That familiar patter of rain wakes some groggy heads on Sunday morning. At this stage most revellers are immune to the rain, but then, a vision! A bright glowing orb in the sky! So familiar and yet so alien, it is greeted with one of the loudest cheers of the weekend.
Little Xs for Eyes
Perfectly poised to welcome the sun are the relentlessly upbeat Little Xs For Eyes, whose sweet, sunny songs have heads bobbing and feet tapping at the main stage. Rich vocals from their three female members wriggle their way into the ear and stay there and some synchronised dancing from the female leads keeps the eyes occupied. The perfect start to the day.
Following the theme, Cave Ghosts, with a frontwoman and two female guitarists accompanied by a male rhythm section, cut a striking image on the stage. Sadly the performance doesn’t match up. The two guitarists look like they’ve never been on stage before, staring at their instruments with an intensity usually reserved for scientists at the microscope, never mind that the guitars are inaudible anyway, which is hardly their fault. The songs themselves have potential, perhaps the recorded versions would be a fairer barometer.
As Ghost Estates take to the stage it really looks like the rain might be gone for good. Despite this, the lads fail to draw much of a crowd to the Main Stage. This is a band that still seem unsure of what they want to be. The use of samples and laptops feels gimmicky and doesn’t add to the songs. Good driving beats get the sparse crowd moving but the melodies are uninspiring, and one misguided instrumental, which just sounds like a backing track missing the vocals, misses the mark.
New for Sunday is the Homebeat stage inside the castle, in the chapel room. It’s a stunning setting, reminiscent of Other Voices, and its hushed reverence is a welcome respite. It is here that we first see Sam Evans, a young Bristol native with huge potential. Immensely likeable and with a fantastic voice, he and his acoustic band bring us through some fantastically catchy original numbers before ending on Lean On Me, and if you can make that song sound fresh then you’ve got talent. Definitely one to watch.
Again, the crowd is surprisingly thin as Codes take to the main stage and even their big hit, This is Goodbye, which kicks off the set, fails to bring the punters to the stage. Like many of the acts before them, the sound is not great, vocals this time being the issue. Perhaps a feeling of clinging to past glories is another issue. However Ghost Estates should take note on how to successfully merge electronic and alternative sounds.
Back inside the castle a hushed crowd watched as Conor Walsh’s keyboard-based instrumentals filled the chapel room with beautiful noises and mesmerising visuals. Full of intensity as he repeatedly brought seemingly disparate sounds into cohesive pieces, it could be classed as “soundtrack music” but it is more than capable of standing on its own two feet. “Pretty f***** special” was how the Homebeat curator described it. We fully agree.
On the main stage, meanwhile, Sisters can only be described as a let-down. This Liverpool-based, Limerick-born trio are one of the hype bands of the minute but thin vocals, which sound distinctly out of tune on several occasions, and indistinguishable songs mean they fail to hold the crowd’s interest. A pity, as they had drawn a crowd.
Funeral Suits suffered a similar fate to most of the Main Stage acts with dubious sound quality making it hard to judge the quality of the songs. While they opened strongly, and their performance was full of energy and intensity, there was something incoherent about the whole show with too much swapping of instruments, vocal duties and positions on the stage.
Enemies, in the Metro Herald tent, gave one of the outstanding performances of the weekend. They also dabbled in a bit of instrument swapping during one of the outstanding performances of the weekend, with one of the guitarists moving to a second drum-kit on several occasions. For an instrumental band these guys have great stage presence and keep the songs relatively short (something many instrumental bands fail to do). Hugely talented musicians, they are clearly enjoying themselves immensely, but not as much as the crowd who are lapping it up.
We Were Evergreen
Things are moving towards a close on the Main Stage as We Were Evergreen, from Paris, take up position. If Paul Simon was the frontman of Vampire Weekend you’d have something that sounds like We Were Evergreen, and while that might sound appealing, the reality is different. Frontman Michael Liot plays the Ukelele throughout, though it is inaudible, and he doesn’t seem happy to be there at all. The songs are upbeat, catchy, but then instantly forgettable.
Tvvins end Goldenplec’s Castlepalooza on a high in the Metro Herald Tent. Using loops and vocal effects, they are a genre-hopping act with songs incorporating everything from huge metal riffs to Prince-like grooves. These veterans of the Irish music scene engage with the crowd, crank it up and practically tear the tent down. A brilliant performance.
And with that, another Castlepalooza came to a close. It was great to see the quality of home-grown acts on display who were, in general, far more impressive than the fancy imports. Fáilte Ireland would be proud. All that was left to do was try to extract the car from the mud pit of a car park. Easier said than done.