By Sunday, the weather had improved to the point that while it was still not sun-kissed, it was at least very mild and people had begun to shed their rain coats. The relaxed feel to the day set the tone for Gypsi Swing on the DoneDeal stage. Their jazz and trad style with violin, double bass and dueling acoustic guitars comprised a set of covers and their own acoustic material. Given the plethora of indie rock bands on show over the course of the weekend, it was a welcome difference to have Gypsi Swing transport us back to the 1930’s/40’s on a lazy Sunday afternoon – a perfect way to begin our last day of Vantastival.
Late afternoon on the DoneDeal saw two excellent but very different bands in The Radioactive Grandma and The Dead Heavys take to the stage. Acoustic rock trio, The Radioactive Grandma, raced through a hook filled set that had instant appeal. A band that impressed us so much on our Coast to Coast charity event venture, we made them one of our Top 10 Plec Picks. Maybe word got around as their surprisingly rocky set drew a large crowd for the time of day and the only complaint was that they couldn’t have played any longer. Ideally they would have been suited to a much later slot in the festival, but their time will come. The same should go for The Dead Heavys (another Top 10 Plec Picks) who came armed with some sweeping rock grooves that should see them primed for the big time. The Waterford band’s combination of keys, guitars and vocals evolves into a psychedelic indie stomp that is very easy on the ears. If you haven’t already caught them live, be sure to seek them out soon.
Indica, an eight-piece roots reggae band, pulled a large and appreciative crowd to The DoneDeal stage on Sunday afternoon. This would be partly down to jazz-rock outfit Multiverse who cleared the Main Stage of most bodies and Indica should send them a big thank you for that. It was also apparent that after the party vibe created on Saturday by The Barley Mob, that the festival crowd couldn’t get enough of the good time atmosphere and Indica duly obliged. Mixing their own original songs and covers, their set had the audience, including some toddlers, breaking out in dance. Indica have previously supported Toots and the Maytals, but deserve to be seen in their own right, so make it your business to catch them live.
One of the undoubted highlights of the day was Cat Dowling’s set. Her new album ‘The Believer’ has just been released to mass critical appeal. This is one of those occasions where an artist is on the crest of a wave and in the right place at the right time. It’s a sublime performance with standout songs such as Come On and Hunters especially memorable. As the darkness began to descend and the wonderful lighting above the DoneDeal stage kicked in, it created the perfect setting for Dowling’s dark pop songs.
The Raglans impressed us so much last year that we named them one of the highlights of Vantastival 2012. The guys came back after an exciting 12-months that has seen them cement themselves as the shining light of folk-pop on these shores. With instant classics like Digging Holes, Man from Glasgow and Sand in my Pockets; this set was always bound to be an electric highlight for the final day of the festival. It was however with new song Natives that they really showed that their is much more coming from this catchy, tight, polished and superb live act. With talk of an impending UK record deal and new EP on the way; expect big things from this stellar Irish band.
Since Carried by Waves released their debut ‘Softly Held Together’, we have been transfixed and addicted to every note on the record. So it was with much excitement, we made our way over to the awe-inspiring Music Maker stage to catch one of our Top 10 Plec Picks. Upon arrival, we could see that many other punters were as excited as we were for the set to begin. From the first note to the very last, Carried by Waves never failed to impress as their set ran through sublime atmospheric collages of sound and then dipped and dived through direct and edgy synth layers. The only bad thing we can begin to say is that they don’t play enough on the gig circuit for us to really get to grips with their live sound. Get the album, buy the tickets; go and see Carried by Waves as soon as possible.
The darkness was now shining menacingly through the trees and all around the forest was black but as you made your way under the confines of the Main Stage, the colour of both light and sound would soon hit you direct in the face. Tupelo were the band and they stood a dominant figure upon the stage. Harking back to folk giants of old, the band somehow manage to create an impressively modern sound amongst the output of old school fiddles and traditional music. Tupelo are what every stereotypical American thinks all of our music sounds like; a raucous onslaught of traditional chaos. A chaos in the most polite sense of the word however as the band marry a tight and expertly played set together, all topped off with the heroics and showmanship of James Cramer. It is with Irishman, with it’s lyrics “I am an Irishman, this is my land,” that the crowd get their full dose of rebel rousing and a fully fledged modern ceili erupts at the main stage. If you want original, modernised and relevant Irish traditional music done well; then look no further than Tupelo.
The big man himself sits atop the big headline slot for this year’s festival. No better appointment and man to carry the weight and expectations of a festival that champions Irish music so well. Damien Dempsey brought his brand of reggae, folk, traditional and gloriously anthemic brand of music to the main stage to send us all off into the last night. Eamonn de Barra, Dempsey’s right hand man, even came as the Celtic Tiger and, amongst the comical facade of face paint, somehow brought more poignancy to lyrics such as “greed is the knife and scars run deep”, a lyric about the Celtic Tiger times. Dempsey did not disappoint as older tracks like Negative Vibes, It’s All Good and Apple of my Eye set the mood for the biggest sing-song in not only Vantastival, but Ireland no doubt. Your Pretty Smile proved to be the best performance of a crowd favourite in recent memory while Almighty Love stood as the highlight of the night. The man is a giant, not only in stature but also in musical prowess; he commands both stage and crowd effortlessly and further establishes himself as one of the most dazzling and exciting live acts in Ireland. Damien Demspey spectacularly ending what is a magnificent festival.
The festival and it’s organisers deserve a special mention as everything is done under the ethos of DIY. It shines as a beacon of everything great in the Irish music scene; talent, community, appreciation, togetherness and a sense that everything is improving year upon year. Vantastival; you’ve done it again and believe you me as we all leave; we’re all very happy VW campers.View Project →