Sunday morning and the sun is still shining. The switch from the May Bank Holiday weekend to the one in June has really benefitted Vantastival. Unfortunately the power has gone so we've no proper breakfast. We have to eat fruit like a sham, or a vegetarian. There's a generator running for the coffee machine to keep things running, and together with the BYOB policy means that no one is going thirsty.
It should be a good day for music with Musos’ Guide favourites Mongrel State, Makings and Nix Moon all playing later. With the power back on, and real food in our bellies, it's time for some music. Suso Youth Choir get things started on the main stage. The 20-odd kids look delighted that they are getting away with singing the swear words in Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.
Before singing ‘Like A Prayer’ Roisin reminds us that many of them are sitting their Leaving Certificate exams (A-Levels) in three days, “so make it worth our while”. Vantastival’s family friendly ethos extends to pets. There must be a hundred dogs here so when an announcement is made that a German shepherd is over heating in a car, the choir lead the chant to “break the window”.
Meanwhile, Modern trad group Al-Fi are entertaining the Firehouse. They banter with the crowd, invite hurts onstage and give us ne interpretations of traditional folk tunes. They incorporate bluegrass and seanchaí music with band leader Fiachra switching between uilleann pipes and flute, and the banjo and fiddle dropping in and out of the mix as appropriate for each song.
The much anticipated rain finally arrives just in time to drive the crowds under the shelter of the tent for one of our own favourites. If you're not already familiar with Mongrel State, the Italian /Irish / Spanish /Argentinian group play southern/western/ latin rock with country rockabilly, blues and the harmonies of The Bellamy Brothers . Their sound has really developed and mutated since the recording of their debit album Mestizo. To the extent that it seems incredible that it was only release last year.
That rain turned out to be a brief shower so the sunlight has returned and Pine The Pilcrow take to the Firestone. Their mournful folk played on fiddle, cello and piano is accompanied by a witch dancing at the foot of the stage. Their inventive and percussive playing elevates their songs above their peers. A cover of Elbow’s ‘A Day Like This’ really suits them.
The final run of three bands in the Firestone is pure gold. Local garagepoppers The Periods are up first . With songs about orgasming while giving birth amongst others, their bockety lo-fi electro pop makes up in charm and catchiness what it lacks in professional sheen. The sextet crammed on to the small fire stone stage embody the creativity and disregard for convention of first wave punk. A bunch of blokey types run in from the rain just in time for the sampled loop of “What is the definition of sexual harassment?” and they immediately look uncomfortable. They're one of our new favourite bands.
And two of our old favourites are next, starting with electro rockers Makings. Their 2015 album Cognition was an assured debut but they're not playing any of it here. Their set tonight is entirely made up of unreleased material from their forthcoming album. The emphasis with this collection of tunes is definitely on the electro side. If they were American they'd surely christen it EDM. The new set goes down a storm with the Vantastival crowd and the sweat rolls like a warehouse rave.
For most bands it would be an impossible act to follow but Nix Moon receive a heroes welcome. They narrowly beat Makings in the final of the Battle Of The Bands to land this coveted headline spot. As they take the stage for line check the crowd chant their name. The celebratory mood continues as they finish their check and “One more tune” breaks out. We're only short of John Terry appearing to complete to congratulatory picture.
The incredible high standard of the bands on show, particularly considering that this is the second stage displays the strength and depth of live music in North Leinster. It's the relaxed atmosphere that everyone talks about but the line up of this wee fest is superior to some larger, more expensive, booze schilling events. See you again next year Vantastival!