Jayzus’¦ that Paulaner beer (nice to have a choice of three types of beer though) has given us a real bastard behind the eyes but following a cab ride from the hotel with a girl who claims to have 30,000 rolls of toilet paper to get rid of, we’re back on site to see LA ROCCA open the day’s proceedings in the Little Big Tent. There’s a right crowd there considering the early start and some friends of State we meet confess they have been up at 7am hitting the jar and a few joints to get a head-start on the day. We’re old mates of these guys and it’s great to see them back on the -aul sod away from their current base in LA. We got some classics such as -This Life’ and tasters from the forthcoming album, Senses and the standout track of the set -Half Speed’. Adding a bit of west-coast to the east-coast sound they had, they’re still a definitive Irish band what with songs about Guinness and mates and there’s a great mass appeal in what they are doing – no surprise that their songs enjoy many an inclusion in US dramas such as One Tree Hill. We may or may not have helped them demolish their rider and spent the rest of the day on the lash with given members.
We set a-wandering. Poking noses into different tents we get some weird sights but settle for a ukulele covers band on the mini-bandstand in -The Village’. Deciding against getting married, Nice Guy Eddie buys some tea and scones and we sit down to enjoy, amongst other gems, a Calvin Harris cover by the aforementioned band. Wandering back around to the main arena we pass FOSSETTS CIRCUS tent and before you know it we are being entertained by the most spectacular and, well, sexy, acrobatics by various thinly clothed performers. Classic circus fare but amazingly exciting and professional. It’s one of the greatest hours of the weekend. The tent is rammed and the staff are doing the best to seat people as soon as others leave.
Avoiding not the expensive beer, but the expensive deposit on the reusable glasses (a cruel €3 – most of which was never claimed back as the bars shut early and refused to refund them) we acquire a few cans and set off to THAT PETROL EMOTION after a 14 year absence. There must be a sound engineers conference in Ibiza or something, because there’s hardly a competent one on site the whole weekend. The Petrol’s glorious return is marred – they launch into the opener and Steve Mack seems to be back like 14 years only made him younger BUT there’s no vocal. Same with the second song and all that happens is the vocal gradually improves throughout the show just in time for a tent-ripping -Sensitise’. The sense of occasion overcomes the poor sound but it’s a pity as everything else was perfect. Mack is an incredible frontman; his body at one with some of the greatest Irish pop ever written. One girl who will remain nameless (OK, it was Bernie) passes us half way through almost in tears because how much of a RIDE he still was. That seemed to be the general female consensus too. The band were tight but it was Mack who elevated them above just-another-comeback-band. We deserve these lads back writing and gigging. They, and he, have so much more to give us. And there’s nothing quaint about Mack’s crowdsurfing during -Scum Surfin”. It’s pure energy and showmanship and there’s not enough of that around outside the circus tent.
Then there’s two female stars who complete our festival Saturday. Over in the Jazz and World tent is the beautiful RACHEL UNTHANK AND THE WINTERSET. We have to come down after The Petrols but the most cheerful band you could meet have such gorgeous songs plucked from writers like Robert Wyatt and old folk music passed down that we are instantly at ease. Even though some hideous music is blaring from the oxygen bar outside, the ‘Set calm us all with their northern English (and now Mercury nominated) take on folk. There’s a bit of clog dancing (stay with us), a borrowed cello and lush fiddle and piano (which only gets miked up three songs in – what’s with the sound guys?). It’s sweetness and light and delectable.
After another round of meeting old pals with man-hugs and air-kisses we just get into the packed Cosby Tent to catch SANTOGOLD. Hurrah! Some glamour is thrown at us – gold lamÃ©, immovable sunglasses and a pair of androgynous dancers that never miss a step. If you weren’t there for -L.E.S Artistes’ or -I’m A Lady’ you should have been. Such a glorious atmosphere in a packed tent, it was the most perfect festival moment. Throw away your Prozac and go see this girl instead.
A cosy seat in the corner of a bar was almost the best way to end the festival but after the bar closed we went for a walk and low and behold but we stumble upon a kind of broadway musical dancing spectacular. On a stage, but also confusingly on water. A stunning finale to the night we were wondering if we had really just witnessed it but it was now 4am and while the festival showed no sight of closing up, it was back to the hotel.
We were up fresh the next day but headed to Dublin leaving the hungover masses to one more day. We had a Wexford football semi-final meeting with Tyrone to enjoy and it was worth it just for the second half goal. The EP has grown into something massive, and it’s leading the way in almost everything it does for the 30-somethings who like a few oddities and a bit of chillaxing between their veggie burgers and lamb pies. The sound needs a serious talking to, and the glass deposit it a bit of a sham but above all it’s the most spectacular fun. Now I’ve something of a summer holiday to have so if you’ll excuse me I have the streets of New York to walk around. And the quare wan is giving me that look.
Photos by James Goulden