Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co Waterford, Ireland 2nd – 4th August.
The Pre-Event 31st July – 2nd August.
Got an email only the week before that Catherine needed an advance team, which I was delighted with which means I could go exploring most the weekend with my cameras. The bus at Noon from Galway, changing at Limerick for the Waterford bus which brought me to Carrick On Suir on the Tipperary / Waterford / Kilkenny county borders. The fabulous John Dooley picked me up from there to the festival site in his camper van and a few other crew who were walking the seriously long road from Portlaw to Curraghmore House.
Ann Dun Delaney kindly lent me a tent to save me carrying the extra weight and was much appreciated and John served a lovely chicken curry to settle us in for the first night in the company was the lovely Jenny the Pink lady, Lucy, Ann and her niece. Of course, we dropped into the volunteer HQ where we met Catherine and Susan and I got my cloth crew wristband, the crew area sitting behind the main stage and Something Kind of Wonderful tent area.
Thursday 1st August.
Myself, Jenny and John turned up for our shift at 12 PM at the HQ, but we weren’t needed as yet so we went for a wander around the arenas, Aiden, Jenny’s boyfriend was due onsite about five where he would join our team as we worked the camper van, caravan and family camping sites.
Thursday was a kind of easy going day as the first arrivals are only camper vans and the camper van family areas, firstly I was working with Lucy from Sligo for a while to stop regular camper van people from walking into the boutique and family camping areas. Megan then put me at the family camping entrance with one of the orange dayglo parking workers, Rory originally from County Monaghan but living in Galway city. He was delighted that I brought the beatbox and speaker, pumping the Orbital EP 2012 set and a selection of Jon Hopkins, Aiden was working further up from me, his job to direct family campers to us. When we got through the shift we all landed up at John’s where he cooked some lovely quarter pounders, I also met Cathal who had just arrived onsite at the HQ and we had had a hug. 🙂
Friday 1st August.
Now although Friday was official opening day, I had to do twelve hours from 10 AM to 10 PM in the camper van field with John, I direct the camper vans to the parking staff and John the caravans to the parking staff. The day started off relatively easy, a few vans arriving here and there. I met fellow boardsie Pablo and Roy and who brought me a much needed coffee which went down a treat, in fact a lot of the camper van folk were giving me cake, biscuits, hot beverages and breakfast so all good.
To think it was only a year ago I was working in this very field with Cathal Flood and John Reynolds, God rest his soul, a mighty man and festival entrepreneur. It was a shock when I heard of his passing and remarkable what he has done for the Irish festival legacy. ATN was a number one hit last year and it was an absolute buzz to be part of this.
With a good area covered now I asked Rowan the parking supervisor how it was coming on, he seemed concerned, he said all this work could go to pieces in a minute. The more columns of vehicles parked up, you could visibly see all the green spaces disappearing. It was now getting to about 7 PM and I was getting tired, speaking of which myself or John never got a break in that long shift. We had to shift positions again as the columns increased further down the field. The onslaught of campers and caravans was relentless they just kept coming and coming. What happens if you run out of space, do the lads have to commission another field for overflow parking, who knows.
It was around this time that I had to halt the flow of vans, as there was so many queued up at the parking staff and it was in danger of choking up emergency exits and the like. Some of the vehicles I halted the people within looked stressed to hell, this is where I started hearing stories of people stuck in festival traffic for up to eight hours. All I could do was smile and empathise with them saying don’t worry we’re feeling this stress too. Another thing that was hard to do was having to split up groups that travelled together, especially if it was a mix of camper vans and caravans, as both kind of vehicles had to be parked separately because its a health and safety issue otherwise. When our shift time came to an end it was offsky and out of there, time to relax and enjoy the festival.
I had to sit at HQ for a while for a rest and a coffee, I enjoyed listening to the Fontaines DC from the main stage, the volunteer HQ section was separated by two fences from the back of the main stage, its nice to see them get good billings and they had a great rocky sound tonight, a perfect atmosphere. I went up to my tent for some decanted absinthe to louche with some chilled spring water using these 500 ml Ballygowan plastic bottles before heading for the main stage, the choice of some Spanish Serpis red absinthe and some Valote Martin L’Originale La Bleue absinthe from Val De Travers in Switzerland. Now I’m talking about 5 or 6 shots from the glass bottles into the 500 ML bottles and the decanting funnel to put a shot and a half or two shots into one empty bottle and louche up the rest with water, I consider this a nice festival drink anyway.
Orbital – ATN Main Stage 11.30 PM – 1.00 AM.
This was a nice wee coup by ATN after Orbital’s rip roaring gig at Galway’s Big Top at the Arts Festival the week before, billed as their only Irish gig, so fair play to the festival in booking one of the more visually arresting dance acts and a great way to kick off Friday night. Their festival set was a musical feast of peaks and hits from the past as well as some tracks from the recent album Monster’s Exist. Classics like Tiny Foldable Cities, Wonky, Chime, Halcyon among others from their various albums got an airing. The stage was a really cool setup with a screen beneath the band and a very large rear screen showing mind blowing visuals, plus this year the ATN main stage had side screens too to emphasise the groups visuals. The sound a crisp clear ambient techno and house sound, smooth and silky, the main stage audio sound system impeccable. A great way to get the festival party started.
Erol Alkan – Arcadia Afterburner 1.30 – 3.30 AM.
Erol Alkan played a nice bouncing set at the Afterburner, the electro house producer and musician had a nice crowd gathered around the place dancing away to their hearts content. Alkan has been DJing now for 26 years and is one of the masters of mammoth DJ sets, he is a favourite for putting on exhilarating dance sets at festivals and events. He certainly put a good impression on the ATN crowd tonight judging by the sweaty masses pumping away.
I wandered about the wooded area that had the All Kinds of Everything stage with Good Name Vs Manma Soar trading break beats and jamming, nice bass music and then over to the Belonging Bandstand with Stevie G doing some strange cool music with a hip hop flavour. I met Danyl Hartshorn (Hotbox promoter) his girlfriend Moon Dart and Kate Bandia down there and we went wandering up to Arcadia again. I knew Kevin was coming but I had no idea if he was in the arena, he told me he was putting up his tent at midnight so it must have been a long five or six hours on the road for him. I set back to the crew camp to get some rest and prepare for the next day.
Saturday 3rd August.
Awoke with a bit of a headache today, after working nearly 12 hours yesterday and not having a square meal as I was desperate to catch a bit of the Friday festival action or what was left of it, I hit the alcohol and was paying for my sins this morning. Up to John’s for a coffee and thankfully he had some aspirin’s. He also showed me how he blagged his way onto the main stage and got some nice clips of Orbital from the side of the stage, John how did you do that? 🙂
I set off to the main arena to see if I could find Kevin, David Curran or Lisa Lawless, former crew workers who were coming for the weekend to the festival, As I wandered by the main stage the RTE Concert Orchestra were performing the songs of Leonard Cohen, it transpired that this was just a soundcheck and the gig was to start at 3 PM, David Keenan and Saint Sister were among the special guests performing the vocals with the orchestra.
I went for a wander to check out the Global Roots stage and was surprised to see no bins whatsoever in the area, this was also a magnet for wasps as folk were dumping food on the ground. There was some nice jolly African style music playing on the stage, it could have been The Curly Organ or John Coneely I had no idea of the time at the time. I got a text from David saying to meet him at the lawn in front of Curraghmore House, so only a few minutes downhill. When I met up with them we went for a wander through the woods up to the Belonging Bandstand stage.
The Booka Brass Band – Belonging Bandstand 3.00 – 4.15 PM.
Its looks like there had been a reshuffle of acts today as the Galway Street Club had been billed for this time, but the Booka Brass Band was playing instead, not that I was complaining, it was nice to see the Booka Brass on an open stage as I had became used to them playing the tiny stage and venue at Other Voices when at previous Electric Picnics. The Bookas had a lovely dancing audience gathered and their music, funky jazz, was the perfectly chill type of music one could expect for the middle of the afternoon, always the exceptional festival party act
David and myself decided to stay around this area for a while as the vibe was really nice, plus it wasn’t raining yet. Today had been patchy drizzle and some showers but for the moment a dry spell. We hung around to watch a bit of the next act the New York Brass Band who were equally as lively as the Booka Brass Band and creating a lovely atmosphere.
I also got a bite to eat as was famished, I chose Bear Grillz again as I couldn’t spot a Charcoal Grill and they served to satisfy my hunger cravings once again with the bacon topped quarter pounder for 8.50 Euro.
It started raining again and I made a suggestion we head to a marquee, I looked at the timetable and saw that Australian songwriter Angie McMahon was about to start her set in the Road to Nowhere tent.
Angie McMahon – Road to Nowhere Stage 5.00 – 6.00 PM.
Angie McMahon had a strong bluesy vibe to her vocals, the music a rocky, folky, downbeat style and a strong backing with a tight drummer and guitarist. The sound of West Coast blues rock and pop with a touch of melancholy croon to her beautiful vocals. McMahon pulled in a decent crowd into the marquee for her Irish festival debut and she was one of the lucky few musicians to have a fairly peaceful audience before the rain got heavier and brought in the Fomo crowd who love talking the whole way through gigs and who haven’t a notion or care of who is playing on the stage. Hopefully we will see more of McMahon back in Ireland, a truly original refreshing sound.
Lisa Hannigan & Stargaze – Something Kind of Wonderful Stage 6.00 – 7.00 PM.
Now I’ve always wanted to see Lisa Hannigan but have always missed her at various times in the past at the Picnic and Body&Soul festivals, so this was the first time catching her, my sister and niece are big fans of her and At Swim her last album is on constant rotation sometimes on my sisters stereo. She had a multitude of musicians on stage that weaved a lovely sound behind Lisa’s vocals, the gorgeous Prayer for the Dying wafting about like a magical throwback to the nineteen forties era, lovely and authentic old fashioned style country and blues.
The only thing annoying my ass is the fact that half the audience there wouldn’t shut up and have a complete disregard for anyone else actually listening to the gig, the result of heavy rain and lack of covered areas. I’m not too actually familiar with her material but she done some lovely numbers like Swan, Nowhere to Go, Fall amongst others, this is more so taking a guess and checking out some clips and vaguely recognising them from the set, but I loved the show. Two criticisms not to do with Lisa or band was crowd noise and the malfunctioning microphones creating annoying feedback that you could see visibly affecting Lisa but she is an absolute pro who just got on with it. Met Kevin halfway through the gig, so he caught her for the first time too.
And here is my first criticism of the festival site itself, last year was absolutely perfect as the sun shone the whole weekend, but this year there was some very wet showers. When you get to the main stage there is a huge space until you hit the Something Kind of Wonderful tent and then another huge space until you hit the Road to Nowhere tent. Over them spaces could be at least one, two or even three covered seating areas. The fact that the seating areas near the eateries wasn’t covered at all, not even flag-mounted umbrellas made for a pretty wet experience and the marquees can be in danger from seriously overcrowding. Just something the organisers should think about for next year.
I repaired back to crew camp to gather more supplies and jump up to John’s for a coffee and to get my knapsack I left behind as I have two rain macs that would come in handy. After a bit of a rest and hearing Father John Misty finish up in the distance, having quite enjoyed what I heard, I made tracks for the main stage, texting Lisa, Kevin and David to meet right side of the mixing desk tent.
Patti Smith – ATN Main Stage 9.30 – 10.45 PM.
I was champing at the chance to get to see Patti Smith for the first time, although I should have moved a bit closer to the stage to get a good video clip shot. The fact we were in front of the mixing desk barrier meant no one could shove in from behind us. My sister has been a lifelong fan of Patti Smith, so I was already familiar with some of her material.
I always thought Patti was more punk but when I heard her live it was more of an old school blues hard rock but with an alternative feel. She is a very powerful and emotional singer and in her spoken passages during the music it was pure fire and brimstone stuff. She had a few inspired covers in her set, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, Lou Reed’s Walk in the Wild side and a lovely cover of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush. She was the only musician out of the lot I’ve seen over the weekend who paid tribute to the Late Great John Reynolds and dedicated her song Beneath the Southern Cross to him, I found this very touching and very important for the festival, we need to be reminded who started it all.
For the encores she done some of her time old classics, Because The Night and her interpretation of Gloria which positively rocked. For a 72 year old woman she looks amazing and can still rock with the best of them. A smashing gig by all accounts.
It started to rain again so we made for the nearest marquee, oddly enough I had intended to go and see Kiasmos and that’s apparently where we were headed.
Kiasmos – Something Kind of Wonderful 10.45 – 11.45 PM.
The marquee was rammed, myself and Kevin could not see the performers yet as a there was heras fencing along the inside of the entrance, presumably protecting the side of the stage and equipment, but all we could see was a mass of people so far. Saying that the music was mighty, sharp crisp techno beats but with some of the most mesmeric synth keys I’ve ever heard, total dream-zone ambient music. I suppose some would call it downbeat trance I’m more inclined to think they would appeal to fans of James Holden, Four Tet, Jon Hopkins, ambient Aphex Twin, The Orb and the likes but after the gig and listening to the Kiasmos CD, they are their own original sound palette and make gorgeous uplifting forward thinking techno .
The act hailing from Iceland have been growing in popularity since their appearances at Body & Soul Festival and Electric Picnic over the last few years, although for a lot of people they will be an unintentional discovery because they ran in out of the rain. This is my first time catching them so I’m not really familiar with their material, but do intend in procuring some of their albums rather soon. We eventually managed to get by the fencing a bit and I could see one of the musicians from the stage now, Kiasmos make really nice soundscape cinematic ambient techno, lovely invigorating energetic music. I met another boardsie who identified himself as more a lurker than a regular poster but he presented me half a pouch of tobacco as a gift represented by all the posters from Gigs and Events in Boards,ie, so thank you very much as I’m still using this pouch now as I type. 🙂
Well that was an interesting afternoon and evening spent with three quite diverse woman of rock, I had now switched on to electronica mode with Kiasmos kicking this off, I was debating now whether to go and see Jon Hopkins for the fifth or Hot Chip for the third time, but a few said to me that I should go and check out the US techno legend Josh Wink at the Arcadia Afterburner, so off to the Arcadia Afterburner I went. Also after all my festival reviews you would probably be getting tired of reading another Jon Hopkins review which probably is an identical set to the Body&Soul one last year anyway.
Josh Wink – Arcadia Afterburner 12.00 – 2.00 AM.
Josh Wink is a US techno legend who has been on the go since the early nineties, famous for big hits such as I’m Ready, Don’t Laugh (as Winx) and Higher State of Consciousness which he aired at Arcadia tonight. His music very mind bendy, twisted electronica with a thumping crunchy techno and some super squelchy acid house. His madness reminded a bit of Tinfoil’s set at Fuinneamh festival in 2017. His music is that addictive I could not even leave the place to go to the loo it was that wonderful, I dare say it, if Hopkins gig was cancelled that night he would have be in the audience here gurning too and the same with Ben UFO. What can I say, check this legend out.
Hammer – Arcadia Afterburner 2.00 – 3.30 AM.
Hammer aka Rory Hamilton from Belfast put on a nice closing set for the Arcadia, in a set ranging from tough hitting techno to funky house grooves Hammer retained a strong core of the audience in a tightly locked groove, he handled the set well considering who he was following up on. And he is no stranger to the scene himself having worked up a reputation in Glasgow and finally in London. His close friends in Belfast are none other than Bicep, a legend in dance quarters and festivals too. Hammer was a great way to go for blowing out the Saturday night into Sunday morning. I had to dash to the loo near the Something Kind of Wonderful Tent, Leftfield, well Neil Barnes was doing a DJ set and had started playing Phat Planet, on my way back to Arcadia the track was going through its squelchy phasing stage, which had me suitably gurning.
When the music finished for the night I headed back to Kevin’s tent in the main campsite which surprisingly was exceptionally chilled for a smoke and a few cans. I set off for crew camp about 4.30 only to discover that the actual arena was closed up and I had to do at least a 2 kilometres walk to the blue gate to reach the crew camp, was a right tired bunny after that.
Sunday 4th August.
Surprisingly no hangover today and having woke up at the late time of 11.30 AM I headed up to John’s for a coffee, Jenny and Aiden were up and Ann too and we were talking about all the acts and shenanigans we had seen. I looked at the timetable, mapping out today I was hoping to catch some of Saint Sister who received a nice compliment from Lisa Hannigan the day before, where she stated they were one of her favourite groups and then for some Sunday evening reggae with the Wailers. I planned to visit some of the smaller stages too dotted around the festival site instead of the big stages and also hoped to go for a tune at Greencrafts with one of our neighbours, a whistle player.
First thing first, find a food stall and eat in the main arena, I couldn’t decide what to get so settled for fish chips from the chipper truck at the end of the second set of food stalls. Was disappointed when I saw it was a Donegal Catch frozen fish although cooked, still it done the job but pricey for 10 Euro for fish and chips, the Donegal pack that fish comes from holds four of these fish for 5.50 Euro.
Saint Sister ATN Main Stage 3.15 – 4.15 PM.
It was nice to catch Saint Sister again and the band is getting bigger, they looked impressive in this main stage slot considering the last time I saw them they were on the Woodlands Stage at Body&Soul. Saint Sister could be described as a modern electronica rock version of what Clannad and Pentangle were doing in the seventies. Morgan Macintyre and Gemma Doherty have the most beautiful angelic voices out there, like two Liz Frazer’s and a very tight crafted band weaving a steady organic thud to the music. A nice ambient start to the morning with Saint Sisters thought provoking pop. a downbeat, synth and folk laden sound with the strings of the harp, it looked like two drum kits on stage, guitars and electronics, perhaps a keyboard. Performing songs from their album from last year, Shape of Silence, I assume they made some new converts at this gig. I always thought they came from Belfast but their Breaking Tunes page says they are from Dublin so perhaps I’m misinformed. I enjoyed the gig anyway and a nice way to start the Sunday afternoon.
The Wailers – ATN Main Stage 5.00 – 6.30 PM.
The Wailers put in a great set despite the downpours, classics such as Exodus, Three Little Birds, Is This Love, Jammin, I Shot the Sheriff, Could This Be Love among others. It was just hit after hit impeccably delivered, Josh David Barrett sounds like Bob Marley and gave it his all and with a nice backing of drums, guitars, bass (very important) and keyboards and the fine female backing singers brought all these classic tracks alive. At one point during a downpour the suns rays came through but sadly the rain never abated. Still a splendid gig by the Wailers by all accounts. I didn’t take any photos or clips as I was afraid of soaking my cameras.
The rain wouldn’t relent so we made our way to the nearest shelter the Something Kind of Wonderful tent, its a pity everyone else thought of doing this at the same time, hence a very dangerously packed marquee. This brings me back again to that argument of having a few covered outdoor seating areas, it would help that crowd to level off anyway. It looked like a lull in the rain, myself and Kevin made a dash to the food stalls but the bloody rain started getting heavy again, still we pushed on, I went for a lamb doner from Berlin Kebab with feta cheese while Kevin when for Wok n’ Roll. We scurried back to the marquee again as the next act was due on soon.
Olafur Arnalds – Something Kind of Wonderful 7.30 – 8.30 PM.
Now it seems that the large marquee wasn’t coping too well with the downpours, Olafur was threatening to cancel the gig as the tent was leaking in bits, so stagehands had to bring a large gazebo onto the stage to help protect his equipment. I noticed this yesterday too during Lisa Hannigan’s gig that the tent roof was leaking in bits. The other main problem being an uninterested audience talking away as if they were in a pub in Templebar because they were in out of the rain and not necessarily there to support the act coming on stage. You could see a problem when Olafur was trying to fine tune his instruments but he couldn’t hear anything because of the conversation level of the marquee.
It only dawned on me later that Olafur is effectively one half of Kiasmos, the amazing group I watched the night before and I really hoped it worked out for him with this gig. The music eventually got going and was quite different from Kiasmos, more like a prog rock style gig with the drum kit and violinists involved. Again, a nice dreamy ambient form of rock music, Olafur seems to have bags of talent and I will be checking out his catalogue along with his Kisamos stuff too.
I thought it would be nice to explore some of the smaller stages for Sunday night time, it always happens at festivals, I’ll either concentrate on the main stage and marquees and regret not checking out smaller stages, so this time I was consciously avoiding the main arena as I wanted to check out acts at All Kinds of Everything and Global Roots.
Toby Kaar – All Kinds of Everything 8.00 – 9.00 PM.
I enjoyed the Toby Kaar set as it was electronic music but it was varied from the usual house and techno buzz, I was in search of bass music, drum n bass, jungle and maybe dubstep. The Cork man definitely had some of those genres covered as does the Sim Simma lads who were hosting the stage, having heard various sounds coming from the stage in my travels. I’m sure I have saw Toby before at the smaller stages at Electric Picnic, possibly Life festival and at Body&Soul festival too, but a very good beats man and worth checking out.
Yankari – Global Roots Stage 9.00 – 10.45 PM.
Yankari simply blew me away, the ten piece Afrobeat band played up a storm and filled the entire Global Roots arena with amazed admiring fans, myself and Kevin included. The blurb from their Breaking Tunes page describes their sound, ” Combining rhythms, melodies and lyrics from Yoruba and Igbo tribes Yankari have a sound reminiscent of the Afrobeat greats of the 60’s and 70’s… Yankari aspires to advance the original Afrobeat genre by incorporating contemporary western sounds such as, electro-jazz/funk, rhythmic-dance and African rock and roll sounds whilst keeping the traditional groove elements of Afrobeat music at the core of the music ” the group has about three or four vocalists, a serious brass section, excellent electric lead and bass guitarists and percussionists and beautiful sounding African Xylophone type instruments, they had such a marvellous buzz and so refreshing to hear, a perfect festival band, I also hear they are going to be playing the Electric Picnic, so will be looking out for them there.
Arcadia Sound System (22.45 PM – 12.00 AM) / Nite-Fleit ( 12.00 – 1.30 AM) Arcadia Afterburner.
Well I more or less ended the night around here and because Arcadia are mainly English crew, their choice of playlist was liberal doses of drum n bass, jungle and roots reggae which was absolutely perfect for me, don’t get me wrong I love my house and techno, but apart from acts playing at the All Kinds of Everything stage, you didn’t really get too much bass music. I got an energy rush here dancing to this music as it does combine reggae elements to it too and I find drum n bass/jungle music to be generally underrated in this country compared to say festivals in England and Scotland. Nite-Fleit followed with some crunchy techno and house music and I come to the conclusion that the Arcadia Afterburner is one of the best stages out there, not only is it a visual splendour of the Gothic with its high reaching flames, its got one of the best sounding sound systems out there.
Here’s what I think of what All Together Now 2019 is like, take some of the best daytime elements of the Electric Picnic, the main stage and tents and all the arty stuff and smaller stages, from 10.30 PM onward it turns into the best dance elements of Body&Soul festival and the old Life Festival (2006 – 2015) period as far as electronica and roots music is concerned.
Well by 1,30 I was fairly dead on my feet whilst Kevin seemed to be finding more energy to keep dancing, I decided to repair for the tent as I didn’t want to end up locked out of the arena again and having to do that 2 kilometre walk again around the arena, so I gave Kevin a hug and headed off to crew camp, I suppose I just had to remove myself from loud amplification, which kind of happens when you feel its getting too late for your body clock and your ears are bleeding. 🙂
Monday 5th August.
Surprisingly no hangover today after 3 different absinthe’s last night but I still welcomed that morning coffee from John, as we parted I gave him a hug. The same with Ann when I gave her back the tent, sleeping bag and mat, sorry I couldn’t get the tent into the bag in the end. Thank you, John, Jenny, Ann, Catherine, Susan and Kevin. all of you for looking after me.
Just to rephrase what I said earlier in the review, the festival needs to look at maybe putting at least one or two covered sitting areas in the main arena, for people wanting shelter to eat food or just to be basically keep dry from the rain, yeah, I know we could just dress for the weather but we would’ve looked like right pillocks last year walking about in rain gear in the sunshine and Irish weather is just so unpredictable. The festival also needs to look at their traffic management policy and make sure there is no repeat of the traffic chaos that occurred on Friday this year.
I walked to the red camp with my gear and met Kevin and he drove me back to Galway safe and sound for my session at 9.30 PM, so thank you buddy. 🙂
I had a truly great 5 days at Curraghmore House and would do it all again in a blink, looking forward to ATN 2020 already and maybe I’ll see some of you at this years Picnic. Bring it on and goodbye.