It’s nice for us too, to be able to remind ourselves that we have made it through another year, and hopefully done a good enough job in the process, especially with so many venues having to close their doors.”

Edel Curtin, booker for Coughlan’s on Douglas Street and its sister company Coughlan’s Live Promotions, is preparing for the venue’s annual centrepiece event, Coughlan’s Live Festival. “This year’s festival will be a cracker. We’re very excited about having Rusangano Family thanks to our friends in Southern Hospitality Board. John Blek and the Rats is always a fantastic show to go to in Coughlan’s, and our silent disco has proved hugely popular over the past few years. The Voice Squad promises to be a really special show too, and it’s their first time playing the venue. All in all it promises to be a great weekend!”

In its fifth year, also headlined by talent like Hermitage Green, and Lisa O’Neill, the festival marks the space’s fourth anniversary. Edel talks about the roots and beginnings of Coughlan’s as we know it. “For years, previous to Coughlan’s becoming a venue, I had it in my head that I’d like to be part of a small music venue. At the time I was still working as a musician, and Cork didn’t really have a small intimate space for musicians to play. There seemed to be a gaping hole where The Lobby used to be and it became an ambition of mine to try in some small way to fill that void. Myself and some friends started a casual session that took place every Monday night in Coughlan’s. It was good fun and started to draw a crowd. At the time the back room wasn’t really in use, and although it’s very small, it seemed like a nice space to try something. I organised a festival for that September and the rest is history, I suppose! People liked the venue, musicians liked playing it, and after that weekend I started getting enquiries from more musicians that wanted to play. I never thought it would turn into what it has, to be honest, and a huge part of that is down to the incredible support we received.”

The venue tapped into a rich, but underutilised, vein of acoustic-led genres and sub-genres, something that hadn’t really been pushed to a venue’s forefront in recent years in Cork City. What was behind the decision to lead with this genre, right as others were appealing to other, contemporary audiences? “I suppose the type of shows that were put on were largely dictated by the venue itself. I wasn’t sure what would work in the room volume-wise, but I knew there wouldn’t be a problem with the more acoustic shows. Over time we were able to experiment a bit more, and take a few chances. Personal taste also played a part, to a degree, but I think as the venue grows, we are broadening the types of shows that we put on. Rusangano Family at this year’s festival is a good example of that I think.”

Quickly beginning to outgrow the walls of the backroom of their headquarters, the Coughlan’s team began expanding into other venues in town, collaborating and co-promoting with Cyprus Avenue and The Oliver Plunkett to name a few. “Coughlan’s Live Promotions happened quite organically off the back of the venue. We were fortunate that some of the musicians who had previously played Coughlan’s and were now in need of a bigger venue wanted to keep working with us. Having come from playing music as a profession, there was already a good relationship with a lot of the venues in the city, and thankfully they were receptive to us putting on shows. It’s great to be able to use these
venues, and it’s exciting for us to be able to book acts that we might not necessarily be able to have in Coughlan’s.”

The hard work and entrepeneurial spirit of the Coughlan’s team has reaped rewards, with the Hot Press and IMRO Venue of the Year award in 2013 taking pride of place at the venue’s entrance. “Winning awards over the past few years has been genuinely very humbling. To know you have the support of so many people is a great feeling. This is not an easy job to do, there’s a huge amount of work that has to be done behind the scenes in order for the venue’s doors to stay open, and to see this recognised is hugely encouraging for us. People have really gotten behind us, and that is the biggest reason for us being able to continue doing what we do. We are blessed too that we have fantastic staff, there’s a really great team and I think people see that and want to support it. It’s a huge reason for people returning to the venue, they know they will be looked after, treated well and greeted by a familiar face. We don’t have the biggest stage or best lighting rig, but the place has atmosphere and character and I think that counts for a lot.”