Review: Liss Ard 2012

Joan As Police Woman at Liss Ard 2012
My friend - a hot date lined up prior to the weekend - leaves me in a field, all on my lonesome. Walking in the woods at midnight, I bump into a beautiful rock star on whom I have had a teenage crush since falling for her alluring New York charms over the phone the week previously. This is not a syrupy scene from a Truman Capote screenplay, it is in fact a review of Liss Ard 2012...

Due to some navigational negligence on my part, myself and the soon-departing stud arrive in Skibbereen in time to catch former Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould rocking out the hits from Sugar's now-twenty-year-old Copper Blue, the recital of the seminal punk-rock record delighting the nineties kids in attendance at the main stage. The atmosphere at the west Cork jamboree is already starting to cook, akin to the sun which has just made a rather impressive fashionably late entrance. For me, security have always led the line in setting the tone of a festival's temperament and by this stage we have already been escorted to the family camping area by an extremely agreeable hi-vis jacketed fellow where we find a similarly illuminously-suited chap enthusiastically helping a mother and son erect their temporary weekend home.

A slightly larger tent is currently housing Lisa Hannigan, the Meath-born maiden serenading little Saoirse and Sean with the calming melodies and tongue-in-cheeky lyrics of 'Safe Travels (Don't Die)', an ode to safety whilst within the cosy confines of the acoustic/literary stage eighties hit-maker Colin Vearncombe aka Black is still maintaining it is a 'Wonderful Life'.

A quick pitstop at Lebanese Kitchens for a tastier-than-thou falafel fuels my safe travels back to the main stage for Chromatics, the Portland Oregon synth-rockers - led by casually chic clad vocalist Ruth Radelet - completing an illuminating set with scintillating covers of Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill' and Neil Young's 'Hey Hey My My'.

Nile Rodgers of Chic
Speak of the devil and he shall a blindingly white dapper suit. Nile Rodgers wrote the book on cool before most of us had even learned to moonwalk; During this time he was also writing and/or producing some of the greatest pop songs ever recorded. And all are delivered with pristine precision on Saturday night. Pop perfect Chic hits ('Everybody Dance' and 'Le Freak'), extracts from Diana Ross' disco years and Bowie belters leave us no time to breathe, only time to dance our little wellies off with legendary bass player Jerry Barnes (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan) seemingly requiring force to leave the stage such is his enjoyment of the night's proceedings, thus ending their current European tour. In the gap between  Chromatics ' electro-cool indie and  Chic 's super suave pop I manage to swoon over a gorgeous version of Ryan Adams' 'Oh My Sweet Carolina'. Not one I am particularly happy to hear covered due to the song being so sacred to me but LOWmountain pull it off magnificently, Deirdre Archbold most ably filling in for the absent Emmylou.

Rounding off day one, Nicholas Jaar politely supplies some ambient tunes for those of us who have occupied the mound near the kids Tír na nÓg play area. Eager to remain festival-active yet acquiescent to the fact that there would be no more jiving on this night. Reluctantly, to bed and sleep we drift.

Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh
Awaking to a child's ball smashing into my tent at 7am, my disgruntlement is short-lived; The sun enjoyed day one as much as I and pitched its own camp high above Liss Ard Estate, probably the VIP area. Liss Ard day two had begun. The calming surrounds of the acoustic stage welcome Ireland's most likeable - and possibly most talented - musician in the humble form of trad god Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh whose onstage banter includes wonderful tales of ancient Ireland and nautical cannibalism. Playing a ten-string fiddle, the Dubliner served up the perfect Sunday eye-opener, possibly even on a par with the incredible cup of tea handed to me by Badger & Dodo Boutique Coffee Roasters. I am sure their coffee is quite good too.

West Cork Ukulele Orchestra
After a few moments enviously eyeing the lucky so and so's swinging nonchalantly in the eye-catching Ticket to the Moon hammocks I receive a lesson in how to make cheese if lost in a desert. Impressed by the lovely lady's cuisine abilities - if not smitten with her grasp of arid wasteland priorities, I continue on my musical quest finding nine bearers of puny four-stringed guitars. West Cork Ukulele Orchestra's setlist of perennial classics (which includes a take on Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer') is, quite simply, afternoon mainstage festival gold and the good vibes are once again out in abundance on the scenic estate of Liss Ard.

Joan As Police Woman
A delayed Paul Buchanan moves Joan As Police Woman's solo set back an hour. Unfazed, the New York chanteuse effortlessly glides between piano and electric guitar, treating all in attendance to an intimate-yet-powerful performance of beautifully constructed compositions such as 'The Ride' and 'Eternal Flame' (both of which appear on 2006's Real Life) interwoven with a couple of newly-penned diamonds in the making. Doing our part as eager onlookers, we inform Joan that she is safe from bears here in Skibbereen, but to watch out for badgers. Some confusion concerning the biology of beavers and the aforementioned black-and-white critters ensues...

A relaxed set from legendary folk-hippy Roy Harper (complete with a gripping rendition of the Led-Zeppelin-inspiring 'Highway Blues') is followed by a tent-filling appearance by Cork's very own chart-conquering kahuna, Mick Flannery. The Blarney-born balladeer may be renowned for his tender ballads, but his loyal band contain a punch that deserves more credit with Hugh Dillon's electric guitar simply soaring on heavier number, 'Wait Here'.

Mick Flannery
Before reggae rebel Toots and his magnificent Maytals rock the main stage, a couple of unforgettable moments are indelibly inscribed into my memories, both taking place in the more homely surrounds of the acoustic/literary stage. First, Julie Feeney's 'Impossibly Beautiful' sung whilst surrounded onstage by a group of the cutest kids imaginable (her cousins I believe) before  Paul Buchanan , finally arriving on-site following aeroplane ailments, humbly throws his hat in for gig-of-the-weekend interspersing Blue Nile gems ('A Walk Across the Rooftops' - wow) with more recent jewels from his recently released solo record, Mid Air. Pure magic.

It is at the end of the Glaswegian's hypnotic late showing that I wander off, bumping into the newly-crowned queen of my heart: Joan "As Police Woman" Wasser. It seems the New York temptress is as taken with the surroundings as I am with her. "It's really special. I have never been anywhere like this..." Me neither Joan but I will most certainly be back next year.

To read interviews with Liss Ard artists click below:

See the excellent highlights reel compiled by Darragh Byrne Videographer below.

- For further details on Liss Ard visit