FolkWorld Live Review 10/2000:

A bottle of Tønder audience

Tønder Festival 2000

Danu party; photo by The Mollis By Michael Moll

While all economists looked at Denmark on 28th September to see the Danes voting against the introduction of the EURO currency, lovers of Celtic music had a different date and a different reason to look at Denmark in 2000: One of the most important showcases of Celtic music in Europe happened once again at the last weekend of August: Tønder Festival, the 26th edition. Once again packed with great music from all over the place.

It might have been a world record: the highest number of playing musicians per square metre. At its best, there were something like 25 Irish musicians on the very small stage of the intimate venue of the Visemøllen. Regular readers of Irish Music magazine should know by now what I am talking about: Once again, the cultish Danú late night gig at the Visemøllen turned the little stage to the best session setting in the world. When Danú were invited for the third time to Tønder Festival this year, they made clear that if they come they would need to play also the late night gig. So there we were for another treat of the best of Irish music.

Sharon Shannon; photo by The Mollis Starting at 1 a.m., Danú first played a set just on their own, once again being in very good shape. They celebrated also a one-off reunion with their old fiddler, the great Daire Bracken. Only in the second half, the real sensation happened, with an absolute mega session, featuring the creme of the young Irish scene, and to the pleasure of the Danú boys, especially the pretty girls of the scene: fiddler Michelle O'Brien who has become a good musical friend of Benny "Box" McCarthy since having been with him on the German Pure Irish Drops Tour, taking centre stage. Sharon Shannon joking with Ciarán o Gealbháin. Sharon's pretty Woodshopper fiddling girls climbing on Danù's chairs. Add to this a couple of high profile male guests like Ringo McDonagh on Bodhran (who offered a free bodhran workshop during the festival), and Ron Kavana. Slainte Mhat's Lisa Gallant giving a bit of cape Breton step dance. Indeed a sensational session.
It was by far not easy for the crew of the Visemøllen to stop the concert at 4 a.m.; they had to allow another encore (though with only the core Danù line-up), to avoid the audience storming the stage. And afterwards the backstage party went on: though the light was turned off and the beer ran out, the crack was mighty. These are just those moments that make Tønder special and unforgettable for both musicians and audiences.

Still, Tønder has an additional bonus, and that is the audience itself. Malinky, the up and coming band from Scotland, gave their international festival debut, and were impressed themselves by the success. The young band came into focus of attention in the folk scene since winning the Danny Award at Celtic Connections' Danny Kyle's Open Stage, leading them to record their debut album for Greentrax, and that leading to Tønder's Carsten Panduro inviting them to the festival. Malinky's programme is based on Scottish songs, both traditional and written by Malinky's Karine Polwart (who is since recently also the singer of Battlefield Band). The Tønder audience agreed with all the highly positive reviews: Malinky are an exciting new band, and it is highly welcome to have a new young Scottish band focussing on songs. Tønder gave Malinky the first experience of standing ovations - and speaking of a Tønder standing ovation, it means that really everybody is standing which is quite an impressive sight. Karine was overwhelmed by the audience's reception, not only for her own band, but always at Tønder Festival. She told the audience that she wanted to fill a bottle with Tønder audience and take it home, opening it at any concert back home. If this works is not yet known; any interested musician should ask Karine herself...

Old Blind Dogs; photo by The Mollis There were some more Scottish acts, including the strong Old Blind Dogs, featuring since last year Jim Malcolm as new singer and Rory Campbell as piper and whistle player. They did a very convincing set; the audience loved it. Brian McNeill turned up with another great Scottish singer/songwriter, Dick Gaughan. Brian was last year with another band project at Tønder, Kavana McNeill Lynch Lupari. This year, there was a new offspring of that band, called Alias Da Dog, and featuring Ron Kavana, Gino Lupari and guitarist Andy Martin. They were allowed to play the other late night concert at the Vismøllen, lifting at 3 a.m. again the spirits of the folkies. Exciting and good fun.
The Bumblebees had this year two special guests, to fill the gap Liz Doherty left with her departure: Michelle O'Brien as one of the really great young Irish fiddlers, and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill of Bothy Band Fame. At the Sunday Ceilidh, the audience could experience a bit of reunion of the Bothy Band, with Triona meeting musically again with Paddy Keenan.

Tønder is always based on Irish and Scottish music, yet Carsten Panduro has an open eye what happens around the Celtic scene internationally. Galician music is these days already at a state that the Galician act may not be missing at a Celtic festival, and with Berrogüetto Tønder had one of the definite best ones on offer. From Nova Scotia, Sláinte Mhàt were back again with their eclectic and energetic modern Nova Scotian instrumental music featuring shuttle pipes, fiddles, step dancing and more.

The Sunday evening was closed this year by American guests, a bit away from Celtic music. Country Lady Emmilou Harris finished the night, following Tim O'Brien & The Crossing. At that time, I was already on my way back home, having seen in only two and a half day more music than you usually would plan for a full week.

P.S. Tickets were sold this year once again very quickly, with nearly all concerts being completely sold out.

Further infos available at: Tonder festival Homepage

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