Indiependence is the most rudimentary of festivals. It’s basically a big, well not that big, un-mown field with a tent in each corner and a dance marquee thrown in for good measure. There’s a comical Zorbing ball set up to one side that runs down a bit of slant for a topsy-turvy jaunt of, ooh, five metres or so. If you stand right in the middle, you can hear all five stages, ok, not the silent disco. Walking on site it’s grey, drizzly and wind-swept.
All sounds a bit Craggy Island doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. That sentence paints a dismal picture but the weather was actually quite good for the weekend, balmy even; anyway, we’re not here to talk about the weather. Indiependence is a basic festival but here-in lies its charm. Indiependence is an easy festival. Mitchelstown is remarkably close to Dublin by car, under 2 and ½ hours depending who is driving. Queueing for tickets takes minutes, the camping is a few yards away from the entrance (where there are free hot showers), entrance to the arena is just as close, the crowd are young and cheery and the security are sound – positively friendly even. As one of the said when searching, “C’mon now, don’t be afraid. It’s not Oxegen.” It’s certainly not Oxegen, the line-up may have short of heavy-weight headliners but it wasn’t short on quality.
The main or Bavaria Stage was the only outdoor stage, and had the bigger names, so this drew the largest crowd. God Is An Astronaut delivered some hard-hitting post-rock early in the evening, a deafening and energetic spectacle. Reverend & The Makers on the other hand brought it a bit more up mainstream with some Northern-fuelled indie-funk pop. John McClure can certainly fill a stage, though he does make stage for Andy Nicholson on bass. Their brassy-electro tunes are perfect festival fodder and they delve into some nice reggae infused pop at times, of course it’s ‘Heavyweight Champions of the World’ that gets the crowd into fever mode.
There were reportedly 4000 tickets sold for the festival but never at any point did it feel like that. The Cypress Ave Stage held a good crowd too which meant that The Monster Mash always felt under-attended, even though it had some of the best acts of the weekend. Nonetheless, Grand Pocket Orchestra held their own with an excellent set of lo-fi indie-pop dawdlings. The quintet’s set brimmed with playful energy; it was difficult to keep track of any of them bouncing about the stage. As usual Paddy held centre stage in his tennis attire and Bronwyns keyboard and top instruments were twee in all best way possible. GPO had their fanbase with them, ‘Odd Socks’, ‘Little Messy’ and latest single, ‘Basketballs’ were performed with ebullient vigour.
Just as fun but perhaps with a little more dynamism, Super Extra Bonus Party closed the Monster Mash stage with a spirited set of rhythmic and punky indie rock (‘Who are you and what do you want’), with the usual mix of electronics, indie and glitchy beats (‘Radar’, ‘Mushie Shake’). Fight Like Apes’ May Kay joined them for set-closer, ‘Eamonn’, an incendiary performance with stage climbing antics. It’s was all very jubilant, the party spilled over the stage into the tent. A top job considering Alabama 3 were banging out that Soprano’s tune on the main stage.
Indiependence has been running for five years now. It started as a free festival in the market square of Mitchelstown in 2006, over time it grew in size and stature and the festival relocated to a deer farm out the road just last year. Having the town nearby is sweet. Tom, one of the locals, had a busy day ferrying punters to and from the festival where Mitchelstown provided more food options, screens for the GAA and plenty of Guinness. This of course has it’s downside for the festival as some of the earlier acts fall victim to many taking recovery-refuge in a pub. (Actually, it needs to be noted that the bar at Indiependence had tasty pints, service with a smile and easily the cheapest drinks of any Irish festival).
Cyprus Ave had the strongest line-up on Sunday, on passing Fred seemed to be having a blast on the Main Stage and Ham Sandwich reportedly ripped up the Monster Mash stage. O Emperor played with their usual perfection, ‘Into The Sea’ and ‘Don’t Mind Me’ were standouts and ‘Po’ found the audience singing along to their their ’70s tinged soft rock. Another trio, Adebisi Shank, couldn’t be more different. Drawing a sizable crowd with a frantic collection of spazzed out math-rock, the new material from from their second album (This Is The Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank) went down a storm, though much of the festival crowd were soaking up the sun to And So I Watched You From Afar. Jape went head to head with White Lies, and did a superb job considering (though these stages should really be further apart). Going on a bit of a folkier route Richie played some hits and treated us to quite a few newbies. His next release is definitely one to look forward to.
Indiependence could do with dropping the Monster Mash stage and spreading the acts over the main and the Cyprus Ave, this way there’d be bigger crowds at each. Organisers would surely love to see a larger attendance but hopefully it won’t get much bigger. The crowd are there for all the right reasons, fun loving revellers with penchant for quality Irish music and, let’s be honest, lying around a field boozing over a bank holiday weekend. Rudimentariness aside, Inidependence as all the right elements for good festival, one with a reputation for good people, good music and good times.
Photos: Sara Devine