It was a weekend of wind, rain, mud and sun in Curraghmore Estate but one which brought us another outstanding All Together Now festival, packed full of magical musical moments.
For those that made the trip to Waterford ahead of the posse they were treated to a lovely chilled out introduction to the festival weekend on Thursday night, with Filmore providing an early injection of energy, Shiv some polished soul, the boundless enthusiasm of Gemma Dunleavy infectious as always, and Cork’s Stevie G bringing the Belong Bandstand to a close with a groove-laden playlist.
Friday brings the main crowds onsite, and the musical offerings really kick in with Ailbhe Reddy opening the Something Kind of Wonderful stage and she might never have sounded better, her band are impressively tight as they launch into Intimacy and Shitshow. Looking Happy is stellar and impressively segues into A Mess which would surely have been the highlight of her performance had it not been for her stirring tribute to Sinéad O’Connor – a near perfect rendition of Last Day of Our Acquaintance.
Over on The Well stage Sack are putting on an absolute masterclass, listening to them one has to ask why it never happened for them. The songs are majestic with beautifully poetic lines that drip seemingly effortlessly from Martin McCann – one of Ireland’s elite vocalists. Not only that he also proves himself to be an escapologist of sorts, comically donning a pop up tent before emerging triumphant with a Sack banner.
The mythos of Lankum has only grown this year with the release of the monumental album ‘False Lankum’ a fact that is underlined by what is easily the biggest crowd the Something Kind of Wonderful stage has ever seen. The performance as expected is a churning monster of intensity, with Go Dig My Grave more immense than ever. It’s as if the band and those that can actually hear them are experiencing a joint catharsis of sorts, but there’s the issue – if you weren’t in a sweet spot between the speakers then you were struggling to hear anything, the constant intrusive chatter adding to the frustration of those who were there to actually hear the music. Better sound design is a must for that tent next year, with maybe a STFU sign too?
One of the beauties of All Together Now is the pot-pourri of musical tastes to be sampled, Overmono bring their massive sounds and hypnotic vivacity to a packed tent as the heavens open outside. This is not a set delivered by numbers, with Tom and Ed Russell demonstrably workmanlike throughout and noticeably feeding off the fervour of the crowd. Build, follows build, with an emotional climax provided by the appearance of David Balfe (For Those I Love) for a sublime earth shattering live remix of I Have a Love – certainly one of the highlights of this year’s festival.
Saturday starts as a bit of a sludge fest but the drying winds and another packed day of music were enticing. And if any band was going to pick you up and get you pumped it was going to be The Scratch and they do not disappoint, propelling themselves into their set as if their lives depended on it. At times almost berating the crowd to give their all – which they gleefully do, a reward for one is to be invited on stage to join as a guest vocalist. This is heavy metal trad at it finest with Flaker and Seanchaí notable highlights, latest release Latchico is already anthemic in this setting.
The Circle stage, a perfectly appointed intimate venue tucked away in a wooded copse played host to several bands that could easily have drawn crowds at any of the bigger stages adds an extra frisson of excitement to the performances. Sprints exemplify that with a set that is amped up badassness, exploding with Literary Mind. Pillow Queens’ devoted following sees the woodland venue absolutely rammed and they launch into HowDoILook and lapping up the adulation.
Over at Global Roots it’s the joyful trad sounds of Jiggy providing the perfect Saturday night soundtrack, veering from their own unique blend of world music to traditional Irish fare. It’s certainly party time with the band gloriously feeding off a crowd that are clearly enjoying the revelry, so much so that it takes a few efforts to get them off the stage.
The good vibes are abundant over on the gorgeously designed Lovely Days stage with the Fight Like Apes reunion continuing in ebullient fashion, the band have come back together to celebrate the re-release of their classic album ‘Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion’ and much of the set stems from that. Along with the array of Fight Like Apes faves there’s also time for a tribute to Sinéad O’Connor from MayKay as to how Sinéad always spoke out against injustice, following which she herself makes an impassioned call for Palestinian freedom.
Later providing delicious techno beats well into the early hours is Robert Flood who has the wellington donned ravers at Arcadia blissing out as the nighttime skies clear to the heavy rumble of bass.
Sunday brings much-needed glorious sunshine as All Together Now bathes everyone in it’s festive glow.
Certainly bringing his own bank holiday je ne sais quoi to Waterford is Kojaque a surprise addition to the Lovely Days stage. His set is a mix of powerful diatribes and entertaining hip-hop with special guest appearances from Kean Kavanagh and Biig Piig. Following Kojaque on the same stage Limerick’s whenyoung are in sparkling form, A Little Piece of Heaven is pop perfection whilst Sleeper is quietly captivating, before The Others brings the set to an upbeat conclusion.
There is a real sense of anticipation building at the Main Stage ahead of Biig Piig’s appearance, bouncing on stage she looks immediately at home and delivers a performance that at first intrigues then delights the massive crowd with Ghostin’, Kerosene and Feels Right. By the time she finishes with Switch she owns the stage – a seminal moment for the festival and an Irish superstar in the making.
Speaking of superstars next on the stage is Lorde who’s set is bedecked with hit after hit with massive banger Royals setting the tone. It’s clear she’s having loads of fun and she even reveals how proud she is of her father’s Irish roots, appropriately finishing her impressive appearance with Green Light.
Now most septuagenarians are not spending their later years prancing around the stages of the world and they are certainly aren’t doing it with the energy and vitality of Iggy Pop. Whatever about the music, and off course all the classics feature, including plenty of material from his Stooges era, but it’s his sheer wilful non-stop performance that leaves you in awe.
All Together Now 2023 certainly had it’s challenges but overall it was another fantastic weekend with endless memorable moments on and off stage.