The Ergodos Festival (strictly speaking, it was called Ergodos: Off Grid) seems to be a continuation of the old Printing House Festival that the Ergodos guys had previously curated. Sticking with past practice, they took a somewhat minimal approach to publicity. The only advertisement I saw for the event was in the Journal of Music (and on the Journal's website) – highly targeted marketing. But the ad worked for me. They were selling a pass to the whole nine days of the festival at the cost of four individual concerts, so I decided to go to everything, hoping that this festival would fill the gap left by the mysterious disappearance of the Living Music Festival. Did I make a terrible mistake? Read on and see.
Ó Raghallaigh turned out to be a bit of a roffler, with an easy-going charm that belied his status as a trad iconoclast. To be honest, his music did not seem that beyond the pale of normal Irish traditional music, but there could be subtle transgressions that someone more familiar with the form would be shocked by. He did use technology a bit, doing a bit of sampling himself and then playing over it. He also used some rather odd looking fiddles, but to my untrained ear it all sounded relatively traditional. The non-transgressive nature of the music should not however be taken as indicating any kind of compromise in quality – this was all very enjoyable, with the spooky atmosphere making it seem much more of an Event than it would have been to see Ó Raghallaigh playing in a pub.
Ó Raghallaigh was joined for his last two tunes by Salil Sachdev, this percussionist bloke from India. He proved to be fascinating character, tapping out the most amazing percussive rhythms with his bare hands on two different sets of instruments. The first was a fairly straightforward West African drum (from Mali, I think, or maybe Senegal) – straightforward in appearance, but not in the sounds that Sachdev was able to get out of it. His other instrument, possibly also West African or maybe something he had just made up, was some kind of water drum. He made this with a bowl of water, and held another bowl upside down against the water; by changing the upper bowl's angle he could adjust its sound. Sachdev's playing went well with Ó Raghallaigh – he ended up sounding like a bodhran player, albeit an one of most uncommon ability. And he managed all this without having the kind of demeanour one associates with percussionists, instead coming across like an urbane musicologist (which is, in fairness, what he is).