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Vantastival 2017 - Day One

  • Published in Live


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.


Festival Preview : Vantastival 2017

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Vantastival kicks off the festival season in Ireland this coming weekend. Now in its eighth year, the festival returns to Beaulieu House for two days of music over the bank holiday weekend. As usual, campervan passes are free and we’ll be livetweeting both days from the @musosguide account on Twitter. Tickets are still available from the festival website here.

Andy Smith (ex. Portishead), The Eskies, Fish Go Deep and Blood And Fire Sound System feat. MC Brother Culture are among the main acts at this year’s festival. London-based DJ Andy Smith made his name as Portishead’s international tour DJ and his sampling formed the basis of the band’s unique sound. Since the Portishead tours Andy has established himself as an underground producer of some of the most irresistible hip-hop breaks-based music around and has a strong cult following. He will close the woodland stage with a late night set on Saturday 3rd June.

The Eskies have been busy bringing their unique brand of folk noir/gypsy jazz/sea shanty and swaggering stage spectacle to venues across Europe over the past couple of years, and will have their first opportunity since 2013 to perform at Vantastival on Sunday night, 4th June.  Blood And Fire Sound System will also play on Sunday night, featuring original Rasta MC Brother Culture, while producer duo Fish Go Deep from Cork will headline BackwardS, a new late night area in the woods at Beaulieu, where DJs will keep revellers dancing till the very early hours.

Vantastival’s impressive line-up also includes The Riptide Movement, Overhead, The Albatross, Lankum (formerly Lynched), Kíla, New Secret Weapon, MINDRIOT, Cat Dowling and a host of other Irish names with the usual focus on up-and-coming unsigned acts. The Glasshouse Stage is another new addition to the site, an intimate acoustic experience featuring solo slots from singer-songwriters including Keith Plunkett, Grainne Hunt and Niall McGuigan (ex. Speedking) among others. Meanwhile Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education will bring back the popular DFEi Music Stage, run by students and featuring a line up of former and current DFEi students. With still more acts to be announced, this year’s festival will be a veritable feast for music fans.

And, of course, some of Musos’ Guide's favourites will play the Firestone Stage. Over the course of six weeks, competing against eleven other acts, Nix Moon have prevailed victorious at Firestone’s Battle of the Bands Competition. The final took on Thursday the 11th of May in Odd Mollies, Drogheda, where the band battled it out against four other acts. As well as headlining the Firestone stage at Vantastival, the prize consists of a €1,800 voucher for Musicmaker, Dublin, and three days recording time at world renowned Grouse Lodge Studios, Co. Westmeath. Joining them will be fellow finalists Grand, Makings, Accidents In The Workplace and Lowlight Ensemble, with Sun.Set.Ships, We, The Oceanographers, The Periods, Pine The Pilcrow and The Future West also popping up on our clashfinder.

Vantastival 2017 will take place on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th June at Beaulieu House & Gardens, Drogheda. Other attractions will include art installations, fire performances, drum circles, festival traders, an Alice in Wonderland-themed kids’ camp and much more. Vantastival has something for everyone, with or without a campervan. Weekend tickets are on sale now at €85 + booking fee for two nights camping. Day tickets cost €40.

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