We've been promised rain for the whole weekend but the weather gods show mercy and allow us to erect the tent beneath the Louth sun. A stiff breeze hinders things a little but not too much. There's a 20 minute queue to get in and it provides a good opportunity to get to know our fellow festival goers. It's a compact festival with only a few minutes between the tent, the toilets and any of the stages. Some curry cheese chips from the food stalls give us the energy we need to flit between the three main stages.
Our first foray into the main area sees the delightful harmonies of Sonnets And Sisters light up the shady Woodland Stage. The arty pop of We, The Oceanographers is the first must-see on our list. They play with downbeat electronic backing, Kevin Shields-guitars and trip hop bass guitar. They share vocal duties and provide witty, effecting lyrics.
On the way to check out the main stage we get distracted by an enormous drum. We are handed sticks and halfheartedly join the group with doubts about such hippie tosh. What initially seems like a chaotic beat coalesces into something magical and the half heart becomes whole. It's an uplifting bonding experience. Everyone who is drumming becomes a friend and inhibitions are shed as we dance and whoop at each other. You can even lie underneath the drum while it is being played, looking up at the vibrating skin. It is more relaxing than it sounds. Maybe the hippies were on to something after all.
Few bands get us as excited as Hvmmingbyrd and the Woodland Stage is the ideal venue for them. The sun streaming through the treetop canopy dapples the wood chip strewn clearing. Their mellow electronica and sweet inventive harmonies fill the sonic spectrum and entrance all ages at the gig. A group of young children get up and dance at the foot of the stage to the delight of the band. It's their third show of four this weekend and they are noticeably more comfortable on stage as a result. They converse confidently with the audience and play with supreme self assurance.
We've seen Vulpynes before, doing an unplugged set but now we get to see the hard rock duo in their natural environment. The sneery vocals and chunky low-end distorted guitars of Maeve Molly and Kaz’s visceral drumming co-opt cock rock staples for Vulpynes more personal agenda, in the vein of L7. They finish their main stage set with an epic tune that teases with two false endings. They've obviously made an impact and there are numerous cries for more as they pack up.
Monaghan's Sun.Set.Ships are an electro rock trio who mix heartfelt lyrics and danceable beats. The laptop, synths and guitar bolster songs that are influenced by hip hop, rock, and traditional Irish airs. The result is something that sounds new and unique but leaves you amazed that no one else is doing it. For the first time today, the dance floor erupts in an ecstatic display of movement. Tomorrow night's headliners Nix Moon turn up en masse to support their Monaghan neighbours. Their closing number is a cover of Caribou's 'Can't Do Without You'. This version pisses all over the original and is a stone cold classic in the mould of Candi Staton's 'You Got The Love' and it deserves to be heard all over the world. When they finish, the crowd chant their name in recognition of a performance worthy of a headline slot. We had a chat with the band after their set and you can read that shortly here on Musos' Guide. Come back tomorrow to see Mongrel State, Makings and Nix Moon.