Friday 12th August – Sunday (Early Hours) 14th August, Tudenham Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland.
Friday 12th August.
I got a lift from Galway at 7.15 pm bound for Scrobarnach festival in the company of three lovely people, two French girls, Cécile Robin and Soléne and a Canadian chap, Brian and we made it to the festival site in no time at all, out of the wind and heavy drizzle of the West and into the drier windless Westmeath, although drizzle was setting in a bit here too. It was quite cool going to security, ‘I’m on the guest list as a journalist’ and then receiving my wristband.
The festival was a nice compact size taking in one meadow with stages evenly placed apart to minimise on sound bleed, it was nice to see Gabriel Marques’s Reshape stretch tents being put to good use here as with Townlands about a month ago and the range of music on offer was fairly varied. Irish rap, rap and grime, techno, house and deep house, disco, drum and bass, psytrance, dubstep, reggae in all its forms, bass music, live bands (Anything from metal, punk to wild gypsy style music) and the open mic stage and a few nice food stalls, clothes stalls spread throughout the site. Another cool thing about this festival was that some of the music would swap stages over the two days so it was a little adventure to find your particular genre.
Boss Level Series – IUS Stage 7.30 pm – 11.30 pm.
The first music to catch my attention was the Boss Level Series that was happening in the IUS Stage (Irish Underground Sounds), Irish rap spoke in Dublin accents, this arrested my attention immediately as I’ve never seen a stage dedicated to this before, it was a blast and the Boss Level Series had a nice curious crowd lapping up the words and sounds.
Jobseekerz – Spiorad Óg Stage 10.30 – 11pm
I wandered over to the Spiorad Óg tent which functioned as an open mic tent by day and afternoon and became a venue at night for live bands. Jobseekerz, a band from County Cavan was just kicking off their set, a mix of metal licks, social commentary, comedy and general all madness around, an enjoyable fun act with a crazy front man who wrote ditties about, of course, job seeking and being on the dole.
From there I heard the first strains of reggae music coming from the tent opposite the Spiorad Óg tent so wandered over for a listen.
World Bass Culture – IUS Stage 11.30 pm – 1.15 am.
World Bass Culture from Cork had a clean crisp dubby sound and a lovely comforting bass and some fine toasting, singing and rapping from MC Rungus aka Brendan Evans (Galway). A nice wee crowd had gathered and were skanking away to the sounds. Most of the tents were using Funktion-One sound systems so crystal clear audio sound, they can create a phenomenal volume but at the same time you can have a clear coherent conversation with the person next to you without roaring into their ear, that’s the sign of a good quality sound system it will not deafen you like some. I also caught some music from the following act, Ras Tinny who had a very interesting slant on the reggae music, he was singing what sounded like Rastafarian hymns to the dub music, which sounded quite unusual and refreshing. I hope to catch some of his set at Trenchtown at Electric Picnic as he had sound problems with equipment ten minutes into his set at the festival.
I spent quite a bit of time around the Blue Mountain Cafe area with Donal Finn, Brendan Evans and Ruby Tuesday, we were soaking up the techno sounds from the main stage which was now in full flow. Because of the rain and wind earlier the main stage hadn’t opened up or there was complications that prevented it from been opened earlier. I soaked up the sounds from the main stage anyway courtesy of Eric Moore, Jamie Behan and Noid the Droid while milling about there at times.
I took another walk around the arena, having spotted the Doppler Lab tent earlier and liking what I heard from it when checking out Noise Agent’s set, I went for a closer check, the music for this stage ranged from DnB, psytrance and bass music in general.
Noise Agent 11 pm – 12 am, BadManDeego 1 – 2 am The Doppler Lab
This was one of my favourite stages, the thought that went into its design was incredible and although my camera doesn’t pick it up clearly or do it any justice you could have stayed there all night just staring at the stage. It was very futuristic looking with triangular lit shapes flecking around the sides of the stage and a very subtle or minimal use of lasers that were truly complimented the sounds. And the music, as ever DnB is an energetic music that truly has you flailing like a wild animal and the crashing pounding beats are an absolute pleasure.
I can’t really remember the rest of Friday night/Saturday morning, only that it became daylight and that the acts I seen were a blur by this stage probably not helped with no visible timetables near the stages so most of the time you were wondering who the hell you were looking at. I only remember fleetingly glancing at the timetables whilst in Galway through Facebook, but I had no credit for internet usage on the phone and no one seemed to know who they were looking at, at the stages. Maybe the organisers will be a bit more adept next year with timetable information near all the stages.
I started getting a bit peckish so decided to go for the Home Fries place, I went for the chorizo and home fries dinner at a reasonable seven Euro, which was delicious and filled the hunger spot quite nicely. Worth checking out, real slow fried potatoes and a nice mixture of sauces, meats and vegetarian options too.
I must have called it a day about 5 or 6 am in the morning as I didn’t really want to do an all nighter and I wanted to get up at least in the early noon to get some daylight shots of the festival venue.
Saturday 13th August.
I was awoke at about 10 am by the sound of an engine, I peeked out of the tent and saw the toilet cleaner truck cleaning the only portaloo that was in the smaller campsite at the top, was feeling a little refreshed anyway and just lay awake a while in the tent, Cécile my next door neighbour brewed me a coffee so absolutely perfect and we sat around the campsite listening to sounds. I eventually went into the arena about 12.30 pm and up to the Blue Mountain cafe to talk to my friends and to take some photos.
The Blue Mountain Cafe had a nice range of food on offer, Jerk Chicken with salad in baps or with rice and peas and goat curry along with various other niblets, beverages, coffees and teas. With the culinary skills of Ruby, a Londoner living in Dublin, Brendan and Donal, Galway based but from Jamaica and Dublin respectively they make a damn fine Jamaican eating house. Brendan also ran Jamaica Joe’s, a Jamaican restaurant in Galway for a while, concentrating more now on festival catering and impromptu appearances on reggae stages at events as well as, of course playing gigs there. Donal also being a dedicated producer of both techno and dub reggae and running sound systems and playing gigs at festivals too.
The Blue Mountain Cafe had an extended space opened today with excellent DJs and a few milling about and dancing, you also get to see the lads and lassies at work in the Blue Mountain cafe.
I took a wander around the arena the first time really appreciating it in the daylight, I tried to give a sense of perspective and space when I took this video clip, taking in from the IUS Stage, then by the Spiorad Óg tent, the Doppler Lab, the little avenue up the top with the drum stall, cool wee seated areas with DJs and some shops, the Bush Bar bubble looking stage and finally the main stage and area around there.
I had my bodhrán with me and I heard there was an open mic stage at the Spiorad Óg tent during the day and afternoon, so I headed up there with Speedy, a fellow Scot I met the night before, he also had a drum with him. We went up to the tent and watched a few acts, one them being the guitarist and the singer from the Jobseekerz doing some rap numbers, there was a poet going on a rant about Enda Kenny and all sorts throwing their lot out there. I done three songs with Speedy joining me on the first and third song, I done my usual repertoire of Christy Moore songs, Home by Bearna and As I roved out and we got a nice round of applause.
I popped over to the Bush Bar to check out the change of music, today it was changing to reggae music from house and techno, I avoided the place on Friday as it was too packed and it was really warm in there too. Today there was a bit more space in the place and Jaheire was just kicking off his fine selection of reggae sounds.
I went over to the Blue Mountain cafe for a while and had a coffee with Donal, Ruby and Brendan. Techno, disco, funk and house music was blasting out from the main stage and Blue Mountain had their own reggae smash hits playing too so things were livening up. I took another walk over to the Bush Bar to see who was playing there now. Rub A Dub, who I first met at Life Festival 2015 were playing a nice selection of obscure dub reggae ditties that were keeping the crowd skanking, Rub A Dub, always a festival crowd pleaser and an absolute necessity for laid back reggae areas.
A/X – The Doppler Lab 1.15 – 3.15 pm.
Took a look at the Doppler Lab, A/X was playing to an empty tent with some nice energetic DnB apart from seven people sitting on the grass outside the tent, I suppose most of the festival was still hungover from the night before, the arena filled up a bit more as the day wore on.
I went back to the campsite a while to rest up, get a few cans and listen to some of my own playlist with my ipod and speaker and grabbing a few snacks.
I went back to the Bush Bar to check out some more reggae sets, the place was filling up a bit more and the weather drier and fairly warm but not sunny.
Rootsman Wurzel – The Bush Bar 4 – 5 pm.
Rootsman Wurzel or Sean his proper name had a nice selection of classic reggae, but some of the vinyl was occasionally skipping but it was down to the tools and not the state of the vinyl, possibly the deck slightly lop sided or something, but I liked the carefree way he handled the set. I heard some classic Marley, Eek-A-Mouse among others. I requested some Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry but surprisingly he didn’t have any, he hinted he might have some Upsetters but was doubtful,(Edit: Having talked to him since he had in fact played the Upsetters so my bad there for not noticing this) I enjoyed his set anyway and will probably check out a bit of his Trenchtown set at Electric Picnic 2016 as well.
I went back to the campsite for a power nap as I felt a bit of headache come on, I put it down to not getting a proper nights sleep and the dehydration from drinking cans of beer, thankfully Donal had some aspirin and gave me two. I got up again about 8.30 and headed for the main arena armed with a few cans and feeling that bit more refreshed, I could hear nice dubsteppish roots reggae emitting from the Bush Bar so headed for there.
Dubtrash – The Bush Bar 8 – 9 pm.
Dubtrash had some really cool electronica weaved into his instrumental dub reggae, he really was like reggae for the future, mad electronic bleepy reggae, exciting and adventurous. But the thing that gave his music the wow factor was his manipulation of the dubstep. One of my highlights of the weekend.
I think I wandered back to the tent for more cans my memory slightly foggy at this point in time and not actually having timetables made it harder to identify certain acts, I’m looking at the timetable that was on facebook and realise some changes were made to that too, such as the Bush Bar becoming house and techno again instead of the advertised reggae, not that, that was a bad thing, the music was good. At some point I went up to the main stage to see what was going down there, a nice crowd was gathered and the music belting.
Maedbh O Connor – Main Stage 10 pm – 12 am.
This girl was a beast, she had a nice audience going loopy to the music and you could hear some of the sounds pulsating around the arena where ever you were but not in a noise bleed way. Hard driving techno and fantastic lasers from the stage set up made this a memorable set. I got a bit carried away at filming the lasers as I couldn’t really get a view of the stage as I haven’t worked out how to tamper with the ISO ratings to take pictures of installations or gigs with low lighting so I couldn’t really see the DJ. But I did try to capture the lasers etching of peoples dancing bodies, I don’t know if the camera really picked this up well.
At this time my phone battery was flat so I didn’t really know the time now, it could have been midnight or 1 or 2 am, I went exploring the arena again, for the moment I had my fill of electronica and wanted to seek some live music so I headed for the Spiorad Óg tent.
Grand – Spiorad Óg Stage (Time ??).
Grand blew me away with their brand of gypsy infused folk rock, they also had a touch of American old time, blue grass elements and Dixie jazz about them too. The seven piece group from Drogheda had a steady growing audience pulled in by the trumpet and trombone playing of Kiefer Wilton who was the shining star of the group and his charm could be heard from all around the arena. I hope they show up at Electric Picnic, a really good time sound and another of my highlights of the festival.
I wandered across to the IUS stage which was fairly empty but it seems that DJ Teknonotice was just starting his set so he still had to pull in some numbers. The music was laid back ambient techno with a steady beat and you could tell at some point it was going to liven up pretty soon, the IUS being at the opposite end of the field to the main stage it meant that the techno heads would be balanced out evenly. The brilliance of Grand was sound bleeding into the IUS stage and was the only example of sound bleeding I heard at the festival over the weekend.
Ian Hart – The Bush Bar 1ish, 2ish am.
I decided to check out the Bush Bar, I would have put the time about 2 or 3 am in the morning, there was house music playing and it was Ian Hart manning the decks, he was spinning some Chicago house music and had a nice packed audience grooving to the beat.
I wandered up to the main stage, I figured it might be Exit the Void and John Hussey, was just milling about the main stage enjoying the beats and was about to go off exploring again when they dropped the Aphex Twin track Curve – Falling Free (Aphex Twin Remix) from the album 26 mixes for cash, which made me linger for another fifteen minutes, enjoying the Forbidden Fruit 2011 euphoria all over again.
Luke PSY and McKenna – IUS Stage 3ish, 4ish am.
These lads were giving off a good drum and bass energy with grime, rap or hip hop, I couldn’t understand a word of the rapper, it sounded like spouted Cockney but perhaps that’s intentional, that we are not supposed to understand the lyrics, its the feeling of the way they’re pronounced almost like swear syllables that are punctuated by the beats. It looked like they were starting their set as the place was fairly empty but a few were milling about, I enjoyed them anyway, check them out if you get a chance.
The final few acts I caught at the Doppler Lab, I’m not sure if I caught a bit of Psytori, I remember that at the Doppler the music changed from DnB to psytrance in the early hours and I cannot remember if I was tuning into the end of Psytori or the starting of Bandia’s (Kate Bandia) set, unfortunately my camera battery ran out in one camera and I ran out of space on the other so none of these artists were recorded.
One thing was in the back of my mind but I couldn’t put my finger on it, then I remembered, Kormac?? I remember walking up to the Spiorad Óg Stage when I heard the horns from the group Grand and initially thought it was Kormac as he does have barber shop quartet music and a little Dixie jazz in his electro swing ska style. Anyway I heard later he had cancelled as he couldn’t access the av screens needed for the performance.
It was around 4.40 am when I hit the hay as I was fairly tired and pummelled by sound, so I bowed out for the night.
Sunday 14th August.
Well what can I say, that was a neat little event and celebration of the Irish underground music scene and refreshing to see one avoiding the installation art thing although the constantly changing floodlight effect on the trees was subtle and brilliant, unfortunately I couldn’t capture it properly on my cameras. I saw no trouble over the weekend although Ian said some local nutbags broke in on Friday but were dealt with swiftly by security. All the collectives that comprise Scrobarnach give a nice balance of sounds and vibes for the event. Galway Basement Project, Irish Underground Sounds, Puzzle, Boss Level Series, World Bass Culture, Jaheire and Will Softly and their motley crew of DJs, Blue Mountain Cafe, Homefries.ie and everyone involved my hats off to you. I wish this festival all the success and I hope they achieved a near capacity of visitors to make it worthwhile, I would also like to point out that there was a nice balance of male and female DJs and musicians taking part in this event. The thing I like about the smaller festivals is that quite a lot of people involved comprise the same people running the periphery of the Electric Picnic areas. So look forward to seeing some of you again and roll on Scrobarnach 2017.