Words: Stephen Byrne and Elizabeth McGeown
With Dublin doused in heat, if not the sunshine we were promised, Forbidden Fruit got under way in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham. Following a shaky start it has fast become one of the most loved events in the Irish festival season, arguably one of the ‘big four’ festivals this year. This, for a large part, is thanks to its central location and streamlined site – which can be circumnavigated in less than ten minutes – ensuring visitors can maximise their festival experience with easy access from stage to stage. The lack of wristbands and no re-admittance still irks but the event has improved steadily year on year. This year’s festival may take on legendary status thanks to an outstanding performance by Chic, but there was plenty of quality on display beyond the obvious, with many of the Irish acts proving themselves to be of international standard.
Awkwardly occupying the “lad rocker” corner of the playground, there seems to be a mass misunderstanding of what Kasabian are about. What they’ve always been about are the beats. Dressed in a sequinned jacket that’s more Brandon Flowers than Noel Gallagher, Tom Meighan prowls the stage, throwing out pronouncements here and there which are met gleefully by the crowd. Providing enough testosterone and air-punching moments to give a fitting end to Forbidden Fruit day one was never going to be a problem for them. Unfortunately, despite their ad campaign familiarity, filling an hour and a half is still a struggle for them, as half hour chunks at a time containing unrecognisable album filler. The hits, when they are played, are triumphant, but are too few and far between for the roving masses.
Ghost Estates got the festival underway at the Lighthouse Stage. The Dubliner put in a fine performance which featured material from their critically acclaimed self-titled début album and forthcoming second album which is being recorded in the band’s own Darkland Audio Studios. Opening with Record Store Day single In Waves the five piece wasted no time in announcing themselves to the eager beavers in the crowd with their brand of high energy shoegaze tinged indie sprinkled with a sprig of electro. Three part vocal harmonies, driving bass and highly hummable guitar lines sucked the crowd in instantly. There’s a hint of early Verve to the effect laden guitar work that permeates the band’s sound but, behind the effects and the bleeps, the darting basslines connect and are the real drive behind all the elements on display. Songs such as October and Pop Song maintained the high standards throughout the set. If Ghost Estates can successfully capture their vast sound and energy on record there’s no reason they won’t be significantly higher up the bill next year.
The Trinity Orchestra
Having wowed last year’s festival with their reproduction of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ , The Trinity Orchestra made a welcome return to Forbidden Fruit. This year they inaugurated the main stage with a career spanning retrospective of Queen. And they didn’t disappoint; lovingly recreating the work of Freddie Mercury and Brian May on a huge scale. It was a most unenviable task for the vocalists involved having to fill the role of one of the most individual and lauded singers in modern music, but they somehow managed to pull it off. Bohemian Rhapsody was the undoubted highlight as the crowd unleashed their inner Wayne and Garth. It will be interesting to see what the talented students of Trinity College come up with next year. Abba? Frank Zappa’s ‘Hot Rats’? Who knows, but it will be worth hearing.
Daithi didn’t seem dissuaded by his early slot in the Undergrowth Stage as he bounced around, lost in his own music, as he delivered an infectious set of summery electro. There’s no doubt his own enthusiasm transferred to the crowd as the set progressed and tacit toe tapping turned into actual dancing. The addition of live fiddle to Daithi’s brand of electro gives it a unique organic flavour and a more humanistic quality than many dance acts operating today. And, let’s face it, there’s just something more authentic and believable about someone playing an instrument compared to someone cueing up samples, no matter how long or hard they worked on them. People want to see a performance and that’s exactly what Daithi gives.
And the award for most flamboyantly dressed bass player goes to Ian McFarlane of Tieranniesaur. His outrageous attire of stick of rock pink trousers and tassely denim jacket was mirrored by his virtuoso on stage performance as he delivered every bass technique imaginable from slapping and popping, to neck bending and everything inbetween. McFarlane strides the stage like an ‘80s guitar God improvising ridiculous riffs and solos, climbing drum kits as he goes all the while looking like he’s been paintballed by the cast of Sesame St. The pulsating Here Be Monsters was an early highlight as the six piece band delivered a funkadelic set of lively uptempo songs.
Lead singer Annie Tierney’s voice can take on a certain Annabella Lwin-esque shrillness at times, which can be slightly off-putting, but for the most part her hushed speak/sing vocals are effective. In The Sargasso is probably Tierney’s moment in the sun as she nails it with a hushed delivery. The ridiculously funky Blockrocker was also a highlight, while DIYSCO, the title track from their new record, showed that there is something to their new material too.
It’s a question we often ask ourselves in GoldenPlec towers: What would happen if Robert Smith’s tragic storytelling monotone was replaced by a voice a little lighter, perhaps a touch of John Power from Cast? We need wonder no more. Swim Deep provide something very similar to early Cure; poppy distortion not without humour, with jangly guitars waterfalling over a doomy bass and unexpectedly creating something light and summery with urgent undertones. It’s nothing new, but the small audience who are hiding from the strident tones of MayKay from Fight Like Apes over on the main stage seem extremely content.
The Mighty Stef
Starting out as a solo artist under the moniker, it’s taken a number of years for Stef’s sea shanty poetry to fit the dynamic of a band proper. This metamorphosis has yielded a catalogue highly politicised lyrics (listen to We Want Blood for proof) twinned with beatnik sounds similar to The Velvet Underground. Echo and The Bunnymen also seem to be a major influence, especially on Stef’s voice which has the same drawl as Ian McCullough’s at times. Downtown is a prime exaple. Horse Tranquillisers is a drug fuelled highlight of their impressive set of dirty, throwback rock n roll. Stef’s troubadour roots are never far from the surface, however, and even at their loudest you can trace the folk roots of The Mighty Stef.
A glowing cube dominates the stage, prompting speculation about what it’s for. iamamiwhoami is known for being mysterious, her identity no longer shrouded in secrecy but her motivation still a puzzle. Will she emerge from the cube? Is it her spaceship? Her black-clad band appear and play ominous synths as if to signal the beginning of this invasion. But it’s nothing so outlandish, in fact her appearance from sidestage is perfectly ordinary but it soon seems that’s the only pedestrian thing about the show. The cube is a backdrop to sharp dancemoves, acting as a clock face to her body and arms’ clock hands.
Wild unadorned hair and a natural face mean that all eyes are on the lithe body in the back catsuit as she takes us through a variety of moves like an early morning keep fit queen. She bobs a small bow after each song but remains silent and seems all the more quintessentially Scandinavian because of this. The music flows prettily as she chirps over it, likeable but perhaps only noteworthy because of her stage presence. Choruses are in short supply here until Goods makes its long-awaited appearance at the end, and crazy Swede and audience are as one.
Ghostpoet is – no surprises here – a poet. A mesmerising performer, he channels the soul of Faithless’ Maxi Jazz with something else; an ability to show when he’s ruffled which the ice-cool Maxi would never do; an ability to show emotion a blazing advantage. His life is recited over key-triggered trip-hop, with live drums, bass and a darkly jazzy female backing vocal accenting the mood switches. If it doesn’t already exist, he’s creating nu-funk here while we watch, crooning so subtly it almost sounds like speech to the naked ear. Comatose is a glorious finish but it’s not the finish he intended: time constraints cutting him off before he can hit his planned finale. What it was going to be, we’ll unfortunately never know…
You expect intellectualism and political statements from someone like Manic Street Preachers. You might not be expecting it from Neon Neon though. Despite Gruff Rhys’ best attempts they attract a good-time crowd; one that doesn’t realise first album ‘Stainless Style’ is about the life of John DeLorean and most likely have never heard of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the subject of their recent second album. The clue is in the stage decoration, the set piled high with books – which raises a not-so-subtle “Eh?” from the audience – and the screen flashing up meaningful points that we should know about Feltrinelli and his efforts to bring banned books to Italy.
It’s a stretch for people who have given up the chance of seeing Alice Glass punch someone on the main stage, people who really only wanted to dance to Raquel and, although the new songs are solid, they’re nowhere near the dizzying heights of the previous ones. new material blocked together solidly without respite. Mid Century Modern Nightmare was the highlight of a set perhaps too reliant on ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’ material. Shopping (I Like To) makes its point but loses its audience, while I Told Her On Alderaan finally appearing but it’s too late for some. Gruff Rhys’ quirky humour may have been lost on many of those assembled but his between song cue cards were hilarious.
Often at festivals bad weather can benefit smaller acts playing in tents. That’s exactly what happened to Girls Names as they wowed a brimming tent sheltering from the rain. It was obvious that most present had no idea who Girls Names were, but it didn’t take long for the band to start winning new admirers thanks to their polished delivery of feedback-laden, melodic rock n roll. Think The Jesus and Mary Chain with Johnny Marr guesting on guitar and you have the blueprints for Girls Names. The Belfast quartet were joined on stage by Dublin’s answer to Terri Hooley with a better eye for finance (hopefully) Gibb Cassidy, Elastic Witch record store and label.
Songs such as Hypnotic Regression really hit home with their alternative ’80s. Cathal Cully’s morouse lilting voice is bleakly captivating, shattering his happy melodic guitarlines with its sorrow. The show ends in a cascade of white noise and feeback. The aforementioned Reid brother’s would be proud as Cully strangles his guitar into submission by detuning it whilst still playing and stamping on his effects pedals until the band leave the stage bathing in feedback.
There’s a danger in performing under your own name, especially when your own name is so very close to being James Blunt. A casual glance at James Blake’s name on the timetable may dismiss him as another sad guy with a guitar, but it’s not so. Yes, he is sad – maybe tortured would be a better description – but his confessional lyrics that might make Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu wince are accompanied by addictive, entrancing beats, putting everyone on a high at his sadness. A cover of Feist’s Limit To Your Love seems like it’ll be a light moment, but his voice is so reminiscent of Antony Hegarty’s that even this light moment still has some shade.
Having provided one of the highlights of last year’s festival when they appeared on stage dressed as the Dead Presidents for the first time, Le Galaxie returned to headline the Lighthhouse Stage. This significant step up from last years billing did put head to head with lad rockers Kasabian however. It was dancing room only as they took to the stage this year dressed in sparkly gold robes; half space suit, half Rocky inspired disco suits. Early highlights like Beyond Transworld transformed the tent into a discotheque, with a bumper crowd only too wiling to cut up a rug of grass and scream “woo” during the excellent Midnight Midnight. The triumphant sing-along vibe continued through single The Nightcaller, as the ’80s tinged beats continued to enthral the crowd.
By now it was clear that Le Galaxie had frontloaded the set with the hits. They began to introduce newer material as the set wore on. These songs weren’t as well received, though songs like Powers Of Miami and Heat City kept the party atmosphere going. Le Galaxie were joined on stage by Elaine Mai for final song Love System which the crowd lapped up. Then tragedy struck as the sound engineer cut sound to the stage for Le Galaxie’s traditional exit music – the theme tune to Jurassic Park – a decision that went down like cutting the sound to Springsteen and McCartney or pulling the plug on Ghost Town in Craggy Island. Nil point to the sound engineer 12 points to Le Galaxie.
Forbidden Fruit 2013 – Saturday – Photo Gallery
Photos: Aisling Finn and Kieran Frost