The third edition of All Together Now was a glorious success, set in the spectacular setting of Curraghmore Estate with 22,000 expectant music fans flocking to the Co. Waterford venue, who were rewarded with an unforgettable experience.
Thankfully there were no traffic issues this time round, with the only real difficulty being the challenge of trying to get to see all the superb musical fare that was on offer – an impossible task. Every nook of the fantastical woodland location was offered over to a stage or DJ booth, with plenty to please even the most discernible music enthusiasts.
One of the many great things about the All Together Now line-up was that there was no shortage of feel-good offerings to get everyone in the festive mood, whether it was the likes of the Trinity Orchestra, Glass House or Toshin putting their own spin on legendary classics, or an almost endless range of DJs dropping deadly tunes, with kudos in particular to Al Gibbs who set the standard from as early as Thursday night from the gorgeous Belong Bandstand, Kate Brennan Harding having the Schweppes area swinging, and the infectious delight that is the Sing Along Social with Olivia Chau on the decks.
Despite the array of international artists on Friday’s bill our highlights were by provided by four quite disparate Irish acts, MELTS added to their reputation as one of the country’s must-see live bands. They delivered a monstrous set that hit the audience with wave after wave of sonic magnificence, particularly with an epic three song run of Circular, Outlier and Maelstrom before their ravetastic set finale.
Next up in the same venue was Ireland’s sharpest dressed music men, Paul Noonan and Daithi as HousePlants delighting a packed Road to Nowhere tent with their effortlessly cool sounds. Their set really takes off with What’s With All The Pine and it’s extended whigout, followed by Window Pane, Wait and the heavenly No Stopping Me, all building to the rousing climax of Companero.
Then it was time for a last-minute surprise addition and one of the standout moments of this year’s All Together Now, Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler with an intimate acoustic set in the Live On the Lawn tent. It was an incredible almost spiritual experience, Buckley’s obvious joy at playing a home gig was infectious both for her playing partner and those in attendance. The quality of their songs shining through even in their most stripped back form.
The Eagle and the Dove shimmers, whilst Footsteps on the Map sees them lead the audience in a playful but revered sing-along. There’s a poignantly powerful rendition of Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman before they reluctantly bring things to a close with the duo sitting in front of the stage, beers in hand as our singer laments us with Catch the Dust, the closing track from their album sung to haunting perfection.
How do you follow that you might ask well if there is a band in Ireland that can grab a festival and wrestle it to their will then it is King Kong Company, and they do not disappoint. In fact, if anything they surpass expectations with a show that could easily be counted in the upper echelons of their endless festival appearances. It’s a relentless show full of the usual pulsing and pounding beats you expect from King Kong Company, but with a seemingly renewed energy and a spectacular array of visuals to go with it.
While it was great to see Mark Graham back making a guest appearance in his home county, it is clear that the essence of what makes King Kong Company such a compelling live act has not diminished one jot and even Moira (who at 77 years of age was making her first visit to a festival) was loving every minute of it.
On Saturday afternoon Soda Blonde took to the ATN Main Stage just as the worst of the rain thankfully began to abate. Lead singer Faye O’Rourke embracing the conditions and providing an electric performance, belting out an impassioned Terrible Hands before getting wonderfully animated on the elongated outro of Try. And even though the rain returns they close with an impressive compelling performance of In the Heat of the Night.
As the dusk descended on the rolling hills Nick Cave and his band of Bad Seeds take to the All Together Now main stage belting out a raucous Get Ready as if warning us of what is to come. Jubilee St. is a triumph of teasing before it gloriously explodes with singer and microphones flying all over the stage. A devastating triple hit of Bright Horses, I Need You and Waiting for You is almost overwhelming with palpable intensity.
But that’s not to say that there aren’t moments of levity too with Cave having a playful time with those right at the front of what was certainly the weekend’s biggest audience – especially when he received a gift of SANZAR biscuits, by which he seemed genuinely touched. Red Right Hand and Higgs Bosun Blues are magnificent in their volatility before the main set is brought to a close with the apocalyptic prophetic, but strangely uplifting White Elephant.
Cave returns to the stage on his own to deliver the utterly heartbreaking Into My Arms, an emotional hammer blow, the Bad and the Good Seeds return to cap off the encore with Vortex and the deeply melancholy Ghosteen Speaks. This was one of those very, very special, deeply affecting live performances that will live long with all those who witnessed it.
After that, where do you go? back to the ATN Main Stage for Groove Armada, and what a perfect Saturday night addition they make, providing a much needed uplift to the intensity that we’d just experienced. At a guess it would probably be safe to say that the majority of people at All Together Now had a mostly fleeting knowledge of the Groove Armada back catalogue so it was to their ultimate credit that they had a sizeable attendance partying joyfully for well over an hour.
Continuing the dancetastic entertainment in the Something Kind of Wonderful tent was Honey Dijon, with the American living up to her reputation as one of world’s leading DJs with a compelling set that was rammed full of superb climaxes and delicious, dynamic drops, it was a real Saturday night treat, keeping punters entranced well into the small hours.
And to the final day and what a scorcher of day it was with another splendid line-up of massive talents. None more so than the Queen of Irish music herself CMAT who drew an enormous and enthusiastic crowd to the ATN Main Stage on Sunday afternoon. And what a wonderful show she put on, packed full of infectious tunes, self-effacing humour, lung busting stage runs, and singalong delights – KFC being the first of many of such rapturous moments, topped off by a wonderful sax solo.
The almost improvised choreography is hugely entertaining, especially the imaginary “Beyonce lift” that propels Meath’s finest from country & western queen to popstar sensation as she unleashes an exquisite duo of No More Virgos and Every Bottle is a Boyfriend. Then comes a hugely powerful moment as she takes a stand against transphobes with an emotional statement that has singer and fans in tears before erupting in unison with an absolutely glorious rendition of I Wanna Be a Cowboy Baby. This was a big statement performance that really announced CMAT as an Irish superstar in the making.
Hidden away in one of the wooded groves was the Jameson Circle stage which hosted the hugely talented MuRli on Sunday evening. We are treated to a brand-new collaboration with Elaine Mai (tentatively called Ready), the pop perfection that is Odyssey and the forceful Both Sides. It’s an uplifting, tour-de-force of performance from the Limerick artist with his Narolane crewmate God Knows adding extra vim and vigour to an infectious set which climaxes with both of them bursting into the the delighted audience for a dance-off before being carried shoulder height triumphantly back to the stage as they wrap a sensational performance to heartfelt and much deserved plaudits from the crowd.
Once done with her exploits with MuRli it’s time for Elaine Mai to head to the gorgeously designed Belonging Bandstand for the perfect Sunday night set, full of lush chillout vibes and dazzling beats. Joining her are not one, not two but three supreme vocal talents – Sinead White, Ailbhe Reddy & MayKay. It’s a majestic hour of the very best electronic music you can get in this country, with Go Slow, Still Feel and Enniscrone particular standouts, before Mai breaks out the anthemic No Forever which sees MayKay joined by White and Reddy for a sublime rendition that takes us on a sumptuous sonic tour all of its own, that seemingly never wants to end.
As the electro-sounds drift away in the stunning last night sky of July setting up on The Well stage at the opposite end of the Wellfied area is THUMPER. As expected they deliver an explosive forty minutes of full-on blistering rock. Their set up of duel drums (yes that’s two full drumkits), three guitars and bass is something that might suggest a tumult of noise but THUMPER have perfected a sound that not only threatens to blow you back down to the Belonging Bandstand, but which is also full of nuance, subtly and clever self-deprecating lyrics. Highlights from their high calibre set are 25, Topher Grace and Ad Nauseum, but the epic Down eclipses everything else, leaving band and audience exhausted in the very best of ways.
That was just some of our highlights from a weekend that was absolutely chock full of them. All Together Now is back and better than ever – a festival that delivered a fantastic array of talent, countless memorable moments and an atmosphere that was overflowing with good vibes.
We already can’t wait for next year!