Townlands Carnival 2017 rolls up to one of the rainiest days so far this summer but it doesn’t stop the party hardened masses who’ve made their way to Macroom. After the trials and tribulations of Garda checkpoints stopping all incoming public transport, this reviewer is sorely disappointed to miss Gash Collective’s opening showcase at the Subatomic but there are whispers around the festival of an excellent starting performance from these rising stars of the Irish electronic scene. Jamie Behan closes out the Friday night with his faithful brand of techno.
Saturday is a brighter and busier affair with the sun coming out to accompany the opening of several stages including the Main Stage and the Goat Shed. To mend the tired heads, the Wiggle gang takeover the SubAtomic Stage with a roll call of endlessly talented sets. The futuristic, downtempo beats of Clu kicks off procedures with a spotless set showcasing an individual who’s absolutely on the cusp of greatness. The only downside of the set is the lack of revellers who’ve managed to leave their tents for the early slots but the music barely notices the sparse crowd. Wriggle and Shrieken are similarly successful with the entire takeover showcasing an exciting and modern face for Irish electronic music.
At the main stage, Jack O’Rourke puts in a solid relaxed day time set but struggles to bring in the crowds. Meanwhile in the Goat Shed, Cork native Aoife O’Neill puts on a funky set of house tunes which, despite issues with the Goat Shed’s volume, gently glides the audience in the afternoon. The Humans Of The Sesh showcase a varied four hours of grime, club and garage amongst others whilst Maedbh O’Connor draws one of the first major crowds of the day at the SubAtomic with a seductive selection of techno bangers. Again struggling with crowd sizes, OutOut’s Reich Joyce takes to the Goat Shed in clash with Rubberbandits at the Main Stage, however his dynamic record picking shows great skill and provides one of the highlights of the weekend – eventually bringing in the crowds for a bit of a party.
Rubberbandits are one of the big draws of the weekend and whilst they have no problems getting the numbers in, there’s something missing from their set. The slapstick humour starts to run out of energy and it feels a bit like their novelty is wearing thin. They certainly have charisma and stage presence but cuts like LGBT* rights song ‘Fellas’ and their new track about abortion in Ireland just feel a tad tone deaf. There’s definitely appeal in the manner in which they are willing to tackle hard subjects with irreverence but there’s an overwhelming sense of liberal tokenism that can leave the members of the communities that these songs are meant to celebrate wondering ‘why are these lads meant to speak for me?’.
Sunday sees Cork’s Cuttin’ Heads Collective taking control of the Subatomic stage with a welcomed break from heavy electronic music. They showcase some of the best hip-hop that Ireland has to offer with a great sense of fun and camaraderie between the audience and the performers. The afternoon feels less like a gig and more like a crowd of people getting together to experience music and it’s a wonderful atmosphere. Over at the Main Stage, Le Boom bring an absolute party and a highlight of the weekend with what can only be a foreshadowing of an act that’s about to explode.
Overall, the weekend provides a lovely musical retreat from the corporatism of major festivals in 2017. The environmental talks and theatrical acts scatter throughout the weekend help to make Townlands such a special festival and it’s great to see it growing. Looking forward to see it next year. Kelly Doherty
Photos by Aidan Connolly