Posted on august 10, 2023
All Together Now Review 2023
Words by Michael Savage
(Picture taken by @aerial.ie)
All Together Now wrapped up their 4th successful year of joyous celebration with a mixed bag of heavy rain, high winds, and scorching Sun. A very well prepared crowd handled everything that was thrown their way though and the crowd's age and experience was palpable through self-organising queues for water and stage entries. After watching TPD TV on Youtube all week before the Thursday opening night, we were exceptionally motivated to have a good time despite any possible setbacks. We had futureproofed our weekend by wrapping everything in plastic bags, packing ear plugs, eye masks, and far too many pairs of socks.
The Waterford festival was a medium-sized affair with eighteen stages of music and other happenings. The stages all blew us away with natural amphitheatres in Lovely Days by Guinness and the ATN Main Stage, intimacy being the centre of each of the wooden areas like The Circle by Jameson, The Last City, and Global Roots, and amazing spaces like Something Kind Of Wonderful, Ping Pong Disco, and AVA In The Woods.
The Belonging Bandstand was instantaneously recognisable with its beautiful colours from Morag Myerscough but what stood out the most was the Arcadia ‘Bug’ stage. A sexy, fiery space for ravers to revel at pole-dancing CCTV robots, a fire breathing dragon, and a DJ playing from the belly of an open-wing bug mobile. The Arcadia was constantly transforming from views of the moon and night sky to the illusion of being enclosed by a roof of lasers, flames, and smoke.
(Pictured: Morag Myerscough)
Large festivals like Electric Picnic are so big that it is foolish to be planning a schedule ahead of time while boutique festivals like Fuinneamh festival are small enough that every hour can be planned out. A mid-sized festival like ATN sort of goes by the Goldilocks principle where you can broadly plan out your days and also get to roam around, but there was always the inevitable clashing of acts. ‘Pick your battles’ was in serious effect on the Sunday evening at 9pm as there were choices between Tourist, TV Girl, Lorde, Long Island Sound, and Selló. Difficult choices had to be made (We may have missed Lankum, The Scratch, Jamie XX, Iggy Pop, and James Murphy among many others).
Landing down Thursday night meant that we could pick a reasonably good spot to camp and get accustomed to the main social area. The early birds were welcomed by Ahmed, With Love. and Curtisy as they performed their track ‘Men On a Mission.’ A refreshing set, literally, as the duo soaked the crowd with water guns.
(Pictured: Curraghmore House)
Friday kicked off with a full expedition of “Ireland's largest private demesne” as it was our first time there. There were plentiful delights including a pride walk that went past with an anthropomorphic chair following suit. Normal festivities had begun, so.
In the evening, Rob Rua won the crowd over with Surusinghe's ‘Bad Girls’ and cruised along easily with the crowd in his hands escalating to a well deserved rewind/wheel up before finishing with dubby tracks like 'Rules Of The Dance’. Partiboi69 blasted off with ‘K+C on My D’, and the many other bangers he had in his arsenal. One tune in particular that we weren’t able to ID, was a possible MCR-T-like trance tune with the lyrics "get you on the floooorrr". We must find this track. (edit: We've been told it was 'It's That Time' by Marlon Hoffstadt)
If looking at your pager by KH was the sound of the Summer last year, I'm calling 'Installation' by Pangaea the sound of the Summer 2023. Rob Rua playing it first, Todd Terje playing it again the same night and DJ Shee also giving the track a spin in the AVA in the Woods stage at a higher bpm. Todd Terje’s set was a fun time with Inspector Norse being hinted at now and again but never fully being played in its fruition. Terje belted ahead with classics like ABBA's ‘Lay All Your Love On Me" and ending with a sea of raised hands with ‘Love Is In The Air’.
The most memorable gig of the weekend had to be Warmduscher. We just can’t believe the collective energy from the crowd and band at 11pm while the rain bashed down. Pure joy. Razor sharp goosebumps. Spine chills. The “funkified post-punk bulwarks” who have “mischief steadily coursing through their veins” had cast a fixating spell on all during their most well-known tracks ‘I Got Friends’ and ‘Midnight Dipper’. Dressed in boiler suits, the band had a frenzied performance led by the charismatic Craig Higgins. Too good.
Tommy Tiernan took to the bandstand on a fabulous sunny Saturday morning as the wind and rain subsided for guest interviews from David McSavage and Deirdre O'Kane. A strange beginning interview where Tommy asked David very open ended questions that left him bemused for most of the remaining conversation. It was clear that admiration was one sided from David and left for some secondhand embarrassment and vicarious discomfort at times. Quite the surprise to learn that David McSavage’s first cousin was the poster boy of the whole recent RTE scandal, Ryan Tubridy, and that he held a lot of bitterness towards him. Thankfully, O’Kane was a redeeming end to the set as she got a warm reception when she discussed motherhood, long-term relationships, and being a female comedian.
Main stage was buzzing the whole weekend with the incredible landscape views around the stage but this setup favoured bands who didn't draw the largest crowds. Lisa O'Neill captivated listeners as always, playing a tribute to Sinead O'Connor with "Black Boys on Mopeds" and empathised with her rebellious spirit through her life. Jumping to Sunday for a moment, Jealous Of The Birds were another exceptional band that benefited from spectators being able to sit and take in the sounds while being relaxed under the sunshine. The Northern Irish singer’s electric performance was one of our hot new finds of the weekend with their fuzzy basses and cool as ice lyrics. The bigger headliners like Lorde and Jamie XX naturally drew large swelling crowds that we couldn’t justify getting ourselves into. Experiencing these top artists but having to sacrifice being able to dance wasn’t worth it for us. Instead, we had powerful hard electronica from Daniel Avery in Something Kind of Wonderful, heavy vibrations from EMA, and felicity from Daphni to keep us occupied.
(Pictured: Jealous Of The Birds)
The last day of festivals are perfect for catching some well needed belly laughs and ATN had a brilliant lineup in The Well tent. We went back for round two of Tommy Tiernan. This time, encountering much more animated and hilariously gross segments from the King of Irish comedy. Peter McGann followed suit later with his absurd take on things where he is incessant on beating jokes to the ground. It honestly works so well and we are snapping up his tickets right away for Vicar Street on September 15th 2023. We said goodbye to our time in the tent after Killian Sundermann eased through his routine, steering clear of the edgier comedy heard throughout the day.
(Pictured: Peter McGann)
There was an immense buzz in the air, other than the damn wasps, as Kelly Anne Byrne brought the gay anthems to the Born Social area. She set the mood for the evening helped by the warm glow of the Sun. The "travelling international all-star band", TV Girl had lots of dry humour for the crowd and equal amounts of great tunes. The hypnotic pop band from California were another highlight of the weekend as they played ‘Lovers Rock’ and hits from their new album ‘Grapes Upon the Vine’. We let out a yelp of relief when they explained that their new album with religious undertones was not due to them being Born Again Christians.
As the sky got dark, we caught Kelly Lee Owens in Something Kind of Wonderful as she gave a mesmerising set in spite of some technical difficulties. Meanwhile, Tourist’s set was a euphoric uplifting time made so memorable by the spectators blowing giant bubbles, burning incense, waving rave totems, and just having a wicked time. The Lovely Days stage on Sunday was the place to be as BEAK> played out grungy thick basslines and experimental sounds, and later Le Boom giving their all to a jammed audience. Their song ‘Australia’ was poignant for many, including us, as we felt the effects of friends emigrating recently. We beamed with appreciation with the line, “we are not all together often, but we are All Together Now”.
(Pictured: Tourist at the Lovely Days stage)
Our Mini Food Review involves some delicious vegetarian food and coffee from the endless amount of vendors. We over-indulged this weekend but here's all the 10/10 food we had:
- Margherita pizza from The Dough Bros
- A tofu burrito bowl and other goodness from Plant-It Food Co.
- Vegan spice bags from Natasha's Street Thai
- Delicious Chana Saag from Kerala Kitchen
- Vegetarian spring rolls from Camile Thai
- Loaded homefries from My Goodness
- Coffee from Papi Churro Coffee with a shot of Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey (oh boy)
- And more coffee from Caffe Duomo
(Pictured: My Goodness at ATN)
Although it might have appeared to some that the festival was meticulously planned, the façade of the ‘Potemkin village’ fell at times. We heard about how artists were getting booked three weeks out from the weekend and we soon realised on Saturday that nothing was going to be done about the mucky pathways. We more worryingly noticed that there was a lack of security and medical staff in places. Security was really needed for crowd direction whenever crowds surged but thankfully, having such pleasant, mature attendees meant that nothing catastrophic happened. This needs to be something the festival looks into going forward.
Festivals are expensive and you want your bang for your buck so you obviously want to come away feeling replenished and feeling like you discovered something new. So was it worth it? Well, All Together Now ticked all our boxes and we’d happily contend that it was the Irish festival of the Summer, even though we aren’t at the end yet. So for that we give All Together Now the slap of Plant Bass’d approval.