Different festivals tend to get a certain reputation for one quality or another. Electric Picnic is known for eclecticism, Body & Soul for it’s artistry, Life for it’s modernity, Knockanstockan for it’s sessioning, and Oxegen for it’s unstoppable throng of knackers and teenagers. Castlepalooza however has been reputed as having one of the friendliest atmosphere’s of any Irish festival, a fact that becomes immediately clear after a very short time. This is a festival where there’s no lingering threat, no bad vibes, and no one feeling the need to act out in any way. Match that with the decadent medieval grounds of Charleville Castle and you’ve got a festival that’s worth frequenting year after year.
Playing on three separate stages, the line-up is a diverse bundle of everything from indie to techno with artists hailing from all corners of Ireland and Britain. The opening night however hosts only one stage so supplies are limited. First up is a sombre performance from In The Willows. They flaunt very a selection of low tempo airy songs that tend to lack any real conviction. Their centre-piece ‘It’s Over’, a supposedly tearjerking break up song, manages to gently tug some heartstrings but still falls short of moving on any scale.
Things pick up later on with more upbeat side of the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra than they’re recordings would lead you to believe. Tracks ‘Grace Jones’ and ‘Same Old Situation’ act as musical magnets, drawing the crowd in, before ‘December’ firmly establishes the bands prowess. Rife with great dueling harmonies from all three vocalist the gig’s end rose to a beautiful crescendo, with double megaphones and beaten metal tins leading the exit.
As the evening gathered speed, a zenith was reached with Scroobious Pip. Perhaps because of delays but more likely because of the group’s well known on stage zeal, the band immediately launched into ‘Introdiction’ with uproarious enthusiasm. The tone is then set for one of Scroobiuos Pip’s most energetic Irish shows to date. Tearing through ‘Domestic Silence’ and ‘Try Dying’ Pip then implores both guitarist and drummer to up the tempo for ‘Rapper’s Battle’ in an attempt to make him pass out. Fortunately it doesn’t work and the gig continues to soar, quieting only briefly for ‘Broken Promise’ and a surprise appearance from album vocalist Natasha Fox. With Black Sabbath riffs and high speed drumming playing integral parts of the show it becomes evident that Scroobious Pip is a long way from the hip hop genre, this is more of punk gig than anything else. Frequently swigging a straight bottle of cognac and riling up the crowd, Pip seems more like a lobbyist for rowdiness than a rapper. As far as persuasion goes he’s pretty convincing, the show peaks in a unified mosh of head bangs and flailing arms with ‘Let Em’ Come’ fueling the fire.
Fighting off the drab skies of Saturday afternoon are The Viking Project. They shake the Main Stage with dirty shots of country blues. The Viking Project seem like they were forged in the heart of middle America, they’re hairy, they sound hairy (in a good way), and they rock their half hour set with guts. Nearly all of them can sing and as drummer swaps with guitarist for a slow song called ‘Distance’ at the end of the show we’re told it’s been “recorded in the jacks of Busarus”.
After Friday night’s guest list only access, the gates to the Courtyard finally open to the public. As the smallest of the three stages this is mainly host to DJ’s throughout the weekend and given it’s tucked away location serves as a valuable escape from the festival’s wandering crowd. For lovers of house, techno, and hip hop this is the go to area and many with tastes as such seemed content to stay there indefinitely. The first DJ to get bodies moving in the Courtyard is Dylan Higgins. His mainstay is hip hop and mostly fat east-coast hip hop at that. Unfortunately his mixing leaves a lot to be desired, many tracks are just faded out or dropped in jaggedly but the crowd doesn’t seem to mind. It’s no surprise really, when you’re playing tracks by the likes of Roc Marciano, Big L, Method Man, and ODB not much else matters.
It seems hip hop is the style of Saturday’s earlier hours as the next two acts show. Both are unique in their approach and distinctly Irish, which is a rarity in a genre that’s mostly dominated by the United States. First is Temper-Mental MissElayneous, Finglas’ very own linguistic acrobat. Backed up by Barry Krishna on beats she raps about everything from Ireland’s economic downturn to it’s mythological past. Her flow is unblemished. She bosses the stage like it’s her god given right to be there and at times looks like she’s possessed the demons of old. A bodhran is even thrown into the mix at one point as MissElayneous pounds out a filthy folkish rap. There are plenty of Irish MC’s around but Temper-Mental MissElayneous is one of the few that works with her Irish heritage instead of drawing away from it.
Second we have Melodica Deathship, hailing from Dublin or possibly a haggard ship anchored somewhere in The Irish Sea. Using a sampler, kaos pads, and a melodica the duo of Exile Eye and Deep Burial create a distinctly gloomy sound. Picture old time sea chanteys with contemporary hip hop beats layered in cryptic undertones and you might be somewhere close. The pirate guise that they’re working under affords plenty of innuendos with regards to song meanings. Much of the oceanic imagery can double over as a criticism of Ireland’s financial and political status - lost at sea, waiting for rescue, aimless, doomed, e.t.c. Which means that Exile Eye is without question lyrically crafty but his flow however is somewhat laboured. Melodica Deathship is something new altogether and that alone adds weight to their live performance but it’s so niche that many will be alienated as the opposing sounds of hip hop and maritime folk jostle for position.
As the second sun sets on the Castlepalooza grounds things start getting more electronic with a thoroughly danceable set from Jape, who drove the proceedings onward with perky synth tracks ‘Frequency’ and ‘Graveyard. While newcomer SertOne established himself as a confident turntablist with a melange of styles under his belt, mixing juke, UK bass, and beat music. Both however were overshadowed by Manchester producer / DJ Illum Sphere. Co-founder of the hugely successful Hoyahoya club night and recently featured on Radiohead’s King of Limbs Remixed album, Illum Sphere is one of the freshest talents in the UK. There’s some initial disappointment as it becomes quickley evident that this is just a DJ set and not a live performance but he delivers such a diverse gamut of tunes that it scarcely matters. His hour long set lands on African funk, soul, R&B, house, hip hop, a brand new track from Mark Pritchard, and a fantastically abrasive ten minute jungle session that seems lost on the Castlepalooza crowd.
From the airy Courtyard to the packed out Deezer stage and various problems leave an anxious crowd waiting for Le Galaxie. One of the advantages to a delayed act is that when they eventually do come on they’re bursting with energy, and La Galaxie were no exception. Exploding in a flurry of glo-sticks, the band kick off the gig with technicolour brilliance. On the menu for the night is a consistent serving of chart friendly 4/4 dance music with intermittent use of a vocoder. Assumedly because they’ve chosen the name Le Galaxie, the band adds a sheen of spacey effects over almost every track, particularly with ‘Night Drive’ which proves to be one of the show’s highlights. At times the gig seems outlandishly 90’s, so much so that singer Michael manages to slip a line from Wigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ into their last track ‘Beyond Transworld’. Well, not necessarily the last track, the epic Jurassic Park theme tune plays out through the tent as the band depart the stage.
Immediately following Le Galaxie on the same stage is electronic legends Plaid. At one time these two were Warp Records’ golden boys, paving the way for modern music but some recent average albums and a lackluster performance in the Button Factory a couple of years ago raises question about their Castlepalooza gig. Fortunately these questions are answered with the most innovative show of the entire weekend. As the music begins there is a deep rising pulse, like the awakenings of a long forgotten super machine. With patience, everything builds slowly before some intelligent drum breaks get unleashed and the true power of Plaid is revealed. Any passers by could easily mistake the duo for just another electronic outfit but anyone paying attention can pick up on the detailed layers that each track has to offer. And all of this depth is displayed beautifully with the stunning visual accompaniment. Their set serves more as a run through of the history of forward thinking music than a look at any one album. Everything that made electronic music interesting for the last twenty years is touched on. It’s dark yet uplifting, hectic but somehow linear, encapsulating the true oxymoronic nature of IDM. Plaid’s show at Castelpalooza is by far the pinnacle of the festival, rivaling any of Aphex Twin’s 2011 gigs.
Early Sunday afternoon is quickley brightened up with a cheery performance from Benny Smiles. With the aptly titled track ‘Sunday Morning’ and the not so aptly titled ‘Sunshine’ wafting into the overcast day, the crowd is all smiles as the band keep things at a funky upbeat pace. Considering the fact that this is the first time Benny’s sang in front of an audience the gig goes very smoothly. There’s some room for improvement but as their confidence grows these guys will only get better. They finish up with comedic internet sensation ‘NCAD Girl’ featuring a surprise appearance from Ballz Deep. Anyone familiar with the track is in stitches, while any first time listeners aren’t sure whether they should wince or roll around the ground.
At the opposite end of the spectrum entirely comes a gracefully downtempo performance from Katie Kim. Mostly acoustic but with some use of a keyboard the Waterford folk singer reels the audience back to a baby like state with deeply harrowing music. She seems immersed in the journey of each song and implores the listener to trundle down the same winding paths of woe. Her songs drift into vales of tragedy but never depressingly so, they’re just beautiful, beautiful and stirring. ‘The Feast’ one of the peaks of her recently released Cover & Flood LP bathes the crowd in cavernous delight and cements her show as one of the festival’s crowning moments.
Sticking with Irish acts - as Castlepalooza tends to do - we have Mmoths, a 19 year old from Newbridge who’s just finished a tour of the States and has managed to gain over 42,000 followers on Soundcloud. His tender approach to electronic music has grabbed international attention as well as building as solid national fan base, and it shows, the tent is packed out for his evening performance. Starting with his remix of ‘Trip’ by Vacationer, Mmoths captivates the gradually bobbing crowd from the first few notes. As the set progresses however it becomes more and more obvious that he’s not really doing much. Some knobs are turned and buttons are clicked but it’s as if he’s just pressed play for the most part. There’s no doubt that Mmoths makes warm enjoyable music - he’s the Gold Panda of Ireland - but his live performance lacks engagement.
Unlike Ghostpoet who positively lures the crowd with constant reassurance that we’re unbelievable and that he’s ecstatic to be here. Granted many artists tend to spit out the same spiel but Ghostpoet seems so baldly genuine that you just believe him. This is one of the main reasons why his Castlepalooza gig is so enjoyable, he pours himself into the people watching. He veritably strips himself bare on stage and lets everyone in. Tracks ‘Survive It’ and ‘Liiines’ drop jaws as the 29 year old verbalist speaks volumes of wisdom with glum armchair hip hop backing him up. Strictly speaking, this is more of a soul / indie cocktail than hip hop. It’s unequivocally British, borrowing elements from a range of different UK styles. As a rapper he’s fantastically piercing but with Ghostpoet you don’t just get vocals, he uses a plethora of effects to manipulate his voice into drawn out delays and walls of reverb. ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’, a drunkards lament brings the show to new heights at end and leaves everyone gasping for more of the same.
As the closing hours of the festival edge closer a noticeable buzz begins to rise around the empty Main stage in anticipation of headliners The Charlatans. With entry being refused to Toby Kaar’s bursting at seams Courtyard show many have no choice but to wait for the brit-pop legends to arrive. When they do appear, audience enthusiasm soars as they launch straight into ‘North Country Boy’. For the diehard fans this is a very special gig. All the giblets of their later works are removed in favour of a rendition of the 1997 classic album Tellin’ Stories. This means no nonsense oldschool Charlatans rock for the whole show, something fans have probably been dreaming about for the better half of a decade. There’s no real banter to speak of as the band blast through ‘One to Another’, ‘With No Shoes’, and ‘How High’. With the exception of some mild enthusiasm from Tim Burgess, The Charlatans don’t particularly seem up for it. They look a bit tired, possibly from having to drag out hits from a 15 year old album. The songs speak for themselves but they’re not played with the fervour of youth with which they were recorded. Surprisingly the best part of the show follows an abrupt exit from Burgess who disappears without a word leaving the band to jam out the last few minutes of ‘Sproston Green’. As it goes with festivals there’s no encore. This is the last we’ll see of The Charlatans for a while. Hopefully the same won’t be said of Castlepalooza, a festival who’s character and mirthfulness should solidify it’s presence for years to come.
Story by entertainment.ie | 08:39 | Saturday 4th August 2012 | Live Reviews
No comments have been posted for this article yet. Be the first!
Log in to leave a comment
The opinions expressed here are those of the viewer and do not reflect those of Entertainment.ie. Entertainment.ie accepts no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for their accuracy of content. Please contact us to report abusive content