After the initial ten minutes wandering around Mother City trying to gather one’s bearings with the maze that is the RDS, in the Main Hall White Collar Boy warms up the late afternoon audience. The duo are joined by vocalist Sean Reilly, who will feature on the Dublin duo’s forthcoming album. It’s really quite unfortunate that the band have been given such an early slot for their set because the vastness of Main Hall (only a fraction of festival goers have arrived, anyway) and the sparseness of the crowd seem to affect the ease of the trio during the first four songs. However, that is not to say that they do not leave a lasting impression. The combination of Reilly and White’s vocals are spectacular and so different to what is typical in electronic-garage, particularly in Ireland at the moment. This is my first exposure to White Collar Boy and I was impressed, perhaps because their second last song has a hook reminiscent to Roxy Music’s ‘Dance Away’, an unintentional coincidence maybe, but an appreciated one all the same. Having seen them in this realm, it would be interesting to go and see White Collar Boy play a headline show to compare the group dynamic in a more intimate setting.
As the afternoon progresses into evening and more people arrive, it’s time for one of the most anticipated sest of Friday at Metropolis — well for yours truly, anyway — Canadian Jazz experimentalists, Badbadnotgood. It hasn’t been long since the quartet played in Ireland having performed at Body and Soul this past summer, a stopping point in their touring schedule which was fondly remembered by drummer (and prime chatterer of the group), Alexander Sowinski. Their’s is an intense, high energy performance comprised mostly of III and IV. ‘Lavender’, ‘Speaking Gently’, and ‘And That, Too’, sound exactly how you would hope they would live with an extra element of the guys going with the flow of the rhythm with their instruments. There are times when songs such as ‘IV’ and ‘Cashmere’ are perhaps a little overly extended in the band’s improvisation, which arguably lose the crowd’s attention with their execution. There is no doubt that Badbadnotgood will be considered a highlight of the weekend, especially after Leland’s hypnotically mesmerising saxophone line on ‘Confessions.’ A raucous rendition of ‘Can’t Leave The Night’ closes their set, and Sowinski politely asks to take a photograph on his phone of the crowd making peace signs. Watching them leave the stage, you can’t help but feel like you’ve experienced a really special group of impossibly talented musicians playing the most innovative music of the last decade.
A breather from live music is necessary, especially when all of the acts performing throughout the weekend possess and project an exhaustive intensity with their arrangements. Luckily, a part of Metropolis’ line up features conversations and interviews with influential and incredibly informed guests, like Irish Times journalist, Laurence Mackin interviewing Wolfgang Flür, formerly of Kraftwerk, closing out Friday’s Red Bull Music Academy Conversations. What initially begins as a slightly awkward dynamic between the two (a combination of language barriers and nerves on both sides) flourishes into a lovely chat about Flür’s uncertainty after he left the band and got into furniture design, as well as giving an insight into the closeness he maintains with Florian Schneider, even though they are not in regular contact. It does seem a little odd however that these lectures and talks feature in Metropolis’ programming – confirmed to me by a very drunken and dishevelled pair of friends that seem to have ambled into the talk with no intentions of listening to one of the founding fathers of the music that would breathe life into the acts taking to the various stages over the weekend.
One of the rare disappointing acts this evening is Novelist. His performative style in one segment of his set is slightly baffling as he starts and stops songs without giving them a definite and impactful presence amongst the rest. Although, it cannot be denied that for a nineteen year old, he has an amazing charisma and natural presence on stage which is infectious and effortlessly rouses the crowd.
Another Canadian act performing is Jessy Lanza, an aural restorative treat. Even just a few moments listening to her voice and the wonderful reverb effects she applies to it, accompanied by energetic and hefty beats, would give you second wind for the final leg of the night. Placed in the Serpentine Hall, (or, a wide corridor with a curtain sectioning off an area to create a “stage”) the intimacy of this location allows for you to feel close to the artist, granting a rare opportunity at a festival to really see and hear everything that is coming from the stage. There is nothing to fault Lanza on throughout her set. She is immensely endearing and exceptional at catering to a crowd craving music to just lose inhibitions to.
Naturally, Moderat and Groove Armada’s DJ set proved to be the most talked about throughout the day. And while they are enjoyable (the former more-so) it is essentially computer music that can be devoid of generating an authentic connection with a crowd. Whereas, Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip curates a fun, two-hour Prince tribute DJ set covering the classics (‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Raspberry Beret’, and ‘1999’) and other lesser celebrated hits like ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’, and ‘Controversy.’ While there’s a really warm feeling in the room when a big gathering on the dancefloor takes hold, there are a few times, strangely, when the space empties out almost completely. This is indicative of the crowd attending Metropolis, though. It feels like people are either stumbling around or in transit to another part of the RDS, constantly on the move but not entirely connecting with the acts and the music. It’s a shame, because as electronic festivals held in a small European capital go, Metropolis have compiled a stellar line up for Friday’s festivities.
Metropolis photographed for State by Leah Carroll