Stendhal Festival of Art 2015 – an alternative look

by / August 16, 2015

It has been a week since the dust- well mud rather than dust- settled on the grounds of Stendhal Festival of Art 2015. My first walk around the area was full of discoveries; the atmosphere was very similar to the one from Body &Soul at Electric Picnic but on a bigger scale. Many acres of land were transformed- trees trunks covered in knitted, cosy uniforms, lighted woodland passages leading to the stages, alleys filled with historical and mythical creatures – all these details gave a unique and peaceful feel to this family orientated event. Note for more fussy campers; there is an option of Glamping, the more comfortable tipis are available to book on the festival website.

I finally had the pleasure to attend to Stendhal with a good friend of mine, and one of the great artists Jane McManus who was exhibiting her paintings at Stendhal Art Gallery. A variation of many styles of art, just as the music, were on the display this year; Jane presented her colourful and seductive collection of unusual female portraits, Syra Larkin showed off her nostalgic creations of a man wrapped around beloved guitars from the ‘Music in Mind’ collection, Toni Whiteside introduced gold labyrinths on mirrors, one of the pieces ‘Fuse’, contains 24 carat gold plated with silver and black oils to give effect of fish shaped waves.

The Art tent bloomed alongside the Theatre scene and Poetry corner, there was a lot to see and a lot to do. Everyone could try their hands on special designed, dented drum plates set up in the ‘Sound of Stonehenge’ zone. The idea was to gently drum on hanging plates levelled on different heights to release calm and positive sounds. After a few of minutes surrounded by these bizarre vibrations a good feeling of re-energising occurred.

The music scene in this country is always full of surprises, this summer bands from Ireland combined forces with musicians from around the globe and gave spectacular shows over two days on seven stages. The headliners for the weekend were Donovan on Friday night who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his musical experience and Duke Special on Saturday night with his new album “Look Out Machines!” being released earlier this year. Marc O’Reilly was the first outstanding act at the Main Stage. The band got together only a year and a half ago and the energy is obviously buzzing, reflecting in a great flow during live performances. Coming from Waterford and Cork with Peter Burns on drums and Mike O’Connell on bass guitar and backing vocals the group creates a show worth to see. Marc’s deep scratchy voice hung on the speakers, live it sounds even better than on any of his recordings. The guitars left no room for breaks in between the songs, with perfect string strokes O’Reilly has a potential to be announced as the Irish Hendrix after delivering very fulfilling solos. He is not afraid to break a string giving the public electric guitar shocks. Songs remained heavy, but builds up from the bass and drums which often meets bluesy rhythms. The band is currently on tour, but they will be back this autumn with more shows across the country.

Next to stand out was Booka Brass Band, A Dublin group that turned the show into a brass spiral of astonishing noise. With only a couple of years on the music stage the band established themselves as an upbeat must –see. The energetic songs got the crowd bouncing and some number one hits covers were played during the show to add up to this “shake off all the stress “gig. I ended up finishing the first night at Karma Valley Stage where DJ Format was unrolling iconic vinyl scratches, playing funky arrangements with one particular classic standing out- “Light My Fire” from M.B.P. Mix on Major records. Freak’s who also played this stage the very next day are outstanding, fresh performers that some might call an indie-rock streamlet. The music is very dynamic, cleverly mixing Born Ruffians and The Kooks style. At the beginning of the show they did admit to being slightly hung-over from the previous night, but it did not disturb timekeeping in songs whatsoever. Signature “A Minute More” closed the concert, and I am hoping to see Freak’s more often in nearby venues (comfortable footwear is recommended in case of sudden dance rush effect).

Another one to catch my eye was harpist virtuoso Ursula Burns who’s light, magical voice was spreading in the Wooly Woodland territory. She delivered a saucy and hilarious musical manifest, warning the public that her songs contained strong language. The response was more than positive and the enthusiastic crowd sunk into the show just seconds after melodic harp strums began. She performed a newly written song “Wi-Fi” dedicated to her son, disregarding the fact that …the song was not finished yet. As a professional Ursula proved again that she takes the show to a different level leaving an extraordinary memory in the listener’s ears.

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