I attend gigs regularly in Dublin and around the country. I love hearing the diverse range of artists in the industry now and seeing the various types of venues they perform in. And with the numerous music festivals that are now preparing for the summer months, they bring their own uniqueness and novelty, with impressive transformations to the facilities and locations they are in; each one as distinctive as the next. On my own doorstep, is a secluded, forested haven that encompasses these traits and much more.
Shawbrook Forest Dance Centre is one of the most idyllic, poetic and serene places that you could ever be in. It is unspoiled and its intimacy and charm is amplified by its own transformation, from large scale dairy farm to one of the most accomplished ballet performance companies over the last 35 years.
The vision and leadership of Anica Louw and her family speaks volumes and their creativity and innovation has to be commended. The centre comprises of a theatre, dance studios, an outdoor performance area, forest walks and Air B&B forest cabins.
For this event they knew how to utilise their space and their attention to detail was clever and impressive. A former shed turned seating area, in the style of a vintage boudoir was very well received. Also the local produce on offer from the hardworking barbecue chefs deserves a very worthy mention. Under the bright light of the full moon, surrounded by family, neighbours, friends, colleagues, present and past pupils, it became clear that the ‘Barn Dance Beech Party’ would not only be a celebration of music and fun, but also an appreciation of dance and of Anica too.
Performing on the night were Brazilian singer-songwriter and local resident Bianca Fachel, Blues-Rock outfit ‘St. Simeon & The Stylites’ and the Cajun-Folk-Americana infused ‘Prison Love’.
I’ve previously seen Bianca perform and it was a pleasure to see her again. She brings her natural gifts of South American Samba and Bossa Nova to her songs, giving the genres a more modern and contemporary feel. Her vibe is relaxed and meditative so this was the ideal place for her! Performing on both guitar and keyboard, her musicianship is a delight. She’s a very intuitive artist and offered up a token of thanks to Connemara, one of the first places she visited when she came to live here. Her aim is true and I appreciate her influences and style. It was a warm and inviting performance, she was the perfect start to the evening.
St. Simeon & The Stylites were up next to raise the tempo and take cool on an alternative direction. Led by Donegal native and now Cambridge based Roger O’Shea, they have been performing their Bluesy, Folk, Art affected Rock to the Irish music scene in the last few years. There were elements of Swing and Jazz in the mix too, but what I loved about their set was the ‘volume turned down’ instrumental interludes and spoken word intermissions during their songs. Much appreciated by the now dancing crowd on their feet at any given opportunity, their vocal and musical arrangements were on form as were they as a unit. They have a unique style, a fresh sound and are bringing something new to the table.
I’m completely in love with Prison Love. Maybe it was the energy of the full moon that brought this immensely powerful Cajun, Roots, Folk, Americana, Bluegrass fuelled release to the proceedings. Included in the line-up was Konrad Liddy on double bass from much loved Irish Americana group ‘I Draw Slow’.
It was very evident from early on that the dance floor was the only place to be for this set. From start to finish with hoedowns to waltzes and very respectable covers of ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’, this band are the most fun that I and everyone else there have had in ages!
I can’t stop talking about them and I would recommend them highly for any function or occasion known possible to man. Their solid and harmonious vocal arrangements and high speed musical compositions are polished and their timing is impeccable. Perfect barn dance material yes, but not just that. They delivered an unforgettable set and performance. A brilliantly executed foot stomping, adrenaline-pumped demonstration on how to be a headline act and bring the ‘Barn Dance Beech Party’ to an end for this year. Kudos and respect to Prison Love.