On the last rainy Friday of July, the excitement in the air is tangible as the crowds descend on Mitchelstown ready to start the weekend which has come to be known to serial festival-goers as the best of the summer. Indiependence Music & Arts Festival, now in its 10th year, has solidified itself as one of Ireland’s top festivals boasting an eclectic line-up mix of popular and unknown Irish and international acts, an incomparable festive atmosphere and all against the stunning backdrop of the Galtee Mountains.
Once the afternoon’s drizzle has passed, the arena starts to fill up with old and young alike all eager to hear the first acts of the weekend. Opening the proceedings with a roar on the Main Stage are Mitchelstown band Mindriot. Even though playing to a home crowd, Mindriot show no signs of being complacent with a never waning energy that only gets louder as the crowd builds.
With the first major clash of the weekend, favourites Jack Savoretti and Heroes in Hiding both play at 19:30 in The Beer Hall and Big Top stages respectively. Savoretti played an assured, confident set but the standout performance came from Dublin band Heroes in Hiding. Despite a disappointing crowd and some sound issues in the beginning of the set, their catchy folk-rock melodies and stomping energy stole the show, with the new addition of shared lead vocals from bassist Liam McCabe and electronic elements in the music from their recent release ‘Decorated Absence’.
Taking to the Canadian Main Stage before headliners Basement Jaxx proved to be no trouble to Richie Egan & co of Jape. Bringing the synth sounds of the 80s together with rocky guitar riffs makes for an exciting and authentic sound from the Dublin outfit. With a sound comparable to The Human League, Jape drew a large and what was probably the most varied crowd of the weekend, with teenagers and adults (big teenagers) with their young children alike dancing along to the highlight of the set ‘Floating’. Although at times the songs began to feel quite similar to each other, Egan’s energy and confident performance made sure the set never became boring.
Friday headliners Basement Jaxx closed the night to rapturous screams having played a crazy and energetic set to an enthusiastic crowd of 90s heads and new fans all mixing together to dance into the small hours. The highlight of the set was not-so-guilty pleasure ‘Raindrops’ and when they finished their lengthy yet not long enough set the crowd screamed for more long after they had left the stage.
Saturday’s timetable was jam-packed with incredible Irish artists, both new and well-known. Indiependence veteran Róisín O and her band played to a sizeable crowd in the early evening on the Main Stage. There was a significant fan presence at her set with many singing all of the words to her singles such as ‘How Long’. The standout moment of the set was recent release ‘If You Got Love’. Her folk-pop melodies teamed with soaring vocals and intricate drumming make for a euphoric hit in this track which brings out the dancer in everyone.
Next up were pop-rock duo Little Hours in the Big Top. With sweet harmonies accentuating their belting love ballads, the twosome had the significantly young crowd in their hands as they played through their set. The culmination came with their Meteor Choice Award nominated single “It’s Still Love” during which they stopped singing only to have their lyrics sung back to them by the crowd in one of the most special moments of the weekend.
Following Little Hours in the Big Top were Bray trio Wyvern Lingo. Having held a significant presence on the Irish music circuit over the last year, Indiependence is one of their biggest solo gigs to date and the preparation and rehearsal they have obviously put in makes for an immaculate set. A large crowd gathers to hear their intricate harmonies and funky instrumentation. Vocalist and drummer Caoimhe Barry’s unique and groovy drum patterns make their already lyrically strong offerings danceable and upbeat. However, there is no star in this band, each member is insanely talented and contributes greatly to the instrumentation and overall sound, a refreshing take on the modern ‘girl band’. New track ‘Letters to Willow’ has a distinct funk feel to it and really gets the crowd moving despite the dismal weather conditions on Saturday night!
With Ash’s Tim Wheeler being struck by illness, they play a shorter but still fantastic set followed by Ham Sandwich moving from the Big Top to take over the Main Stage on Ash’s departure. Singer Niamh Farrell leads the band through an exciting, upbeat set which would have stood its ground as the main headliner in the first place. The set and the night reaches its climax when the belt into their hit ‘Animals’ and confetti explodes over the crowd making for an ethereal atmosphere to close the second night.
One of the best features of the Saturday’s proceedings was Tony Clayton Lea’s Culture Vultures which featured interviews and live acoustic performances from some of Indie’s best including Little Hours and Wyvern Lingo. Albeit poorly attended (perhaps due to its early afternoon timetabling) this was one of the highlights of my weekend, giving a rare opportunity to hear from the artists in such an intimate environment. I sincerely hope to see the return of Culture Vultures to Indie next year, perhaps later in the evening and on a bigger stage.
Sunday, although being the rainiest of all three days, was a great day for the rockers. The Academic ripped up the Main Stage in the early evening with their guitar driven rock-pop. Hit single ‘Different’ had the crowds singing the catchy ‘I Want Youuu’ hook back to the Mullingar outfit.
Voxx brought some chilled 70’s vibes to the Beer Hall which was packed with revellers making the most of their final night of fun drinking from the selection of Craft Beers and the Deer Farm’s own brand of wines.
Despite the clashing times in the sets of American rockers The Dandy Warhols and Irish Youtube star Orla Gartland, one does not sacrifice a crowd for the other as the older portion of the crowd head to the Main Stage to hear The Dandy Warhols play hits such as ‘Bohemian Like You’ and the younger contingent fill out the Big Top tent as Orla Gartland’s soaring vocals and catchy guitar riffs hold the audience, particularly during the indie-pop ‘Clueless’.
Unsurprisingly, The Original Rudeboys play to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Veterans to Indiependence at this stage, play their hits ‘Stars in My Eyes’ and ‘Feel It in Your Soul’ to an enthusiastic, youthful crowd eager to celebrate their last few hours in the wonderful world of Indiependence.
Nearing eleven o’clock, the excitement can be felt in the air as the masses descend on the Main Stage to hear Sunday’s headliners Kodaline. The Irish rockers played Indiependence back in 2013 at the beginning of the rollercoaster that has been the last few years for their music. However, in their return to the festival they are no less and gracious and obviously delighted to be there. Beginning the set with the stomping ‘Ready’, the tent looks like a scene from a movie with people of all ages drinking, dancing, singing and sharing the moment together. Their whole set goes without a hitch and when they finish with the euphoric ballad ‘Love Will Set You Free’ the thousands strong crowd cries for more. Kodaline are nothing if not attentive to their fans needs so the return to the stage to play ‘one more tune’ as requested, which is met with screams and applause as they play the first few bars of their inaugural hit ‘All I Want’. The crowd singing the songs refrain is the perfect ending to what can only be described as an incredible weekend.
Despite there supposedly being a significant drug presence (enough so for Indiependence themselves to tweet a warning to revellers on the Saturday) there were no major incidents or casualties, in no small part due to the obvious but not intimidating Garda presence onsite over the weekend.
Having played a small set myself at the festival I must give credit where it is due to everyone working behind the scenes in hospitality, security, construction and particularly to the formidable sound engineers, without whom we all would have sounded crap! Special mention must also go to the poor souls who traipsed around the site every morning and afternoon putting down hay to ease the muddy situation which was the cause of many lost wellies during the rainy nights.
Having attended this festival in my hometown since I was a kid and the main stage was the back of a truck in the town square, it gives me great pride to see the monster success that the organisers have built it into today. Undoubtedly one of the South’s biggest draws every year, the festival crowds do wonders for the local economy over the August weekend. Indie is also a huge contributor to the Irish music industry, renowned for providing a platform for unknown, unrepresented Irish bands unlike many of the bigger, inaccessible festivals in this country. Impeccably organised and loads of fun, Indiependence is my favourite festival and definitely one of the best in Ireland, with only better things to come in the future!