Vantastival 2013 – Saturday | Review
Client Date 13th May 2013

The early afternoon festival slot on a Saturday can be a graveyard for many bands, with most revelers just awaking from their slumber/hangovers and wandering the campsites like zombies. One of the many advantages of Vantastival is that you can roll out of the tent and, within the time it takes to make a few moans and groans at your lack of pants, you’ve already found yourself at one of Vantastival’s stages. Saturday was the day jam packed with top-notch Irish talent and we did our very best, between sloppy burgers, to get to as much as we could.

Credit must go to Race The Flux who pulled a good-sized crowd for such an early start. Those who were present were treated to an explosive set of songs which straddled influences from Muse, Queens Of The Stone Age and ASIWYFA. Perhaps next year, they’ll be on a later time which would suit them better.

Choice’s brand of synth pop should have been ideally suited to a mid-afternoon slot. Choice were one of the original synth pop acts to emerge from Ireland during the eighties and their music does bring you back to that period. Given the wave of nostalgia that occurs every few years for music from different era’s, the music hasn’t dated when compared to music from modern acts like Le Roux. One criticism of Choice’s performance was that singer Jaki Mc Carrick lacked some stage presence and failed to fully connect with the crowd. Awkward pauses between songs become regular, which was a pity as when it comes down to the actual songs, there is a lot to like especially Always in Danger which still remains as strong as ever.

Connecting with the crowd was something Moo’s Claudio Mercante and Darren Flynn had no problem with. Their banter was witty and their odd rockabilly songs had a likeability about them. The rapport between the band members was just as entertaining, especially before their song Eli Jones. If you are looking for an Irish version of Calexico and John Spencer, look no further than Moo and make it your business to catch them at a gig soon.

Cfit, with noticeably fewer members than normal, took to the main stage on Saturday afternoon. The problem with the main stage in the mid-afternoon is that even if you’re a polished and entertaining live entity, which Cfit are, the main stage lacks the character and pull of the smaller, more creative and intimate stages environs around Vantastival. Despite the bare look to the main stage, lead singer Noel Duplaa invited revelers outside into the cauldron bubbling with excitement upon only the first two songs in the set. Guitarist John Singleton draws the eye with his jazz-hands, power stomps and all around leppin’ about the stage. A strong set with a golden gem of a song in the form of Plausible Deniability. Cfit thrill and amaze when on top of their game but unfortunately this wasn’t to be one of their best outings due to time slot and stage placement. We did however go away singing “stay safe you little psycho” for the next three days.

The Barley Mob are ever so slightly working their way up the festival bills to hold a spot nearer the top of most Irish festivals this summer. Once you see these guys play; you will most certainly understand why. Drawing a packed tent, Adam Daly and co. play their most polished set to date, despite this gig being their first gig in over 6-months due to the recording of their long overdue album. Everybody’s Music, Stand Up, Rise Up, Big Up and Never Be Lost When You’ve Got Music stand out in the set with even a few new golden songs thrown in for good measure. The set stands as the most feel good, dance-ridden, joy inducing and sing-along sets this weekend and possibly better than anything you’re bound to get all summer (unless you go to see The Barley Mob at on of their other festivals appearances). Their debut album (which they are funding here) can’t come soon enough.

My Tribe Your Tribe crept into our Top 10 Plec Picks for Vantastival solely on the strength and freshness of their eponymous three-track debut EP. All in attendance can find themselves lucky to having bore witness to the first live performance of this brand new band. Originally the solo project of George Mercer; attention and interest have forced George to gather a talented band together in order to play live. The set, despite the stage technical hiccups, not only showcases the impressive three-tracks released to the public but the live-band elements adds a spellbinding extra something that makes this new band hot property on the live-music scene. Mercer has developed the quirky off-beat synths and electronic backing track while in talented Tod Doyle they possess a fabulous backbone to the impressive layers in front. Once this band hit 100% and develop their sound furthermore, we could be set for something special.

This year Vantastival had a new stage for local acts called the Melomania stage. GoldenPlec caught Dundalk local’s Richard Richard as support to BATS earlier in the year, so it was time see how there were performing in this little dimly lit stage. Their style is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend especially on the highly catchy Afro Caribbean Love Song. They skip merrily through their set although there was an unnecessary and unimpressive cover of Artic Monkey’s Mardy Bum. Overall it was a promising set and it was reflected in the number of people who had turned out as it was packed shoulder to shoulder into the tent.

On the Main Stage, the well-established Crow Black Chicken roll out a well-played set of classic blues rock numbers. Singer Christy O’Hanlon cuts an imposing figure and has the voice to go with it. While this brand of rock may not be hugely original, there was no denying its authenticity and is delivered with aplomb, none more so on Murmuration.

Last year Ocho, made one of the year’s most haunting and atmospheric albums to emerge from the Irish electronic music scene. It was always going to be interesting to see how this would translate to a live festival setting. Musically it sounded great, but the delays between each song diluted the atmosphere and had the crowd feeling awkward. However, a truly weird rendition of The Ronettes Be My Baby had some folks scratching their heads in puzzlement.

WOB took to the Melomania stage at 9 o’clock and within moments of those first drum and bass out-pours; the small tent was packed full of hot steppin’ festival go’ers. Paul O’Hare’s direct and pointy guitar notes laud over the slick and powerful beats from Djollie on drums while Stephen expertly layers the complex sound together. An instrumental drum and bass band on paper, the live entity sees them pull together much more influences from many other genre’s too. The near eight-minute Dive stands out in a diverse set, the likes of which you won’t see any other band play this summer. If you like your drum and bass loud, your musicianship creative and your dancing frantic; then you need WOB at your festival.

Scottish singer-songwriter Morgan MacIntyre’s gentle folk music was warm and enveloping. And, in case the crowd had forgotten she was Scottish, a cover of The Proclaimer’s 500 Miles really hammered the point home and it brought a lot of smiles to the crowd’s faces.

Roscommon’s We Town Criers delivered one of the most thrilling performances of the day. Each of the songs was played in blitzkrieg fashion and they powered through their set without missing a beat. Proud of being from the ‘west’ and in keeping with true Hardy Bucks shtyle; the finale descends into chaos when the bands’ assorted friends join in with animal masks for a surreal climax. This is one band to really keep an eye on for in 2013.

“Ah sure isn’t that fella off The Voice offa the telly” a lady proclaims nearby. An immediate face-palm ensues from many around her because Jerry Fish is no stranger to most who jam the tent at the main stage on Saturday night. With the Club of Mudbug’s nowhere to appear on the bill, Bressie’s audition henchman takes to the stage like only Jerry Fish can. From the outset, Jerry climbs the rafters (thankfully safely, unlike last year) and screams from the tip of his mustache to the top of his lungs. Old Mudbug favourites like True Friends goes down a storm but the set’s highpoint comes from Celebrate. Showmanship at it’s very best.

It’s fitting for a festival that has grown from grass-roots and now is in a position to cherry pick some of the best Irish talent on these shores; And So I Watch You From Afar are one of these bands. A band that have emerged from the local scene; now are crowd-pulling headliners. This point isn’t lost on Rory Friers who was certainly in jubilant form as his band headlined the main stage on Saturday. You know what you get from ASIWYFA – it will be raucous, loud, intense and they delivered on all these fronts. The set covered the span of all their three albums to date. BEUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION and Gang (Starting Never Stopping) set the tone and the crowd respond with a mosh-pit swirling like a hurricane. Ambulance and Big Thinks Do Remarkable pushed the pace even faster and kept Chris Wee drumming at a furious rate. A packed main stage called for an encore and the crowd favourites Set Guitars To Kill and The Voiceless blared out; the former arrives with the impending doom of an apocalypse as the tent remains transfixed to the stage. It’s a highly successful set cementing ASWIYFA’s reputation as one of the most exciting bands around. ASIWFA well and truly just kicked Vantastival day two right in the face . . .  in a good way of course!

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