Last week I described Cork XSW 2011 as my dream festival line-up and it did not fail to impress in any way. I loved everything from the line-up to the surroundings to the atmosphere and charm. I also loved how I got to hear possibly the best voice in Ireland ......
There really can't be a better location for a festival. Set in the Liss Ard estate the main stage took it's place downhill from the Liss Ard house with the second stage nestled within the walled backyard of the house. The Vibrations area was tucked away out of ear shot from the other stages and furnished with attractive artwork. Within these environments lay the foundations of a great festival. In terms of this review I didn't get to see all of the set from every band mentioned and we were in the company of my three children throughout.
In terms of bands Cork XSW had everything. There was the iconic artist who was on a different artistic planet [Patti Smith]. There were the nostalgic artists [Echo & The Bunnymen, Peter Hook, Drugstore]. There were bands for the kids [Jape, Yuck, We Cut Corners], the local favourites [Interference, Fred, Mick Flannery], the trad [Meeting House, Guidewires] the weird [Balken Beat Box, West Cork Ukulele Orchestra], the wonderful [God is an Astronaut, Favourite Sons, Dr. Millar] and then there were the amazing talented acts who once had a following in Ireland but have found the music world difficult to navigate recently [Alien Envoy, Katell Keineg, Nina Hynes].
Our festival kicked off with the wonderful Dr. Millar who played songs I simply adore in the sun within a beautiful walled garden. A bissful way to 'Feel Everything & Love Yourself'.
After a bit of exploration we went back to the De Barra's stage for a bit of traditional music in the form of Meeting House. They were quickly followed by Nick Kelly's Alien Envoy featuring Joe Chester on guitar. After a short nap my daughter decides that it'd be a good idea to dance to The Fat Lady Sings' Arclight and Alien! The highlight of the set was '45' where every line of the song is a song title from the past:
Nick Kelly - 45 by NDT Productions
The first major surprise of the weekend was when I really enjoyed Mick Flannery's set. I'm familiar with Mick's songs but the quality of his stage performance really impressed me and I'd go to see Mick in concert again. His band were amazing.
From there it was off to DeBarra's sitting room for the best personal find of the weekend. Conall from We Cut Corners is the best vocalist working in Ireland at the moment. His voice reminds me of Emmett Tinley's voice and their songs are wonderful!
08 the male mind by we cut corners
A quick dash down to the main stage to see Drugstore and Isobel who are only to happy to be playing in front of a big appreciative crowd. After the amazing 'El Presidente' was played we had another quick dash back to the sitting room for Interference. There was a huge amount to love in the set in particular the musicianship, the vocals of Fergus as well as the quality of the songs. In a day where I'm finding it difficult to find any flaws in the performances I'm not particularly blown away by Interference. Saturday night ended with Favourite Sons whose new album 'The Great Deal of Love' is probably the most listened to album in 2011. I lapped up every note, sound and lyric from the band who had to compete with Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen for attention.
Our Sunday began with a spot of arts n crafts for the kids in the Vibrations area where my sons made these little puppet guys:
..... and was followed by the amazing and weird West Cork Ukulele Orchestra. It was a funny little journey through many great tunes performed by an orchestra of Ukulele playing musicians.
Here's a video of the band from a gig a few weeks back:
It was off to the main stage for Nina Hynes first gig in three years. Backed by Carol Keogh and her band of seasoned musicians Nina produced one of the best performances of the festival with a set of mainly new tracks which will hopefully make it's way onto a new record: http://www.fundit.ie/project/goldmine
Here was the highlight of the set for me:
In a Million - Nina Hynes by UpStart
I managed to see Nina Hynes and LOWmountain with just a Heineken Cup for company. LOWmountain are a superb Country Folk band who if there is any justice would become global stars in their field. While the songs are well written it's the vocals, lyrics and harmonies which makes the band stand out from the ordinary.
It's Been So Long by LOWmountain
While Jape was doing his thing on the second stage I was in the main arena for Katell Keineg's short acoustic set to a small but appreciative crowd. It was great to hear 'Franklyn' and 'A Gulf of Araby' live again.
The icon Patti Smith was outstanding but I moved on after a while to the Vibrations area where Kila's Ronan O Snodaigh was enriching the crowd with his musical aura. The quality within the festival never once let up and when I caught the beginning of Yuck I understood the hype. I however wanted to be blown away so I went to hear the mighty God is an Astronaut and wow. It was apocalyptic!
God Is An Astronaut - All Is Violent, All Is Bright by Jimmi
The final band we caught was Cork darlings Fred. I don't think much of the current album and therefore while their performance was high energy and entertaining I was happy to leave mid set and head back down the hill to the campsite.
It's been good going over to the festival facebook to read the positive comments; http://www.facebook.com/corkxsw from attendees. Musically and spiritually it has set a bar for other festivals to reach. I am a tad worried that no other festival will reach the heights that Cork XSW achieved this year. Well done CorkXSW: http://www.corkxsw.com/