For anyone making their way along the road towards the grounds of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital Dublin, now home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, they may have felt they had taken a little too much of Walter White’s blue Crystal Meth. For there in the clear blue sky was a thing of beauty; orange, hovering, constant. Helios shone in all her glory, over the manicured gardens, over the 17th Century buildings, and over stages erected for the purpose of serving up two days of music and magic. The relentless rain which seems to have been falling since, well, time began, finally heaved ho and f**ked right off for the weekend.
Welcome to Forbidden Fruit, the now annual two-day June bank holiday weekend music festival. Spread out over three stages (four if you include the comedy tent) and boasting established acts alongside up and coming whipper-snappers, the festival is fast becoming the unofficial marker for the beginning of the summer. School is out, college is done and work holidays are just beginning. Only a fifteen-minute walk from Dublin’s Temple Bar the festival is in prime position to serve up plenty of treats.
Saturday began with the crowds leisurely strolling in and Let’s Set Sail doing their best to get the party started (is that phrase too cliché to use? – oh well!). The Dublin-based band tried but the sun was winning this battle. Did we mention it was 21 degrees outside? No, like seriously! Gavin James had a small following of fans watching on as he did his thing in the Lighthouse stage. On the Undergrowth stage British band To Kill A King (named after Game of Thrones – ok we made that up) were producing a nice little set and creating a jovial atmosphere with their folk rock music. Over on the Original stage Vann Music were trying their best to get the small crowd off their backs and on their feet but the place was looking more like Sitges than a festival with everyone soaking up the rays. The electro-pop band though put on a good set but there is only so much you can do when you are so early on the bill. Which is more than can be said for Lisa O’ Neill. Why people who stand on stage on their own with a guitar in hand during the middle of the day barely registering any decibel levels are given such large stages is beyond us. Note to festival organisers: IT DOES NOT WORK! THEY NEED A MORE INTIMATE VENUE!
Back inside Nils Frahm looked set to deliver a knockout set going between two pianos but it never really materialised. The Young Knives got the Lighthouse stage nicely warmed up before Dublin’s very own Kid Karate took centre-stage; now officially a three-piece (we always suspected that Steven Gannon bloke enjoyed a good threesome). A rare site in Ireland of late as they have been far too busy touring America and playing SXSW – as you do. They have a loyal following of fans in the tent and lure new ones in from outside and go on to deliver one of the first really proper gigs of the day.
Continuing the rock trend back on the Original stage And So I watch You From Afar stroll on out to fans waiting with baited breath. Overhearing a female fan earlier in the day telling her friend that she was going to see them to “perve on the drummer” we turned up (as we were going to anyhow) to see what all the fuss was about. With their banner flying high (and more than a few ASIWYFA t-shirts in the crowd) the band delivered a stellar set, properly rocking the place out of it; powerful and punchy. Squarehead were playing their own brand of Garage-pop over at the Lighthouse and yes that is the bassist from Kid Karate with them. He’s in three bands now, we think. Certainly gets around that Ian McFarlane. It is another solid set. F*ck Buttons were dousing the Undergrowth stage in electronic music and dazzling lights. A large, appreciative crowd did that thing that people do at dance events where you sway around all arms and legs; clearly enjoying themselves. It was then time for one of the headline acts with Bell X1 appearing on the Original stage. What can we say? They came, they played. Do people actually listen to Bell X1? Their set was fine, but fine does not cut it for a headline act. A visually impressive show was unfolding in the Undergrowth as the Flying Lotus 3D Show got underway with one of the largest crowds of the festival gathered so far. The music was cool, the visuals were cool, outside was not.
And so to the main act of the night – The Flaming Lips. On a very elaborately dressed stage Wayne Coyne appeared wearing some sort of human anatomy costume with a long piece of glitter hanging where his pee pee should be. With the lights blinking like an epileptic rainbow Wayne invited some friends onstage. His friends just happened to be giant inflatable Aliens, Suns and some sort of Butterfly. They danced, the band sang, the crowd cheered and the photographers went mental. Went he dispensed with his friends Wayne got the show on the road proper showering everyone in glitter as he bounced around in a long, tinsel jacket. And yes it was funny and yes it was visually very, very cool but there was absolutely no substance to the music and if there ain’t no substance then really what is the point? Not to bang on about headline acts but the music should engage and it does not with the Lips. Disappointing really. So day one started with some decent sets from a few acts but on the whole a let down.
Sunday would bring slightly cooler weather but it was still dry and there was a noticeable increase in attendance, even from early afternoon. Abstract DJS were tasked with getting the dance vibes going in what would prove to be quite a dance orientated day and given the early start time they put in a stellar effort. Daithi arrived ten minutes late to his set as he wasn’t actually in the city for it. Flying in and then getting his girlfriend to drive him to the festival his set was the usual Daithi experience; laid-back dance vibes, sprinklings of the fiddle and an audience only too willing to move with him. Looking around it is easy to see that his music is gaining huge popularity with the late teens early 20s age group but he is also attracting plenty of people who like their dance hard and heavy. Quite the following he is amassing and with the debut album release around the corner you can expect that to grow. American duo Tone Of Arc were bringing their own style of dance to the Lighthouse stage, people drifting in and out of the sun but having a good dance whilst inside. Even one of the security men was moving to them. That’s endorsement enough, right?
Over on the Original stage (can we stop saying that yet?) Austrian duo Klangakarussell (which, we’ll have you know, means Sound Carousel in English – you are welcome) were bringing the dance vibes (we told you there was a lot of dance today) to the main area. Although, confusingly there are four people on stage so we assume for live shows they use hired help. We were just distracted by the cool looking girl with the guitar and the slick guy on drums. The two guys on the decks in the back must be the ACTUAL band. Hmm… In a break from all the dance, Public Enemy brought “real rap” to the Undergrowth. The crowd was large and expectant. Enemy were slow to get going though and frustratingly kept saying “are you ready, are you ready?”. Yes we are fu**ing ready now just play some damn music! But when they did eventually get going they were brilliant. Everyone’s fists were in the air chanting “no to racism”, men dressed as soldiers danced onstage and the rap came heavy and fast. The atmosphere was electric with everyone jumping in unison and doing that whole head-bobbing thing that rap makes you do.
Hidden Agenda DJS reinstated the dance vibes in the Undergrowth stage and made sure everyone was sweating as did Erol Alkan although he used so much damn dry ice that you couldn’t actually see him – hence there are no photos of him. If you are really into photos of dry ice though we are sure there is a Tumblr page dedicated to just that sort of thing. Swedish band Little Dragon were a popular choice across the way with vocalist Yukimi Nagano proving to be a likable front-woman. Chilling things out after that were the very popular Warpaint, four Californian women who would be horizontal if they were any more relaxed. With the sun beginning to dip behind the clouds their style of harmonic music was perfectly timed and very well received. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs had a well-packed tent to play to as his electronic music has had a huge following in recent years. He delivered the goods musically but visually it was a tad disappointing – no headpiece! Not that that’s an actual complaint mind you, but we do love something a little different from our electronic peeps.
By now the festival was at full speed – people were chilling in the sun, popping in and out of the comedy tent, enjoying the beautiful food on offer, indulging in some alcohol and enjoying the dying moments of the sun. And in those dying moments a huge crowd cheered and roared as 2Manydjs took the stage looking dapper in suits. They acknowledged their fans and then proceeded with the blowout that the festival was building to all weekend. With a stunning visual show djs were without doubt the highlight of the festival, showing everyone just how you headline an event. As it was a DJ set they had more scope to play a varied selection of music and tailored their set-list to suit the summer party that was unfolding before them. By the end of their show absolutely everyone was in high spirits ready to head into the cooling summer night. Wild Beasts were winding things down for the night in the Undergrowth stage with their indie rock and an impressive light show. The band were on good form and anyone who did decide to give the djs show a miss were treated to a satisfying final showing of rock from the English group.
Forbidden Fruit proved once again that with a beautiful venue, a relaxed crowd (not one fight or drunken misconduct did we witness), and a well-planned lineup you can have a great festival without tents or mud. Admittedly (some of) Saturday’s talent was pale in comparison to Sundays and that is something that must be looked at for next year, but on the whole Forbidden Fruit was an indulgence we would be happy to make again.