Forbidden Fruit Festival in The Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Saturday 31st May 2014
Words by Justin McDaid & Sean Noone
It’s a glorious summer Saturday as Forbidden Fruit kicks off. It may be just five minutes from Heuston Station, but the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham seem like a tranquil exception to the busy bank holiday, especially in the idyllic sunshine. That is, until the music kicks off.
Four stages (three for music, one for comedy), four bars and all the usual bites make up the festival, now in its fourth year. Thousands of music lovers, in their various SPFs, headed up the Dublin quays for Saturday, Forbidden Fruit’s indie-rock day.
The Notas opened up the Lighthouse Stage. The tent, designed to protect from the elements, actually serves here to keep the early afternoon heat in and much of the audience out. Indeed when the band start playing, the five-piece outnumber their audience. The Dublin based band, assembled from across the world, soon attract more people as the set goes on. For the most part their electro-infused indie, a mix of electronic beats and live rhythm and guitars, is a bit too cool for this time in a festival, but later in the set they prove that they can rock with the best of them. Their sound is perfectly accompanied by the voice of lead singer Maurice Hans, a man who can handle a croon as well as a scream. SN
Let’s Set Sail
An atmospheric cacophony of whining guitar tones signals the start of Let’s Set Sail’s afternoon set in the Lighthouse Stage, with the immediate dual harmonies of Markievicz typifying the folky proceedings. Arrival similarly sees the keys player’s high register vocal battle it out with the singer’s deep tone before the song segues into a triple harmony coda from the seated musicians. It’s a brief set, and at times almost a solo venture from the frontman.
This Was It and a new number based on IMMA’s own Leonora Carrington exhibition seem like highly personal outings, and his colleagues hang back as the singer spins his tales. The latter song references Sun Kil Moon, and it’s clear that Mark Kozelek’s literal songwriting style has left its mark on the band. The three players ramp it up as the set draws to a close with everyone bolstering that distinctive deep vocal. It’s a set that sits well within the gloom of the tent, even if it’s more interesting lyrically than musically. JMD
Taking to the main stage early, Vann Music initially look a little bit lost. The four piece appear to be dwarfed by the stage staring out into a hill where the crowd is a series of estranged neighbours. Their sound is rooted in the ‘80s, synth heavy with Aaron Smyth’s live vocals reminiscent of The Waterboys’ Mike Scott. Be My Balloon in particular seems to have robbed its synths from Vogue-era Madonna.
Most of the energy created onstage seems to dissipate before it reaches the crowd, and it’s only really a cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, as if to prove the ‘80s theme, that gets the set going (and sets a trend for the weekend, but more of that anon). The trio of Into the Night, Tina and Life in Real Time end the set and just about rescue it. They serve to justify Vann Music’s position on the main stage, but more hits like these are needed if they’re looking to move up festival billings. SN
To Kill A King
Comparisons to The National are the immediate thought when this London-based five-piece kick off in a literally empty Undergrowth Stage. The band’s pounding, anthemic songs soon pull the bodies in from the sun however, and the men onstage are an animated presence, throwing themselves into the performance. Gasp features an effective quiet/loud, stop/start dynamic with the band seeming to become more comfortable onstage as the set progresses. The bassist tries in vain to get a handclap going at one point. The singer attempts the same later. Neither attempts prove fruitful. But wait…as the final tune erupts into a double-time stomp some unsolicited handclaps do indeed make an appearance in the crowd – it’s a better endorsement of their efforts than our words can convey. JMD
Nils Frahm is perhaps one of the strangest additions to the Forbidden Fruit line-up. Indeed, as he enters the Undergrowth Stage and introduces himself to the crowd, the German seems to be wondering to himself why he’s here. His stage is a collection of keyboards and disembowelled pianos, which he plays with his back to the crowd. He’s clearly a master in his finger movements but he’s too often playing too quietly, drowned out by chatter and New Secret Weapon playing on a stage nearby.
For much of the set, his left leg is showing more movement than the few hundred-strong crowd in the tent. “This is normally where I’d play a quiet song,” he says at one point. “I’ll skip that.” You feel that he spends too much time on his plugged in keyboards and his switchboard-like repeater than he should. It’s only when he really attacks his grand piano and plays its innards with drumsticks towards the end of the set that he plays anything suited to a festival. It’s a flourish telling of his frustration at the set; trying to vent everything that has gone wrong. SN
“Will you come home?”
“I says ‘I will, why?'”
“’Cos I wanna kiss the face off you”
“So I let him”
And that’s the little anecdote that precedes Kiss The Face, Lisa O’Neill’s song about getting the face kissed off her by some lad she fancied. The banter is entertaining all round from Lisa, all 5’1” of her, even if the setting is not ideal for her music. “I don’t know how to talk to you ‘cos you’re so far away” she says, and it’s clear to both her and us that O’Neill’s music is suited to a more intimate environment than the main stage. She remarks on the background music effect to the folk lounging on the hill taking her up on the instruction to get tipsy and burnt, but nonetheless it’s a fine set, with O’Neill’s band adding unobtrusive embellishment on violin and horns. They excel on Coward’s Corner, with O’Neill punctuating the folky aside with a palm thump against her acoustic. No Train To Cavan is one of the festival’s few protest songs, with just O’Neill and a trumpet to drive the point home. Cavan’s plight becomes significant, if only for a few minutes, thanks to the singer’s distinctive voice and amiable approach to the stage she’s been given. It’s far from ideal and ill-suited to the style of music, but it’s still an all round success regardless. JMD
The Young Knives hit the Lighthouse Stage to show off their change in direction. They have emerged from their twee indie shell to become a rock tour de force. Lead singer Henry Dartnall, dressed in a gaudy shirt and a large, faux-pearl necklace, no longer sings in his Ashby-de-la-Zouch accent, instead offering a piercing scream over his guitar in overdrive. Even We Could be Blood, a lament from their most recent album, is ratcheted up a few notches here.
Dartnall occasionally shouts rhetoric as an intro to songs as though he’s been through some paradigm shifting trauma but, given he’s a man with a wit drier than the Atacama, it’s hard to take him seriously. Even hits from their past like Maureen and The Decision – sung by Thomas “The House of Lords” Dartnall, a man undergone an aesthetic transition from grand nerd to surfer chic – are given a hard edge here.
Something Awful, which closes the set, suits the band perfectly. “You can see that I’m changing/You tell me that I’m changing/I can feel that I’m changing/Into something awful,” Henry sings. Far from awful, though, their change has been a revelation. SN
Kid Karate – “Two boys. Make Noise,” as they describe themselves – storm the Lighthouse Stage next. On this occasion it’s three boys making noise, with a wine-chugging bassist borrowed from Squarehead to add more depth to Kevin Breen and Steven Gannon’s guitar, drums, vocals act. Kicking off with Louder, it is suitably, eh, loud. Breen has a voice that echoes Death From Above 1979’s Sebastian Grainger and occasionally Kid Karate’s sound follows that thrash of DFA.
They’re not just mashing at their instruments though, and Breen shows some impressive fret work, all the while assaulting the audience with glorious noise. Two Times is a bit closer to The White Stripes than the obvious DFA or Black Key touchstones, while Heart has classic rock leanings. The moustachioed Breen leaps about the stage, on top of speakers, before ending the set playing outside of the tent all together. This is the type of performance that signal Kid Karate as a rock force to be reckoned with. We wait with bated breath for their album. SN
Squarehead have certainly taken a more aggressive approach to their sound in recent times. This evening’s set kicks off with a bank of noise and careers into a Walkmen-like, grungy arena; harder edged, certainly, but still retaining that power pop sheen that marks the band out. Volume and distortion supersede the melodic hooks on this outing, with the bassist loping around the stage during it all. The large bank of synths that have been dominating centre-stage are manned halfway through the set by No Spill Blood’s Ruadhan O’Meara, instantly filling out the sound, and his sonic additions change an already quality gig for the better. One last indie rocker sees the set out with loud, phased synth lines and whining feedback, firing off against the psychedelic lights that reflect off the tent above the band. Whether as a power trio or a quartet, Squarehead know how to dole out the rockers. JMD
The Flaming Lips
Saturday headliners The Flaming Lips hit the Original Stage and are met with high expectations. Their live performances are the stuff of legends, even with complaints that Wayne Coyne and Co haven’t changed it in the last half a decade. But Saturday saw ne’er a hamster ball in sight. Instead there were miles of fairylights hanging from the ceiling, giant inflatable aliens, tinsel and Coyne in a muscle suit – a suit revealing the muscles, as though the skin was removed as opposed to a suit exaggerating his muscles.
It’s a hit-laden set with She Don’t Use Jelly and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt 1 – which Coyne insists on restarting because of insufficient karate chopping on the part of the audience – are both unveiled in the opening three songs. The Flaming Lips offer a real treat for the eyes, with flashing rainbow backdrops replaced by burning reds and doleful blues. They recreate their songs immaculately too, but there’s something lacking.
The momentum just isn’t there. They are too focused on pushing the quirkiness during songs that there is a noticeable energy lull in between. “Come on, motherfuckers,” Coyne shouts repeatedly between songs trying to get things going. Even a cover of Bowie’s Heroes, with Kevin Shields a guest on guitar, doesn’t quite turn it into a moment to remember. That said, when they break out some of their true classics like The W.A.N.D and Do You Realize??, which closes the show, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. SN
Forbidden Fruit – Saturday | Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary