The second installment of Ireland’s newest favourite festival All Together Now was a testing but ultimately successful one. While all the talk on social media was of traffic queues, wasps and some curious waste management by Panda, down at Curraghmore House, the music was the main focus. We had two writers down at the festival over the weekend who, after much debate, have managed to narrow down their highlights to a measly 18 acts.
The early evening crowd that greets Bitch Falcon on Day 1 of All Together Now are a sweaty force to be reckoned with…surly, hot, bothered, but here nonetheless. The same can’t be said for our comrades still stuck in the traffic queues. “How you guys doing!? You finally got in!” Lizzie Fitzpatrick exclaims from behind her sparkle red Jaguar. It’s the traffic, and not the beautiful weather, that is the talk of this makeshift town, the conversation starter that turns neighbours into friends.
Bitch Falcon are airing out some new songs amongst the tried and tested today. There’s suddenly the threat/promise of a slow set as Lizzie offers a suggestion before one from the former category -“If anyone wants to shift, now’s the time to shift.” A bit of mid-song bass drum creep can’t derail drummer Nigel Kenny, but that’s a testament to the fact this is far from a lovers’ waltz…an epic shift though, no doubt, for those who partook. Fitzpatrick begins Of Heart alone, casting a curled lip glare into the middle distance while two roadies with a massive breeze block come out to secure Kenny’s kick drum mid tune.
It’s nice when a band sets the bar during daylight hours, and Bitch Falcon get the opening night up and running with a grungey metallic scream. When Fitzpatrick does her thing, throwing guitar and body to the ground at the coda of Wolfstooth earlier on, a thought flickers as two small girls with huge ‘smiley face’ ear protectors watch rapt and smiling from the side barrier: this is how future bands are formed. JMD
While the rhetoric in international media around the Dublin quintet’s love for literature and being Irish continues to draw ire from those at home, Fontaines DC have quietly continued doing what they do best; playing rip-roaring shows for whoever will give them a stage. Despite recently cancelling a string of shows due to exhaustion, the lads show no sign of such on Friday night, blasting through nearly every song on their Mercury-Prize nominated debut album ‘Dogrel’.
Some sound issues on the main stage render Grian Chatten’s vocal almost inaudible during the opening few songs, but such is the ferocious energy on stage, the vast majority hardly notice. Television Screens is dedicated to rap duo Versatile (we’re still not sure why, but we assume it’s a dig).
The band gather around a bottle of Jameson (excellent product placement from one of the festival’s main sponsors? Or are we being too cynical?) before Liberty Belle kickstarts an explosion of energy from the crowd, who are as full as those shoddily packed tent bags were on Monday morning.
Boys In The Better Land is the highlight, with bassist Conor Deegan and guitarist Carlos O’Connell both breaking character and grinning ear to ear throughout, the latter even leaves the stage to embrace his girlfriend. The mass singalong to Dublin City Sky (having the name of the festival in the lyrics helps) is uplifting before Fontaines DC finish out what many would argue as a headline set with their prophetic anthem Big. They already are. NS
Decked out head to toe in red, with a bottle of tonic water by his side, Junior Brother AKA Ronan Kealy is many things at this moment in time – wet, dry, drunk, sober. A mirror to the Saturday afternoon crowd in the Road To Nowhere tent. Accompanied by Tony McLaughlin on mandolin and Fiachra Meek on uilleann pipes, tin whistle, and bodhran, his two-note riff focuses the attention of the crowd as the set begins. They give it up as Meek’s drumbeat begins to drive Coping, with a similar sense of raucousness during his tin whistle playing over the instrumental breaks of Girt & Plain.
There’s a nice bustle in the crowd between songs that hushes once he starts, but Kealy’s songs invite a bit of boisterousness, not just reverential silence. A Junior Brother set is a bit more inclusive, that bit more unruly. Hungover At Mass is delivered at a time when the majority of this particular gathering are in this very state, but this is a more unified congregation. No judgement in here, lads, only the confessional of Kealy’s lyrics.
“Thanks for watching me sing at ye,” he says after Full Of Wine, “Ye’re great pricks.” Ah but he jests…the only pricks anyone could possibly have encountered here all weekend were the ones hanging out off the wasps’ arses, the real MVPs. The bottle of tonic water deserves an explanation all the same. “There was gin in this all along. Ye fools!” The crowd rise to their feet as the uilleann drones to a close and the three musicians take their leave – wet, dry, drunk, sober, one and all. JMD
Despite having only released their first song (under their current guise) in February, Fat Pablo graced All Together Now’s second-largest stage on Saturday afternoon, and showed no signs of imposter syndrome as they lead the audience through a repertoire of dramatic, expansive songs that would be more than suitable to soundtrack the next series of True Detective.
Frontman Dave Barrett’s vocals are evocative as they are haunting, acting as the verbal equivalent of an orchestra composer, as he seamlessly ties all the band’s elements together. Debut single Shambala soars to a whole new level in a live setting, filling the expansive tent and pouring out into the field outside. It’s still early days for the six-piece (formerly known as Beach) but the standing ovation that greeted the final note of their set is proof there is plenty in store for Fat Pablo. Watch this space. NS
The Curly Organ
Galway’s Donal McConon is a busy man – a founding member of My Fellow Sponges, Community MFS, The Bastard Ghost, and the Macnas Brass Band. Today though, at the Global Roots stage, he’s alone with just a guitar and assortment of musical implements, playing to a mix of curious bystanders, bemused festival heads who wandered in expecting some roots reggae (but stayed anyway), and those already in the know.
While McConon runs through his set, various artists flit through the mind – Julian Koster’s The Music Tapes project, Jonathan Richman, Ronnie Lane, CW Stoneking – not necessarily comparative in style, but people who manage to create their own onstage worlds for the duration of a set, one we are invited into for a time. The Curly Organ’s is one of eccentricities and singularities, seeming to introduce a litany of characters and scenarios over breathless verses, switching from falsetto to mile a minute wordplay, before moving onto a new idea.
About to embark on a song whose words are, by his own admission, long and convoluted, McConon says, “I’ll do a gentle one but I’ll do it hard.” A crowd voice responds: “You’re a ride!” A bit of audience participation peppers the show, gentle singing and chanting, a few hand bells given out to some folk who jangle away when the time is right, and the crowd have the final voice as he takes off his guitar and lets their soft chant close a unique and humorous set. It’s a sojourn that’s as inventive as it is peculiar. JMD
There must be something in the water in Australia at the moment as they churn out potential superstars one after another in the last couple of years. Joining the likes of Courtney Barnett, Julia Jacklin, Stella Donnelly and Hatchie is Melbourne’s Angie McMahon who took to the Road To Nowhere stage as the rain descended on Curraghmore House early on Saturday evening. McMahon is a thoroughly engaging performer, funny and appreciative throughout. A chant of “Angie, Angie, Angie! Oi, oi, oi!” from a particularly raucous section of the crowd is met with a sarcastic “um…ok”, while constant requests for her to play Pasta (one of her most popular songs) are met with playfully cutting responses.
But it’s the tunes that hit the hardest. Helpless, Slow Mover and Missing Me are beautifully introspective and McMahon’s powerful vocal could penetrate even the most concrete cold hearts. McMahon followed up her appearance at All Together Now with a packed-out show at The Workman’s Club in Dublin on Monday night. Ireland’s love affair with Australian music continues. NS
Dundalk five-piece Just Mustard released their debut album ‘Wednesday’ last year, but their true playground is the stage, and you get the sense that they get to fully explore the ambient recesses of their songs in front of a crowd. Playing in darkness, with only the red glow of the stage lights illuminating the players, the quintet get to grips with the Mark E Smith idea of the 3 Rs: repetition, repetition, repetition. 4 Rs if you count reverb.
Katie Ball’s singing is countered when guitarist David Noonan takes a vocal turn, melodious and abrasive in turn. For the most part, they go for the hypnotic mantra, vocals almost indistinguishable, until a snap from Shane Maguire’s snare and a wavering guitar chord overrides everything else. Staunch repetition is the key, though, and with the rhythm section at the controls, the latter end of the set is simple and brutal…the three Rs. JMD
Arguably the best performance of the weekend, Loyle Carner’s Saturday night set was a whirlwind of pure, unadulterated joy. The languid Londoner is one of music’s truly nice guys, so much so that when he says Irish crowds are always the best crowds, you know he’s being absolutely genuine. That love he shows for his fans was returned in abundance at All Together Now, with every song met with deafening, drawn-out cheers.
Ottolenghi and Loose Ends pull on the heartstrings, while Ain’t Nothing Changed and The Isle of Arran have the whole tent bouncing and roaring along. Before the last song, Carner points out someone in the front row who has rapped every lyric word for word. Is Eoin about to be All Together Now’s #AlexFromGlasto? Not quite. Carner instructs Eoin to take a seat in an armchair on the stage and get a true front-row experience, and, if he’s feeling it, he can get up and jump around the stage. 10 seconds into No CD and Eoin is up out of his chair and throwing himself around the stage. The rest of the tent joins in and joyous chaos ensues.
Having sold out both of his headline shows in Dublin this year in less than an hour total, promoters should be battling to book Loyle Carner another show as soon as possible. NS
The traffic delays have infiltrated every part of the weekend, from the lowliest one-man tent to the loftiest stage, from put-upon steward to punk poet laureate. “It’s the fucking journey. It’s the mud. It’s the traffic. It’s the sun and the rain,” Patti Smith tells us with a smile from the main arena, acting as beacon and celebrant in the darkness. Smith’s standing in 20th-century culture is far from dependent on the company she kept, but certain luminaries of art and music whose profound influence has resonated through the decades are accounted for through a selection of covers – Hendrix, Young, The Velvet Underground, The Stones.
It’s bassist Tommy Shanahan who takes lead on I’m Free as Smith leaves the stage for the latter band’s ’65 classic, returning as it segues into Walk On The Wild Side. Without Smith’s presence, this all feels a bit pub rock, albeit with a stellar band and one who enjoy doing what they do with one another. She re-joins for the “doo-doo-doo…” refrain, taking After The Goldrush alone with Shanahan on keys.
The band are on form for the extended instrumentals – Smith with acoustic on, facing the drummer as her son, Jackson, solos through to the hands-to-heaven finale of Beneath The Southern Cross; wandering the expanse of the stage, swaying and dancing while they unwind Dancing Barefoot. A false start for Pissing In The River gives Smith the opportunity to showcase her best, louche Dylan impression (“As Bob used to say, ‘take two’“) before a powerful, emotive vocal turn.
Because The Night, written for Jackson’s father, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, is as crowd-pleasing as expected, but while the set closes with People Have The Power, it’s the version of Gloria which precedes it that is the evening’s true storming denouement. Smith flings her jacket in the air. There’s an unhurried build-up to the inevitable. “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” When that character countdown finally arrives it’s… well, glorious. People Have The Power may have the weight of words behind it to close this set, but it can’t match that blast of Belfast proto-punk. JMD
King Lagoon’s Flying Swordfish Dance Band
As good as the name suggests, Brighton-based King Lagoon’s Flying Swordfish Dance Band took their wacky blend of psychedelia, Latin funk and afro groove to the sublime new Global Roots stage after adverse weather meant the Belonging Bandstand had to be shut temporarily. What ensued comes close to defying description. A wild party of noise accompanied by peacock feather-adorned hats, an inflatable flamingo with wings used for crowd-surfing and one member whose sole job was to create a variety of smells which were unleashed on the audience throughout.
The crowd grows and shrinks throughout, some intrigued, some in awe, some utterly bemused. Members abandon the stage at various points, always returning in even more extravagant outfits than before, abandoning their instruments to instead perform some sort of dance routine. It’s perfectly choreographed but appears entirely improvised. It’s enthralling.
King Lagoon are the latest in a series of bands who are trying to make gigs a more all-encompassing experience where you don’t just to come see four lads standing around playing guitars in the same clothes they’d wear on a trip to Aldi. Much like The Flaming Lips, HMLTD and Confidence Man, they are intent on making gigs fun and we are totally on board. NS
Opening the main stage on Sunday, SOAK arrived early in the afternoon to soothe many a thousand hangovers in between alternating spells of sunshine and scattered showers. After the incredible success of her debut album, SOAK has taken a little to find her feet in a live setting but the release of sophomore record ‘Grim Town’ seems to have given her an influx of confidence.
Gone is the shoegazy shyness of yonder years, replaced by a smiling, confident musician who is enjoying every minute of her set. It takes no time for her cheery attitude to rub off on those in attendance. Dedicating Valentine Schmalentine to the success of Limerick’s Greg on Love Island gets cheers from some and grumbles from a few others. Deja Vu is one of the best Irish pop songs of the decade, while debut single Sea Creatures invokes the quietest mass singalong you’re likely to hear.
The highlight, though, is a heartbreaking rendition of Everybody Loves You, with a brief, harmonious cameo from touring partners Pillow Queens. Hangovers cured, cheers. NS
Great Dad are a London-based outfit, although it sounds like there’s a northern Irish accent behind the mic. A Sunday afternoon experimental experience was just what the festival doctor ordered, and the six-piece – guitar, bass, drums, sax, synths and an out-there vocalist – provide one of the more memorable sets of the three days. While the band get down to it, the singer and synth player create the onstage movement, an erratic shape throwing duo, with the former taking up a trumpet from time to time to augment the wailing freeform sax.
They often break into a frenetic Cardiacs style; clipped high pitch tones and shifting time signatures, with the singer getting whipped up into a bit of a frenzy – deep-toned intonation one line, a growl and a roar, a screech the next. Categorisation is almost redundant…avant-garde, punk, electro, a bizarre, freaky-deaky headfuck. At 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t you just love festivals? JMD
A Lazarus Soul
“There’s a line in this song that goes ‘We had time to think in the long queues,” Brian Brannigan tells us at the beginning of A Lazarus Soul’s set, an apt enough observation given the much-discussed traffic issues and huge crowds inside the modestly-sized venue. But all that nonsense isn’t the business of those inside the tent at the minute, as the Dublin band create a sense of intimacy through storytelling and raw nostalgia.
Lemon 7s, just Brannigan and Joe Chester on guitar, sets a sombre tone, but Brannigan’s and the band’s delivery here and throughout is rooted in passion and belief. No Hope Road is a tribute to the original Wailers, nostalgic and from the heart, while drummer Julie Bienvenu attacks the floor tom to take the muscular trad of Funeral Sessions and Cruelty Man to their conclusions.
Settled Kids harks back to the opener – just guitar and vocals – until it changes up halfway, and a driving beat marches it to the coda. Brannigan repeats the song’s refrain, until the audience take it alone – “Local is knowing where the gap in the fence is” It’s a final sentiment that sums up this selection of songs – deeply personal, rooted in family, history, memory and tradition. JMD
Going by Rimon’s reaction to today’s set, a festival can be as much about an artist discovering a new crowd as much as the opposite. Joined by a guitarist and drummer, the singer takes the afternoon crowd through her fusion of hip hop and neo-soul, and although it’s a largely all-seated affair, the crowd is nonetheless gamey.
Now based in Amsterdam, Rimon and her mother came to Europe as refugees after fleeing their native Eritrea, going on to live in several Dutch refugee camps. She talks about the experience as a prelude to a song written just a week previous, more hip hop oriented, stretching out lyrically that bit more than the sweet soul of the rest. “If you’re standing next to a stranger, hold each other. Be cosy,” she suggests at the intro to a “lovey dovey song.” It’s that kind of mood, chilled out and convivial, but we can’t say many people got physical. There’s a bit of call and response before she exits the stage as her band play it out, soul review style, and if the smiles and sentiments onstage are to be believed, this is a successful debut Irish outing for all concerned. JMD
The Wailers were supposed to be interviewed by Blindboy Boatclub for his live podcast at midday on Sunday, but seemingly got delayed in Dublin in the early afternoon. Now, were they delayed, or did they get wind of the fact that they were going to be interviewed by a man with a plastic bag on his head? Who knows, but it’s a pity – it would have been nice to hear some insight from the present-day custodians of Bob Marley’s music and legacy.
This incarnation of the band features Josh David Barrett in the Bob Marley role, as interpreter of the songs and celebrant of the music. Barrett – a distant cousin of legendary Wailers bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett (whose son Aston Barrett Jr. also drums in the band) – is a charismatic frontman, leading band and crowd through a set that hits all The Wailers’ key numbers for a mixed crowd of reggae fans and mainstage hounds.
The rain starts pissing down during I Shot The Sheriff and seems to magically abate as the rays fight through at Barrett’s proclamations on Forever Loving Jah. But it’s not to be, and theirs turns out to be a rain-sodden set. This only seems to strengthen the crowd’s resolve to dance, though. After a falsetto intro from the backing singer, a lengthy No Woman No Cry settles into a sustained rhythm, Three Little Birds segues into One Love, and Lively Up Yourself showcases an extended guitar solo from Junior Jazz.
A mass singalong for Redemption Song kicks off the encore of Could You Be Loved and Exodus, three final heavy hitters in a solid gold selection from the pioneers of reggae. The Wailers today are all about channelling the spirit of the original Wailers, and of Marley’s music, and Barrett eulogises that on behalf of the people on both sides of the stage when the band halts Jamming – “Long live the legacy of Bob Marley and The Wailers forever.”JMD
Where to start? How to start? Despite being one of the UK’s most-hyped bands, fresh from a Mercury Prize nomination for their debut album ‘Schlagenheim’, Black Midi are still relative unknowns in Ireland. A small-ish crowd of knowing fans gathers in the Road To Nowhere tent before a sudden torrential downpour sees the tent fill to near capacity in no time at all, with most not having any idea who or what they were about to witness.
Blaring Kelly Clarkson’s Since You’ve Been Gone as they stroll on stage certainly doesn’t help the now curious crowd learn more about what to expect. But let’s face it, nothing can prepare you for a Black Midi show. Frontman Geordie Greep peers out into the crowd with a quizzical look on his face, while a few hundred people mirror him. Then there was noise. “Experimental noise” seems to be the tagline given to the unique sound Black Midi make.
It’s a blur of screeching guitars, driving bass, Greep’s insane caterwauling, and Morgan Simpson’s seemingly impossible drumming. Simpson is the lynchpin that keeps Black Midi together, he seems to have at least 8 arms, and has legs that would give Usain Bolt a run for his money. “That drummer could take apart and re-assemble his drumkit mid-song and still stay in time,” a YouTuber commented on one of the band’s live videos. This reviewer couldn’t put it better himself.
Black Midi are certainly not for everyone, they spend half of the show jamming, playing sections of songs, moving onto other songs and then coming back to finish earlier songs. It sounds ridiculous written down, it probably is ridiculous to witness, but it’s enthralling. Simpson looks up at Greep from his drumkit after the penultimate song Western. “Jam?” he mouths. Greep shrugs. And off they go again. BMBMBM finishes the set off in ferocious style before Greep looks up, throws a peace sign and a cheeky grin at the gobsmacked audience and exits the stage. What a magnificent purpose. NS
The Murder Capital
With a little under two weeks to go until the release of their highly anticipated debut album, The Murder Capital showed exactly why they’re one of the most-talked-about bands to come out of Dublin in recent years. There’s a lot of style involved in what the quintet do. Guitars worn above the hips. Cigarettes alight. Brooding, distant stares. But with the style comes the substance.
James McGovern is a commanding presence on stage. His deep, booming vocal makes sure all eyes are locked on him, while his bandmates throw themselves around and into each other behind him. There are moments of unrelenting aggression (More Is Less, Feeling Fades) intertwined with the quiet, gut-wrenching introspection of On Twisted Ground which is dedicated to friends lost but never forgotten.
The Murder Capital have come a long way in a very short time. Gone are the wild, stage-diving antics, replaced by something far-more calculated. They have an identity now and it’s very, very exciting to watch. NS
The Good, the Bad & the Queen
A Dickensian composite, a Vaudevillian raconteur, a ringleader of theatrical absurdity – Damon Albarn, at the helm of The Good, the Bad & the Queen, is as accomplished a performer as you’ll come across these days. Tonight, Albarn, Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen make the Something Kind of Wonderful stage truly live up to its name, fluidly meandering through a subtly eclectic selection augmented by The Demon Strings string section.
Albarn and Simonon, while doing their own thing, are in collusion through the entire set. Albarn, replete with top hat, appears most at home at the very edge of the stage, surveying the crowd, arms aloft, courting the rows. Even when sitting at the piano mid-stage, which can’t tether him for long, Albarn constantly mugs at the crowd, eyes rolled to the heavens with a beatific smile and a shake of the head. Simonon meanwhile shimmies away in and around him, popping a shoulder, dropping a knee, lunging forward with bass poised. The one-time Clash man locks in the groove of Nineteen Seventeen while the organs and strings swirl around him, his low end the pulsing lifeblood of the band.
The roadies have their work cut out when it comes to untangling Albarn’s leads behind him as he prowls the stage, consistently returning to that front edge to bridge the gap between band and crowd. History Song is suddenly cut off as soon as it starts with a gesture of the hand by Albarn. The carousel directly outside the tent has stopped, therefore the band must stop. He calls beyond the tent, an entreaty to the carousel operator to begin once more so the show can go on. We can only assume it did, and the song restarts, with a grinning Allen behind the kit seemingly endlessly entertained by Albarn’s incitement of the crowd.
The Demon Strings eventually play them off, and they return for the encore with a missing drummer. Albarn begins an impromptu ‘Waiting for Tony in B Minor’ song, eventually struggling for lyrics before Allen makes an appearance. Green Fields rolls forth, and the band bow out on an instrumental swell. The Good, the Bad & the Queen deliver just as the setting promised, something kind of wonderful. JMD