Castlepalooza 2016: Ten to catch at the Castle

The Tullamore festival is pulling out all the stops for its 10th anniversary. Here are 10 not-to-be-missed acts appearing at this year's bash


You have to pull out all the stops for a 10th birthday party and Castlepalooza has certainly gone about this the right way with its selection of acts this year.

To mark the 10th anniversary and the fact that the event is shaping up to be the musical highlight of the festival circuit, here are 10 acts we recommend you catch in Tullamore, Co Offaly, between July 1st-3rd.

Jurassic 5
There are some times when a reunion is just a joyous piece of business that makes complete sense. When Los Angeles hip-hop trailblazers Jurassic 5 decided to revisit the concrete schoolyards in 2013, there were many reasons to be cheerful.

During their original run, J5 were the keepers of the flame, the true believers with tracks like What’s Golden and Action Satisfaction, which reminded hip-hop heads of what used to be the sound of the crowd. That still applies today as the reunion has shown J5 still capable of rocking a crowd.

Chali 2na, the rapper with the unmistakable baritone, says the reunion has brought out new and old followers. “You get the old-school who remember us the first time around, you get the curious and you get the kids who’ve been told all about us by their parents. I feel we’re blessed this time around. People can really kick it with us at our shows again.”

One of the records of 2015 was Projections, the debut album from London producer Archie Fairhurst. What made this one stand tall was Fairhurst’s ability to stitch together a rich, soaring, thrilling symphony, the kind of album which is a bit of a flashback to what DJ Shadow or The Avalanches were doing back in the day. Fairhurst took the name for his project and album from African-American artist Romare Bearden and his 1964 exhibition of collages, Projections.

Like that Romare of old, Fairhust’s work is imbued with the sounds and rhythms of jazz and blues and his ability to work these influences into beguiling house and pop shapes is something worth wowing about.

Steve Davis
You read that right. Usually, Steve Davis’ appearances in Ireland have involved him sporting a fancy waistcoat and prowling around a green baize table in Dublin or Belfast or Goffs in Kill, Co Kildare. This time, though, Davis and the green baize will be in situ in a haunted castle in Co Offaly, where he’ll take on all comers in games of pool over the weekend and also spin some cracking electronic music tunes.

The latter may surprise many. It turns out that aside from winning six world championships and becoming a successful snooker pro in the 1980s, Davis was also mad for the leftfield tunes, digging a musical moodboard from 1970s’ prog to leftfield electronica.

His Interesting Alternative show for London’s Phoenix FM, with Knifeworld, Gong and The Cardiacs’ Kavus Torabi, allowed him to showcase his fondness for these sounds so the next step was obviously the live circuit. What are you waiting for?

Conor O’Brien has come a long way in a very short space of time. A decade ago, his time in The Immediate was drawing to a close. Now, with four albums as Villagers under his oxter and more critical acclaim and accolades than you can count, O’Brien is well and truly on song in his second act. Those albums are things of great wonder. From the lovely sheen of debut album Becoming A Jackal (which won him an Ivor Novello gong) to the gloriously textured rub of 2013’s Choice Music Prize-winning Awayland and the extraordinary songs of heart and soul on last year’s Darling Arithmetic, O’Brien has yet to take a wrong step. We await his next move with interest.

Cat Power
Cat Power’s last album Sun came across as the work of someone who was finally getting comfortable in her skin. Not only did her ninth sound like nothing else in Chan Marshall’s 20-year back-catalogue, but it also sounded like nothing else around at the time.

There was a verve and a dash to it as Marshall’s voice found new bounce and zip alongside contributions from Dirty Three’s Jim White, Cassius’ Philippe Zdar and Iggy Pop.

She was most recently heard as the narrator for Little Girl Blue, Amy Berg’s powerful documentary on Janis Joplin, and we’re looking forward to some raw musical Power at Castlepalooza.

From the mean streets of Dublin town, Lynched have been enjoying a great lash of upward momentum in recent times. Their 2014 debut album Cold Old Fire and powerful live shows led to high profile slots on Later…With Jools Holland and the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and a growing reputation home and away for a rough-hewn, unvarnished, captivating sound.

What’s particularly noteworthy about Lynched is the mix and match of old school and new school. On the one hand, there’s the Dublin singing tradition, which informs the cut of their own songs like Cold Old Fire and choice of material from the archive.

On the other, you have the energy, bolshiness and boisterousness of a slew of punk-rock influences. It’s a mix which takes what happens when the four play to new heights.

Prins Thomas
Time to get cosmic. Norwegian producer Thomas Moen Hermansen is Prins Thomas, a dude best known to date for wobbly far side disco wig-outs and jams. He’s released a prolific slew of tracks over the years, many for Full Pupp and others in cahoots with Hans-Peter Lindstromm.

Earlier this year, Thomas tried his hand at something different. His Principe del Norte album for Smalltown Supersound showed Thomas’ fondness for more slo-mo ambient sounds which came with shades of such space cadets as The Orb, the Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, the Black Dog and other Warp/IDM throwbacks. A man for all seasons.

Overhead, The Albatross
As The Ticket discovered a few weeks back when we interviewed them, the comma and capital T are very important here.

Named after a Pink Floyd song, the six-strong Dublin band are one of the acts taking an axe (or many axes, in their case) to the post-rock instrumental template to turn it into something new and invigorating.

The results of their machinations, as seen on newly released debut album Learning to Growl, are worthy of further investigation, with the band’s sweet touch with riffs and textures creating a range of ambitious and impressive soundscapes. Live, though, Overhead, The Albatross really soar – and Castlepalooza is a festival where they’ve proven their smarts several times already.

Some of the best live shows of 2015 featured a band called Viet Cong and now trading as Preoccupations. From Canada and formerly members of the band Women, Preoccupations’ angular, edgy, jagged and intense post-punk has been something to relish.

Their self-titled debut album was a cracker, a record full of brio and serious playing chops. They’ve a new record ready to roll and you’ll hear tracks from it in Tullamore over the weekend.

Something special this way comes from the west. Cornamona native Maria Somerville is fast become accustomed to watching her songs turn on audiences at various gatherings around the country. She’s already a veteran of the domestic festival scene with appearances at Body & Soul, Drop Everything, Hard Working Class Heroes and many more, as well as support slots with Villagers, under her belt.

In those live settings, Somerville’s bewitching, sparse, atmospheric songs are haunting to the core. There’s the making of a very fine debut album in what she’s got together to date so let’s hope we’ll see that sooner rather than later.