Imelda May 2 @ Groove Festival by Sean Smyth (7-7-13)

Groove Festival at Killruddery Estate, Wicklow on July 6th & 7th 2013

It’s day two of Groove Festival in Killruddery Estate, and once more the weather is holding up its side of the bargain. There seems to be a few more bodies milling around than the previous day, but certainly not to the point that there is any danger of overcrowding at the bars, stalls or stages. The atmosphere is as relaxed as Saturday’s, with people dotted around every enclave of the grounds relaxing in the sunshine. The climbing wall and the ice-cream truck are proving to be popular draws, but we decide to opt for the latter and get down to business…

Propeller Palms

The fun is well underway as Goldenplec arrives on site on Sunday afternoon. Waterford ten-piece Propeller Palms stretch across the main stage, with main man Paul Butler inhabiting the mid-ground, conducting proceedings. Theirs is music to dance to, but it’s early days yet and the majority prefer to recline on the slopes at the sides and near the sound stage, despite the best efforts of Butler to rouse them into action. The band flirt with a multitude of styles, from country through blues, rock, funk and soul, and there’s more than a hint of Dexy’s, particularly in the horn section’s punctuations. When Butler tells us “It’s time to get funky” before No Smokin’ No Jokin’ he’s not kidding, and the band’s ensemble playing raises the set to another level. My Love rounds off the selection, enlivened by the tom-rolling drummer and the loose dance moves and gospel-like backing vocals of the three Palmettes – all in all, a rousing, soulful start to our Sunday.

Jerry Fish

Jerry Fish cuts an eccentric figure alright, with his coiffeured moustache and stage-prowling mannerisms, but this is a man who knows how to get a party started. He involves the crowd from the set’s ska-tinged starting point, in between his own theatrical flourishes and maracas shaking. The band hangs back during Get Yourself Happy, while the bass drum and crowd handclaps keep it going. Fish descends into the crowd and leads everyone around him in jumping up and down before forming a dance circle. Life Is Sweet follows – “This is what I truly believe, ladies & gentlemen” – and there’s no argument when the vibes are this good. It’s difficult to know if anyone’s enjoying this more than Fish himself, as he gets a call & response underway and the song gets more infectious as it goes on. He rounds of with An Emotional Fish’s Celebrate – a celebratory gig? You better believe it.

Damien Dempsey

Damo kicks off an early evening slot in front of a relaxed crowd of swaying bodies, with the reggae lilt of Negative Vibes, but Massai – dedicated to all the Celtic women – is a game-changer. It’s an impressive and impassioned vocal performance from Dempsey, bolstered by a powerhouse band performance, and the chants of “Damo-o!” duly follow in admiration. Some Irish trad “to lift our hearts” follows, with the keys player on flute and the drummer coming out to join Dempsey with a badhran. It segues into Apple Of My Eye, and there’s a wonderful moment as the crowd sing the chorus while Dempsey gently strums, stagefront with eyes closed. Your Pretty Smile comes with an invitation to skank along if we don’t know the words, and most do indeed take up the invite. Rocky Road To Dublin is not without a bit of vitriol, being about “serpents and suits”, and powered along by the steady thrum of the badhran. Dempsey seems in good form, joking “you’d need mouth to mouth after that”, and involving the crowd in singing time and time again. It’s smiles all around onstage and off as the set winds down, the drummer breaks yet another stick, and Dempsey exits leaving his band to carry it home.

The Notas

The Notas are well into their set as we find them on the Whelan’s stage, and the six-piece band seems to have an easy, kinetic way of meandering in and around one another, both musically and physically. Members swap instruments and positions, going from bass to keys and from drumkit to stage front, while all busy themselves with something or other at any given moment. It’s a laid back performance, but far from lethargic, and they round off with an ambient number and a fine vocal from the main singer. You would be hard pressed to pick out a front person in The Notas, such is the ease with which they gel as a unit. This is a set we kick ourselves for missing.

Jack Lukeman

A few beachballs have appeared in the crowd for Jack Lukeman’s set, as the man himself takes centre stage surrounded by his band. He’s here to play his show ‘The 27 Club’, the schtick being that it’s a collection of covers by rock stars who died at that age. After a clapalong Mercedes Benz, a string section appears to fill the empty chairs at the back of the stage, and Lukeman begins his set of songs that seem designed for a Bond film soundtrack audition tape. We hear Paint It, Black for the second time this weekend, a cheesy but fun take on it, followed closely by a lounge version of Purple Haze. The band segues into Voodoo Chile, beefing it up a bit while Lukeman frolics within the crescent they create around him. A handful of confetti appears from his pocket, to be flung in the air at the crescendo of Sympathy For The Devil – if this is designed as arch comedy then it works, because it’s hilarious.

Ham Sandwich

I feel like you’re all mitching now, you should all be at Imelda May” jokes Ham Sandwich guitarist Podge McNamee to the packed Whelan’s tent, and while Ms May regales the main stage, the Meath quintet waste no time in getting down to business. McNamee and singer Niamh Farrell share vocals throughout, with both donning a ukulele as the need arises. The tent is full of chatter between songs with folk in convivial form, including the hen party in attendance. The crowd are invited to step closer to the stage, closing the gap at the front, and the band throw themselves into an impassioned Words. A few jubilant hands shoot up when we’re asked who doesn’t have to work in the morning, and Donna Summers’ I Feel Love is played to an increasingly up for it crowd – the most on-side crowd of the weekend, in fact. The warm atmosphere is undeniable, and a few large balloons appear and are batted around between band and crowd. “It’s a Killruddery beautiful day” announces McNamee at one point – as puns go it’s Killruddery awful, but he’s not wrong, and this is the perfect way to end it.

The organisers couldn’t have had a more fortunate weekend weather-wise for Groove’s debut outing. The sun no doubt contributed to the turnout, particularly from the family contingent, and on days like this it was always going to be a winning formula. It bodes well for Groove, and there is definitely a niche for this type of boutique event in such a setting. This was as chilled out and friendly a festival as we’ve attended – it’s certainly a lot more sedate than most outdoor events of this nature, but we’d be happy to make the trip to Bray for more of the same next year.


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