Over the past number of years, Indiependence has slowly but surely been climbing up the rankings when it comes to Irish festivals. One of the few major festivals to take place in Munster, it began its life as a free event in Mitchelstown’s town square in 2006 before moving to Deer Farm, about a kilometre outside of Mitchelstown, in 2010.
Now in its 14th instalment, this year saw it attract some of the biggest artists it ever has including Biffy Clyro, Bastille and Catfish and The Bottlemen. As people began to make their journeys towards Mitchelstown for this year’s instalment (which thankfully took less than 5 hours), there was a sense of excitement never before felt when it comes to Indie. Undoubtedly, however, Indie managed it. Each day was as good as the last and each day, in particular Sunday, saw Irish artists being given their chance on the biggest of stages. It was, without a doubt, a triumph.
As the crowds slowly began to creep their way towards the main arena, one of the first voices they would have heard is that of Tim Chadwick, who was one of the first performers to take to the IMRO stage. Starting his set off with Never Wanted You, his performance ebbed seamlessly between high-tempo pop hits to more sedate, sombre moments. Midway through the set, he told all in attendance of how earlier in January, he had considered quitting music forever. To everyone’s delight, he changed his mind. Songs such as Cold Feet and Belong acted as emotional hooks, creating a deep connection between performer and listener. Next thing you knew, the set had reached its rousing conclusion with Tim’s newest single I Need To Know. Greeted by loud cheers and a sing-song for all, it was the perfect way to say goodbye.
Before long, it was the turn of Lewis Capaldi. Capaldi’s set was always going to be one of the most popular performances of the weekend, and as the time ticked towards 9pm anticipation only grew. The Scottish singer-songwriter was the name on everyone’s lips heading to Mitchelstown for the weekend and his recent Glastonbury beef with both Liam and Noel Gallagher ensured that Capaldi wormed his way into the hearts of thousands through both his musical output and his humour, the best of which millions saw on his own Instagram.
Capaldi is in flying form throughout. Vocally superb, confident, and self-deprecating, it’s clear he’s become accustomed to his heightened popularity. Songs such as Forever and Something In The Water are given a new dimension thanks to his accomplished live band. Hold Me While You Wait, which he dedicated to a fan in the front row received the biggest cheer of the night. The set came to an end with Someone You Loved, and as Capaldi made his way off stage, you got the sense that it is only a matter of time before he returns as a headliner.
The headliner of the night however was London band Bastille. Seemingly not as popular as Capaldi – the crowd shrunk considerably compared to the Scot – with a large portion of the younger audience going to see Chasing Abbey who were performing at the IMRO stage at the same time. For those in attendance, however, the show began with a giant clock counting down to midnight before lead singer Dan Smith and co. launched into ‘Quarter Past Midnight’. The majority of the set was made up of new material from their recently released third album, which at times failed to click with listeners. Things started to really pick up when material from their debut ‘Bad Blood’ appeared throughout the setlist. Songs such as Things We Lost In The Fire, Bad Blood, and Flaws were met by huge cheers, as was a rendition of the Marshmello track Happier, with features Smith’s vocals. While the set never really got into full flow, final track Pompeii was a high point on which to end day one of this year’s festivities.
Saturday began slowly, as a combination of sore heads and tired legs combined to ensure that footfall was minimal for some of the earlier acts in the afternoon. One of the first acts to attract a crowd was Sunset Frisbee Laserbeam (SFLB), a Birmingham rock band who impressed despite being less than enchanting. Coming from the heavier side of rock, the sound was often overpowered by the drums and two guitars, leaving vocals difficult to distinguish and keys unnoticeable. Between members swapping instrumental duties and a series of earth-shattering solos, songs such as Sink or Swim and Running From My Ghost proved too similar to really make an impact. A band with the potential to really develop into 2020.
Next up on the main stage was Plec Pick Flynn. Following a crazy six months in which he’s seen his collaboration with Lost Frequencies take him to the Tomorrowland stage, this was one of Flynn’s very first performances on a festival mainstage. With songs such as Red Light, Peace of Mind and My Gold to fall on, as well as a cover of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guys, Flynn was confidence personified, using every available inch of the stage to his advantage, with his band of drummer Brian Masterson and Keelan McLoughlin seamlessly providing the instrumentation, it was another significant step in Flynn’s steady rise to the top.
Managing to triple the audience size during his set, this set showcased why Flynn remains to be one of Ireland’s most exciting pop talents. With the final song One Of Us, a song about how his return to Ireland from the U.K. made him realise his true potential, hitting hard with a mix of big synth and smashing percussion, it was the perfect note on which to end a brilliant set.
Pop-Rock duo All Tvvins impressed as always when they took to the main stage. Now firmly established as one of Ireland’s biggest bands, the majority of the set was made up of material from their latest album, which was released earlier this year. Dab-hands when it comes to live performances, the set ebbed and flowed seamlessly between songs such as Resurrect Me, Hell of a Party, and Anything, before drawing the set to a close with a firm fan favourite Darkest Ocean. Epic instrumentally, visually and sonically, this was another reminder of the power of All Tvvins.
At the same time as All Tvvins were smashing the main stage, Gavin James was providing one of the performances of the weekend next door in the IMRO tent. Taking to the stage to one of the loudest cheers of the night, he played to a packed tent that knew his material inside and out. The use of a confetti canon for the very first song Glow set the party atmosphere from the off, and as the songs passed that atmosphere only grew and grew. Gavin and his band played with style, confidence and charisma throughout and played to the audience’s hands at every opportunity.
With a setlist including Coming Home, a new song in Faith, Always and Only Ticket Home, James’ ease onstage and willingness to do all he could to entertain ensured his set will long be remembered and, with sparklers exploding come his final verse of the evening with Say Hello, the set finished off with a bang.
Saturday’s headliners were Welsh four-piece rock band Catfish and The Bottlemen. The light show on display throughout was stupendous, and with a CD-quality sound coming from the band themselves, it was the perfect foundation from which to build a winning set. Songs such as Pacifier, 2all and Cocoon were played to perfection, and some of the band’s more instrumentally complex songs were nailed down to a tee. With a lot of weight on their shoulders, they impressed throughout and can be happy with their output on a day when performances were at an all-time high.
Sunday began on a damp note, with torrential rain was set to continue throughout the day, despite this, hundreds still made their way to the IMRO tent for the earliest performers of the day. Sorcha Richardson displayed a knack for turning simple songwriting into a collection of mesmeric material. Vocally strong, and with the band in sync throughout, Richardson played a set of recent singles and new tracks, including set highlight, Don’t Talk About It. As the show wound to a close and the wind began to howl, Richardson finished up with Ruin Your Night. Something she’s unlikely to do any time soon.
Straight from the off Fangclub packed a punch – supplying the energy that was seeping from many via osmosis – the setlist was raucous, instrumentally varied and textured, and brought familiar levels of power, pace and precision that we’ve come to expect from the trio. Frontman Steve King tried to use the rain to his advantage, kicking it through the air, but the music spoke for itself. On a day when Irish rock was practically given the main stage, they stepped up to mark and hit a home run.
With a set mixed with a blend of hard rock and more tender tracks, it was impossible to take your eyes or ears off of Otherkin. They grabbed the audience by the collar and held their attention throughout, in no small part thanks to frontman Luke Reilly, who was one of the most captivating performers of the weekend. Vocally perfect, energetically unmatched, and charisma personified, he takes Otherkin’s complex instrumentation and themes and makes it click, all while making it look so easy. Outstanding.
Biffy Clyro, once again, proved why they are one of the best live bands in the world. With over two decades worth of material to chose from, the Scottish trio have the ability to surprise you at every single show. Fresh from releasing ‘Balance, Not Symmetry’ soundtrack, they started the set with the title track from the movie before jumping into the pulsating Living is The Problem Because Everything Dies. With a stunning light show to accompany it, the frantic timing, timbre and contrast between its raucous opening and operatic final third, it will always be one of the highlights of any Biffy show.
With singer Simon Neil exclaiming “We spoke to the rain and told it to fuck off,” as the clouds began to part, a party atmosphere ensued with tracks such as Animal, Mountains, Different People, and Bubbles giving fans exactly what they craved before Black Chandelier took the performance to its peak. Fan favourite, and undoubted classic, Many of Horror closed the show before an encore of Machines and Stingin Belle’. The best was certainly saved ’til last.
On the whole, Indiependence pulled out all the stops and more than impressed. With the best line-up it has ever had, delivering in every department, not even the weather could temper spirits.