The bank holiday pilgrimage had begun once more as all the impatient festival goers loaded up the wellies, the hibernating tents and everyone’s much-loved festival hat (what do you mean you don’t have one?). From humble beginnings, Vantastival has risen to be a much loved fixture on the festival calendar. On arrival, it was clear to see that the layout had been given a slight re-jig with all stages receiving a bit of a make-over and relocation in some cases. Not only was this a logistical masterstroke; it also gave room to what looked to be an increase in numbers in attendance – good news all round.
The captivating Viking-themed Valhalla stage and mini amphitheatre that is the Music Maker stages give the festival a unique character. Even though the presence of the new Music Maker stage meant that the 24-hour open mic stage from last year was now relocated to a handful of time slots across the weekend, it was the correct decision which meant unleashing, possibly Ireland’s best new festival stage. The setting of the festival, nestled below the Cooley Mountains is also spectacular and picturesque, topping off what is one of the finest music festivals in Ireland; a true champion of the local music scene in Ireland.
The very first band for the festival was The Statics, a Goldenplec Top Plec Pick. With the rain having broken out and a strong breeze now whirling, it certainly didn’t feel like the beginning of May, but The Statics did their best to haul us into summer. Their set is full of effortless gems of infectious guitar songs. While The Strypes are making huge waves with their Beatles inspired rock, The Statics displayed far more substance and could be on the same path some time soon. Unfortunately, the early time slot didn’t aid the lads this time around, but be sure to keep an eye out at another festival this summer.
Northern rockers AbandcalledBoy brought a heavier sound to the DoneDeal stage. This three-piece produce a rowdy 90’s inspired grunge sound and possess a singer, Ryan Burrows, who also doubles as the drummer. Burrows has charisma and musicianship in spades but you couldn’t help feeling the band could do with him being out in front as he would enhance their set a lot more in that role.
Another of Goldenplec’s Top Plec Picks for the weekend, Third Smoke, certainly lived up to their billing and was among the highlights of the evening with a packed DoneDeal Stage. The set kept getting better until it was finished with a joyous cover of Pumped Up Kicks and their own classic Dog Rough Dancing which induced crowd surfing and a mammoth stage invasion. These guys are certainly someone to keep an eye on and once they can fill their set with more catchy pop numbers, we know we’re looking at a serious live act. The next period of time will prove important as we await an EP/album so we can really get to grip with Third Smoke’s sound.
Waterford band Solar Taxi produced a glossy, polished performance on the main stage. Their songs have a Blondie-inspired style with an emphasis on their rhythm section to propel the songs along. Singer Aisling Browne has a great voice completely in style of their day-glow music.
On the MusicMaker stage, Willow Sea, fell victim to the dreaded technical laptop failure just one song into his set. When it got sorted, his atmospheric soaring songs are reminiscent of a mixture of God Is An Astronaut meets Solar Bears and was perfectly suited to the stage and time of the evening.
The clear skies were now beginning to darken as Daithí O Dronaí took to the same stage. All alone with only his violin, synthesizers, loop machines and decks to keep him and us company, Daithi played a divine set that mixed ambient drones with R’n’B heavy punches. His set has vastly changed and morphed through the years with Daithi now taking the mantle of live producer, DJ and now only sometime violinist. The current balance, unlike some of his previous set’s in the past, ebs and flows perfectly. It is however with lesser known samples like Liza Flume’s Poison that Dathi really shines. Taking Liza’s quirky elements and adding another depth beneath the already impressive track. Most certainly a future electronic music producing/composing Hercules of Irish music.
Self-proclaimed Dundalk superstars, The Trampz, were the final hoo-haa for the night as they commanded the magnificent wooden DoneDeal stage. The Trampz are a jokey-type band, but not a joke at the same time. They look ridiculous but also look super awesome at the same time too. It’s confusing I know but we’ll try to explain. They appear on stage, all eight of them, decked out in their suade smoking jackets producing this funk/soul throw back sound, singing songs about pyjama dole queuing, a crazy lady friend with lube in her hand and their beloved 1.2 litre engined car. The thing about The Trampz is that they can play, they can play really well. These guys know what they are doing musically and are real straight up purveyors of the funk/soul sound. With a set that ended with 40-50 people on stage and consisted of 2 songs when the festival had turned their power off; this really was one hell of a way to end day one.