The first major festivals of the Irish Summer arrive in the form of a wet, windy and altogether blitz-fuelled Forbidden Fruit and a wily old Slane outing . The former, hosted once again on the beautiful grounds of IMMA in Kilmainham, has clearly shifted its footing and adjusted its aim as the days when Kasabian and Primal Scream were headlining the nano-festival seem to be gone. No harm, now we have hip-hop, all manner of EDM and a healthy dose of nostalgia. While Slane Castle is hosting the old battle horses Foo Fighters (arguably attracting the vast majority of the over-30 gig-going public) plus one or two Irish names you might have heard before, Forbidden Fruit was a clarion call to a completely different audience.
And who better to lead the first night party than Fatboy Slim? Norman Cook’s alter ego has been around since before a large number of the crowd here were born. So ingrained in the psyche of music fans are these songs that not knowing them is just not feasible. A 30-second sample here, a snippet there, that’s really all that’s needed to pop festival-goers at the best of time. Add a few hours of drinking and a sense of expectancy and every little “Right about now…” or “We’ve come a long, long way together…” gets a cheer and a few plastic cups fired skyward. A few overheard murmurs allude to the fact that he has been playing this set for years now, and it kind of shows. It was fun, engaging and definitely a crowd pleaser, but nothing new.
Those three descriptions aren’t ones that you could apply to a lot of the electronic performers who come to call over the weekend, walking the awkward line between musicians and DJs – generally falling between the two. While Richie Hawtin‘s heavy techno proves a big main stage draw on Sunday night, it’s Jamie XX who’s the real star of the show. Mind you, if you weren’t in the Lighthouse Stage by the time he was due on-stage you weren’t getting in. A heaving, sweaty canvas bag full of hot stones couldn’t generate this kind of heat. The set, however, is a cool as you like and at times cheery enough to remind us that it is in fact summer, despite what the conditions might suggest. Booka Shade get it bang on too, proof that there’s no substitute for genuine live performance.
That leaves the hip-hop strand to provide the real entertainment. Not all of them are up to the challenge. As assorted Wu-Tang Clan members line the stage amid a torrential downpour, it makes for some sight. Hoddied up to the eyeballs, they look slightly bemused at the Irish weather and equally baffled as to why people are standing around in it watching them. Anyway, their set feels (and is) short and entirely like people going through the motions. Some motions. One motion. It gets livelier by the time they reach ‘Gravel Pit’ but it’s a poor version and they seem more interested in getting off-stage then they do in playing for those who have made the effort to watch them.
Despite the Rusangano Family‘s best efforts (which put the Clan to shame), the finest set of the weekend is to be found on the Undergrowth Stage come Sunday night and a savage display from Killer Mike and El-P. As if last year’s album didn’t set them apart from 99% of their peers, Run The Jewels live performance is something else entirely. Assault, injury, performance, it’s all in a evening’s work. A lot of other acts could have used a little of what these lads bring to the table.
Forbidden Fruit photographed for State by Mark McGuinness.