- 05 Aug 18
The morning of the second day a festival is a time usually spent either hiding from the consequences of last night’s excesses, or desperately seeking out methods of hopping back on the horse for the night ahead. All Together Now is a different beast though - they take the risk of putting Reggie Watts on at a midday slot at the Belonging Bandstand in the Lawns of Tranquillity.
Perhaps it’s the heat driving everyone out of the tents, perhaps people are lured in to explore the gorgeous food options in the surrounding Lawns the brunch at the bandstand proved to be an (avocado) smash.
Watts’ skill as a beatboxer and looper is hard to ignore and his energy is infectious, even at this hour - it’s standing room only, and many a picnic table is commandeered as a viewing platform.
The performance is a real boon to the surrounding food merchants - shoutouts to the Grilled Cheese and Vegan Sushi Roll stands are incorporated into his loops.
Afternoon creeps into evening at the Main Stage and the sun burns as bright. Many conserve their energy by resting on the ground before Jape, with all available patches of shade taken up by those seeking solace from the solar assault.
Richie Egan promised that the band’s set at All Together Now - their first live outing in almost two years - would strike a fine balance between old hits and the new, more experimental material he’s been writing in his studio in Sweden.
Foreshadowed by single ‘Yeh’, released last week, the new material is a thick soup of expansive, lush analogue synth goodness, mostly instrumental apart from wordless vocals. It’s ambitious in scope but perhaps a little meandering to keep the crowd’s attention in such heat.
Thankfully they have a large back catalogue of bangers to delve into. ‘The Heart’s Desire’ gets an extended run out, turning this pop single into an enormous, LCD-like rave jam, and the funk groove of closer ‘I Was a Man’ ensures there’s not a single person left sitting down.
"It is fucking sick to be back in the homeland and get a reception like this!” The delight on Jess Smyth of Biig Piig’s face is clear to see as she draws a crowd to the Road to Nowhere stage that aren’t afraid to show their appreciation for her. Irish-born but brought up between Spain and London, Smyth is among kindred spirits here at All Together Now.
She discovered her relaxed neo-soul style by jumping on the mic at house parties, and that’s reflected the title of her debut EP, Big Fan of the Sesh Vol 1. The juxtaposition of her hazy, laidback vocals and razor-sharp beats means it’s a perfect set for an early evening chillout session.
Róisín Murphy may have moved away from this isle at the age of 12, but it’s clear that she’s never lost the ability to tap into her Irish psyche and connect with us. She opens her Main Stage set with two new songs, ‘Innocence’ and ‘Plaything’, both disco-inspired house bangers stand among her finest work - and then, as is her wont, she pops off for a costume change. And how does she fill the time? By repeating the phrase “Stand clear - luggage doors operating”.
Her set is an hour-long triumph of exuberance and expression. It’s the freedom of Saturday night, a joyful vibe close to what you’d find at Dublin club night Mother. Each new item of clothing draws cheers - she starts off in a giant yellow mac, ends in a ripped pink tracksuit and what looks like an inflatable ribcage, and a lurid green and gold cape is a literal highlight. Her four-strong band keep the people going with their driving rhythm.
It’s appropriate that Murphy, the most amorphous of pop stars, has to her name a song like ‘Sing It Back’, which has been a hit in so many forms. Here it’s coyly teased out in a relaxed manner that must be the envy of so many lesser songwriters. A golden moment, and anthem of the weekend so far.
The 90s, man. They’ve been back in vogue for a while now, as every vintage store charging fifty quid for garish purple and green windbreakers will tell you. Some achievement then that the status of nostalgia act cannot be conferred on Underworld.
That’s despite their efforts on their new collaborative EP with Iggy Pop, Teatime Dub Encounters. Single ‘Bells and Circles’ is whipped out early in the set. Iggy’s monologues on smoking on airplanes and trying to pick up air stewardesses could easily sound like a washed-up man out of time, but instead his voice and Underworld’s take on an unexpected kinetic synergy that gives a shot of energy to both acts.
As they were in 1998, Underworld still are in 2018 - firmly in the pantheon of greats that cross over effortlessly between the worlds of club music and pop music. Karl Hyde, now the far side of sixty, is still as snake-hipped as ever onstage, giving us his best diva finger-wag during opener ‘Juanita’.
“This one’s for everyone who was at the Redbox in Dublin in 99,” Hyde said before ‘King of Snake’, tapping into a collective memory offered by those old enough to have been there and borrowed by those who are not. At the end of the day, you don’t have to have been clubbing in the 90s though to feel the unionising power of a rave in a field, reaching to a dark sky full of green lasers.
“You're all invited back to my house, but don't tell my missus,” Hyde said, and who would not follow him after a closing triptych of ‘Rez’, ‘Cowgirl’ and in particular ‘Born Slippy’ - more of a bucket list item than a song for so many, such is its standing in both club and mainstream culture.
And that’s where the night begins for so many, with the spectacular Arcadia Afterburner and the likes of Shanti Celeste keeping ravers happy until well into the morning. Thankfully we’ve got First Aid Kit and Fleet Foxes ahead for a relaxing Sunday night…