INDIEPENDENCE Music & Arts Festival returned to Deer Farm in Mitchelstown over the August bank holiday weekend, vying for attention up against both Castlepalooza and the neighbouring Liss Ard Festival (formerly Cork X Southwest). Year after year Indiependence has continually grown as a festival, and for the 2012 outing organisers curated their most ambitious lineup to date, peppering interesting international performers amongst a brilliant lineup of Irish talent.
If 1967 was the ‘Summer of Love’, then 2011 is now the undisputed ‘Summer of Mud’. Although damning forecasts for thundery storms in Mitchelstown over the festival weekend didn’t prove as drastic as anticipated, the damage had been done in advance by our rainiest summer in memory and organisers were forced to come to terms with the marshy reality of the site and re-jig their plans at the last minute. Camper-van ticketholders were offered refunds due to the impossibility of brining their vehicles on site, with an alternative area offered should they choose to attend regardless. The festival’s main car-park too had to be abandoned, with the local GAA club and industrial estates opening up their gates for attendees to deposit their motors in safety for the duration of the weekend. Although it proved an annoyance at the time, it was an essential decision to be made – the inconvenience of having to lug your camping gear and luggage an extra few kilometres was deemed far less arduous than the what-might’ve-been disaster of hundreds of cars stuck in the mud come Monday morning. Without a doubt the fallout from the recent batch of Phoenix Park gigs is being felt as far as Cork – for once the car-parking hurdle was crossed, revellers were met with a lengthy queue to have both themselves and their belongings searched, very thoroughly. Any object which could be deemed dangerous, from gazebos to aftershave bottles and make-up containers, was confiscated without mercy. The rigorous search process is an important element which has been missing from many of the countries bigger outdoor events, and one which meant not an ounce of trouble was encountered for the duration of the weekend... We’re just a bit bitter that the unexpected lengthy wait to make it through the search scuppered our plans to see This Club, instead being forced to enjoy the distant refrains of their alt-pop delights from the confines of the queue.
FINALLY we’re all set up and ready to roam around Deer Farm in search of quality music – kicking off with ex-pat James O’Neill a.k.a Bitches With Wolves. With all sights firmly set on conquering the UK, O’Neill has really upped his game in recent months – although never lacking in confidence as a performer, the whole product is slicker than it’s ever been, and vocally he is near flawless. The tracks of last November’s Hurricane EP sit comfortably alongside the old staples Broken Hearts and fan-favourite Good As Gold - but the jewel of the set is without a doubt No Danger, the searing bass-beats of which will lead the charge of the Bitches With Wolves UK onslaught as a single release this coming September. Any festival with Jape on the bill is a festival we want to be at, and it’s a real treat to get to witness Richie Egan & Co. showing their wares in the intimate confines of the Big Top tent as Bressie is breakin’ hearts over in Main Stage territory. The creators of two of the most revered Irish albums of the past decade have hardly been resting on their laurels, tonight showcasing recently-crafted new tracks in the distinctively meticulous style we’ve come to expect from them. But it’s the classics that garner the hysteria this evening – from the sprawling intro to ‘Floating’, to the raucous rendition of ‘I Was A Man’, to the epic extended version of ‘The Oldest Mind’ to close the set – it’s not without good reason that Jape have such a solid gold reputation, and they yet again proved it in Mitchelstown. The cascading rainfall doesn’t deter the Maverick Sabre faithful who descend upon the Main Stage for his headline set – the tracks of debut album Lonely are the Brave hold up well in the great outdoors but the monsoon conditions make the house beats of Derry’s The Japanese Popstars a far more enticing tent-covered prospect to round off the night. But it’s not the last opportunity for revellers to party - no longer just a campsite / stages / bar setup, Indiependence has expanded to cater for all after-hours tastes, and be it at the never-ending fun of the Silent Disco or the retro goodness of the 90s Disco revellers can party long into the night.
Saturday morning and still no sign of the sky playing nice, meaning that the earlier acts on the Main Stage play to a very limited audience as Last Days of 1984 are gifted with a guaranteed crowd in the tents, the reward being an infectiously energetic performance as the duo’s growing arsenal of electro-rock tunes continues to impress. The fact that Indiependence is right on the outskirts of Mitchelstown is a massive draw for revellers whose love of sport matches their love of live music – a mere fifteen minute walk can take you to one of the many local taverns to take in the afternoon’s All Ireland quarter final action over a plate of delicious pub-grub, before returning to the site to rock out for the evening. Indiependence’s habit of inviting UK indie-rock heavyweights out to play continues with the presence of Feeder, who treat their fans to an hour-long set of songs old and new. ‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘Just The Way I’m Feeling’ prove early highlights, and the title track of latest album Generation Freakshow proves strangely apt as the area in front of the Main Stage is transformed into a giant mud-bath as some of the more over-exuberant attendees throw themselves face-first into the grime before attempt to rigorously dance it off, before the timeless ‘Just A Day’ sends them further into a frenzy. The big draw for many on the dreary Saturday evening is 2 Many DJs - from David Bowie to Kavinsky and Chemical Brothers to Eurythmics, no stone is left un-turned as the Dewaele brothers provide the perfect cocktail of party tunes to dance the night away to under a barrage of lights and smoke. With his trademark trucker cap and THAT beard, Scroobius Pip takes to the Big Top stage to a hero’s welcome. Guzzling from his bottle of rosé throughout, Pip treats the Indiependence audience to the best of his back-catalogue to date, executing his incomparably eloquent flow supported by the thrilling sounds created by his backing duo on drums and electric guitar. But the best of Saturday night is saved for last with Irish instrumental outfit Overhead, The Albatross who put on an explosive performance to a crowd of no more than a hundred people in the Love Music Hate Racism tent. Channelling ASIWYFA at their best, with the added flourishes of strings effects and piano, the raw live energy of this six-piece were without a doubt our find of the weekend and a band we’re looking forward to seeing a lot more of in the near future.
Although the news that Beardyman had to cancel his Sunday night Big Top headline appearance at Indiependence last minute disappointed many, really his absence is more than made up for by the absolute wealth of Irish talent on offer. We start our day with Elaine Mai, who continues to go from strength-to-strength as a one woman show on stage. She doesn’t miss a beat as she carefully loops together her synths, percussion and acoustic guitar riffs alongside a staggering number of vocal lines – and there’s even a Frank Ocean cover thrown in for good measure, which is a real treat. Squarehead are somewhat out of place on the Main Stage and really would’ve seemed more at home in one of the tents, but nevertheless the surf-rock trio put in a solid performance to a seriously depleted crowd who have left the site in favour of watching the Cork footballers annihilate Kildare. The feel-good acoustic rock vibes of Roisin O and her band make for a worthwhile venture back to the tent - her vocal style is intriguing, traversing her range to showcase the tracks of her forthcoming debut album. She has the charisma to rival even that of big bro Danny, fully embracing the Indiependence ethos by having an unplanned acoustic jam with Dublin troubadour Gavin James on a string of pop covers in the immediate aftermath of her set.
Le Galaxie trailblaze their way onto the Big Top stage and well and truly get the Sunday night party started. A fail-safe booking for any live promoter, the electro-rockers do what they do best by putting in a solid 45 minutes of madness, hitting their stride with the newer tracks of the Fade To Forever EP and creating cosmic carnage with the bigger hits from their body of work to date – most notably the extended version of ‘Beyond Transworld’ to draw it all to a close, a set which no doubt earned them a lot of new fans down Munster way. Ham Sandwich are somewhat of an Indiependence staple at this stage, and it is refreshing to see that the band love playing there as much as their audience love watching them do so. All the hits from both Carry The Meek and White Fox with the added flourishes of violin and trumpet, plus a quirky take on Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ thrown in for good measure, the well-oiled Ham Sandwich live machine shows no signs of slowing up anytime soon - if anything they’re managing to top their own high standard with every gig. The buzz is palpable as Delorentos take to the same stage, seeing off the might of their timetabled counterparts British Sea Power by not only packing out the Big Top but drawing a sizeable crowd to cover the tent’s outskirts too. It’s been quite a year for the Skerries foursome, their much-revered third album Little Sparks proof that taking their time to reach the dizzying heights of their potential has been more than worth it. Tonight, they steal the show with an awe-inspiring set comprising of hits old and new, impossibly tight musicianship and an overall zest for performing live... dare I say that the emphatic response to ‘S.E.C.R.E.T’ was the highlight of the entire weekend. But it was a different Dublin rock four-piece that proved the main draw not just of the night but of the festival – for the first time, the Main Stage area looks full and the simple reason is the presence of The Coronas. They’re a force to be reckoned with in terms of working a crowd, and treat their adoring public to a career-spanning range of hits - although they could’ve been singing nursery rhymes and the reaction would’ve still been rapturous! Front-man Danny O’Reilly performs with such admirable passion and conviction, and the bands anthemic approach to crafting songs is so greatly rewarded in this type of setting. But it’s the lesser-revered songs that stand out musically – both the title track from latest album release Closer To You and 'Someone Else's Hands' from 2009's Tony Was an Ex-Con prove the highlights of the set, in spite of the fact that the young wans were a lot more taken with the old reliable ‘San Diego Song’!
And so ended Indiependence 2012 – a festival which was certainly not without its faults, but the majority of which can be linked to the organisers’ unfortunate inability to control the weather. The show must go in, and that it did - with a wealth of musical greatness in spite of the mud-induced mayhem.
Story by Elaine Buckley | 08:46 | Sunday 5th August 2012 | Live Reviews
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