Castlepalooza 2013

Castlepalooza Festival at Charleville Castle, Tullamore on 2nd-4th August 2013

Words: Jonathan Klein & Justin McDaid
Photo: Ruth Medjber

It was day three all too soon at Castlepalooza, and despite the rain and wind that interrupted our meandering around the stone and wood enclaves of Charleville, spirits remained high all around. Justin & Jonathan braved all the elements, from cold rain to hot tents, to check out the array of acts. Here are a few of their choice picks from Sunday…


A roar of noise greets us as we enter the Metro herald tent for the early afternoon onslaught of Dublin quintet, Meltybrains? Decked out in white, the band heft bass, drums, violin, laptop and synths, inciting the crowd to wake up with “take off your clothes everybody, this is a party!”. Garments remain in situ, but there’s certainly no denying the party atmosphere as the band fire white, paint-spattered masks into the crowd before an Underworld-inflected pounder. Our synth man hurls mini chocolate bars into the crowd, then himself, running around screaming before rejoining the band. Slow, syncopated drumbeats lead into an intoned and phased vocal, to be joined by a harmony – one organic, one synthetic. The bass and drums lock the songs tight, adding crashing layers to the distinctive reverb-drenched vocal that switches from whisper to echo throughout. An often-sweet violin then, acts as a surprising counterpoint to all this, as the band knit all the elements together, switching from the anthemic to the bizarre. We can’t think of a better way to wake up on a Sunday. JMD

The River Cry

At this stage of the afternoon barely anyone is able to do anything but lie down in the Metro Herald tent, such is the heat inside. The River Cry’s Hilary Woods likewise sits low at her keyboard on stage, flanked by her guitarist and violinist. Little grouped crescents of varying sizes, made up of reclining punters, radiate from the space in front of the stage, and even before a note is struck this is a serene gig. The chattering folk down the back are shushed by the rest as she begins with a gentle Sleep Baby Sleep, and things continue in this laid back vein. To The Sea has a folk slant in its almost-spoken sections, and she rolls out a new number, In Dreams. It’s a pretty understated gig, and one that maybe doesn’t get the attention it deserves from those hovering in the liminal zone between tent and daylight, but a modest success nonetheless. JMD

Myles Manley

It’s more of the same heat-induced lethargy in the Metro Herald tent, with the crowd lying on the ground for Myles Manley’s mid-afternoon set, and more entering as the set progresses. There’s an immediate recall to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in the vocal, but Manley puts his own inimitable slant on proceedings. He takes up wooden percussive pipes for Dog, before being joined by singer Anthony Donnelly for Old Habits Die Hard, a drum and bass led tune peppered by echoed effects and guitar squall. Young Enough wanders into ballad territory, sympathetically furnished by the band, before things get more upfront and rocking in the follower. He closes the set with I Fuck Your Wife, raising a few titters in the crowd with the title, but quelling them again with a fine mid-tempo account. JMD

The Notas

Dublin sextet The Notas prove themselves an energetic, instrument swapping addition to the main stage on Sunday afternoon, where programmed beats provide a dance-y basis for the band to layer on their many-handed embellishments. Their drummer comes out front to take up a more mobile form of percussion over the ambient pulse and soulful vocal of C-Hole – “a favourite of ours” – and indeed her drumming, and the bass, frequently take the lead as the reverbed guitar scales the peaks on top. Smoke flows from the stage into the sunlit main arena, as the keys player moves to bass, the guitarist to keys, and the crowd that little bit closer to the front. The band propels things to a droned conclusion, the singer roaring now, taking things up a notch from the smooth vocal of the set that just passed. For a young group, The Notas already have that palpable sense of assurance that comes with, y’know…being a good band. JMD


Four-piece Princess provide a distortion-heavy noise-fest that features reverb-drenched vocals, and a sullen stage presence. The band-members glare moodily at the floor through their long hair throughout the performance, but the songs are of a high-quality. Their loose style of playing seems capable of collapsing at any moment, but it doesn’t, and the wild distorted tunes are all the more charming because of this. Molly exhibits these attributes perfectly, while Excuse The Voice builds up slowly, and seems to last forever before a climatic burst of untamed guitar viciousness ends the song. The mid-section of the tune is perhaps dragged out a bit too much, and the band’s unsociable stage presence is off-putting, but for the most part the tunes are brilliantly ear-crushing. JK

Sleep Thieves

For those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the main stage, the spacious music room of Chareville Castle plays host to a handful of artists. In this stunning setting, Sleep Thieves treat the audience to a glimpse of what their new album will sound like when it’s released later this year. From what’s on show here, it’s going to be a rather dreamy affair, with layers of synths building up to create a lush soundscape that’s topped with warm, ethereal vocals. The songs threaten to blend into one hazy blur, but Islands is that little bit more rocky, and jolts some energy into the set. The new album ought to be an intriguing listen. JK

Vann Music

Vann Music bring their thumping 80s-influenced electro-pop to the Metro Herald tent. Their massive uplifting tunes are a joy to behold, especially when they perform with such wild abandon. Tina is a highlight, with a strong beat and relaxed, sing-along chorus. The band’s cover of Bowie classic Let’s Dance is also exceptional, and sees the audience swell in numbers as those outside are lured in by the performance. Their vibrancy on-stage seeps into the crowd, and despite the time being only half six or so, the performance feels more like a late-night one, such is the enthusiasm of the spectators. JK


Squarehead’s set is filled with new tracks that point to an impending arrival of a new album, and the band seems to be taking a change in direction with these new songs. Moving away from the indie-rock of their debut, Squarehead are sounding much heavier with fast-paced tunes filled with aggressive, often shouted vocals. The performance is lively, and the tunes feature more guitar hooks than an empty cloakroom. Looks like Squarehead’s new LP is another album that we can look forward to. JK

Girls Names

Do you remember the 80’s? A large proportion of tonight’s crowd certainly don’t, but fear not young‘uns; Girls Names are here to take us all right back. It’s by no means packed as they begin, but far from empty, the crowd instead standing in scattered pockets all the way up from the main stage to the castle doors. A synth heavy beginning leads into a slew of Smiths/Cure/Bunnymen influenced tunes, and actually…really good ones. The synth tones ascend and descend as the guitars wash all over them, veering from power pop to New Wave and back, as the spotlights at times emulate a disco ball effect. The crowd soon fills out as the noise and feedback gradually becomes the norm, anchored all the while by the solid bass. The swirling effects build to a nice and repetitive, riffing, noisy ending as the lights flash in tandem; that riff keeps circling as singer Cathal Cully gets down to his pedals to elicit that bit more noise chaos, before they bow out. JMD

Kid Karate

For anyone looking for unapologetically loud and aggressive rock, Kid Karate are the act to see. With a tied-back ponytail and baggy clothes, frontman Kevin Breen could almost be mistaken for a girl. That is until the moment he opens his mouth and begins singing in his huge voice. With massive, stadium sized riffs, and those gigantic lungs, the band has the crowd rocking with songs such as This City and Heart. The drums are just as aggressive and wild as the guitars and vocals, and a light use of synths provides something extra. JK