Pockets of showers failed to dampen the spirits of a fine Forbidden Fruit turnout that flew into life over the weekend amid pulsating sets from Maya Jane Coles, Booka Shade, Damian Lazarus, man-of-the-moment Jamie XX, and an intensely exciting set from hip-hop’s most exhilarating live rap act, Run The Jewels.
Once again staged in the plush environs of Dublin’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham, promoters POD shifted gears with their fifth Forbidden Fruit festival. Gone were the hip rock and indie acts of previous years, and in came an all-out dance line-up that catered almost exclusively for electronic music fans. This was a festival closer in spirit to Oxegen 2013 than POD’s former Electric Picnic events, as they looked to cater for a young, clued-in dance audience that have largely lacked a festival to call their own since the demise of Homelands and Creamfields more than a decade ago.
The main draws came in the shape of Fatboy Slim, Wu Tang Clan, and forward-thinking techno stalwart, Richie Hawtin. Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, is always a safe pair of hands in which to kick-start any festival, although signs of decline seeped in two years ago with a lacklustre Electric Picnic set that still loomed large in the memory as he took to the Original Stage on Friday.
Opening with ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ and early nods to Marvin Gaye, his set kicked off at full tilt in big party form. With Cook all out to please and tease, the set shone with ‘Fucking in Heaven’ and ‘Star 69’ as the DJ gave it as much on-stage as the audience in front of him. He couldn’t sustain it though, and a mid-point lull was capped off by slowed down closer of ‘Praise You’ that underwhelmed.
Saturday night headliners Wu Tang Clan also failed to live up to their promise. One of the all-time hip-hop greats, the Clan are notoriously hit-and-miss live with much resting on who boards the plane from New York. There were seven members on show in Kilmainham, with Ghostface Killah, U-God, GZA, Cappadonna, and Masta Killa present. Although the set opened with ‘Bring Da Ruckus’ and included ‘Da Mystery of Cheeseboxin’, ‘Reunited’ and a tribute of ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ for the late ODB, it lacked fizz. A half-assed take on their biggest hit, ‘Gravel Pit’, closed their initial set 20 minutes early with the group’s bus parked side of stage as they filed on whilst the crowd began to disperse.
In truth, for much of the weekend, Forbidden Fruit’s ripest pickings were to be found away from the main draws. Lorenzo Senni’s arpeggiated synth compositions offered some raw, experimental trance early on Friday, paving the way for a similarly minimal, understated DJ set from Nicolas Jaar. Friday’s big highlight, however was New York-based singer-songwriter Tei Shi’s confident set in the Someplace Else Stage which threw on indie, shoegaze, and electropop, all drenched in jagged '80s synths. Recent single and set closer ‘Bassically’ was a particular gem.
As Wu Tang failed to ignite the Original Stage on Saturday, much of the day’s audience complained of a headline clash that put Wu Tang, Jamie xx and Groove Amanda on different stages at the same time. The damp weather will have influenced some decisions, with Jamie xx ramming the Lighthouse Stage with a warm, bright set that hit all the nostalgic touchstones of UK club music, while Groove Armada seemed to rip the roof off the Undergrowth Stage. Other Saturday highlights included an electrifying set from Damian Lazarus and the Ancient Moons that drew on eastern sounds, and a sharp set from Joey Bada$$ that confirmed him as one of hip-hop’s real long-term prospects.
Sunday was better still with German duo Booka Shade lighting up the Original Stage with a big house set that dipped into 2013’s ‘Eve’ and 2008’s ‘The Sun & Neon Light’. Fans of house will have been further appreciative of London DJ Maya Jane Coles’ pulsating set in the Undergrowth Stage.
On the Live Live Stage, Dublin’s Sleep Thieves delivered lush, atmospheric electronica that bordered a little on the drab, while Bournemouth’s East India Youth proved one of the weekend’s highlights with a set that meshed Pet Shop Boys’ pop with swathes of ambient, electronica and indie. His ‘Culture of Volume’ album is one of this year’s finest releases.
While Richie Hawtin catered for techno-philes on the Original Stage, the only place to be on Sunday night was with Run the Jewels in the Undergrowth Stage. The hip-hop duo were on scintillating form even if Killer Mike was somewhat restricted by a shoulder injury sustained in an on-stage attack at SXSW two months ago.
Opening with a heavy pairing of 'Run The Jewels' and 'Oh My Darling Don’t Cry', the duo raced through a set high on energy, intensity and humour as El-P made note of the scantily clad females on a bitterly cold day in Dublin. The unrelenting pace of the set hit particular highs with 'Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)' and 'Lie, Cheat, Steal', but in all this was a set to cement RTJ’s status as rap’s leading lights in 2015.
The duo brought to an end a Forbidden Fruit festival that has found a new rhythm as a dance and hip-hop heavy event. We look forward to 2016.
Words: Steve Cummins