Forbidden Fruit returned to the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham for another year of mixed weather and mayhem, sticking to its hip hop and alternative roots across the weekend with added fairground attractions adding that faux-chella vibes.
Capacity hits its peak on Sunday with headliner Mura Masa, but Irish lads Fontaines D.C. seem to be the band on everyone’s lips before during and after.
Joining a rake of new Irish talent on day one, DJ and producer Cromby plays a decently full Lighthouse Stage. Despite his greenness, he’s confident as a performer – a confidence which is appreciated by a crowd eager to kick off their weekend with flair. There’s a couple of classics thrown into his set – It’s Not Over Yet from ‘Grace’ satiates an audience who seem far too young to remember its initial release. It’s clear that he has a cheeky streak however, finishing on a track at far too high a bpm for follow up act Prospa to mix into. Behave … there’ll be more to come from Cromby. FJ
At this point, Danny Brown could be considered a Forbidden Fruit veteran. He famously played the festival in 2017, and was mightily annoyed about Flying Lotus testing their graphics during his set (though his testy tweets from the night in question have long been deleted). No fear of anything like that happening this time, as he stands front and centre at main stage, ripping through the hits. Ain’t It Funny brings the best out in the hip hop star vocally, while Smokin and Drinkin sets the masses a-bounce. The closer cover of Attak is predictable enough in terms of where it comes in the set, (i.e. the exact same place it was last time he played here), but imagining the ructions had he not played it at all is unfathomable. FJ
In support of his most recent LP, Earl Sweatshirt saunters on stage to muted fanfare, despite his DJ’s best efforts. Seeming disinterested in the fans before him, he paces the stage slowly, doling out a monotonous rendition of December 24. It’s a set that’s new material heavy – a similarly lacklustre performance of The Bends follows – but even older fan favourite (I be) Outside fails to create an atmosphere beyond that could be described as anything beyond ‘tepid’. It’s a disappointing display from one of rap’s brightest stars, to say the least. FJ
The day after his new album ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ drops, Skepta brings the curtain down during the final set of the day on the main stage. Here is an artist that demonstrates hunger, motivation and growth, both in a personal capacity and within his own artistry. However, he’s not one to leave the OG fans behind. Opening with a verse from his ASAP Rocky collaboration Praise The Lord sends a seismic wave throughout Kilmainham to witness a man at the top of his game.
Greaze Mode shows how his new album brings things back-to-basics, with all the focus on flow and delivery (set highlight Bullet From A Gun bears the same motif). It only makes sense to close with Shutdown as revellers embrace the predicated rainfall, a frenzied energy that is palpable long after people leave the grounds. FJ
Lava La Rue
Entering the Undergrowth tent on Friday one would be forgiven for thinking they’d taken a wrong turn and wandered into West London. The space has been taken over for a short set by Ava Laurel aka Lava La Rue. Rapper, designer and NiNE8 Collective founder (of which Biig Piig is a fellow member) just to name a few of the proverbial pies she has her fingers in, La Rue is making waves back in the UK. 5 hours in to her first trip to Dublin and there’s hopes for a similar outcome here.
Due to early stage time there is a modest crowd, but that doesn’t stop La Rue from giving audience members a good time with poetic and emotive hip-hop tracks like Burn – as well as a telling off for lingering on the sidelines. AB
The crowd surges after Lava La Rue to welcome Birmingham’s rising R&B star Mahalia. From the second she takes to the stage, whether armed with just a guitar or flanked by a live band, Mahalia is always a joy to watch.
She clearly enjoys every moment throughout the rose-tinted set. Before a mellow rendition of 17, she simply asks “I’m gonna ask you one thing: can you sing with me?” and urges us to “love yourself and fuck anyone who thinks differently”. When introducing early highlight Honeymoon, she explains, “I like to write songs about people. About people that affect me, the guys that I like, the dickheads, the girls that I like, the bitches. This one is dedicated to you lot.” Sweet like honey, it’s hard not to be taken in by her apparent sincerity and she has the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand. AB
Fast becoming a festival mainstay, Plec Pick Kevin Smith aka Kojaque takes to the stage on Saturday in full Soft Boy attire. He gets the crowd riled up early on with Last Pint, not that they needed any encouragement. Hearing man, woman and dodgy-ID touting 18 year old singing “Fuck me like you hate me” back to you is an experience that Kojaque gets to witness over and over. Oh baby that is indeed a hit.
It’s less of a Kojaque set and more an advert for Soft Boy Records, as he is rarely, if ever, alone on stage. We’re not seeing babies on the ceiling but more in the backdrop and a familiar face in the form of Luka Palm joins him for Politicksis, a definite highlight of the evening. It’s a slow-burner of a set that lulls the sweaty Undergrowth tent into a dreamlike state – only to be snapped out of it by some raucous new material. AB
In direct contrast to Kojaque’s set, the Undergrowth stage gets a shake up with something even darker as techno auteur Daniel Avery took to the decks in glorious fist-pumping technicolour.
A textured and thumping set reached lift-off as he drops No Good by The Prodigy. Now this should be offset by the daylight coming in the tent as it’s only 6pm but we remain ever undeterred. The weather may not be taps aff but the crowd is. AB
Anyone attending a Jon Hopkins set knows why they’re there, and it isn’t for a quick fix. It’s either all or nothing.
Having been warmed up (shaken up might be more correct) by the previous sets, Hopkins is more subdued at first, the definition of a slow burner.
Hopkins naturally leans heavily on his latest album ‘Singularity’. The visuals lend themselves beautifully towards the set especially for hits Emerald Rush and Open Eye Signal. Like the last time he graced the Irish stage, Hopkins is again sporadically flanked by two dancers brandishing air traffic controller signal lights that sync perfectly with the music. Unlike his previous Vicar street performance however, this time wasn’t marred by a technical error.
Euphoria hits and fans get exactly what they came for when realisation hits that Light Through the Veins would take us into the night. AB
Haii has made quite the name for herself in both techno and mainstream circles, both for her immense skills on the decks and her now infamous boiler room set in which a young women falls into the DJ booth with her (worth a watch for both reasons).
At no point does Haii’s energy let up. She is a powerhouse, jolting and brandishing cigarettes as she does a damn good job of keeping the tempo up after a hectic first day. The Soulwax remix of Marie Davidson’s Work It is a standout. However, Haii could probably get away with playing Baa Baa Black Sheep thanks to her sheer star power – one to watch as the festival season progresses, for sure.
One of the main critiques of this year’s Forbidden Fruit namely came down to the lineup; one which in many of the acts listed had only recently played Ireland. Mura Masa has been a regular performer at festivals across Ireland over the last four years, now at a point where he could give Nile Rodgers a run for his money. After his closing set at Sunday’s Forbidden Fruit however, it seems obvious why booking agents have taken such a shine to the DJ and producer.
A surprise appearance from Slowthai for their incendiary collab Doorman is the cherry on top for most attendees, though arguably it’s the rapper himself who steals the limelight. MM’s touring vocalist takes a few liberties with the vocal ad libs, but Lovesick still charms the masses. The encore is, of course, Fire Fly; given the crowd’s raucous scrambling after a premature march to the exit, he’ll be a mainstay at Irish festivals until he eventually says no. FJ
To say the Undergrowth stage was rammed would be an understatement. Bodies everywhere- and there was no better word than ‘bodies’- the tent heaving with pint-swigging yung wans and their yungfella counterparts. In one corner a makeshift cardboard sign waves in time to signature staccato basslines, emblazoned with the words ‘Just Gou It’ (a nod to Gou’s Nike endorsement).
At the fore of all this chaos stands K-House extraordinaire Peggy Gou, and from where we’re standing there’s not a giraffe to be seen. Falling squarely in the feel good territory of house, her sets are characteristically energetic but there’s something lacking here. While the set was peppered with absolute bangers like It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) and Starry Night, it almost wasn’t worth being rammed from post to pillar. AB
If techno is our church, Laurent Garnier isn’t standing at the pulpit, he’s been immortalised in the stained glass. In comparison to earlier sets, there are a lot more clubbing veterans in the fore ready to bear witness to Laurent Garnier’s performance. As the last of the sun’s rays peek through, it would be a mortal sin not to go pay homage to the godfather of French techno, and even after over 30 years of DJing the Parisian was in fine form.
His set was diverse, with a few choice cuts including Donna Summer’s I Feel Love along with a fair bit of sax dropped along the way. He treated us to a few of his own tracks including The Man With The Red Face which was rapturously received, naturally. AB
Pillow Queens have been on tour with SOAK for the last few weeks, which guitarist Sarah Corcoran described as “one long hangover”. First Vantastival in Drogheda, then K-Fest, their set at Forbidden Fruit is the last leg of a weekend festival stint, and they seem genuinely thrilled to be here. “Nice to be here since I used to sit outside listening- guess we made it!”
They’re effortlessly cool even in the face of adversity, even if said adversity comes in the form of missing strings and capos (which they swear almost never happens!). Technical issues aside, they put on a great show belting out the hits from Puppets to Wonderboys to Gay Girls, the likes of which are the missing soundtrack to your teenage years. They also tried out some new cuts like two week old single HowDoILook which naturally went down a treat. Concluding with Gay Girls they remind you they’re here, they’re queer and… they almost never forget to bring a spare capo. AB
“For what died the sons of Roisin? Was it greed?”
The late beloved Luke Kelly’s voice boomed over the speakers in Kilmainham. This is the 2 minute warning that Fontaines DC chose for their Original Stage performance, and that should tell you enough.
In Irish music circles there is a tendency to be sceptical of any band that seems to have found early success. In this case however, to truly understand the hype of Fontaines DC, you gotta see them live. By the looks of it, you won’t have to wait long as they’re more than capable of a stellar main stage than they like to pretend.
Frontman Grian Chatten is frenzied, pacing back and forth, clasping his hands, smoking a fag, doing anything to keep busy. Guitarist Carlos O’ Connell is using his beer bottle to riff and with #NowforNI stickers emblazoned on their jackets, nothing is more punk than bodily autonomy.
By the time the first verse of Chequeless Wreckless escapes from Chatten’s lips, a fully-fledged mosh pit has formed where newly bought (and, for the cowards among us, essentially needed) ponchos go to die.
Chatten smokes a fag for the duration of The Boys In The Better Land, before staring out into the crowd in the same way one might watch passing traffic before announcing “This song is for my ma!” for the partially TS Eliot inspired Too Real. “Is it too real for ya?!” Chatten demands of us. With the mosh pit threatening to swallow the crowd you’d almost be tempted to squeak back up at him.
As the skies open up Fontaines DC brings their largest and loudest performance to date to a crashing end with Big‘s “Dublin in the rain is mine“. AB
When you’re closing out the final night of a festival, you’ve got to leave it to the professionals, and after 25 years they don’t come more professional than Elbow.
Guy Garvey showcases the most engaging display of frontmanship, from speaking of his honour in sharing a stage with Fontaines DC, to his introduction of Station Approach – “This is an old song, by a bunch of old c*nts… Speak for yourselves!”– to his blatant disregard for the organisers by downing a pint of the black stuff.
The rain stops just at the beginning of Mancunians’ set, prompting Garvey to exclaim: “Look what you’ve done!” before explaining how he overheard a woman on the train saying “it’s alright there’s a man coming round Wednesday to fix me sky”.
They pull out all the best bits from their decades-spanning back catalogue including the ever-sentimental Lippy Kids and Little Fictions.
One Day Like This may seem like the obvious closer, but he’s insistent on giving us the ending we deserve, pushing for more audience harmonies with the likes of Cliff Richards’ Congratulations, before finally settling on Grounds For Divorce. One of Garvey’s last quips rings true for the whole weekend: “Those who didn’t stay will never know this joy”. AB
- Anna Buckley – AB
- Fionnuala Jones – FJ