A projection illuminates Curraghmore House at All Together Now festival in Waterford. Photo: Molly Keane

The August Bank Holiday has become a big weekend for Irish music festivals in the last 15 years. Castlepalooza and Indiependence had it to themselves for a while until Beatyard moved in several years ago. This year, All Together Now, Pod’s new festival added to the choice for punters.

Of all of the above, All Together Now feels like the one that will have a greater impact on the festival circuit at large. As the main mainstream outdoor music festival in Cork, Indiependence generally sells out every year, Beatyard feels more of a older-crowd with young kids daytripper pitch, while Castlepalooza relies on the new Irish artists coming up with some small international bookings.

All Together Now’s first edition in Waterford established itself as a festival that is aimed at cornering a slice of summer festivals Electric Picnic and Body&Soul, with its 15,000 capacity audience treated to a considered lineup of big names along with upcoming new acts of all stripes.

POD and All Together Now have found a site in Curraghmore House that is idyllic. The area is beautiful. The lawn of the projection-mapped house at night in front of the Morag Myerscough-designed neon bandstand (Personally, I enjoyed DJing late on Friday at that stage), walking the thoroughfare of the festival that symmetrically used Arcadia and the Road to Nowhere tent as perspective pieces for the site, the quiet glade in the forest with a pond near the shell house, the lillypad lake and the sun-kissed hills above the site as a backdrop all added up to a place that allowed for intimacy yet felt transportive. The first year of a festival benefits from that unfamiliar novelty and the stunning weather all weekend was a boon for this festival’s first year experiences. Waterford was smartly given its own area to promote The Déise and its produce – a nod to support the local economy.

I often think of the idea of curating your crowd to be as important as the music, and by being over 21s, offering lots of things for families, treating its audience like grownups (own drink allowed in the main areas, ample places to sit and chill, lack of late night security barriers, food and drink choices – My Goodness vegan tacos are winning every festival I’ve been at this year), ATN sets itself (like EP and B&S) to be a place for all ages and all sorts.


Photo: Molly Keane (Twitter)

If it’s a case of unfinished business in terms of how POD’s John Reynolds lost his grip on running Electric Picnic, the very festival he started then the festivalgoers are benefitting. With EP selling out instantly and now 15 years in operation, it is the establishment, the one to be challenged and All Together Now has certainly made its case that it is capable of carving out itself as the new destination for discerning music fans.

When EP adds another branded area in the form of a Tesco supermarket, it doesn’t go unnoticed. It gets bigger, something gets lost, the music policy changing to one that includes blander mainstream acts that would have had no place in earlier Picnics. It’s still a great festival but many of its early adoptees were already looking for something else.

So POD invested in its music and banked on acts like First Aid Kit, Mogwai, Fleet Foxes, Underworld, Groove Armada, Nils Frahm and Villagers to bring in the punters along with enough emerging local and international acts and DJs to make up a solid lineup. The literary, spoken word comedy and food areas weren’t forgotten, nor were the crafts, the sculptures and installations, the services like water taps and security that treated people with respect.

There were some year-one hiccups involving the routes into the festival for some, access for those arriving outside normal hours or on Sunday and a fair bit of stage time rejigging because of flight delays or noise restrictions but the criticisms are minimal. The Road To Nowhere stage was on a slant and didn’t feel totally welcoming. The main stage was pretty standard site-wise but its sloping hill meant that the audience all got great views of the stage.

All Together Now lived up to the hype that people were openly hoping for. Where it goes from here is the thing: does it try to grow too much and risk unsettling the balance? Will it maintain its crowd? Will it add too many brand areas? Will it be able to get the bookings it needs to bring people back in a crowded marketplace? Those answers will come but All Together Now was certainly convincing in its execution in its first year (we hear the lease is at least five years) to suggest that it has all the hallmarks for becoming a major player on the Irish festival scene.

The 7 best sets we saw at All Together Now

1.

Underworld @ Main Stage


Photo: Molly Keane (Twitter)

The UK duo have shown a remarkable resilience over the course of the band’s nearly 40 year career. No band other than their ’90s peers Chemical Brothers and Orbital are more synonymous with transcendent dance music festival experiences than Karl Hyde and Rick Smith. Their Saturday main stage set was yet another example of their power in a live setting. With lasers, lights and titular visuals, the pair continue to provide big field sounds that reach deep and look wide. Hyde is his effervescent beat poet self, ever bopping across the stage gesticulating wildly and Smith as the driver of the music, works diligently through a set that includes new songs ‘Trapped’ and ‘Bells and Circles’ from their new EP Teatime Encounters (live, they are sans Iggy Pop’s vocals and fit more seamlessly into the set) among Underworld classics ‘Two Months Off’, ‘Rez / Cowgirl’, ‘Jumbo’ and ‘King Of Snake’. By the time ‘Born Slippy’ rolls around, and as a group of people shared sparklers with strangers around them, the song felt like it had reclaimed its original boisterous release as had the band that made it. Underworld never get old. – Niall

2.

Reggie Watts @ Belonging Bandstand


Photo: Molly Keane (Twitter)

An example of the intimacy possible at ATN was comedian and musician Reggie Watt’s Bandstand performance just after noon on Saturday. Drawing on surreal non sequitur banter drawing on the Pope’s impending visit to Ireland and the festival’s hidden motive to get Irish people to camp more, Watts’ set is half-stand up / half loopstation jams. Watts has featured as a soulful singer on Shit Robot and LCD Soundsystem songs so it’s no surprise he has a powerhouse voice, but in his solo context he uses it to evoke incomprehensible non-lyrical sounds to play with conventions of singing, performance, vocal runs, beatboxing, stage banter (he loops the oft-heard line ‘if you know this one sing along’ multiple times until it becomes a cacophony of noise) and challenges the vernacular of hip-hop. It’s a perfect pick me up for the day ahead and an endearing performance that gets a relaxed crowd up off its feet to dance to a 4/4 beat and shouts of “garda / gardaí”. – Niall

3.

Róisín Murphy @ Main Stage


Photo: Molly Keane (Twitter)

Róisín Murphy is one of the finest performers and singers to come out of Ireland. There are few who can bring a classic disco-soul voice, vintage dance sounds, thrilling costume changes and a nonchalance attitude that all adds up to an innate cool that has never left her in her long distinguished career. While she may have had a tired rant about her place in the industry last month, there’s no doubt that Murphy deserves more recognition. At ATN, her set moved away from the Hairless Toys set style of the last Olympia Theatre show to include new song and absolute dance banger ‘Plaything’ and its B-side ‘Like’, once off 2009 single ‘Demon Lover’ and Moloko classics ‘Sing It Back’, ‘Forever More’. There was plenty of Hairless Toys and Take Me Up To Monto but the stage setting felt calibrated for a festival set which 2016’s Longitude set did not. Murphy is a joy to watch, exuding natural cool and an exceptional performance that she always makes look effortless. – Niall

4.

Yasiin Bey @ Something Kind of Wonderful

Having heard mixed things about recent Yasiin Bey shows in Ireland, I felt this could have gone either way. But to my pleasure and surprise, the rapper formerly known as Mos Def was in fine form, sharing tracks from his hip-hop classic album Black on Both Sides along with even earlier cuts like his DJ Honda collaboration ‘Travellin Man’ alongside later tracks like 2009’s ‘Quiet Dog’. A latter set freestyle over Khruaingbin’s ‘Maria Tambien’ and his energetic and appreciative audience added up to a show that lived up to the stature of his talent. – Niall

5.

Talos @ Something Kind of Wonderful

Every time I see Talos live I fear it’ll be the time that they won’t seriously impress me. Not that it’d be entirely the group’s fault considering I’ve seen them four or five times in the last year alone. Though that time may come, it was certainly not on Sunday. Instead, I came away fully sure that the group are one of the country’s finest exports. Even lacking their full set up, the group were sans their usual percussion player, the band brought an incredible intensity to their performance. The material from their new And Then There Was War EP works fantastically in tandem with the songs from the group’s debut album. The group have also improved their visual presentation considerably too. The opening chords of ‘Your Love Is An Island’, now instantly recognisable to the vast majority of considerable crowd present, bring with them a cool white light. Smothering the group, only to be lifted as the music reaches its highest point. ‘Tethered Bones’ is the highlight from the performance. Though all of the material on Wild Alee cold be considered intimate, there’s a touching vulnerability to frontman and primary songwriter Eoin French’s delivery of the vocals, enough to clench the heart of any onlooker with their ears open. – Luke


Photo: Molly Keane (Twitter)

6.

Jimmy Cliff @ Some Kind of Wonderful

The act that surprised me most throughout the weekend. I’m no big fan of reggae and was nearly dragged by my fellow festival goers to go see Jimmy Cliff perform latE. However, just a couple songs into the Jamaican legends set I realised that the crowd assembled were in for a real treat. Cliff’s showmanship is unparalleled. Throwing all five foot and change worth of his body around the stage like a leaf caught in a cross wind. ‘The Harder They Fall’ provokes rapturous applause, it’s been on repeat on my Spotify since I came home. Cliff doesn’t speak that much during his set but when he does he seems genuinely elated. It’s easy to understand why, the set and its reception by the crowd could not be better.

A brief moment of seriousness comes in the form of ‘Vietnam’, an anti-war song which Cliff seems intent on stressing the importance of. Though the Something Kind Of Wonderful Stage seems light years away from any trouble, Cliff’s passion helps hammer home the importance of fraternity and understanding among all people. Not a bad job for an hour long concert on a Sunday night. – Luke

7.

Fleet Foxes @ Main stage

Standing around the main stage waiting for Fleet Foxes to begin their set at the main stage was a bit of a nervous experience. Firmly set upon the top of my to-do list for the weekend meant that expectations were super high going into the gig and I’m not sure my heart could have taken the disappointment. I needn’t have worried at all. The Seattle band took to the stage and to the set with the sort of charisma and charm which has long bolstered the group’s reputation. A huge thank you must be given to the ATN organisers for allowing the group a full 90-minute set, lord knows the group have more than enough material to fill it. The group begin with a series of songs from their latest album Crack Up, including a thrilling performance of ‘I Am All That I Need’. It’s hard to imagine Robin Pecknold replicating the soaring vocal lines featured on the album in a live setting, but he and the backing singers bath the entire main stage area in the glow of their harmonies.

‘If You Need To, Keep Time On Me’ marks a emotional high point during the set. Pecknold’s grin suggests he hears the roar of the crowd during its final chorus just as loudly as I do. While some may have worried that the soft folk nature of the group’s material might fail to hold a Sunday night crowd’s attention, the group perform with such accuracy and passion that the 10,000 people assembled stand totally captivated, in awe, for the full duration. Heaven. – Luke


Photo: Molly Keane (Twitter)

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