Ah, Sunday at a festival – that day when the day trippers arrive all clean, and All Together Now was no different in that regard with a notable increase in fresh looking bodies knocking around the place as we continued to bask in the effects of global warming. Stay away from those healthy ice pops though folks, they are disgusting.
Limerick trio whenyoung’s set appeared to be in doubt at one point when it transpired that their guitar didn’t arrive at the same airport as them. After an unsuccessful attempt to borrow/rent a Fender Jaguar, whenyoung had to settle for the loan of a Stratocaster, but you could never have told from their performance that there was anything awry.
Whenyoung bounce around the stage with an infectious vitality that is reflected in their upbeat tracks such as Pretty Poor and Heaven on Earth. It’s not all frivolous fun, though, as they dedicate The Others to the disregarded people of Grenfell Tower.
Their version of The Cranberries’ Linger was spine-tingling, thanks to Aoife Power’s vocal lilt that’s hauntingly reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan’s. It was a fitting tribute to the recently departed star, who All Together Now had also paid their respects to with a prominent dedication to the singer within the grounds of the festival.
Saint Sister were visibly taken aback by the size of the crowd they drew at All Together Now, but Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty shouldn’t be surprised by the interest in their music. The duo have been one of the most interesting acts to emerge from the Irish music scene over the last 5 years, their eerie and ephemeral melodies slowly but surely capturing hearts.
Swelled to a four-piece with live drums and bass, Saint Sister cleverly mix the passed with the future as they intertwine harp and synth sounds with electronic beats, and when you sprinkle their exceptional vocal abilities to this strange concoction the results are considerable.
Saint Sister have the power to not only mesmerise, but transport the listener to a new world as if you were travelling through the wardrobe to Narnia (minus the witch). Tracks such as Causing Trouble, Madrid, Tin Man and Corpses indicate that their long-awaited debut album will be a must-listen.
New Power Generation
Filling the Bootleg Beatles style golden oldie slot on the mainstage on Sunday was Prince’s former band, the New Power Generation, who took a funky stroll through the Purple One’s back catalogue. The job of replacing the sexy motherfucker himself on vocals was taken by not one but four men who each focused on various aspects of Prince’s range.
A powerful female presence has always been essential to Prince’s work and the lack of it here was as stark as the absence of the man himself, however for the majority of the time they did an excellent job at aping him.
Prince himself would no doubt have hated a tribute to him to be a mere greatest hits set, believing as he did that much of his commercially unsuccessful work was in fact some of his most artistically successful work. In this sense the show was a monumental success, taking tracks from all corners of Prince’s extensive body of work.
And for the most part the assembled crowd was willing to take the journey to familiar and unknown funky pastures, but as the set progressed and it didn’t turn into a hit-fest, there was a clear sense that interest was starting to wane as it became apparent that the New Power Generation were not going to tailor their set for a festival audience who may only have a passing interest in purple. For that reason, it failed to provide the all-encompassing moment of funky unity it promised on paper, but for hard-core fans it was no doubt delightful.
Over on the main stage Conor O’Brien treated us to a selection of new and classic tracks in a well-planned set that kept fans enthralled from start to finish. Hot Scary Summer and Memoir, a track he originally wrote for Charlotte Gainsbourg but reclaimed for 2016’s ‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’, set the tone for a spirited performance during which O’Brien unleashed his inner country rock star; milling about the stage, repeatedly charging forwards with his acoustic guitar held aloft ala Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line.
But the Harry Nillson-esque lilt of tracks such as Courage is slowly but surely being replaced by a move towards experimenting with electronic sounds. Recent single Trick Of The Light showcased this move and the electronic departure is showcased further on its live presentation and on new tracks such as Sweet Saviour and Again – the latter particularly impressive on first listen – while Fool explores our addiction to social media.
The current line-up includes a brass section and two musicians on keys, and these elements are used cleverly to bridge the two distinct sounds which O’Brien is currently exploring throughout the show.
While O’Brien’s songs often tackle deeply political topics, his stage banter is sprightly and fun-filled – at one point he pulls “a letter from Melanie and Ben” from his pocket before informing them he can’t play their request, but has a better song for them in mind: Courage.
A stunning version of marriage equality anthem Occupy Your Mind caps off a fine performance from Villagers that indicates that ‘The Art Of Pretending To Swim’ may very well be the Irish album to beat in 2018.
First Aid Kit
Swedish sister act, Klara (vocals/guitar) and Johanna Söderberg (vocals/bass) aka First Aid Kit delivered a proficient selection of their harmony-heavy take on the Nashville sound to an eager main stage crowd as dusk enveloped Waterford.
The duo were backed by an effective band of pedal steel, keyboard and drums who added the right amount of colour to proceedings. Rebel Heart and Stay Gold delivered the kind of ephemeral Americana the Söderberg sisters have built their career upon.
The rocky You Are The Problem Here displayed that they are more than a one trick pony and allowed Klara to make an impassioned speech on women’s rights and sexual violence. An impressive cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill further showcased the duo’s vocal dexterity.
It’s easy to see why First Aid Kit’s inoffensive brand of folk has proved so successful – each track is perfectly crafted from start to finish, but this heavily defined sound started to work against them, and as the set went on as a sense of safe repetition started to emerge from time to time. Thankfully, My Silver Lining was just that, showcasing how when First Aid Kit get it right, they get it right. When the band joined them front of house to take their bow there was a lovely moment when their drummer instructed the security guards to pass his sticks to a toddler girl who was perched on her father’s shoulders in the front row.
Over on the something kind of wonderful, something kind of wonderful was happening in the shape of Nils Frahm and his array of vintage synthesizers. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the German composer, who is based in the Berlin’s illustrious Funkhaus, reproduces his material live in perhaps the most complex way an electronic musician could. Rather than utilising samples and triggers, Frahm goes about the small business of playing banks of instruments and controlling modulators and other effects to create his compositions in as live a format as is possible in his field.
This means that Frahm will at times resemble a mad scientist utilising a vast machine from the 1950s as he plays a note on one machine and walks 6 machines down to turn a knob before going to another interface to switch a cable. At times it seems almost preposterous, but there’s something about his dedication and attention to detail that becomes enthralling once the initial shock at the absurdity of it all subsides.
This is of course helped by the fact that Frahm is weaving a substantial tapestry of electronica with elements of classical, and whereas often at electronic music events it can feel like the machines are doing all the work, here the opposite is true and the sense that Frahm is manipulating the machines is palpable.