From small acorns grow mighty oaks and the Indiependence Music & Arts Festival now stands tall on the Irish landscape, a winning combination of international and domestic names. State travelled to Mitchelstown last weekend to get our fill…
Big September – Main Stage, Sunday
A group of lads, slowly grafting their way into our ears with this infectious indie sound, Big September have played the venues they’ve needed to, impressed the right people and finally it seems as though they’ll catch a break and gain some more support. It is indie rock in its purest form and easy to listen to; they’re not demanding on the ears and they give you simple hooks. Their most popular song, ‘The Preacher’ gives way to an inescapable reprise of hundreds chanting “ooh-ooh-hoo”. Recent release ‘Ballroom Addicts’ shows a fair amount of potential and they have fun when they play – which is what will win crowds at festivals and gigs. Getting in the door is all that’s stopping Big September from taking over.
Damien Dempsey – Big Top, Sunday
The musical love that sometimes dare not speak its name, there are many here we’re sure who have been closet Damo fans for years. Say it loud, say it proud though because he truly is one of the best acts on offer this weekend. Authentic and anecdotal all round, from the moment he walks on stage he takes nothing for granted and plays with a passion reserved only for what he loves. Opening with ‘Maasai’, the huge swells reverberate throughout the crowd; catching a few bewildered faces, the tribal textures shock those unfamiliar with the song. It’s a bold move but it’s a strong opener and it’s all gold. Despite briefly touching upon current Israeli affairs his chat is charming for the most part. ‘The Rocky Road’ whips the audience into frenzy but it’s my old favourites ‘Apple of my Eye’ and ‘Patience’ that make the night for me.
Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip – Big Top, Friday
The poet and his musical partner in crime have a great relationship with Cork, so much so that they’ve played here almost every year since their inception and are playing their last ever Irish show in the county, a fittingly poignant move. Having cancelled their show in Kilkenny’s Shankill Castle for Light Colour and Sound festival, more than a few fans were wary of whether they would arrive to Indie at all. However, they make up for their no show there tenfold here. We’ve seen them play a lot of shows, but never one as manic as this. Speaking with Pip in the past, he has fond memories of how crazy their Cyprus Avenue shows were and tonight is more of the same. Every song is met with a surge of movement and a swell of noise as hundreds try to keep up with his multi-syllabics. There’s no standout track, the entire set is simply amazing.
Delorentos – Main Stage, Saturday
A lot has happened since Delorentos headlined Indiependence in 2007 alongside Director, but the quartet return in better shape than ever. Playing before White Lies, it seems obvious the guys are upping their game and give a performance like I have never seen before. Everyone will always know ‘Secret’ but ‘Give It Up Now’ and ‘Petardu’ get as much a reaction; a testament to how good Little Sparks was. There is a song or two thrown in from the upcoming Unbroken, Untied record – a sign that while musically they haven’t changed much, there’s still a lot to come.
Elastic Sleep – Big Top, Sunday
One of those acts that you are either going to want to hear more of or walk right out the door away from, Elastic Sleep are a challenging presence. Individually each member has played a large part in developing the Cork music scene; together they’re a veritable force looking to take over. What instantly strikes at their Indie 14 set is the difference in sound since they appeared with ‘Leave You’. The progression since, as a misty eyed force of nature, is striking. Muireann Levis is hypnotic in her vocal performance while Chris Somers shines when a song needs to pack more of a punch. Speaking with a couple of people afterwards it seems as though they have a little more convincing to do for some but we suggest you have faith in Elastic Sleep.
Hozier – Main Stage, Sunday
There’s probably no doubt in anyone’s mind that this year this has been the most anticipated act of the weekend. Andrew Hozier Byrne has been catapulted to fame with one over-played radio favourite but to most realise by now how much more he has to give. With a small repertoire of songs on YouTube to stand by him and an album coming out in September, the set itself still feels very short. Latest single ‘Sedated’ is very impressive and the familiar intro to the single which brought him his fame roused hundred into a choral ensemble of “Amen”, drowning out his own vocal. Songs like ‘Someone New’ and ‘To Be Alone’ are among the most powerful of the weekend, although ‘Cherry Wine’ never comes. Instead he finishes with ‘From Eden’ and leaves the audience wanting more.
Hudson Taylor – Main Stage, Saturday
In advance, Saturday seemes to be the weakest day of the weekend. Packed with well toured Irish bands that attract plenty of doughy eyed girls, busking brothers, Harry and Alfie are hardly a must see – even if they were a highlight of last year’s event. To be fair though, the boys put on a fantastic show and it’s easy to see how far they’ve come in just a year, selling out venues and filling festival tents. The surprise offered by the ballads and contrasting upbeat numbers is gone though and ‘Care’, ‘Weapons’ and ‘Beautiful Mistake’ are still the ‘ol reliable. Not as many people know the latest material from Battles II but given time they will and next year Hudson Taylor will be more successful again.
Orla Gartland – Big Top, Sunday
A lot has changed since Orla Gartland first appeared online and witnessing the progression from cover musician to an accomplished musician has been satisfying to say the least. For a teenage girl to not only write lyrics that don’t subscribe to the usual soppy recipe of heartbreak and unrequited love but to find success through then (even see them etched permanently on her fans flesh), must feel like quite an achievement. Her Roots EP is a little insight into what’s to come but by no means the extent of what she is capable of.
Public Enemy – Main Stage, Sunday
Having seen last year’s hip hop headliners De La Soul and being a little bit disappointed by the middle-aged men’s performance, it’s not hard to worry that tonight might ruin our opinion of such radical stars as Chuck D and Flavor Flav. We shouldn’t have worried; Public Enemy close the main stage in style. Crowd participation is a staple of these hip-hop acts of old and there is plenty of it along with a back catalogue that stands head and shoulders above most.
The Academic – Big Top, Sunday
If we have learned one thing this weekend, it’s that Ireland’s music scene is in safe hands with the youth of today. The Academic supported Gavin James when we last saw them. As they stood on the stage we made a terrible joke to our friend about them plugging their umbilical cords into their guitars by mistake; we could not have underestimated them more. These guys are songwriters and have pure talent for performing. Their first performance in Cork has a crowd of strangers singing their hook and choruses back to them as if they had been fans for years; it was no different in The Big Top as the four young men from Mullingar fill the stage with their presence. It won’t be long before these guys aren’t regarded as a support act and if they do their homework, we can see them excelling in a similar way to the likes of Kodaline.
The Coronas – Big Top, Saturday
God bless them for trying but The Coronas have been trapped in musical limbo for longer than most can remember, not that it seems to matter here. Throngs of people are wedged into the tent by the time we arrive, barely getting our head under the canopy before they begin with gusto. Songs like ‘Someone Else’s Hands’, ‘Closer to You’ and latest single ‘All the Others’ feel less tired than the older tunes but it’s confidence in allowing a huge omission from the set list in the form of ‘San Diego Song’ that wins us over. It’s hard not to want The Coronas to do well, they’re lovely lads who deserve a break and with an upcoming album to push, it seems to be now or never.
The Minutes – Main Stage, Sunday
Back in action of a short illness dictated break, The Minutes’ magnetism is unrivalled. When you consider how long they have been knocking around, playing the same songs in almost every venue and festival in Ireland, it’s hard to appreciate how they’ve held on to their fan base and made it grow. Until you see them live at least. They are a veritable behemoth of no bullshit rock and roll. Their set is all the stronger for the release of Live Well, Change Often and, while they’ve played a lot of the songs for months now, it only adds to the experience. New tracks ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘7 Seas’ and ‘Supernatural’ belong beside ‘Gold’, ‘Fleetwood’ and other classics like ‘I.M.T.O.D’. Definitely one of the best showings of the three days.
TVVINS – Big Top, Friday
Cast of Cheers’ Conor Adams and Adebisi Shank’s Lar Kaye are no strangers to playing sets to festival goers and after playing their first gig at Dublin’s Hard Working Class Heroes in October last year, they have gained a sizeable following – part of which is present in Mitchelstown. After impressing at HWCH and subsequently supporting the Arcade Fire and Pixies, it seems Tvvins have nothing to declare but their genius. State pegged them as one of our Faces of 2014 and as we said, “there’s an awful lot going on”. How two men handle that many layers and then transfer it to a live stage, we will never know but it takes a fair amount of technological prowess and showmanship for it to not seem staggered and clunky. Their vocal effects and guitar pedals do wonders at transforming their tracks and held together with some wonderful percussive rhythms, Tvvins were certainly one of the loudest bands of the weekend.
VANN MUSIC – Big Top, Friday
Having missed them last year, we make it my business to see VANN Music. After all, you can’t go wrong with heavy laden synth pop. These guys are dragged straight from the ’80s and they have the formula to a great single nailed. They will draw obvious comparisons to the likes of Kavinsky or the Le Galaxie but have more melody and structure about their sets. Latest single ‘Tina’ is made for radio and while the rest of their catalogue may not be as mainstream friendly, they prove that they are becoming giants in their own right.
Walking on Cars – Main Stage, Friday
Indiependence is littered with bands who have received vast amounts of attention in a very short space of time. Walking on Cars played last year to a packed audience at the Beer Hall stage but this time round it’s the Main Stage and they’ve never looked more at home. From humble beginnings, they have worked up the ladder and it shows on their faces as every single word of each song is uttered back to them; even those from their latest Hand in Hand EP. Patrick Sheehy is a strong vocalist and charming front man who knows exactly what this crowd wants. It’s at the point where each member steps back to embrace the moment and bassist, Paul Flannery rests his hands on his head that you realise how overwhelming experiences like this can be for what is still a young band.
White Lies – Main Stage, Saturday
One of the big international names on the bill, you would think standing in a field in Mitchelstown would be the furthest thing from their mind when White Lies released their debut album but when you’re on stage in front of a packed marquee full of screaming fans overpowering your sound rig (for the second time, no less) maybe it’s another story. These guys have an enormous sound that is impossible to even keep in the borders of the tent – dark but equally uplifting. The light show alone sets the hairs on your neck to attention as they stride through their repertoire. They’re quiet men, uninterested in much interaction with the crowd but it stands to them and only adds to their personas on stage. More than anyone that has played today, these musicians know their instruments intimately and although their tracks from last year’s BIG TV are less reactive they are appreciated. ‘Peace & Quiet’, ‘To Lose My Life’ and ‘Farewell To The Fairground’ are the stand out but from start to finish this is an awe-inspiring affair.
Delorentos photographed by Francis O’Dwyer