And then it arrived The Big Kahuna, arguably the best day of music on our shores this summer. From Irish up-and-comers to cream of the crop Brits new and old, there was something for every one of the 50,000 Heineken guzzling, 3 Network ringing, Native American Headdress wearing spoofers that wandered the festival grounds on Saturday.
A jam packed schedule left little room for indulging in the non-musical offerings, but every now and then a step in the wrong direction brought about an interesting discovery, from 3-legged dogs to, well, Corndogs.
Since when did brass get so saucy? As some punters remarked on how good-looking Stomptown Brass are, others were unable to control their gyrations at the Salty Dog stage. The whole formula of ‘modern songs + horns = good times’ has become a sure-fire winner over the last couple of years, and the band play up to that. Their bold urban stylings flood the wood with noise – their cover of I Want To Be Like You, from The Jungle Book, drags stragglers from near and far.
The artist and YouTuber formerly known as BriBry snagged a nice Main Stage slot early Saturday afternoon. Fellow YouTubers Melanie Murphy and Riyadh danced along with the modest crowd, as well as Bry’s wife Candice. Fan favourite Adventure Time is a sweet little ditty, albeit at times quiet and unassuming. The surprise of the set was a cover of The View’s Same Jeans – it would be hard to compare to Kyle Falconer’s signature drawl, but Bry’s vocals are the perfect accompaniment to the sunshine above.
The Riptide Movement
The Riptide Movement brought the noise. Clearly amped up about their first ever Main Stage performance, the band boast one of the loudest sets of the weekend. Hollering away across the site, frontman Mal Tuohy pierces the air with raucous renditions of You And I and All Works Out. This is one set that will stay in the crowd’s heads, hearts and ears long after the weekend is over – they must just wait on new material now!
Filling out a set with relatively unknown tunes from their back catalogue, the enigmatic Samuel T.Herring thrashed out wildly on stage in front of stationary bodies for longer than he would have hoped. It was a set designed to reward invested listeners that have delved beneath the glossy ‘Singles’ overcoat encrusted by the jewel that is Seasons(Waiting On You). The likes of Tin Man and Walking Through That Door, pulled from 2010’s ‘In Evening Air’ are powerfully emotional songs that lean towards the heavier, less accessible side of the band’s oeuvre. They do however bring out the best in our sweaty conductor, who paints figures in the air and punches exasperatedly at intervals. Patient audience members were treated to exactly what they had been promised; an enthralling performance from one of the greatest leading men out there at the moment.
With Mac Demarco wailing away on his guitar in the tent adjacent, this was certainly one for the more chilled-out festival-goer. Those with the patience for the three sisters beautiful and serene melodies were wowed by impeccable three part-harmonies and some extremely British on-stage banter. Perhaps not the most suitable prelude to a night of boogieing out and wandering around lost between tents, but perfectly pleasant nonetheless. Make It Holy holds the hefty emotion of the record, Justin Vernon or no Justin Vernon.
Playing her own brand of self-dubbed ‘Awkward pop’ to a small crowd of devoted followers, Aleksandra Denton left a smoke-cloud and a big impression in the Little Big Tent. Her glistening ‘80s synth sound stepped things up a bit ahead of the night’s festivities. Romance was in the air and many in the crowd attempted to recreate the massively popular video to Touch when she rolled the hit out towards the end of the set. White Light got the much-desired extended treatment: the band slamming out a rousing instrumental outro, serving as an emphatic closer to a very memorable set.
“Ah there he is, you’d hear him a mile away, the nasal-voiced pr*ck. Literally. It’s like listening to his nose.” One viewer was less than impressed with George Ezra. Not that that stopped the throngs of men, women and children flocking to the singer’s Main Stage set. Sporting sunglasses and appearing a little less perky than usual, (there were vigorous in-crowd debates as to whether he’d been, eh, ‘recreating’ backstage. The pace is a lot slower than his previous Irish gigs, trotting along through his back catalogue. Barcelona is mellow acoustic simmer – any slower and it would shudder along. Blind Man In Amsterdam follows suit: it seems as though the ghost of Barry White’s voice resides in Ezra’s throat. He is undeniably talented, but unfortunately, the set pales in comparison to the livelier festival slots he has played over the summer.
The War On Drugs
The Electric Arena was home to some of the most riveting performances of the weekend – The War On Drugs being the stand-out one. Highly emotional, evocative and illuminated by what seems like hundreds of thousands of lights; Adam Granduciel punctures the atmosphere in the tent, with riffs that ascend beyond the skies and sizeable vocal bursts. Between Red Eyes and Under The Pressure, it’s a challenge to pick just one stand-out moment from the set – equal parts ‘80s big beats, and wistful crooning slow burners. With any luck, the band will back to play more shortly.
Having battled internet misogynists globally, Chvrches set their sights on Stradbally for another knockout blow. A consistent set is performed, but ‘violent and assaulting’ would not be an appropriate description. Lies is an ethereal transportation to another dimension composed solely of ringing synths. Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are unrelenting, and it is fantastic to see her grow as a front woman with every performance. New tracks like Leave A Trace are met with zeal by fans, but closing the set with Mother We Share sees frenzied fans lose control of their bodies – it would have to be seen to be believed.
The sassiest set of the weekend. Natalie Prass bounced around on stage at a slightly awkward time, as many drudged back in the direction of the campsite to load up on whatever they thought they may be unable to slip past the security guards beyond the Salty Dog stage. The Body & Soul stage, notoriously chill-friendly as it is, presented her with dreary bodies draped along the sides of the natural amphitheatre, though many rose to life at various intervals in the set, joining a small crowd of devotees for a boogie as Prass drifted breezily through cuts from her gorgeous debut album and a few well-suited covers (Janet Jackson’s Any Time, Any Place a particular stand-out).
Sam Smith drew an enormous crowd of on-lookers, as he attempted to get them feeling nice and emotionally vulnerable. Latch never quite packs the same punch when performed without the backing of Disclosure, but it remains a serene, thoughtful performance. Mixing things up during Money On Mind, he intersperses it with choruses from classics like Tears Dry On Their Own by the late great Amy Winehouse. It seems he can turn his hand to anything, and it’s surprising to see how comfortable he is on stage and playing up to his role as a show man. Finishing up with Stay With Me, it is an unforgettable rendition that will ring clean in the ears of many for weeks to come.
The sensible answer is still probably Oasis, but a combination of new and old hits expertly delivered with the help of a fantastic brass section justify their place at the top of the Britpop ladder with their Manc peers. At some point during the performance, the crowd at the main stage actually absorbed one another into a single entity: a blob of putty in the hands of Damon Albarn. Rarely have an Irish audience bayed so heartily to a sweary, swaggering Brit, whose arrogance is just about justified by the catalogue of hits that he drops strategically throughout a set that meanders towards his newer material. Hansel is sensible enough to make damn sure that he doesn’t lose his way home. No Points awarded to the crowd for singing back perhaps the simplest chorus in living memory during Girls and Boys, but it succeeded in giving Goosebumps regardless.
One of the revelations of the weekend. The best thing that can be said of his set is that he left internationally acclaimed pitchfork darling Shamir with a mountain to climb. The young Irish producer had the crowd bouncing along with a blend of original songs and remixes that shook the Body and Soul mainstage and left fans struggling to either remember or pronounce the name the following morning. Thank God for google.
Sound difficulties and a late-start stunted Shamir’s second performance of the evening in front of a restless crowd at Body & Soul. Opener Vegas falls a bit short of getting the crowd going, hindered by a faulty mic that leaves the singer drawling his high pitched vocals into an abyss of nothingness. When the mic eventually kicks in he gains the crowd back onside with renditions of hits Demon and Call it Off, which bring the tempo up significantly. However, sitting cross-legged at the side of the stage, it is hard not to wonder whether Shamir is aware that it is 3am and he has a crowd of intoxicated, just about sentient beings in front of him.