Forbidden Fruit was billed in advance as the ‘first multi-stage music festival to take place in Dublin city centre’, and it seems strangely quaint: not least when one of the visiting bands namechecks the city and you instinctively feel the urge to correct them, only to realise that yes, we are in Dublin. However, as with many first-time music festivals it’s not without teething problems – the queues for drink on the first day are massive and bafflingly slow-moving. It’s a situation exacerbated by the organisers’ policy of not letting people leave the grounds and re-enter with a wristband. Eventually both these problems are sorted, which is to the organisers’ credit.
Musically, the festival – located on the grounds of the Kilmainham Royal Hospital – provides a nice balance between the dance, pop and rock camps. Jape on the Main ‘Original’ Stage is our first port of call, and his set in the sunshine is a perfectly pitched mix of old and new material: the pulse and throb of ‘Graveyards’ and ‘I Was a Man’ go down a treat (particularly the thrilling breakdown of the latter), but Egan’s new songs sound just as impressive, with the just-released ‘Hands of Fire’ laying down the a typically sleek, breezy groove. The Undergrowth stage sees cult producer/beatboxer Beardyman play to a full house: State catches the first part of his set, which has snatches of Neil Young via Saint Etienne in there as well as The Clash via Beats International; good clean fun, and Darren Foreman sure knows how to work a crowd.
On the Main Stage, a dapper-looking Wild Beasts showcase material from their acclaimed new album Smother. It’s perfect for this summer late-afternoon time slot – lush, layered, patiently unfurling; ideal fare for sitting and chilling to. Older material like the thrillingly inventive ‘All The King’s Men’ makes a welcome appearance as well, while set closer ‘End Come Too Soon’ is an aptly-named mini-epic. It’s Yo La Tengo who steal Saturday’s show, however: any fears that they’ll use up their allotted hour acting out episodes of Seinfeld are quickly dispelled as they kick off with the buoyant ‘Nothing To Hide’ and a shimmering version of ‘Decora’. What follows is as close to a greatest hits set as you’ll get from a band who don’t tend to flirt with the charts: ‘Sugarcube’, ‘Mr. Tough’, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, ‘Little Honda’ and ‘Autumn Sweater’ are all present and performed with gusto. It wouldn’t be a Yo La Tengo set without a vintage guitar freak-out, however, and they deliver with an immense ‘Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind’, Ira Kaplan shredding the living hell out of his guitar while that gloriously simple bassline chugs on and on for ten minutes or so. It’s a shame that they clashed with Ham Sandwich, who at this precise moment are playing the gig of their lives on the Underground stage to a crowd of such a size that suggests that, finally, the word is out.
The Flaming Lips are an increasingly divisive live prospect these days – they could be the greatest live band in the world or a glorified karaoke act depending on who you ask. One thing you can say for sure is that they put on a spectacle: giant balloons, confetti, lasers, Wayne Coyne walking over the crowd in a giant bubble, etc etc. A few new tricks wouldn’t go amiss at this stage, but they do seem to pay more attention to the music itself than usual, with ‘What Is The Light’ and its segue into the twilight atmospherics of ‘The Observer’ standing out. Whatever the arguments about creative staleness, when you look around the field and see the good vibes it’s hard to deny.
The first act State samples on the Sunday is electronic duo Solar Bears on the Undergrowth Stage. It’s clear that they’ve put a lot of effort in to the visual aspect of their set, with an impressive light show as well as background projections. The music, meanwhile, takes on a bit more punch in comparison to the dreamscape vibe of album She Was Coloured In. ‘Neon Colony’, for example – already one of their finest tunes – takes on a whole new bass-heavy life. Elsewhere, Kormac’s Big Band are one of the pleasant surprises of the weekend, with their brass-infused mini-carnival on the Main Stage going down a storm with the mid-afternoon punters.
The Richter Collective have the Lighthouse stage to themselves on Sunday, and first up is Tera Melos, a US-based band who’ve released music on Richter’s sister-label Sargent House. They share many similarities with the cerebral brand of instrumental rock that the Richter Collective has become renowned for, but it’s very hard to pin down all the same: there’s jazz influences mixed with abrasive passages of scree, and overall it’s a challenging but compelling sound. One to investigate further. Caribou‘s set on the Main Stage never quite takes off: he’s been touring the Swim material for a long time now with little or no change in his setlists, while the sound quality doesn’t seem to be doing him any favours today either. He does pull it out of the bag with the effervescent ‘Odessa’, however, which already has the air of a classic.
Jamie xx’s set is another that slightly underwhelms: there’s a couple of big tunes in there, as well as some poignant nods to the late Gil Scott-Heron, but overall it’s a strange set which is summed up when he more or less sabotages his Adele remix. At the same time, Battles are bringing a strange vibe themselves, an entire set of new material from Gloss Drop means no ‘Atlas’ or ‘Tonto’ but Battles Mk II without Tyondai Braxton are a different proposition and we better get used to it. Their focus is less on experimentation and more on pushing the rock template these days which they do so thrillingly at times. John Stanier is more the focus than ever, his mile high cymbal hits are still highly charged. The set suffers from a general lack of knowledge of the new songs in the audience but highlights include ‘Africastle’, ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘Inchworm’. Come back in six months and we’ll see how far the new songs have progressed.
Not Squares‘ performance on the Lighthouse Stage is much more like it, as they bring the party vibes with spiralling, frenzied electronic spazz-outs and low-slung, sinister grooves. After that celebratory affair, it’s off to see Aphex Twin‘s headline set. As divisive as the previous night’s headliners but for very different reasons, Richard D James is as unpredicable as they come, and what he goes with tonight is a fairly relentless salvo of abrasive, rippling beats complete with twisted visuals. Some people are entranced, others are scratching their heads. Such is the proper order.
Overall, Forbidden Fruit has a pretty nice and relaxed ambience about it, reminiscent of The Electric Picnic in its early days. Organisational issues notwithstanding, it could well be a keeper for those who don’t quite fancy the expense of The Big Two festivals.