Some Irish festivals have lurched in recent years, with attention to branding trumping attention to line-up; this is one of the many reasons why All Together Now is a welcome addition to the Irish festival circuit. In Waterford, we find a beautiful setting of the Curraghmore Estate, complete with lake and gardens to be explored. But rather than being beaten over the head with commercial entities you are greeted by sculptures of giant owls and stags, and other oddities throughout the numerous nooks and crannies.
And yet, despite the abundance of stimuli the festival feels both spacious and compact, with a wide thoroughfare separating the two main areas of the festival making it quick and simple to navigate – and most importantly – simple to stage-hop and maximise the amount of musical bang you get for your buck.
This will upset some people, but another thing that made All Together Now a more enjoyable experience is its age policy – over 21s and families with children up to 12 years old – which resulted in a more mature approach to the consumption of alcohol and narcotics, and a general feeling that people were there for the music and not just to get wrecked.
As with any opening night at a festival the early acts suffered lower attendance whilst people were pitching their tents and getting their bearings – though it has to be noted that there was a large amount of people who were ‘too posh to pitch’ their own tents at All Together Now, with various boutique camping options gobbled up in large numbers.
Whatever you do, don’t call Obaro Ejimiwe AKA Ghostpoet hip-hop. The Londoner would prefer if you didn’t pigeonhole him, or yourself for that matter, when listening to his music. That said, you can understand why his spoken-word style of delivery would be likened to hip-hop, in the same way John Cooper Clarke’s is likened to rock’n’roll – the truth is, they are closer to each other than the genres they are associated with. In fact, sonically some of Ghostpoet’s work is closer to Interpol, The Cure and Radiohead than it is to Kendrick Lemar, Drake or – insert any London rapper’s name here. Lyrically, Ghostpoet explores the darker underbelly of the human condition with aplomb and a cynical verve his non-contemporaries could only dream of. These disparate elements combine to create an illuminating elixir which when consumed live hits like a double shot.
The Go! Team
14 years on from The Go! Team’s debut ‘Thunder Lightning, Strike’ the Brighton act still explode onto the stage with the same colourful vigour. Head honcho Ninja’s high-energy stage presence shows no sign of abating and the band echo her endless positivity throughout as they jump, twirl and clap their way through a sugar-rush game of musical screwball: loud, fast and frantic with the horn section on point throughout. However, it can be a tad too cutesy at times, especially when Ninja steps off lead with Angela “Maki” Won-Yin Mak simply unable match her vocal standards. A Go! Team set is as colourful and as fun as you would expect and the classic tracks still pack a punch live. The peppy nature of it all may leave you feeling like you’ve eaten too many sweets though. A fun experience but probably something you wouldn’t want to do too often.
Ticking the legend box on the opening night was Chaka Khan, who brought a large band to reproduce her ten-time Grammy-Award-winning career to life on stage. The queen of soul, best-known for her work with Rufus in the ’70s and as a solo artist in the ’80s delivered as smooth and as soulful a set as you’d imagine, with a fine vocal performance throughout. However, it was all simply too sedate for a headline performance and it wasn’t until she unleashed I’m Every Woman, I Feel For You and Ain’t Nobody that things kicked into life for the full-throttle disco experience that the crowd had amassed to experience. Was it worth the wait? You better believe it, but 3 songs, no matter how good, do not a set make. Nobody wanted this to be a disappointment; it’s just a pity about all those overlong ballads.
New York Brass Band
Down on Belonging Bandstand the New York Brass Band confused many in attendance when it became clear that they weren’t in fact a Big Apple brass ensemble, but rather just a new band from Yorkshire. This didn’t dissuade the crowd, who merrily consumed the group’s mix of original material, covers and questionable dance moves. There was a lot to enjoy here. If you can choose to ignore the considerable amount of bum notes then you can happily file this one under ‘fun when you’re drunk’. If you don’t have a charitable soul then you’d better off seeking out a real New York Brass Band as this one will only leave you brassed off.
Sing Along Social
Suitably warmed up by Yorkshire horns All Together Now was ready for the musical grilled cheese that is Sing Along Social – for the uninitiated Sing Along Social requires you to check your inhibitions and musical snobbery and embrace your guilty pleasures in public at the top of your lungs. It’s always interesting to watch a Sing Along Social gig unfold as people slowly give in and let themselves go. The GoldenPlec crew for instance went from being too cool for school to dancing on a table, belting out Kathy Perry’s modern classic Firework with every inch of our collective souls and with complete and utter abandon.