Joe Leogue looks back on another fine weekend of fun and music at the Mitchelstown festival
1 WELLIES OPTIONAL
The first thoughts on hitting Indie 16? It’s dry, it’s dry, oh thank God it’s dry. The Irish summer has been positively cruel to this festival in recent years, and moving the main stage into a large marquee was a particularly shrewd move by the organisers last year, when an unrelenting rain assaulted Cork on the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday weekend.
This year? Dry as a bone. Wellies were still plentiful, but sported by the prepared who packed for the worst. The ground was solid and negotiable in trainers, and the only reason any marquee tents were packed this year was because punters were there to see a band — not because it was a handy place to stay out of a downpour.
2 IDIOSYNCRASY IS VERY WELCOME
Mainstream Irish rock is currently plagued with identikit middle of the road acts producing anthem-by-numbers, the sort of music with all the intensity of a Sunday morning trip to a farmer’s market.
Be thankful then that there are hidden gems like Oh Boland, whose noisy garage pop is raw and unpolished — and all the better for it.
Playing to a small Friday afternoon crowd, the Galway three-piece have the kind of earworm hooks and stage presence that deserves a bigger audience.
Local metallers Mindriot have been on the go since 1992, and that experience shows in a perfectly judged couple of sets that are unapologetic, unrelenting, and unmistakably fun affairs. Their rapport game is particularly strong from their short set in the Beer Hall, and a couple of stage invaders aren’t just tolerated but actually praised for their adherence to the spirit of rock n’ roll before security hauls them off.
... pretty fine 🎶gig .. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/RRgdBopNAt— Sean McCarthy (@seanmccca) July 31, 2016
3 IRISH BANDS PROVE TO BE THE BIG DRAW
The Strypes’ Sixties-homage rock proves a sizable draw, but Bell X1 bring the first huge crowd of the weekend. Trying new material with a festival crowd is a gutsy move, but this is a band with credit in the bank, and the fans think nothing of indulging Paul Noonan and co as they preview their forthcoming LP Arms. Naturally, however, the set is littered with crowd-pleasers spanning over 16 years from albums right up to 2013’s excellent ‘Chop Chop’ and a Bowie tribute that has the main stage marquee dancing.
On Saturday the Main Tent and second Big Top stage overflow with the crowds taking in Walking On Cars and the Blizzards — if you didn’t get there relatively early in either set you had to make do with listening from outside.
4 DID YOU EVER THINK YOU’D SEE THE LIKES IN MITCHELSTOWN?
Idlewild suffer their set overlapping with Bell X1 on Friday but give it socks regardless, and the small gathering in the Big Top slowly but surely fills out as ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’ and other favourites lure them in, and ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ and ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’ finish them off.
A shout-out goes to the absolute die hard at centre stage, right at the front, for whom the set was more akin to a religious experience.
Greeting each song by gripping the barrier and propelling himself into the air in appreciation, this was no doubt another fan who was amazed that his favourite band was actually here in a field in Mitchelstown playing to him.
Mark Lanegan, Public Enemy, De La Soul, British Sea Power, Alabama 3 — down through the years Indiependence has brought acts that would leave many of its target late teens/early twenties demographic scratching its collective head, yet brings local fans who thought a trip to Dublin would be necessary to take in sets from their favourite acts.
5 CHANGE CAN BE A GOOD THING
A regular complaint leveled at Electric Picnic in recent years is that while its capacity has increased, it doesn’t feel like the festival site has grown in proportion with it — meaning some parts of the experience feel a little busier and crowded than before. There are no such arguments here, and the latest tinkering with Indiependence’s site have resulted in a farm which once hosted 5,000 music fans now comfortably catering for twice that size.
The craft beer hall remains the festival site’s greatest asset, but there are plenty of bar tents, comedy sets, and other attractions to ensure that there’s no great congestion focused in one particular spot at any point, and the expanded site was done in such a way that Indiependence retained its intimate feel.
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