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Published on June 28th, 2016 | by Eoghain Meakin

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Interlude 2016

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A woman loudly and tirelessly lists the bands she may or may not have heard of. Maybe that’s why it feels like we’ve been queuing here for the best part of an hour. After all it couldn’t really be true, could it? But it is. A fact so far excusable because this isn’t any night, nor just any art gallery. This is the return of Dublin’s latest, hippest city festival; Interlude, held in the on paper awesomeness of the Royal Hibernian Academy, a linchpin location for the dynamic art of the city and country.

So it’s fine. What’s an hour on a mild evening compared to the sonic and seeing delights waiting within? Except the queue does not stop at the door. Inside, in the lobby of the RHA the stream of people seems endless. Somewhere there’s a sense of music, a whumping that could just be the jovial laughter or mashing jaws of the beast we’ve stepped into, but over the din of the crowd it’s hard to know.

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Some more queueing and we are granted a gift, the much advertised interpass, an intriguing mix of wristband, digital wallet and dystopian electronic tag. More on this later. For now it’s time to get in and make all that standing about worth it… but, oh God no, there’s another queue. Though there’s a clear path into the main body of the venue it is blocked by an apologetic security. We’ll need to scan in elsewhere. Inevitably at the end of some queueing.

The problem is this; rightly the organisers are nervous about damaging their iconic space and so are attempting to manage capacity. The result is the interpass which must be scanned by a security guard on entry and exit of every room. This sensible sounding system is in practice a death knell to the very idea of a festival. The rambling nature of catching different acts becomes an arduous torment of queuing and scanning. Rooms deemed over capacity simply become unavailable for the rest of the thronging and increasingly irritable customers. Add this to the digital wallet feature and the result is a meat market chaos.

Forgetting, or not realising, that money had to be paid onto the interpass is not a minor irritant but a catastrophe. Now, one is forced to leave one of the gig spaces and head back out to the lobby to top-up (there is another top-up on the second floor but this room is overcapacity and therefore unavailable). After queuing to top-up one is forced to queue to get scanned back into the festival and then queue to get into a gig. It is clear that this is not going well. Many people are complaining and some are leaving.

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Back inside there is some hope as the simply magnificent September Girls take the stage. The grungy, noisey feedback of it all is a welcome counterpoint to the pretention of the whole event and the down to earth coolness of the performance is inspiring. It’s a brief respite as once they’re done you’re only in a room emblazoned with the image of Paul McLoone like a Greek Emperor.

So we make another feeble attempt to get upstairs. This time the queue is shorter but just as hopeless. People have simply given up despite the fact that Lisa Hannigan, surely the main draw tonight, is playing her opening song. We wait. The security apologise, clearly as put out by this system as the customers. Eventually someone with authority arrives. He implies that we’re better giving up and that, if we really have to wait, we should tuck ourselves against the wall. A few people bristle but most just move on. In the only other available room We Cut Corners play a typically impassioned set but it’s clear that many have decided just to cut their losses. The pop sensibilities with rock execution is still well worth a listen though and with their new single available now hopefully there’ll be better opportunities to catch the duo.

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Perhaps it’s the shrinking numbers or just a dereliction of duty but the system finally begins to relax. It’s just in time to catch the end of the wondrous Lisa Hannigan. The room upstairs is an amphitheatre compared to the McLoone stage but she and her band fill it out well. Her searing, jazz like vocals with grassy, pulsing instrumentation is everything people have come to expect from the talented songwriter. Yet it’s not enough, and as her set comes gently to a close people are begrudging the event just as they’re cheering her on.

Visiting the next night it’s clear that both parties have learnt from their mistakes. The system runs much more smoothly and the inclusion of a third stage makes for more possibilities but there are few people around. They’re not missing too much. Though the Ely Stage offers some great acts like Plutonic Dust it’s also an alcohol free zone and the emphasis on DJs everywhere else is a little underwhelming.

Maybe the Sunday was better, it certainly looked to be on paper but I couldn’t bring myself to return. That’s Interlude though. On paper it looked flawless, exciting, intriguing. The festival faced some stiff competition on a weekend holding the Pride March and a myriad of great shows but due to one essential flaw it only stands out as the least appealing of the bunch. Missing music for a system of avoidable tailbacks is the very antithesis of what a festival should be. All because of one silly system. Proof that, to paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, just because you can do something does absolutely not mean that you should. Eoghain Meakin

Photos by Paolo Lisarelli

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