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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 3, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    Review: Forbidden Fruit – Day One

    Laurence Mackin

    Shit Robot was the early pacesetter in the Forbidden Fruit musical marathon on Saturday, setting up a solid, crafted set of strong electronica that also set the tone for the day. Popping up through a small window in a projection screen, which featured sharp visuals and sing-along moments, Marcus Lambkin took an early slot and made it his own. His neon green electric light facemask, clever animations and, not to mention, some serious tunes with cracking groove opened the day in style.

    On the main stage, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – a family of Chicagoans who call Dublin something of an occasional home and who almost seem a prerequisite at Irish festivals – were doing their best to raise spirits as the weather changed. Their big brassy arrangements had arms popping and a core crowd jumping, but it was when they shifted gear and let things take a tougher, more urban rap direction that they got the reaction they were looking for.

    Bear in Heaven are a much different prospect. A three-piece band from Brooklyn of guitar, synths, and drums, they created a huge amount of noise in the Undergrowth tent, great swells of distortion and feedback rising up a la Spiritualized, before giving way to smart, tight beats and pop hooky synth lines that were powered along by slapped down groove off the kit and choruses as big as the tent. It was a slick, impressive set from a band on the make.

    Mmoths was always going to be a tricky one. Having played in London the day before, Jack Colleran barely made the stage time due to a delayed flight. If it seemed unusual listening to the big sounds of the other electronic sets at this early hour, Colleran’s poignant, textural electronica stood out as a very chilled set amid the beat heavy brethren. The packed-out tent locked into his subtle grooves, but at no point was he in danger of breaking into anything other than a slow, steady burn. It’s crafted music, and Colleran makes little attempt to engage with the audience beyond nodding along to the beat, but it’s the warmth in tracks such as Heart that people respond to – and a couple dancing beside me had gotten engaged with this track in the background a few months ago. Awww.

    If Mmoths seemed to be missing a bit of low-end muscle, you didn’t need to look far to locate it. Over on the main stage, The Field were bossing things with a typically intricate set of music that on record might come across as built for late-night chilled listening, but it builds with a big room pop sensibility, and has no problem scooping up a crowd along with it.

    Back in the Lighthouse Tent, it was home-grown talent that was trying to steal the show. Toby Kaar attacked his set with energy and commitment, delivering up an absolutely rollicking set of pulsing, powerful electronica that had the pumped tent rocking to his large, swaggery beats. In a fairly brave move, Kaar played a stash of mostly new material and the reaction from the crowd proved why he is one of the most hotly tipped Irish acts of the moment.

    Kaar was a perfect set-up for his successors in the Lighthouse tent – Le Galaxie strolled out on stage with dead presidents rubber masks and the attitude of a band that seemed to think they were headlining the entire festival. There is swagger and style aplenty, but it is backed up by serious chops in the playing, and an uncanny work ethic and commitment. The band tore into their set, cycling through instruments, posturing and cajoling the crowd, flinging handfuls of glowsticks into a roiling crowd and absolutely bossing an audience that was more than happy to be bullied by the music. There’s live energy, and then there’s live festival energy, and Le Galaxie played out of their skins in a performance that took no prisoners and would have looked more than comfortable on a bigger stage than this. This was the set of the day and marked the high-water mark of the home-grown talent on display. Is Irish electronica having a moment? On day one of Forbidden Fruit, it certainly felt like something special was coming together.

    Back on the main stage the rain was refusing to get in to the festival spirit – or more accurately it was performing in exactly the manner we’ve come to expect at Irish festivals and was coming down in a steady drizzle. Friendly Fires were battling the elements and trying to whip up a festival frenzy. The core crowd at the front of the stage were happy enough but the set never seemed to catch fire and their upbeat, sunny rock dance hooks, which usually go down a storm at festivals, were probably not winning many new converts beyond those already familiar with their music.

    The festival itself featured more stages and more acts than last year, and a much more expansive set-up. There were none of the logistical problems that marred last year’s first day, queues at bars and facilities were more than manageable, and the relatively compact site was a pleasure to bounce around, from stage to stage, even if the weather refused to play ball. The first festival of the season built its own atmosphere that was as warm and enjoyable as the skies were flat and grey.

    With Actress’s set cancelled after a missed flight there was a bit of a break for most people, which let the anticipation build nicely in the run up to headline act Leftfield. There are some acts that could only be given headline slots, and Leftfield were a perfect choice to see out day one of this thrilling little festival.

    They brought a full-blooded, no punches pulled performance, cycling through musicians and changing formations, stripping the personnel back to a three piece for straight-ahead dance groove in the likes of Snakeblood and then building it up to a much fuller, more live band for a full blown musical showcase with the likes of Original and Song of Life. The full-scale visuals thrilled a crowd that for the first time in the day packed out the hill in Kilmainham and fed off the bass grooves that flowed out like a river from the main stage.

    This was a suitably epic end to the festival’s main events, before the crowd headed into town to catch the after-show parties, with many of the performers DJing and playing in smaller venues around town. The party is far from over, and it seemed no one was willing to stop nibbling at this Forbidden Fruit.

    Roll on day two.

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