My Vantastival Review

Vantastival 2012 was a major success for everyone involved. The new site was perfect and at times stunningly beautiful against a background of multi-coloured treetops. The crowds came in their campervans, caravans, tents and buses. The stages were fit for the kings and queens of Irish music. It's the biggest compliment I can give the Vantastival organisers that they give new, fresh, raw and young Irish talent an opportunity to perform to new friends and fans on a grand stage.

My Vantastival did not go to plan. A sick child with a nasty fever meant it was just myself and two kids to make the journey north. As the youngest was five it meant missing out on many of the bands I'd have loved to see. However between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon I got to see 23 Irish acts to some degree. Here's a few of my lasting thoughts from the weekend;


The first act to impress me were Belfast's 'runaway GO' on the impressive wooden structure that was the Done Deal stage. The band had energy, decent tunes, great female vocals which worked with the male vocalist to create nice harmonies and most importantly they looked like they had a ball on stage.

Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters didn't encourage me to hang around while main stage bands 'I'd Fight Gandhi' were spectacularly good and 'The Trampz' were great fun. The biggest surprise for me on the whole weekend were 'Master and Dog'.  I seen this same band [different name; John, Shelly & Creatures] a few years back and the whole sound didn't make much sense. However on Friday on the Paddy Mirage stage they were awesome. The new songs due on a new album released this Summer were brilliant. The band has three excellent singers with their bassist having in my opinion the best voice. Their energy at times was sensational and they had the right mixture of indie/alternative sounds to make sense to me.

We caught a few minutes of Ham Sandwich. I love the Ham Sambos but until they learn to control Podge and his antics they'll never progress to the mainstream. The real star is Niamh and she constantly has to compete with the beast that is Podge. Anyway the hits sounded really good from the tent!


The folk sounds and glorious vocal harmonies of Cry Monster Cry eased us into a Saturday full of great music. On the done deal stage We Town Criers kicked off proceedings with their brand of indie rock. The best aspect of We Town Criers are the gutsy emotional lead vocals on tracks like 'Wake Up'.

The main stage was the place to see Drogheda's 'Huey & The Hobgoblins'. This band is bursting with energy and infectious fun. Their jazzy retro sounds hit you hard and it's impossible not to enjoy.

The next band to see were the excellent 'Ana Gog'. I've written many times here that they are a wonderful band and Saturday proved that to me. I can't wait to get a hold of their debut album released this Summer. We caught a few minutes of SJ McArdle who is always brilliant before going to see Fox E.'s big moment on the main stage to warm up the crowd for Cathy Davey. Fox E. & The Good Hands had a ball and had everyone grooving to their tunes. We then went to see Dundalk's 'Third Smoke' who were brilliant. This young band could end up being very successful. They have four really good singers in the band and their song structure can vary even within one song itself. 

It was a pleasure to hear a few tunes from Cathy Davey on the main stage before hearing the beautiful folk sounds of Galway's Vickers Vimy. The six piece band of exceptional musicians performed one of the best sets of the festival.

My daughter called 'The Amazing Few' a crazy band and it was a fair critique. They were crazy and fun and became the ridiculous to the sublime that was Marc O'Reilly to finish off a great day of music.


We only seen four acts on the Sunday. Champagne Animal kicked off Sunday on the main stage playing to a dozen people but finished it playing to well over a hundred. I expected more from the band but I didn't hear or see a unique selling point. The vocals were too often drowned out by unnecessary overuse of symbols and heavy drumming. A quick trip to see Willow Sea resulted in a struggle to think through any positives about his set. We went to hear the hard rock sounds of Dundalk's 'Redtwelve' and they didn't fail to deliver. This is a quality band with a few really good songs, a fine vocalist and superb musicians. The last band I got to see were The Bionic Rats on the main stage who are always on top form with their ska, reggae  sounds.

It was a super weekend of music and there was so much for the kids to do. We all had a great time. Roll on 2013!