The summer sun beats down on the two dozen or so of us gathered by the river in the countryside outside Macroom, Co. Cork while in the tall grass musicians take turns to serenade us with only acoustic guitars and the lapping water as accompaniment. Welcome to The River Sessions, a sort of off venue for one of the smallest festivals you’re likely to come across.
Currently in its fourth year and situated in the pastoral surroundings between Mushra Mountain and the River Laney, Mountain Dew is not like other festivals. It takes place in the back garden of a family home, the wonderfully accommodating O’Herlihy clan, has two stages and there’s somewhere between two and three hundred people in attendance. How’s that for ‘boutique’?
There’s a field across the road that serves as a campsite while more tents are pitched directly behind the main stage where the band formerly known as Superblondes (now operating as Family) kick things off in the garden around 5pm. Showcasing a whole bunch of new songs this five piece deliver a nice set reminiscent of Radiohead in parts before Liza Flume takes to the stage with her loop driven melodies including claps and finger clicks with pleasant multi layered vocals.
Slow Skies‘ dreamy ethereal sounds fill the evening and include a new one called ‘Bodies’ (due on a forthcoming EP) which sounds as good as anything they have done so far. The sun is setting on the horizon when Conor Walsh sits down to play the Nana Stage and his beautiful piano movements mixed with minimal electronica provide the perfect backdrop to the last remnants of light. Having never heard of him before we were absolutely blown away by his delicate yet powerful performance.
There’s catering by The Rocket Man on site so it’s a quick bite and back to the main stage to see Jackson Dyer do his thing. Down by the river earlier on it was just him and his guitar. Here he’s backed by a full band and makes full use of them belting out his soulful compositions to the congregation. Talos is playing back at the Nana Stage but as the room is packed we have to make do with peering in the window. Plenty of folks we talked to after spoke in gushing terms about him though.
No fear of us getting locked out for Samaris however. Having seen them four times in their native Iceland it’s front and centre for us as the stage is bathed in red light and the haunting sounds of the clarinet weave across the countryside with beats crashing in and vocalist Jófríður Ákadóttir sending Icelandic spells into the dark Cork night. Back at the other stage Stevie G from Red FM is giving it loads with the Deep South Soul Sound System which sets the scene for Packed Lunch with DJ Steamy Gee to lay down the hip hop beats tongue-in-cheek style.
Toby Kaar is well able to do tongue-in-cheek too with his cover of ‘A Woman’s Heart’ back at the main stage and Daithi, who was only supposed to play a DJ set, decides to surprise us all with a live set instead, working that fiddle and table of electronics to the max. Meltybrains? attired all in white, pushed the party spirit out to all and sundry, and it made the run go down all the quicker, not helping cohesive memories of the rest of the night. A quick investigation of photos on our phones reveal that Floating Joints and Bondax played until it got bright anyhow.
Mountain Dew Festival photographed by Brid O’Donavan.