Thursday 12th June 2014 – Bushmills Distillery
Bushmills Live is special. Its authenticity, the smell of whiskey and oak, the pure buzz of guests wandering about. The artists standing in the bar queue with you, it is quite surreal. It’s civil but electric, guests are genuinely ecstatic to be there for the ‘Money Can’t Buy’ international event.
The pure anticipation of the 2 hour car journey to get there added to the excitement, pulling into the car park guests were greeted with huge wooden pieces of artwork depicting the event, the distillery itself draped in a huge banner, staff grinning as they greeted everyone. Complementary whiskey cocktails greeted you once through the gate, friends and artists milling around together set the scene for a very special day.
First up with Brooklyn based band Rubblebucket. Formed in 2007 they brought a rousing indie-dance opening to the festival. Lead singer Kalmia Traver is a true entertainer, pint sized and full of sass. Stage decorated in ribbons and brass instruments strewn it was inevitable this was going to be something special. With songs such as Ohh Waa and Oversaturated, The Cooperage was electric, crowd dancing, band down in the audience dancing and marching through on Sax, trombone and trumpet, these guys are ones to watch, little known here but with 3 albums released in the States and a Glasto performance coming up this will for sure change.
A dash down to the Still Room brings us to Levity Breaks set. Levity Breaks are the Bushmills Legacy winners of 2014. The legacy was set up with Bushmills and Third Bar Artist Development. Directors Davy Matchett and Gary Lightbody pledged to curate and support the legacy once again and selected Levity Breaks as the 2014 bursary winners. It’s not hard to see why. This is Northern Ireland at its Indie band finest. With tracks such as Broken Hands and Maudlin filling the air in a room silencing, haunting acoustic, lead singer Marty McLaughlin wows the crowd showing them why they are worthy receivers of the Legacy bursary.
Luke Sital Singh is up in The Still Room and is a folk-pop London based singer songwriter. His vulnerable stance onstage already makes you like him before you have heard a note. 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne has described him as “unbelievably good” and Radio 1’s Jen Long says his single ‘Fail For You’ is intoxicating and has been featured in an episode of hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy last year. Along with ‘Greatest Lovers’ and ‘Nothing Stays The Same’ this is an act to watch. He was joined for a duet by our very own Iain Archer which was a beautiful blend on the senses.
The Still Room is the home for the eagerly anticipated set from Tired Pony. Gary Lightbodys super group is the line up dreams are made of, Lightbody on vocals, Peter Buck – REM, Richard Colburn – Belle and Sebastian, Iain Archer, Miriam Kauffmann, Bronagh Gallagher, Kim Topper and they were also joined by Snow Patrol band mate and Little Matador front man Nathan Connolly on guitar.
This was Tired Pony’s first Northern Ireland gig, and they have only performed a handful of times between the UK and America with two albums under their belt. This was always going to be special. The room was packed from the back doors down to the edge of the stage and Lightbody looked ecstatic to be home with his band. Opening with ‘I Don’t Want You As A Ghost’ the crowd were captured with the pure joy coming from the stage, in true homecoming style that you can only capture through fantastic showmanship and graciousness. A combination of both albums – The Place We Ran From and Ghost Of The Mountain gave the audience a treat that not many people have or will get to experience. Bronagh Gallagher joins the front man for ‘Get On The Road’ with beautiful vocals from Derry’s finest. Iain Archer, Bangor’s very own Ivor Novello Award nominee takes lead vocals in ‘I Am A Landslide’ to which the crowd launch into the chorus with giddy excitement; Blood is another crowd grabber with arms in the air and top of the lungs singing. Lightbodys gratefulness of a silent room in the utterly beautiful ‘Your Way Is The Way Home’ is heart-warming. He didn’t ask for it but with the beauty of the lyrics and arrangement it was inevitable that you wouldn’t hear a pin drop amongst the awed crowd with the flawless vocals from Lightbody himself and the beautiful Kim Topper. Finishing with ‘Held In The Arms Of Your Words’ this was most definitely the highlight of the night.
With happy hearts it’s a run to the Cooperage to James Vincent McMorrow amongst all the amazing food and flowing whiskey. James Vincent McMorrow is an Irish singer songwriter from Dublin with an Indie-folk vibe. Think Ben Howard meets Paulo Nutini with a sprinkle of Glenn Hansard you’ll be on the right track. His first album – Early In The Morning was released in 2010 and the latest album – Post Tropical is a treat. With a haunting voice and beautifully captured acoustics, McMorrow had the crowd captured. ‘Gold’, ‘Cavalier’ and ‘Red Dust’ echoed round the hall with a voice as smooth as the organisers’ wares.
After another sneaky whiskey based cocktail it’s down to The Still Room for the impeccable David C Clements. One of the beneficiaries for the Bushmills Legacy Fund in 2013 along with VerseChorusVerse aka Tony Wright. DCC can capture a room instantly. With a voice as smooth as the flowing honey whiskey he captivates the room and it is still. After a stint in Donegal to work on his album it is clear he is where he belongs and it’s a treat to see and hear. Proof that we produce some of the best singer songwriters in the world.
The 1975 close the night back up at The Cooperage. Matt Healey has a very identifiable tone to his voice and their fans adore it. The room is bouncing as the teenage fan base rush to the front and get into the final set. Arms in the air and voices loud to the well known Chocolate, Sex and Robbers. An impromptu smoke break – well, that’s what it looked like with the gestures… in the middle of the set heightened the fans anticipation and wanted more. The 1975 fans are dedicated and the band thrives off it, the more the crowd gave the most energetic the guys got, guitars in the air and indie hair thrashing around uncontrollably. Longevity? Not sure, not taking away from their undeniable talent, their songs are earworms, everyone knows ‘Chocolate,’ they are very distinctive but mainly because you know its them due to all the songs blending into one with the same guitar riffs and predictable choruses. Only time will tell…
An electric end of an eclectic mix of bands. Bushmills know how to put on a festival. Amazing line up, beautiful setting and warm hearts all round. Will not forget this in a hurry…