By Mags Blackburn

Coughlan’s Live on Douglas Street, Cork, have reason to smile this week. Having just celebrated their second anniversary they are already the proud owners of an IMRO award for Venue of the Year 2013. They are also just on the other side of their second Coughlan’s Live Music Festival (September 24th – 29th).

Opening with Hank Wedel on Wednesday the festival featured artists like Anna Mitchell, Jerry Fish, Mick Flannery, Wallis Bird, Booka Brass Band, The Hot Sprockets to name but a few off the top of my head. The venue has developed quite a name for itself for bringing and supporting new and Irish music. The first thing anyone will tell you about Coughlan’s is what a community it is for musicians and locals alike. Anytime I’ve walked in it is like walking into another world where everyone knows my name or at least the bartenders will always say hi, and goodbye on your way out.

I made it down for the festivities of Friday night. I got in for eight and the place was already buzzing as many were waiting to get in to the now infamous room with its stage. Tonight was sold out for Anna Mitchell and her brand of country. But first we had to meet the support.

Singer-Songwriter Stevie Scullion is Malojian who opened things on Friday night. It was my first time encountering Malojian but as it turned out not Malojian’s first time to Cork. Even while the Antrim man claimed to be lost a close friendship with Anna Mitchell and John Blek and the Rats was revealed. Scullion was joined on stage by Michael Mormecha who played percussion and muted guitar during the set that really got the blood flowing for the packed out room. Telling stories of his present (Bath Time Blues), of friends passing on (The Old Timer) and childhood memories, (Communion Girls) Malojian set the tone and wowed the audience as the two musicians drew intricate lines around each other, deftly incorporating trills so subtle they could almost be missed.

But it was Anna Mitchell that many had come to see and the cheers rose up as the bashful Mitchell took to the stage. But with the first strike of a chord her confidence became apparent and she took the crowd on a journey across America as she sang of a bygone Americana Roots era. Singles ‘Let’s Run Away’ and ‘Fall Like That’ were testament to Mitchell’s popularity and her banter with the audience ensured that everyone listened with rapt attention. She was joined onstage by members of John Blek and the Rats including John O’Connor, Brian Hassey and David Murphy. Anyone seen a steel pedal before? My plus one hadn’t and was really fascinated by it and the way it was used to tie the songs together. There were moments were Anna Mitchell’s reputation as a performer could not be denied when it seemed she was a breath away from breaking down. Anna closed her set with ‘Lovers Lullaby’ which seemed appropriate to send her audience off into the night.

The Booka Brass Band were on next but a queue to get into the free gig was already formed in the back garden so I had little hope of squeezing in. In fact the room was so packed out that fans were standing in the hallway and out by the back door just to get a listen. It did sound like a lot of fun. Instead I indulged in the free barbeque before making my own way into the night. Can’t wait for next year’s event already!