Once you got past the traffic, there was plenty fun to be had at Curraghmore, writes Joe Leogue.
Comparisons with Electric Picnic are inevitable, especially considering All Together Now is promoted by POD, the original founders of the Stradbally showcase, when the group was helmed by the late John Reynolds, who passed away last year.
But to seasoned festival goers, All Together Now evokes memories of the Picnic in its earlier days, before capacity expansions and moves towards lineups that seek to appeal to more mainstream demographics.
Curraghmore House and its estate is used to its potential over the weekend — it’s not just a field to host a few stages.
Nooks and crannies afford curious minds hidden gems and delightful walks to be found across the weekend, a timeframe too short to see all the work that has gone into developing the site.
However, while this reviewer enjoyed his first visit, it would be remiss not to mention how some returning attendees felt some of the charm of last year’s festival was lost amid the expanded capacity.
The festival’s positioning as a Picnic-back-in-the-day brings with it an inevitable demographic consideration: kids. Those throwing shapes 10 and 15 years ago still want to party — but also want to bring their kids in tow, literally.
Small hand pulled trailers carrying sleeping children was a common sight across the weekend, and the festival site was designed with smaller attendees in mind. The aforementioned nooks and crannies enchanted smaller minds, and the immediate surroundings of Curraghmore House was dedicated to keeping little ones entertained while Mammy and Daddy argued over who would stay with them in the tent while the other loses it to Jon Hopkins.
Eyes and ears are always drawn to the bigger international headline names — and the likes of John Grant, Hot Chip, Father John Misty, and the Damon Albarn-fronted The Good, The Bad & The Queen all provided weekend highlights. But those not looking closer to home for their hits this weekend really missed out.
Fontaines DC and the Murder Capital proved guitar rock is still relevant — check out the latter’s debut album later this month — while sets from Kojaque and Daithí show the health of Irish rap and dance respectively.
There aren’t many bands that could lean on a low tempo, understated album for most of the tracks on a Main Stage-closing Sunday night festival set — but there aren’t many bands that are The National. Tracks from this years LP I Am Easy To Find make up half of The National’s set, and are warmly welcomed by a supportive fanbase that had been won over on the back of their more anthemic back-catalogue.
Those hoping for their big hooks were rewarded in spades — ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘Graceless’, and ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ are all highlights, before the customary finale of ‘Mr November’, ‘Terrible Love’, and closer ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’. A triumph.
While most of the coverage of Friday focused on the delay attendees had in making it onsite, spare a thought for the locals. Less sympathetic observers on social media may suggest that queues are part and parcel of festival life, and the worst may fall on tired cliches about snowflake millennials with first world problems, but for the people of Carrick-On-Suir and Portlaw, Friday’s traffic really did pose difficulties.
Some couldn’t get out of their driveways, others were delayed by hours trying to collect their kids after work, and one local company took to Facebook to say the backlog shut them for business for the day.
Kudos to those who offered their bathrooms and water to idle motorists — but the reality is All Together Now has to get this right next year. The festival’s tone deaf statement citing the
challenges of the site did nothing to appease angry customers — it wasn’t attendees’ decision to expand the capacity this year, or to provide so little information while the gridlock was underway, or so few stewards and gardaí to manage the situation.
Its reputation won’t survive another traffic nightmare like the one seen this weekend.