Sounds From A Safe Harbour – The Nialler9 Music Trail

What’s all this then

I’m super excited to finally get this piece out about an absolutely amazing weekend in Cork City I had between 15th and 17th of September. What took place was a city-wide music and arts festival called Sounds From A Safe Harbour (Facebook event page here), the second edition of the festival after a successful debut in 2015, in which several fantastic venues around Cork city played host to a plethora of talented musicians from the up and comers to well established headliners. During all of this was a free music trail hosted by Nialler9 where across the town back to back free gigs took place from venue to venue showcasing a number of different artists and bands (See event page here for full listing). So first up, who’s Nialler9? Nialler9 is Ireland’s top music website run by Niall Byrne, with merits in the music scene that have gained him international acclaim. He is most known for his hunger to discover new and emerging music from all over Ireland, for which his writing serves as a platform that helps to promote these people to a wider audience. His website can be found here. Over a 3 day period his contribution to the festival was to put together a line-up of 27 gigs sponsored by Heineken and Rising Sons Brewery, with some added secret gigs along the way. With work commitments, timeliness in getting to these gigs and matters of survival (Eating some actual food over the course of the events), I made it to 12 of these shows in a journey of new music discoveries for myself which I will speak about here.


The first gig I attended was on Friday 15th in Callanan’s pub, for Indie-Folk band Rowan. I had actually just discovered Rowan 2 days prior from Irish artist Tiz McNamara and decided I would check them out, which is how I ended up on the trail that I hadn’t been overly aware of until that point. I also managed to earn myself a free pint on tab in the bar courtesy of a fellow who I brought in and loaned my phone charger to before the gig started, so that was a win right there. Rowan consists of Dylan Howe on Keys, Guitar & main vocals – Kevin Herron on lead Guitar & backing vocals – Phil Dunphy on Bass & backing vocals – Fionn Hennessy Hayes on Drums & backing vocals. For this gig in the tight space and intimate atmosphere of the venue, Dylan Howe performed a fantastic solo acoustic set of their music and a cover of a song completely in the Irish language which was impressive. I caught a snippet of video from one of my favourite spine-tingling moments of his performance of their song ‘Asleep In The Rain’ which you can see below. I was highly impressed by his performance and will gladly await the next opportunity to see him in a full-band live show. FB: Rowan

Sorcha Richardson

The next gig I made my way to and landed about a quarter of the way in was for Sorcha Richardson with her 5-piece band in The Poor Relation. Sorcha is a singer/songwriter hailing from Dublin who has been generating a lot of interest with her music, hitting 1 million+ streams for a number of her songs. She has also just landed herself a great opportunity as the support for Imelda May during her upcoming Irish tour dates. I liked what I saw of Sorcha Richardson on the night so I’ve picked up a ticket for myself to see her and Imelda May for the Cork show at Cork Opera House on October 29th which I’m excited to see. Sorcha just recently released a brand new single called ‘Waking Life’ which you can check out below this post. FB: Sorcha Richardson

Sorcha Richardson.png

Sorcha Richardson & Band on stage in The Poor Relation

Anna-Mieke Bishop

My next stop of the evening brought me back to where I started, Callanan’s. At this point the on-goings of the day were already turning a lot of heads and it was a lot more of a squeeze to enter the venue than it had been earlier. Made it I did, though, to see the duo of Anna-Mieke Bishop and Brían Mac Gloinn (of Ye Vagabonds) tucked tightly into the corner with their array of interesting musical devices. Sporting an Acoustic Guitar, 2 Greek Bouzouki’s, and a table-top instrument akin to an Accordion, they played majestically. Anna-Mieke sang with a soulful and melodic voice that captivated the audience. Joining her at times with backing vocals, Brian harmonized well with her to complete their enchanting sound. Their vivid story-telling through music takes the listener on a wonderful journey, and I can’t wait to see them again whenever that may be. See below for a snippet of her performance that I recorded. FB: Anna-Mieke.


Closing out a fantastic first day was Cinema at the ever wonderful venue The Sextant. Even as I arrived the sounds escaping the open-air stage out the back were suggestive that I was in store for some really cool and chill vibes. Cinema is an Irish electronic music artist by the name of Peter Fleming, who emerged into the scene in 2014, and has been steadily rising since. Cinema’s music felt right at home in the atmospheric setting of The Sextant, the cool night air melding perfectly with his incredibly cleanly mixed music. Among other songs that he played was his most recent release, Floating, which can be heard on Spotify here. FB: Cinema

Cinema on stage at the Sextant

David Keenan

Day two began with the insanely talented musician David Keenan in Callanan’s. A spectacle we had to wait an extra couple minutes for as he managed to snap a string right at the start, which was pretty quickly remedied. David’s pen-game when it comes to songwriting is off the charts, he could conjure up a tale from the barest of inspirations, and deliver the story musically with great prowess. In one particularly memorable song, David dreamed up a world in which James Dean was still alive and drove trains for Irish Rail, as absurd as it may sound. Such is the mind of this musician to imagine such a scene and create a song around it, which was actually really good as well. He comically quipped that if people wanted to have such strange and vivid dreams such as the one he had just shared with the room, the consumption of a block of mature cheddar cheese before bed ought to do the job. Adding that he had just double-dropped two babybel’s before the gig elicited another laugh from the listeners in attendance. He has a music video for the track which you can view below this piece. FB: David Keenan

David Keenan
David Keenan standing on a bench and performing at Callanan’s

Rosie Carney

Next on the agenda was folk singer/songwriter Rosie Carney in the Crane Lane Theatre. With just her acoustic guitar, her voice, and half her outfit camouflaging with the red curtains in the background, she took to the stage and played a captivating set of music for the gathered crowd that was fantastic to watch and to listen to. It’s easy to see why she is soon to be headlining the classic venue Whelan’s in Dublin soon, definitely well deserved. Check out the amazing music video to her song ‘Awake Me’ below. FB: Rosie Carney

Rosie Carney
Rosie Carney on stage at Crane Lane Theatre

Maria Kelly

Back once more in Callanan’s for the last of the 4 gigs taking place in it’s intimate setting, artist Maria Kelly took her spot in the corner to play some tunes. With delicate vocals containing an emotional outpouring beyond their volume, Maria put her heart out in her music and expressed herself amazingly. At first the crowd was slow to lower to respectful noise levels, but eventually they did and even the most raucous of individuals before that point was stirred by her music to fall silent and listen to the beautiful music. She has a wonderful music video for her song ‘Far Below’ which I will include below this piece. FB: Maria Kelly

Maria Kelly
Maria Kelly performing in Callanan’s

RSAG (Rarely Seen Above Ground)

The last two events of the evening were back to back in The Sextant. First up was RSAG AKA Jeremy Hickey, who is an incredibly talented drummer. Even as I arrived at the venue he had the place absolutely hopping, and the entrance to the back area was bottle-necking heavily making it difficult to enter. I thought it was full but then Jeremy told the crowd it was okay for them to step closer, at which point half the floor space cleared up and the backlog of people in the doorway were finally able to enter and view the show. I could definitely agree that RSAG is a drummer at the top of his craft after seeing him perform live, I’ve never personally witnessed a drummer come even close to that level of expertise and the unique style that he showcased that night. The light-show behind RSAG was absolutely on point as well, providing brilliant visual stimulation alongside the music. I’m currently debating picking up tickets to see him supporting King Kong Company in the Cork Opera House  after Imelda May & Sorcha Richardson on the same evening at midnight. Knowing myself I’ll probably go for it anyway despite work the following morning. FB: RSAG

RSAG drumming and singing in The Sextant


Following on from RSAG was Bantum, AKA Ruairi Lynch, a brilliant Cork artist who maintained the energy kicked off by RSAG and kept the place bopping and sweaty well into the night. I’d seen Bantum’s name around the music scene before that night but this was my first time hearing and experiencing his music, and it was definitely worth finally seeing it. FB: Bantum

Lights! Just a GIF of some of the cool light display that was going on behind Bantum and RSAG for the night
Picture from Bantum playing The Sextant. Also Nialler9 making a sneaky appearance in the very right hand side of the photo

Wyvern Lingo

Sunday kicked off with a shortly announced secret gig in the Crane Lane Theatre with Wyvern Lingo playing, after they already played a paid-gig at Cyprus Avenue the evening before. I was super excited to see this as I’ve seen their name floating around but not yet had the opportunity to see them, but I am so glad I did. Consisting of trio Karen Cowley, Saoirse Duane and Caoimhe Barry, all of which are very talented singers and instrumentalists, they harmonize amazingly together and put on a brilliant show. They also dropped some new songs from their upcoming project, and played their most recently released single ‘I Love You Sadie’ which I will put the music video for down below. After a brilliant set of songs, they closed it out with an entirely A Capella song with no instruments or even mics, trusting the crowd to be silent so that they could be heard. The result was a beautiful and stunning performance, and a fitting way to finish. FB: Wyvern Lingo


Later in the evening I made my way to The Roundy to see SYLK. The electronic music duo consisting of Taylor Doyle & Bebhinn McDonnell hailing from Dublin, joined by the spring-shinned hoppy and energetic Fiach O Neill doing light-work for the evening. Between them their chemistry was great fun to watch, and they definitely gained a new fan in me that night. I’d love to see them come back to Cork for another show sometime in a bigger and more aptly suited venue, as I’m sure it’d be unreal. Check out their brilliant song ‘Am I Alone’ below, from their debut EP ‘Nwyr’ FB: SYLK

SYLK during their set in The Roundy


Closing out the night in the Crane Lane theatre was Ships, a live-DJ duo putting on a show to get everyone dancing one last time for a fitting end to Sounds From a Safe Harbour, and what had overall been an amazing weekend of discovery. Ships has their debut EP Precession available to listen to on Spotify FB: Ships

Ships finish the weekend with a set on the stage of Crane Lane Theatre

Honourable Mentions

There were many shows I didn’t make it to that I was interested to check out, here are a couple of them:

Talos – With a secret gig at Crane Lane Theatre at the same time I went to see Rowan, I made the sacrifice of not going to see one of the hottest prospects in the Irish scene right now. I do however have tickets to see him in December for his Cork show, so the sacrifice was justified.

Lilla Vargen – At the point of the evening Lilla Vargen was playing at The Oval Bar I had been unable to make it to the gig but was interested to see what this artist had to offer.

Saint Caoilian – With a set at the Black Dog Saloon & Mezcaleria, AKA BDSM (Yes that is correct), I was intrigued to see what this artist could bring to the table, but I unfortunately could not make the gig.

Rosa Nutty – After checking out a couple tracks from Rosa Nutty, I wanted to see her at The Poor Relation but scheduling conflicts meant I walked in after SYLK’s show as Rosa was leaving the stage

That’s everything from the weekend that I attended, massive props to everyone involved for a weekend that could potentially shape a very different kind of music festival for the future. Peace out – Seán.



Author: The Merch Perch

Music enthusiast, Merch Collector, blogger of both worlds combined. Check it!

One thought on “Sounds From A Safe Harbour – The Nialler9 Music Trail”

  1. Wow, the most bands in one post so far, music journalism on the way. Nialler9 site was interesting. On a final note, love the fact there’s a band called Rowan. Onwards with the vinyl journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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