Ports: the Northern Ireland band on their upcoming trip down under

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Ports: the Northern Ireland band on their upcoming trip down under

The Guinness will flow like wine when thousands descend on the township of Portarlington over the Queen’s Birthday weekend for the annual National Celtic Festival. Last year the four-day celebration attracted over 15,000 revellers and the event’s director, Una McAlinden, predicts the festival’s popularity will continue to grow. Musicians, singers, actors, dancers and poets come from far and wide to be part of the line-up, with beloved local and international acts sharing the same stages, in venues dotted throughout the precinct.

Making their festival (and Australian) debut are Ports, a four-piece indie folk band from Northern Ireland. “We’re so excited about our first time in Australia,” says front man Steven McCool. “We have some friends who have come over to play this event before, and from what we hear everybody is really cool, and the acts are fantastic. We’re just looking forward to meeting everyone and to play our music for you guys.”

Since the release of their first album, The Devil Is a Songbird, Ports have been making a splash in all the right places, and getting noticed by all the right people. Australian author, Kathy Lette, called them “A wild and wonderful band”, and predicted they will be “The next U2”, while the BBC named Ports ‘Ones to Watch’.

On a recent trip to the States, they even caught the eye of Sydney band, All Our Exes Live in Texas, thanks to event director Una McAlinden. “Basically Una was running the Australian room for the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, and she introduced us to All Our Exes, and we began playing with them, song for song,” McCool explains. “We did a song, then they did a song, and instantly we clicked, it was just one of those moments – and that’s when Una asked us to play the festival too.

“We just gelled musically and we have the same personalities,” he smiles, “so it was a lot of fun, and we became best friends for the whole week. We jammed a lot and it was awesome, and they asked us to come on tour with them, so while we’re away in June and July, we will tour Australia with them. It’s was one of those meetings that you have to put down to fate.”

Despite their success, McCool says they don’t intend to rest on their laurels, and reveals they’re currently working on their next album. “I’m actually just on a ten minute break from the studio. I’m writing some vocals for the new songs and we’re prepping for our second album, which will hopefully be released around May next year – it’s all go! ”

In the meantime, they plan to focus on expanding their Australian fan base, while on the road trip of a lifetime. “We’re getting a camper-van so that we can take it all the sights. I think we’ve got five days off during the tour so we can travel around the coast.

“During that time, it just so happens to be my birthday as well, so there might be a bit of celebrating,” he adds. “Ever though I know it’s your winter, here [Derry, or Londonderry, Northern Ireland] at the moment it is 15 degrees, and people are laying around in the sun like it’s sweltering,” McCool laughs. “When we go to Australia we will be the guys walking around with our tops off!”

When & Where: National Celtic Festival, Portarlington – June 9 – 12

Written by Natalie Rogers