Devon-based duo HARBOTTLE & JONAS are the headline guests as we round off our Spring season in style.

Partners in life and music, the dynamic pair are one of the most exciting acts on the UK circuit today, combining a love of the richness of traditional folk with their own original and powerful songwriting. Dave and Freya have developed a distinct and compelling signature sound, blending concertina, harmonium, banjo, stomp box, acoustic guitar and cittern with their beautiful and closely intertwined vocal harmonies. 

Subject matter covers the historical as well as the more personal, with their engaging live shows full of stories as well as songs. People, places and events are brought to life through their intimate, timeless music. Their latest album The Beacon was released in March 2021, entering the top 30 of the Official UK Folk Chart, and was declared an "sublimely exquisite offering" by Folk Radio UK.

Joining Harbottle & Jonas on the bill will be ROBERT LANE, an artist who has toured extensively and released three albums. Also an actor, he works in theatre and film and is a founding member of short form comedy improvisation group Improv Wolves.


Robert is also the host of The Robert Lane Creative Careers Podcast where he chats to creatives including musicians, songwriters, actors, writers, comedians and journalists about their careers and how they create their work.

Tickets for the concert, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 21 April 2023, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door. Doors open at 7.30pm and the entertainment starts around 7.45pm.

There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from HOP UNION BREWERY. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/mug/tankard, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the drive to be more environmentally aware. There is a 50p discount for those that do. There will also be sweet treats available at the bar courtesy of Radstock-based THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY, as well as a prize draw, which helps to fund the support artists for each concert.

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There's a story that, on March 8th 1890, Bram Stoker, the Dublin-born author of Dracula, contracted food poisoning from a dressed crab in a fashionable London restaurant. The ensuing vivid nightmare about blood-sucking creatures was direct inspiration for his Gothic Count. If that dream had had a soundtrack, then it could have been provided by THE HAAR, an Anglo-Irish four piece in Bristol to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

It is entirely fitting that their new album is called Where Old Ghosts Meet because this evening, in this packed church, ghosts are all around us. The Haar take traditional Irish songs, songs that we all know, and paint them in different, darker, scarier colours. This is not a dyed-green-Guinness-and-a-bit-o'-craic Ireland, this is the coast of Connemara Ireland, this is watching the fog roll in around The Skellig Islands Ireland. This is devastatingly beautiful and more than a little intense.

Part of that intensity comes from Molly Donnery and her extraordinarily evocative voice. Where so many of the songs feature a heavy death toll, Donnery provides both a pin-drop vulnerability and the quiet fury of the wronged. There are moments, particularly on Craigie Hill and Two Sisters, where she sounds a tiny bit like Cara Dillon but with all of the emotion and rough edges still, very much, intact. It's also quite something to cover a Mary Black song - Anachie Gordon in this case - and utterly do it justice. 

The other provider of intensity is Cormac Byrne. It's not that often you watch a band and can't drag yourself away from the bodhrán player, but Byrne is remarkable. He literally provides the heartbeat around which everything else can work. It's the sound that you can hear pulsing through you at 3 o'clock on a panicked morning. You notice it most on She Moved Through The Fair where this song stops being all All About Eve wafty-ness and, instead, it's a hypnotic swirl. Donnery's voice and Byrne's bodhrán overwhelming the senses, creating a fair with too many people, too many sensations, too much to see.

It seems almost clichéd to expect to hear The Wild Rover on St Patrick's Day and, surely, it was played a million times up and down the country tonight. One thing's for sure though, none of those versions sound like The Haar's. Theirs is slowed to a lament and is as dark as Dracula's cape. The horror of the song is amped up with a new verse where the young man is murdered by the landlady. It is terrifying. In a very good way.

Equally disconcerting is Whiskey In The Jar. Anyone expecting a rousing romp in the Thin Lizzy mold might have to have a bit of a re-think because this one is very sinister indeed. Adam Summerhayes, on fiddle, has been adding scarily brilliant textures all night and it is here that those textures take on a blood-red hue. At turns sustaining a solitary high note, then plunging into a breakneck pace, as though being chased by the very devil himself. All the while he is ably assisted by Murray Grainger (his bandmate in The Ciderhouse Rebellion) on accordion, the two of them stretching the canvas for the band to paint upon. 

There were no painful, Oirish stereotypes tonight, instead this was a St Patrick's night to remember. It was thinking-person's music, not drinking-person's music.

Before all of that intensity, SOLARFERENCE brought their own brand of theatricality. A duo hailing from Bristol and Devon, Nic Janaway and Sarah Owen are usually found mixing genres with a heap of clever electronics. Here, though, they play things straight and their voices, and songs, shine. Owen's voice, in particular, is lovely and her background in sonic art is telling. On Milder and Mulder the pair weave two songs together - one English, one Welsh - and the effect is quite magical. 

St Patrick's night at Downend Folk & Roots was absolutely everything that you'd dream of. Simply beautiful music and no nightmares.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Barry Savell

Our usual "third Friday of the month" concert happens to fall on St Patrick’s Day this year, so the evening will have a distinctly Irish theme for an event that will also be live-streamed in partnership with LIVE TO YOUR LIVING ROOM

Innovative Anglo-Irish quartet THE HAAR matches the fresh talent of traditional Irish singer Molly Donnery with three of the most exciting instrumentalists on the folk and traditional music circuit: Cormac Byrne (Uiscedwr, Seth Lakeman), Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger (The Ciderhouse Rebellion, Words of a Fiddler’s Daughter). The band’s music is characterised by ‘live reactive composition’ – an improvised space from which Molly’s pure and unadulterated vocals can emerge, spontaneous and never to be repeated in exactly the same way. 

Their eponymous debut was heralded as "a splendid balance of swirling instrumental magic and beautifully sung narratives” by Folk Radio UK, and their new album Where Old Ghosts Meet brings more magic from a collection of songs that grew from a desire to explore old favourites, to dig into traditional Irish gems for new inspiration and insights and intuitively follow the spark of new ideas. 

This is music that is not afraid to transcend borders. Born of the traditional musics that all members have grown up with and absorbed, it is unapologetic in pushing at the edges in order to create the band’s own unique and compelling sound. 

Joining The Haar on the bill will be award-winning duo SOLARFERENCE. Since 2008 Nic Janaway & Sarah Owen have been developing a genre-defying mix of traditional folk and live electronics - the duo have spent a couple of years peeling back the electronic layers to acoustically explore a strong new collection of original & traditional songs. Nic, based in Bristol, is a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound designer. Sarah is a versatile vocalist from East Devon with a background in sonic art and composition. Solarference perform with an intense live energy, with voice and harmony at the heart of the music.

Tickets for the concert, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 17 March 2023, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door. Doors open at 7.30pm and the entertainment starts around 7.45pm. Tickets for the online stream are available HERE, with a range of prices available.

In the venue, there will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from locally-based HOP UNION BREWERY. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/mug/tankard, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the drive to be more environmentally aware. There is a 50p discount for those that do. There will also be sweet treats available at the bar courtesy of Radstock-based THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY, as well as a prize draw, which helps to fund the support artists for each concert. Refreshments for the online version are down to you!

BUY TICKETS