Summer is quickly coming to a close, and it’s only right we should mark its passing with a big noisy Irish night out. Now that the leaves are starting to turn it’s time for the annual Wee Craic Fest, the “halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” bash that welcomes the arrival of fall liked the first dropped chestnut.
Friends and followers of the Craic Fest already know what to expect, but the growing audience of Irish-born twenty- and thirtysomethings who are stopping by for the first time will want to know what’s in store.
“The good news is it’s all under one roof this year,” festival director Terence Mulligan tells the Irish Voice. “The films and the music will all occur in the same venue at the Rockwood Music Hall on Allen Street in Soho on Friday, September 20. It’s one of the top music venues in the city right now, so it’s the perfect place for the festival.”
So who’s playing? This time the festival, which has welcomed the likes of Colin Devlin (the Devlins), Mundy and Laura Izibor, has picked New York-born, Galway-based singer songwriter Pat McGuire. It’s an inspired choice as he’s already very well known to the Irish community here, and he hasn’t played a gig in the city since 2011.
“We’re excited about Pat, as this will be his exclusive New York City performance this year,” says Milligan. “He’s just completed work on his third studio album, so there’ll be new work among the older tunes. Pat has a big fan base in New York and it should be a very special night for film and Craic Fest lovers.”
As his fans already know, McGuire always delivers. He’s been a familiar face on the Irish music scene in the city for two decades, but each time he takes the stage you would swear it was his first show judging by the passion with which he plays.
“That’s why we worked so hard to bring him over,” Mulligan admits. “We’re flying him over for his only show in the city this year and he’s only in town for a few days. His fans know this is their one chance to catch him in concert in the city this year.”
McGuire has just completed his third studio album entitled Hunger Is a Good Sauce Part One, so it’s appropriate that he’s making his way home. Some new tracks will certainly find their way into the show next month.
“I’m planning a two piece acoustic set with my good friend Brian O’Neill on piano,” McGuire tells the Irish Voice.
“It’s been two years since I’ve been here and each time I come back to New York I want to do something new. I don’t want people seeing the same old show.”
McGuire hasn’t had the chance to play the Craic Festival before this year, so it’s an ideal way to come back to the city and enjoy a great night out he says.
“This show will be a great opportunity to say hello to the city again and just have some fun,” he adds.
For McGuire the gig is a welcome opportunity to come over to the Big Apple and see all the familiar (and all the new) faces.
“I’m looking forward to getting up there and playing songs that people will know but I’ll be playing some new ones too. I’m not promoting my new album this time, I’m just participating in an event that I’d be very interested in anyway,” he says.
Alongside the music will be the films, of course. Hand picked by Mulligan as always, they’re composed of award-winning shorts that wowed the critics at the Galway Film Festival this summer.
“Usually we just screen animated short films at the Wee Craic,” says Mulligan, “but this time we have two award winning dramatic shorts (Rubai and Unfold) scheduled too. It’s more of an eclectic lineup this time.”
First up is Rubai, a delightfully tart new film written by Antoin Beag O'Colla that introduces us to a feisty little grade school kid in Catholic school who doubts that God actually exists.
“How do you know He exists?” she asks her teacher. “Prove it to me.”
Rubai, as they say at home, is a bit of a handful and the film, which is filmed in Irish and subtitled in English, is a flinty little gem that has been getting serious attention at every major screening event to date.
“Everyone who went to Catholic school or who has any Irish blood in them will totally relate to this film because it deals with issues we all know about,” says Mulligan. “It questions God, but it does it in a fun humorous way.”
Rubai will be followed by Unfold (a critics’ favorite at this year’s Galway Film Festival), the atmospheric short film that tells the story of Mark, a secretive man struggling with an unexpected change in his life. Whilst trying to maintain his daily routine, he meets Sara, who opens his eyes to a new perspective of the world around him.
“It’s a visually stunning short about a writer who falls for a barista in a coffee shop. We see the two of them meet and begin to form a relationship. It’s a short but really memorable love story,” he says.
Alongside the live action dramas two award winning animated shorts (Thin Ice and Pet Hate) which will also be screened next month. “I think they both have serious cross-over appeal for adults, which is why we’re screening them at the festival this year,” says Mulligan.
Thin Ice follows what happens when a baby penguin finds itself in trouble after curiosity leads it away from the group, and Pet Hate tells the story of a grumpy old pet shop owner who is constantly confounded by his pets, who have decided that they don't want to be sold to anyone.
The film was shortlisted for an Academy Award and was directed by Andy Clarke, whose recent work has included producing the spectacular visual effects for Saving the Titanic.
This year marks the 14th annual Wee Craic night, which is once again presented by Tullamore Dew Whiskey. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. “As ever we’re hosting a complimentary whiskey tasting at the start of the event so get there at 6:30 p.m. sharp for the kickoff!” Mulligan advises.
“I think we’re starting to get a much bigger Irish-born audience nowadays. I think it may be because we have started partnering with the Irish Arts Center and In-NYC. That gets the word out in the community, but scheduling artists that appeal to audiences in their twenties and thirties has been a focus for us too.”
For more information and tickets contact 644-549-1349. Visit www.thecraicfest.com for the full lineup.