Now in its eight year, you know exactly what you are going to get from Forbidden Fruit, Dublin’s annual June Bank Holiday micro-festival nestled in the rear of The Irish Museum of Modern art in Kilmainham. The first two days are predominantly aimed at a younger audience with hip hop, electronica and dance music to the fore, whilst the Monday is reserved for an older age group, with a line-up of acts who suit the traditional ideal of what a festival act should be.
Due to its central location Forbidden Fruit is one of the easier outdoor venues in Dublin to get to thanks to its proximity to the Luas and Houston Station, and its small circumference makes getting from stage to stage a breeze compared to other festivals.
Last year was a rain soaked affair with attendees (there is no such thing as a reveller) shunning the main-stage in favour of the relative dry and warmth of the tented stages. This year, with temperatures in the high teens, it remained to see if the shoe would be on the other foot.
Dublin trio Tanjier opened the festival on the Undergrowth to a small crowd thanks to the gates opening slightly later than advertised. The large tent seemed to stifle their intimate sound which takes its cues from the likes of Talos, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, London Grammar and Wild Beasts.
An ill-advised cover of Supermode’s Tell Me Why (a euro pop rehash of Bronski Beat) fell flat and felt completely out of place with the band’s original material.
Single Hymn, with its catchy falsetto refrain of “my body’s on the run” was the highlight of a set which ultimately felt tentative.
The band were clearly nervous at times with audible mistakes scattered throughout the set. It would appear that the jump to such a big stage is currently was a little to much for Tanjier. Despite this, there are positive signs here with some promising songwriting ability on show. Tanjier have something solid to build upon if they can cut out the mistakes and add stagecraft to their arsenal.
Noir synth pop duo Sylk are another young Irish act very much at the beginning of their development. Bebhinn McDonnell’s dark, slick and highly rhythmical production is an intense mix of synth bass, found and processed sounds which offer the perfect base for singer Taylor to lace with her intense lyrics. Sex (or more so sex from the female perspective) is a key element in Sylk’s exploration. Recent single Girl is the highlight of their spirited set.
Mango x Mathman
Mango and Mathman brought their Dublin hustle brand of grime to the Undergrowth stage with aplomb in a relentless display. The duo have really grown and honed their stagecraft over the last year or so with Mango stalking the stage and demanding crowd interaction. The duo weren’t going to settle for their allotted 15 minute set, instead stealing an extra quarter hour, much to the delight of the large crowd. Across those stolen moments Mango delivered his thesis on the ills of modern day Dublin and Ireland at breakneck speed with no stone unturned and no element of society above reproach.
Festival season brings Irish acts the opportunity to set their stall out against their foreign counterparts and in this regard Mango x Mathman were one of Forbidden Fruit’s big winners, along with Fontaines DC and Ailbhe Reddy. The next mission for this duo is to see if their brand of Dublin hustle can enthral foreign audiences in the same manner it can Irish ones.
With a set of electronic pop-tunes and heartfelt lyrics, the 23-year old’s free-spirited personality and ease on stage are noticeable from the off. With his early single Last Night such a big hit across the country, it’s understandable that this received the loudest reception, however, it was one of his new, unreleased songs My Remedy that was the musical pick of the bunch, combining pop songwriting with the energy of a club banger.
It’s been great to watch the progression of R’N’B starlet Erica Cody recently. The hard working singer is always trying to take it to the next level in terms of vocals, songwriting and performance. And she definitely brought her ‘A’ game to Forbidden Fruit. The addition of dancers to her live set brings an air of professionalism to proceedings and really suits Cody’s old school ’90s vibe. Good Intentions and Addicted standout in a well received and executed set. The Story of Hip Hop star even throws in a few classics for good measure. We look forwards to seeing how far Cody can raise the bar in the coming years.
It’s unclear how many people knew of Mike D as a member of one of hip-hop’s pioneering groups, the Beastie Boys, but one thing is for certain, once his set had ended they would have been none the wiser. Playing a DJ set featuring songs by the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kendrick and Kanye as well as a few older cuts, little would have pointed towards his influence on hip-hop or his importance.
A run through of No Sleep Till Brooklyn was well received by those in the know. Frivolous fun from Mike D, but money for old rope all the same. Nothing to write home about and nothing to make the set stand-out against the numerous other DJs across the afternoon.
It’s been a time of upheaval for Æ MAK recently with a new line-up being assembled following the departure of singer Ellie McMahon, a move which left many people wondering if the act could work as effectively with one singer instead of two. But, if anything, this newly revamped version of Æ MAK feels more solid, yet more versatile at the same time.
The dance routines feel much less robotic than they did in the previous incarnation of the band and Aoife McCann’s voice is more than capable of comfortably delivering all of the songs solo. Any fears in relation to the band downsizing from a seven-piece band to a three-piece can also be shelved this was a robust performance with older songs such as I Can Feel It In My Bones lose none of their zeal, while recent single Glow indicates there’s plenty to come from Æ MAK.
The Oxford indie outfit played one of the finest sets of the evening, with a performance pulsing with energy, confidence and musical bravado. The band’s mixture of memorable choruses, simple musical structures and instrumentation was a sight to behold, even for those who admitted having never heard the group’s music before.
Playing alongside two plastic cacti and an abnormally large pineapple, frontman Dave Bayley oozes style as he leaps his way across the stage, making ease of the vast amount of space between members of the band. With two album’s worth of material at their disposal, songs such as Life Itself, Black Mambo and Youth were met to a raucous reception.
The highlight of the set was their cover of the Gnarls Barkley hit Crazy. The cover showed a band whose fame, appeal and confidence is on the ascendancy and has grown considerably since their last Irish appearance. With sets such as this, its no wonder the band are such hot prospects.
In one of the most surprising additions to the line-up back when it was first announced, Hollywood actor Idris Elba, the star of Luther, The Wire and Thor played to one of the most packed tents of the day. Elba wasted no time spinning a mixture of classic hip-hop beats, ’90s dance music, and some Irish classics. Elba commanded the tent as he does the screen, and it was a special moment when, upon playing the House of Pain classic Jump Around the tent was illuminated in the colours of the Irish flag and everything from pints, tennis balls, shoes, and hats were thrown haphazardly into the air. Elba most certainly impressed all in attendance.
The French duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay AKA Justice delivered the most impressive headline performance of the weekend thanks to an amazing light show and stage production that captured their brand of electro perfectly. What appeared to be 36 Marshall amps being wheeled onto stage were in fact 36 Lights boxes with Justice stamped on them and the audience was none the wiser until they erupted into orange light half way through. In fact, every single piece of equipment save for the mixers were lights.
The funky Safe and Sound set the tone for what was to come music wise, as Justice treated Forbidden Fruit to a whirlwind trek around their back catalogue including their take on Simian’s We Are Friends. The disparity of a crowd dancing along to the upbeat euro-rhythms of Justice whilst a giant white cross glowed from the stage after the recent referendum result was palpable. A truly joyful experience from beginning to end reminiscent of Alive era Daft Punk.