There it sits, under a crescent moon, Leinster blue spotlights glinting off each individual mirror – the world’s largest disco ball, in the courtyard of the RDS – a signifier of the weekend to come. The place isn’t quite abuzz yet though – it’s a drizzly Thursday night and we’re here for Metropolis’ opening party – three acts in the Shelbourne Hall, the festival’s second stage.
In the ball’s place last year was the Arcadia installation where DJs played – but the courtyard is now silent but for the conversation of those ordering at food stalls and huddling under parasols beside Just Eat’s optimistic sunloungers. It feels like the calm before the storm as DJ Kormac takes to the stage to open the weekend for a live AV show.
Kormac’s Big Band shows were a guaranteed good time and the Dubliner remains a natural showman even sans brass section. Live drums and guest vocalists keep the energy up as “Everything Around Me” and Irvine Welsh collaboration “Another Screen” get the biggest reactions in a set far more engaging than what was to follow from Mount Kimbie. The English duo’s minimalist post-dubstep is pretty but received with ambivalence until the militaristic beat of closer “Made To Stray” gets the people moving again.
Recently The Quietus published a piece entitled “Milestone or Millstone?” on DJ Shadow’s seminal debut Endtroducing, now celebrating its 20th birthday. His first Irish appearance in five years proved without a doubt that it’s no millstone. It’s new releases that light up the set – Run The Jewels collaboration “Nobody Speak” draws big cheers with the line “flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest” and Salva’s remix of “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” introduce Endtroducing’s samples to 2016.
Friday marks the start of the festival proper, and Girl Band have been given the preposterously early set time of 5:50 on the Shelbourne Hall. Far too small a crowd witness a scintillating set, their shoegaze and post-punk textures draped over techno structures generating an incredible tension which is never relieved with an obvious riff or drop. Frontman Dara Kiely is a beguiling watch, the tension overtaking him as well as the crowd – to the extent that he has to leave the stage to vomit. Bassist Daniel Fox fills in with a solo of the national anthem before Kiely returns for a heroic finish of “Paul”.
Nineteen year-old Novelist took to the intimate stage of the Serpentine Hall and made himself hero by leading us in a chant of “fuck David Cameron”. He’s featured on Skepta’s Mercury-winning Konnichiwa and MCs of his talent are a big reason for Grime’s ascendent year. Not quite “10/10” as he proclaims himself to be yet but his flow will take him places.
“Moderat is a very dark show. For everyone’s enjoyment, please do not use flash” read the notice before the Berlin supergroup took to the Main Hall stage. A policy straight from the dancefloors of Berghain and Tresor and the tunes to match. The darkness combined with the sweeping low-end of “Bad Kingdom” and “Rusty Nails” and Sascha Ring’s soulful vocals to both fill and make intimate the vast expanse of the hall. A supreme treat for the club crowd.
Trinity Orchestra kicked off Saturday in the Main Hall with a delightful set of David Bowie covers – it was a real treat to see a range of vocalists with differing styles take on greats such as “Starman” and “Sound and Vision”. A nimble medley of “Fame”, “Golden Years” and “Fashion” looked set to be the highlight until Katie Richardson McCrea’s operatic vocals blew us all away in an appropriately intense rendition of “Lazarus” from Bowie’s final album Blackstar.
A youthful crowd gathers at the Main Hall for Shura, who is at the vanguard of new young queer pop alongside the likes of Shamir and Years & Years. They’re undoubtably drawn to both the impeccable Mancunian’s pop credentials and her tacking of subjects like anxiety – disco-inflected opener “Nothing’s Real,” about her experience of a panic attack, is a real treat. Onstage she’s unafraid to come out from behind her keys and get up close and personal with the crowd – but not without a lot of very endearing nervous laughter.
Klangkarussel’s last minute cancellation pushed Fatima Yamaha to the pre-headliner slot in the Shelbourne Hall, meaning all the more got to witness Bas Bron in masterful form. “Borderless II” opened a meticulously crafted live set that built perfectly – by the time the funk bassline of “Love Invaders” kicked in everyone had fully committed themselves to dancing. Bron’s keyboard improvisations stretched each track to new dimensions, teasing the next track. The entire crowd singing along to the synth line of mother of all sleeper hits “What’s A Girl To Do?” was magical and absolutely the moment of the weekend.