The Irish once clashed with Viking and English invaders here in the Northwest corner of the island, but on this June weekend, a cidersoaked horde of 3,000 was met with welcoming arms to Ballyshannon, County Donegal, the birthplace of Celtic guitar legend Rory Gallagher. The sun shone brightly on the banks of the Erne as battered-Strat-wielding tribute bands from Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, and the British Isles paid tribute to the plaid-clad axeman at the seventh annual Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival.
The festival has grown from a one-day affair in 2003 to this year’s four-day celebration, essentially a glorified pub crawl from Rory Gallagher Theater at the top of town across the bridge to Rory Gallagher Place outside of Owen Roe’s bar, one of the nine public houses that featured Rory music and films. Mojo Records stocked Taste paraphernalia on the 40th anniversary of the band’s first disc, A Novel Idea bookstore had a homemade Rory postcard for the occasion, and flyers promoting Flynn Amps’ new signature Rory Gallagher Hawk booster pedal made the rounds.
Mojo’s Dave O’Donnell commented, “His legacy is huge. All the young fellas and lasses in town are playing the guitar because of the festival.”
Scottish guitarist Phil Hoolahan of Defender, who has played the festival since its inception, gave props to Gallagher as an innovator. “Before all these lightning players,” says Hoolahan, “Rory was the first one I saw doing all those hammerons and running the plectrum over the frets—he started all that.”
Gallagher’s brother Donal, who manages Rory’s business affairs, was pleased to see the vibrant legacy: “It is more than well deserved that this generation has recognized Rory’s musical integrity and undoubted talent, not just as a guitarist, but as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.” —Brian Kluepfel