Indiependence 2014: Review
Reviewer: Ray Wingnut
Photos: Dara Munnis and Rory Coomey:
It was one of those glorious evenings in August. The recent damp weather had put a thick green lush all the way along the Galtee Mountains and visibility was so clear that you could see them stretch on for miles. Bathed in sunset, the freshness fed into the sessioneers and everyone sighed in collective relief that it was a bank holiday weekend. No-one seemed happier to be looking out at these dark green hills than Andrew Hozier-Byrne. He seemed genuinely delighted to be home from long stints abroad on promotional touring and this Sunday mid-evening slot was the perfect unwind for everyone at Indiependence.
One thing was annoying me though. I had picked up word during the day that the All-Ireland quarter-final between Cork and Mayo in Croke Park had a few controversial talking points and that it was a great game. I decided that after Hozier, I’d pop across the road to the Fir Grove Hotel and catch The Sunday Game on TV. I might even have a cool Cidona. When I got to the bar of the hotel, it was almost empty, except for two old lads from Kildorrery who were actually at the game in Dublin, and the entire Public Enemy crew. ‘Do ye mind if I stick on The Sunday Game, lads?’, I asked one of the S1Ws. He didn’t mind. The barman obliged and we all sat down and had a Cidona. I had a packet of Taytos as well.
By the time the GAA analysis was over, PE were gone and getting ready for their headline gig. I was pretty pumped up. Lots of the sessioneers were knackered at this stage, but the lure of Public Enemy had kept people in the game, and I got the distinct impression that lots had travelled to Mitchelstown on the Sunday just to glimpse these legends. They worked the crowd, brought the boom and doom, the theatrics and the classics. They are still in the same attack formation; Chuck D is the man in command, Flav is the hype dude. At one stage Flav leaps into the crowd and bustles his way right to the back of the venue. It’s nuts and it’s great.
The second-headline act had pulled out earlier in the day, and with the massage of sunshine, no-one really gave a flying funlovincriminal. Indiependence home-boys The Frank & Walters stepped into the breach and brought their considerable swagger and anthems to ably knock it out of the park.
It made me think of the staggering achievement of the organisers of this festival. I can remember when all of this was just fields, the gigs used to take place up the town as part of Mitchelstown Festival. I remember when Danni Minogue headlined many years ago. And I think Coolio ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ was there another year. However, a more reasonable and more musically-oriented crew took over in 2006 and started by booking some great Irish acts and re-branded the festival as Indiependence. The Franks played the first year and since then the festival has been been built from the ground up. Now it is a fully formed small festival with it’s own identity, ideas and features.
The Beer Hall is something that I could get well used to. It’s a giant galvanise and concrete barn. On Friday night, the herd is made up of sound, damp, drunk people. Local Franciscan Well Brewery beer flows, the live stage in the barn is jumping and wide open indoor space fills quickly. It’s got pingpong tables! The noise and the craic hits the roof and it is a savage respite from the drizzle.
At Indiependence, there is a considerable amount of corporate sponsorship and presence at every juncture. All stages and especially the DJ bars are sticky with abrasive branding and promotion. While this is grating and keeps prices high, I guess it is a trade-off for an event like this to take place. The alcohol rules are strict, which keeps so much of the crowd in the campsite until very late in the day, especially on Friday.
To be totally honest, when I got to the festival on Friday, I felt like a bit of a dipshit. I had never heard of Dan Croll or even Tom Odell. I was a bit out of the loop. But hey, I can get involved none the less, I’m always hoping to be surprised. And lo and behold, there were moments that knocked me out. Neither by the respective English lads Croll and Odell, although loads of people lapped them up. The standout moment for me was a huge performance and and mutual reaction from a packed main stage for Dingle band Walking On Cars. They got the warmest possible welcome, the crowd belted out the radio-friendly anthems and it was all joyous. Indie 2014 had landed. It was no bad thing to hear a West Kerry accent hollering out over thousands of fans in North Cork. Beautiful moments and a great set.
Luckily Friday night wasn’t all about earnest emotional singers. It was the first night of the festival after all, everyone had a bit of pep in their step and so a late night headliner in the Big Top Stage truly did fit the bill. It was the last ever Irish performance by DanLeSac vs Scroobius Pip. The tight tent was perfect for the hardcore fans, the ravers and the rockers to get down and dirty. The two had given a great talk earlier on in the little HotPress tent, where again, the hardcore fans had goaded them about their set to take place later that night. The anticipation was all there and it did not disappoint. Pip’s whinge-like rapping and shouting, and sojourns into the baying crowd, LeSacs rabid manic beats and drum machine smashing, they truly mashed up the gaff. Good night.
Saturday belonged to the DJs. Plain and simple. I was super-pumped for David Holmes at the far end of the day. In the mean-time, it was a case of survival. From Carlingford to Cahir, just outside Mitchelstown there was torrential rain, flash floods and epic groundwater. At Indiepenence, there was a few showers, but it was grand. The live music line-up for the day was pretty tame, but the DJs picked up the slack. Radio heroes Stevie G and Kelly-Anne Byrne brought considerable heat to the Bacardi Bar. This place goes off at the slightest sign of a tasty DJ and Saturday evening was a case of any excuse to rip shop. By the end of the night, the general messiness was clear which kind of took away from the atmosphere of any live sets. ‘Holmer’ Holmes was pretty nonchalant as he blasted out 4/4 with some classic tape-splices and breakbeats.
Come the Sunday sunshine, all was forgotten and the weather cleansed our souls. Redemption songs and relaxing was the name of the day. All of the tents seemed to empty and the weather was an event in itself. Freshness. Soon enough, everyone looked a million bucks. Well, not really… but the vibes were all there and Public Enemy were playing later!!
It remains surreal that all-time heroes of mine are playing this festival not far from my home town. Indiependence is expertly run, it is getting bigger and stronger every year. Access, organisation and facilities are all in place. Everyone takes with them something new and valued from their weekend. The guys who first had the idea and the vision of supporting quality music rather than pathetic pop stars, that vision is now a reality. The festival is young in every sense of the word. Just like the Cork footballers, we’ll be back next year!