It rained like hell from about 3pm on Monday June 5th, which meant the final day of Forbidden Fruit had to be experienced from beneath ponchos and hoods. A less packed line-up than the previous days of the festival, many of the acts were ‘curated’ by Bon Iver, with Justin Vernon himself putting in a 90-minute shift on the main stage, though not all that time was spent on music.
Galway singer-songwriter Laoise is one of the most promising acts to emerge from the BIMM scene recently, piquing the interest UK blogs with debut single You. All this before she even graduated. Laoise may not have the exuberant stage presence that some of the other Irish acts displayed throughout Forbidden Fruit, but she certainly has an air of professionalism and authority on stage that many of them should aspire too. There’re no gimmicks here. Laoise, lets her music do the talking for her. Debut single You is a perfect example of this. Her vocal is pitch-perfect throughout, displaying physical and emotional dexterity without ever over-egging her delivery with showy gymnastics. This suits Laosie’s sparse, airy brand of electro pop perfectly. Her re-imagining of Nirvana’s Come As You Are was also a highlight, displaying a panache for arrangement. The ability to take such a well-known song, make it unrecognisable and her own shouldn’t be underestimated. Current single and title track from her upcoming EP ‘Halfway’ also impressed. Expect big things from Laoise in the future.
Detroit rapper Danny Brown’s ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ album was among last year’s best-received hip-hop projects. Strengthening a reputation for dark, manic, eccentric-sounding music, Brown’s set was one of the day’s more anticipated. As with much live hip-hop the sound quality is hard to gauge. Brown and a DJ are alone on-stage. The pre-recorded beats sound nebulous at times, Brown’s vocals themselves a bit hard to hear over it all, especially at the back of the cavernous Outcider stage. It’s a bit of a mess in places, to tell the truth, but it’s also the kind of gig where that might not matter. The front third of the crowd morphs into a sea of elbows and heads, heaving in response to the more hopped-up end of Brown’s discography. Tracks like Ain’t It Funny and Dip in particular provoke mayhem. It isn’t the best-constructed performance of the day, but there’s little more enjoyable going on in Kilmainham if you let yourself get into it.
Another well-hyped act at this stage, Eoin French and his merry men come to Forbidden Fruit off the back of ‘Wild Alee’, the well-received debut album from earlier this year. Talos have had singles of sufficient size, In Time and Your Love is an Island especially, to probably deserve a bigger platform at this stage, but he works with what he has. The full band squeeze onto the tiny Bulmers Live stage, cello and all. The impression is one of an act who do a few things incredibly well. French’s voice is capable of wonders, and every track has a baseline level of quality often missing from acts at a similar point in their careers. A few of the tunes from ‘Wild Alee’ lean further to the pop-anthem side of things than the songs which made his name, and while French gives it enough gusto to put in a mighty performance, the whole lot can seem a little two-dimensional. A bit more diversity in sound and he could easily find himself on stages a whole lot bigger.
Is there more electrifying up-and-coming act in Ireland than Rusangano Family right now? The Choice Music Prize winners offer firm suggestions that the answer is “no” with a near pitch-perfect set in the Bulmers Live tent late on Monday evening. The Limerick trio, who earlier in the day gave an engaging interview to HotPress on Limerick as a hip-hop hub and being stagecrashed by Ed Sheeran at the Ginger One’s cousin’s wedding. A year or more on from their seismic debut Let the Dead Bury the Dead, Rusangano prove once more they are in the rare category of Irish act to fully deserve the hype. In the intimate, almost cramped confines of the tent, their repeated demands for “energy!” from the crowd are paid back in full. Tracks like Lights On and Heathrow are as pyrotechnic as ever. New single I Know You Know suggests the streak isn’t coming to an end, either. Towards the end, the crowd are told to grab any spare pieces of clothing, and swing them in the air, the front of the venue transformed into a maelstrom once again. MCs GodKnows and MurLi have more than enough sturm und drang in their shtick to let the room truly get bopping, so much so that GodKnows puts his back out in the middle of the set’s closer, finally stumbling to his feet to acknowledge the adulation. Let’s hope he recovers. They know what it’s about, them boys.
It was handy when the lights came on about three-quarters of the way through Bon Iver’s headline set at Forbidden Fruit on Monday, because only with the lights on could you tell how bad the rain was. Perhaps an hour into Justin Vernon’s performance, in the middle of ’22, A Million’ track ___45___, the glitchy, fuzzed-up main vocals started sounding more distorted than ever, with it quickly becoming apparent that something, somewhere, had exploded. What followed was 15 minutes of standing in the downpour, punctuated with periodic chants of “Olé, olé, olé” as the tech side of the operation scrambled to get things working again. It says something about the effect-laden, vaguely avant-garde vibe of Vernon’s latest release that many in the crowd thought the sonic break-up could have been deliberate.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, with Vernon lighting a fag and acknowledging the football chants, the sound returned and the crowd got their Skinny Love sing-along before trudging on home. In honesty, the set was as good as could have been expected in the circumstances, Bon Iver managing the feat of seeming impressive, despite the rain, that would have eluded many a lesser act.
Opening the set with the first half-dozen songs from ’22, A Million’, it’s pleasantly surprising how well the sound, which differs from much of Vernon’s earlier, more overtly folksy output, translates to a live setting. The convoluted intricacies are toned down a bit by necessity, auto-tuned vocal modulations switched up less regularly, the group’s saxophone playing 1 or 2 notes where on the record it plays 10. It remains a successfully immersive experience. There is something of a lull in the middle section, as Vernon transitions to the first 5 tracks from his 2011 self-titled release, and some of the buzz that accompanied the newer, more up-tempo material subsides. After a return to the newer tracks with ’22, A Million’ highlight 8 (circle), everything goes pear-shaped for the next quarter hour. It’s profoundly annoying as you might expect, and some people do indeed pack it in. A more generous interpretation would say these things happen with live, rain-sodden music, and when taken as a whole the set manages to impress despite everything working against it.