Here is my review of the first Irish festival of the season which took place over the last three days in Co. Louth called Vantastival. I was attending the festival as a blogger, music enthusiast as well as a father as I brought my twin 9 year old boys with me.
This was the second year of Vantastival. While the line-up of last year was stronger there was really no comparison to be made to last year's inaugural festival. The organisers learned from last year and got almost everything right from small things like adequate kids activities to site layout to band scheduling to proper road sign-age. If this rate of improvement continues I can see nothing but good things for future years.
As mentioned I was there with my music loving lads and therefore in some ways I was limited with the bands I got to see. In fact almost all of the bands I did catch I knew of already. Due to soccer commitments for my lads on Saturday morning we didn't make it to the festival on Friday evening. We did manage to get there early on Saturday to catch Fox E. & The Good Hands kick off proceedings on the Musicmaker Stage. As was often the case the band began their set to a handful of devotees but drew in well over a hundred pairs of ears by the end of their high energy funky set.
On our way to explore the festival site we caught a few minutes of The Curtain Thieves who sounded really interesting. Vantastival is a difficult festival for bands to be distinct but the vocals and vibe from The Curtain Thieves was real nice.
Dreamer by The Curtain Thieves
The Curtain Thieves were followed on the main stage by TKO who turned out to be one of the most entertaining bands of the weekend. Their set-up including clarinet, saxophone and violin ensures enough variety in the tracks to keep the interest level high! It was then over to The Paddy Mirage Stage for a glimpse of a new band Ghost Estates. The indie band was formed out of the ashes of 8ball and Sickboy and sounded amazing.
October (DEMO) by GHOST ESTATES
I'd Fight Gandhi were outstanding on the main stage. The 'Rage Against The Machine' similarity is too strong to ignore but they are a great festival band. From the sligtly ridiculous to the sublime where Cat Dowling was performing a lovely little set in the Paddy Mirage tent with former Alphastates co-member Gerry Horan. They played songs from Cat's forthcoming debut solo album. The songs are very much in the Alphastates mode which is very much a good thing.
Next up were a hat-trick of bands featured in my top 50 list; The Dirty 9s, The Young Folk and Preachers Son. Each band improved their game from previous performances. The Dirty 9s played some new tunes which sounded great, The Young Folk were a tight unit who performed their set confidently and in style while Preachers Son went down a storm with their full band rocking performance.
We briefly caught some of both The Fallen Drakes and The Cast of Cheers which neither impressed beyond the ordinary. Black Svan however were a revelation and fully justifies why people are tipping the band as an Irish Hard Rock musical export. Check out the band here:
Saturday finished for us with The Frank & Walters who rushed through their set so quickly you'd have thought they were hoping to catch the last train back to Cork. They played about 15 two minute songs with just one gap to insult all the campervan owners when lead singer Paul revealed his dad owned a Volkswagen campervan when it was cool to own one .... in the 1970s!
Sunday began with the ultra amazing Wassa Wassa drum workshop which gave myself and my boys an opportunity to be part of an African drum group. It was a great experience. Our band watching day didn't begin until 3pm and Bipolar Empire on the main stage. I was fairly critical of the debut album but yesterday the band played all the good songs from the album and Shane's quality vocals were at the forefront of the performance.
Chilled out Sunday evening relaxing on the grass entertainment was provided by The Barley Mob, The Hot Sprockets and The Cujo Family. I knew what to expect from all three bands and they reached expectation without exceeding it.
We then went to see Jamie Lawson but only stayed for a song due to a tightly packed Paddy Mirage tent in what was probably the only scheduling error. Nothing was lost however because Wallis Bird was so sensational in a solo gig on the main stage. Her performance was infectious, humourous, honest and full of energy.
Our final performance to see was from the wonderful Henrietta Game. I never get tired of seeing this band. My boys loved how every song varied in composition, instruments and in vocal style. It was a really pleasant way to finish our Vantastival experience.
Vantastival is for me the perfect festival. It's a non corporate event without any major advertising, organised by real music fans, who have created a family friendly event which promotes Irish music. I tip my cap and say well done and I hope Vantastival is here to stay!