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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 4, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    Review: Forbidden Fruit – Day Two

    Laurence Mackin

    The early talk of the second day at Forbidden Fruit was all about one Canadian girl – Grimes took an early slot and charmed a crowd with her dreamy dance pop tunes. Arriving on stage wearing half an army surplus store, as she peeled off layers she unpacked loops, beats and a soaring vocal that had a full tent hanging on her every word. It wasn’t perfect, with some synchs running awry, but it only seemed to add to the charm of the set.

    Once she wound up her performance, it was a mass exodus for the main stage and the polished intricate pop of fellow Canadian band Austra. They’ve already proved they can cut it on festival stages here, following a rocking performance at Electric Picnic, and Katie Stelmanis soon had the main stage crowd bopping and whirling to those slick new wave beats. Her band seemed to spend more time dancing than playing instruments as they spun around the stage to whip up some proper festival fever. Given performances and a stage set up like this, Austra could easily take a slot higher in the billing and do it proper pop justice.

    It was almost a surprise to see and hear Little Green Cars on stage. Their guitar-driven, harmony-rich rock unusually stood out amid the new wave and electro fare on offer at this festival so far – and the contrast was worth savouring. The Irish band have been hotly tipped and it’s easy to see why. Solid, crafted rock hooks, and a straight-up three-vocal delivery around fresh hewn guitars, bass and drums made for a really satisfying festival set, with more than a touch of the Arcade Fires about it. The band are still cutting their teeth on bigger stages, so a bit more stagecraft will develop in time, but this was a strong performance to a beaming crowd.

    Sunday was a much busier day than Saturday with crowd numbers up, and the persistent rain of the previous night and heavy footfall took its toll, with facilities under pressure at times and the ground churned to mud. That said, the rain held off and the atmosphere remained upbeat and warm enough to take the chill out of the damp air. Festival fashion had largely given way to farmer chic in the fields, as the Irish crowd bowed to the inevitable and wrapped up for their June music festival. A hot whiskey tent could have made a fortune – take note for next year.

    The Rapture were always going to be one of the big draws at Forbidden Fruit, and their main-stage billing was almost a given. The band spearheaded the post-punk and funky disco guitar music that took root in the charts several years ago, and here they tore into a set with little or no ceremony. It was too early in the day for any tricksy visuals, so this was just solid, energetic tunecraft lashed out to a crowd that was more than happy to dance the day away on a blowsy, chilly Kilmainham hill. The set might have lost a bit of momentum, but the band sealed the festival deal by closing the set out with How Deep is Your Love?. Halfway through the song, the band lost their way a bit, pulled it together and finished strongly. Mind you, with a track as infectious as that, they could probably have played it through a phone held up to the mic and the crowd would have done all the work for them.

    This was a day of tough choices having to be made, which meant that seeing the Rapture’s set left only a short burst of time to catch the tail end of Death in Vegas – and then you had to squeeze into a rammed tent for what seemed to be a standout show. As Death Cab for Cutie prepared to boss the main stage, the Undergrowth tent was getting back on to solid electro ground with Purity Ring. This Canadian duo must win the prize for oddest instrumentation of the weekend. Singer Megan James had a single large bass drum and a storm lantern, while Corin Roddick manipulated vocals, loops and samples while slapping at an arrangement of light bulb lanterns that triggered huge trancy chords. The band say they make “lullabies for the club” and their dreamlike, pulsing offerings rolled through the crowd and soothed plenty of weary festival heads. Its rich and heady, and deeply enjoyable, but the songs all lock in at around the same BPM. So plenty to savour but little dynamic once the set’s eerie clubby heartbeat was set.

    But if pulses needed set to racing, the best thing was to hold position after Purity Ring made their charming goodbyes and await The Magician. Former Aeroplane member Stephen Fasano strolled on stage wearing an impeccably cut jacket and an enormous smile, and with charming nonchalance set about building the best club anywhere in the city. His huge happy house tunes blissed out from the stage in great big rolls of disco-fuelled enthusiasm and there wasn’t an unmoved body in the tent. And if there is a better way to see out a festival set than with a remix of Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers, we’d love to hear it.

    And then suddenly we were at the Saturday night headliners, where festival reputations are won and lost. On the main stage were chart colossi New Order, delivering some pretty hardcore techno in the Undergrowth stage were Modeselektor and fighting their own corner on the Lighthouse stage were local upstarts The Cast of Cheers. The latter got a decent crowd, which is an impressive feat giving what they were up against, and tore into their set with the kind of enthusiasm that festival crowds feed off. Modeselektor set the pace pulsing from the get go, a broiling mass of heavy beats and uncompromising samples and loops shot through with pulses of light from an impressive stage show. The crowd, perhaps realising that this was the last set of the night, responded in kind and tore it up like a 2am club. If you came hungry for big bassy techno with slaps of far-out electro all delivered at breakneck pace, you left very satisfied.

    Indeed, the set seemed to have taken its toll on the band, who cancelled a DJ appearance at an afterparty in the Button Factory owing to illness. Austra and The Rapture kept the decks hopping though and delivered a stunning set of club tunes that had the dancefloor packed almost from the get go.

    But back on the main stage, all eyes were on New Order. The band who launched a thousand electro dance tunes in 1983 with the release of Blue Monday got a rapturous reception when they took to the stage. This set took time to develop its energy though. Woolly sound took a while to shake off its shackles, but by then the hits were rolling and the fans were up in ecstatic arms. There are few ways to top unleashing an extended version of Blue Monday on a festival crowd, but sealing a set by drawing on Joy Division’s peerless Love Will Tear Us Apart is one sure way to cement your live reputation. Highlights aside, this set might have seemed a little underwhelming for those of us who don’t entirely subscribe to the new world order, but for the fans who have waited a long time for this gig to happen, it delivered all the right knockout electro pop blows.

    Day three will be with you shortly . . .

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