The standard festival summer is bookended by Vantastival on the May bank holiday and finishes up at the end of August with a full-on shin-dig down in Laois for Electric Picnic. After that the tents are thrown in the attic and thoughts of sleeping bag slumbers are put to rest for another year. Well for most people…
This year GoldenPlec decided to squeeze one more festival into our 2014 calendar. So instead of having Outkast close off the summer in a blaze of beats we, decided to fill up the rucksack for one more hoorah and make haste to county Meath for Spirit of Folk festival.
Spirit of Folk has been on the go now for four years. It’s a quiet little festival with a huge emphasis on being family-friendly and the laid back atmosphere seeps into all aspects of the festival. Everyone from the box office staff to the guy serving us our morning coffee went about the weekend with a smile on their face. That very same barista also claimed to have the best coffee in town. Well he would as it turned out he was the only coffee in town
Scattered throughout the festival is archery, storytelling, historical re-enactments and a whole host of other activities to keep you entertained throughout the weekend.
So what about the music? Well it’s kept to just two stages; the main stage and the woodland stage. Both beautiful stages in their own right. The main stage was a low hanging white tent that reflected the stage lights nicely to create a glowing atmosphere. The Woodland Stage then was a small wooden stage nestled in the woods around the corner.
Four-piece Sligo band, Old Hannah, were up first for us with their fragile vocals over acoustic and slide guitars. Bullets had crisscrossing vocal lines with finger clicking melodies that are more than radio ready.
Laura Ann Brady took to the woodland stage a little after nightfall for a sparse, ghostly set that suited the surroundings perfectly. It also helped that she started her set playing an instrument that was over a hundred years old (that we can’t for the life of us remember the name of). Highlight of the set would be the looming Masterpiece that came across more sinister when performed in the dark woods compared to when GoldenPlec filmed it down by the lake at Knockanstockan (see video here).
Another of our Knockanstockan video acts was Ailbhe Reddy who kicked things off on Saturday on the Woodland Stage. Reddy has added another male vocalist to her live line-up that brings another layer of harmonies to her set, but in particular Cover Me. The sparse, sparkling guitars let the voices take centre stage. She finishes her set with a haunting cover of Elliott Smith’s Twilight that comes pretty damn close to bettering the original. Oh and that was all as beams of early afternoon sunlight cut through the trees to illuminate the Woodland Stage. A spine tingling end to her set and the stuff festival memories are made of.
Ownsie treated us to a soft spoken, gentle set with humour sprinkled throughout with a song about the TV show Columbo. He also spent a small portion of his set giving out to a dog who he was convinced would ruin his next song.
Carriages were a welcome surprise. Bringing with them possibly the only synths of the weekend meant their set stood out straight away amongst the barrage of banjos and acoustic guitars.
Corner Boy wasted no time getting down to business and kicked into a racing rockabilly start. Singer Michael D’Arcy is a natural frontman and casually brushes off remarks from some drunken hecklers. By playing such an acoustic based festival Corner Boy come across a lot heavier than everyone else by simply having a drummer present. They take it down a notch for a fitting, vocals-only take on The Auld Triangle. True North possibly Corner Boy’s finest song, kicks it all back off again as the sun goes down on the last festival of the year.
Hailing all the way from Donegal, In Their Thousands were in fine spirits on Saturday night ahead of Sunday’s game (sorry lads). We’re still of two minds about their set. With two singers sharing lead vocal duties, their set jumped genre too often and too jarringly. Starting off with a rousing bit of Americana with chunky guitars and a Donegal-via-Nashville drawl, then morphed into slow tempoed RnB from the weaker of the two voices.
So that wraps up the last outdoor festival of the year (lets not forget Hard Working Class Heroes next weekend) and our first foray to the Spirit of Folk festival; an event we can definitely see ourselves returning next time.