The main thing that has been recurring in my mind since attending this year’s Forbidden Fruit is the level of pressure involved in contrast to other festivals of its scope. Though thousands of people pass through the Kilmainham site each year, it’s never hard to get a good spot for a particular artist, with no need to firmly plant yourself for a protracted amount of time. Queues – whether it’s for the toilet, the bars, the attractions or for entering and leaving – are zippy even when they look their most intimidating. During a time where music events are under greater risk and the need for safety precautions more crucial than ever, the security staff’s professionalism is very impressive. Though obviously I can only speak for myself, I found them personable, unobtrusive and well capable of handling potential disasters – I was particularly relieved at how quickly they brought an attendee suffering from a seizure stuck in the middle of a peak-time crowd to safety.
The crowd is a good blend of slightly older, knowledgeable types, younger techno and house fanatics, some guys who look like they desperately want to join Kasabian, and relatively few revellers clearly more interested in the sesh than any of the music. It’s perplexing to see some the usual groaning of Twitter commentators about the festival being taken over by teenagers – though at this point it translates easily in my mind to “I resent your youth; also I haven’t seen Longitude lately”.
The compact nature of the festival means that it’s never too much of a trek to get from one stage to another – a particular relief considering the intrepid quest of getting from Tyler, The Creator to Kendrick Lamar at Marley Park last year. Though this too has its drawbacks – the tactics of finding a place to sit and relax becomes slightly more difficult when a good chunk of the hill has the aural quality of three equidistant tents playing at once. (Plus the amusingly off-brand hair-metal emanating from the ferris wheel, which is proudly emblazoned with a sign noting its appearance on Hollyoaks – knowing your audience!).
Forbidden Fruit’s three days each have distinctive moods: if Sunday is the weekend’s most techno-heavy celebration, and Monday the Bon Iver-curated hodgepodge with the most crossover appeal, Saturday lands somewhere in the middle. After a brief peek at the aggro-soul of Barq on the Bulmers Live Stage, we begin the day in earnest at the Outcider stage, taking in Malahide’s Jafaris, a promising singer whose ambition slightly outpaces his stage presence, but has enough hints of talent to merit keeping on eye on him. The South London grime collective 67 don’t fare quite as well, considering at least a couple of them appear bored out of their skull while they struggle to finish lines.
The first act we see on the main stage is NAO, who exceeds our already high expectations. I’m probably nor alone in making a note of revisiting last year’s For All We Know album after her performance, which fits on the lofty shoulders of the main stage with ease. It won’t be long before her name starts getting bigger and bigger on festival posters.
Booka Shade’s recent teaming up with vocalist Craig Walker was another valiant attempt to survive the death rattles of mid-2000’s electro and tech-house, and fares much better live than on record. Unlike many of the other top-billed acts at the festival, visuals aren’t highly prioritised, with a performing set-up not unlike Disclosure’s and a set that, more than anything, serves as a pleasant prelude to the once-again reformed Orbital. Compared to their set at Electric Picnic five years ago, the presence of daylight does add an unusual atmosphere to proceedings, but this is quickly forgotten as they barrel through a set of crowd-pleasers and one intriguing new track culled from the 30-or-so demos they’ve mentioned working on recently. Unlike last time, since they don’t have a current album to promote, there’s more opportunity to represent each of the duo’s (good) albums, while not turning the set into an obvious nostalgia cashgrab. Folding in new track ‘Cooping Lisa’ and the thrilling 2012 comeback tracks ‘Wonky’ and ‘Where Is It Going’, along with acid-house classics like ‘Belfast’ and ‘Chime’ prove the Hartnoll brothers have a healthy attitude to the relationship between respecting the past and trying something new.
Though a festival aligning itself with a style of music known, for better or worse, with its history of hedonism and late night shenanigans, finishing up before 11pm is an amusing bit of irony, it doesn’t preclude continuing on the fun in the assorted afterparties scattered around the city centre (especially for those who aren’t intimately acquainted with many of Dublin’s best night-spots, I had a pretty informative weekend). It does make one yearn slightly for something similar to the Picnic’s Rave In The Woods, but I’d be lying if wrapping myself in a dry hostel bed with the promise of a shower in the morning each night didn’t have its own kind of appeal.
Forbidden Fruit 2017 photographed by Kieran Frost