TRC Promotions Ltd. present the Willowstone Arts & Music Festivalnow in its third year.
The glorious summer rays beat down on the families sprayed in smatterings around the cutesy field of Willowstone Arts and Music festival. While parents and their kids loll around in the grass there are craft stalls, circus acts, a scarecrow-making competition and allotment Olympics, all accompanied by the music blaring from the quaint stage-truck decorated with flowers and leaves parked directly in front of the unwavering sun.
It may be a festival, but it’s a microcosm of one. Early afternoon breaks to the straight-up, catchy indie-rock of Audio Calvary followed by the earnest, if bland, offerings of More Than Conquerors. Given that the stage dominates the site, there’s more than enough time to grab some food, catch the rays, and in AU’s case, find the face painting stand, and still manage to hear everything that’s going on.
Still, it’s a welcome relief to hear the soulful, melodic folk of Robyn G. Shielsand band wind its way through the field to the idling crowd. With laments gently cooing with accordion, wistful piano and introverted lyrics, Robyn’s set beautifully offsets the beating sunshine before he’s followed by the jovial big-country stylings of Pat Dam Smyth with a bit of raucous piano thrown in for good measure.
Crashing through the chilled vibe left in the aftermath of all that folk and country comes the rip-roaring, blues rock of Dublin’s The Minutes. It’s an energetic, gutsy charge of guitars and crowing lyrics, although the vocal maybe lacks the depth needed to match its full-on nature lest it lose that raw edge. It’s followed by the Inishowen Gospel Choir and their high-end take on cult soul and pop classics, followed by the anything-goes, mix-it-up, brass-infused indie of The Vals.
Belfast punk stalwarts Pocket Billiards conjure up a skanking dust storm in front of the stage as the sun begins to fade and a chill sets in the air. With their uniquely colloquial take on 2-Tone influenced ska with brassy grooves, it’s a refreshingly diverse addition to the festival line-up but not quite so much as the second headliner, Shlomo.
Hailing from London, Shlomo is mostly-beatboxer, part-entertainer with his enigmatic skits and performance. The first 10 minutes see him breathlessly blend The Prodigy, Dizzee Rascal, Snoop Dogg and Michael Jackson, and the rest of his impressive hour-long set is filled by mixing his world champion loop station skills with crowd-pleasing, interesting routines and original material with a dubstep edge.
Darkness has long descended by the time Belfast’s Not Squares arrive for a disco-punk rave up to put an end to end the weekend, roaring through the thrilling, primal electro of ‘Release the Bees’ and ‘Don’t Do Nothing’ for a full-on dance assault.
It may be small, but Willowstone is a chilled, fun festival with its ethos best captured by the chaotic, drumstick-wielding stage invasion of Not Squares by the kids before they’re safely tucked up in their tents long past bedtime.
All Gone Pop - Live Review Part 1
Herbal tea sloshes around in china cups, revellers recline in charmingly mismatched sofas, the sun sets over the Mourne mountains. And then, as if from nowhere, comes the sound of twenty drums. The sound of Beat ‘n’ Drum, to be more specific.
A tribal tattoo of beats echoes across the rolling acres of Delamont country park, children dancing, the members of Beat ‘n’ Drum themselves moving in jerky staccato synchronization. And so the night continues – each consecutive act more bemusing and fantastic than that which precedes it. The sound of drums gives way to that of soulful harmonies, emanating from the Inishtown Gospel Choir. As the melody of This Little Light of Mine bleeds into that of Amazing Grace before the millennium stone, one of the largest megaliths in Europe, it’s clear that all those here are privy to something pretty special indeed.
The festival’s family friendly credentials are clearly displayed as a puppet show (albeit slightly inappropriate) finds itself creeping its way up the bill. There may be cookie monster references, Punch and Judy slapstick humour and an invitation for kids in the audience to come up on stage, but there’s a little something for older kids also “There’s a shark behind you!” shout the children. “No, a shark will tile your bathroom and charge you double” quips the puppeteer.
A similar mixture of childlike silliness and adult humour is to be found in the following set, which arrives courtesy of Scorpion Jack, a man in board shorts, singing about Somalian Pirates and covering such greats as I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book.
A great if slightly bewildering evening so far then – but despite being impressed by the performances they put in, no one came to see drumming troupes, choirs or puppets. The crowd, now a strong one, is here for one act and one act only –Emmy the Great and our very own Tim Wheeler. From the off, it’s clear that they won’t be disappointed.
The duo begin with a cover of a Strokes song, and while the set features acoustic renditions of everything from The Pixies’ Where is my Mind to Sleater Kinney’s Modern Girl, the pair flourish when they concentrate on their own material. Despite Tim’s assertions that Emmy’s ‘an honorary County Down girl for the night’, it’s clear that her material is less widely known among the crowd, yet it’s no less well received. Songs such as We Almost Had a Baby and Dinosaur Sexserve as refreshingly witty and poignant points of punctuation in a set that is packed with Ash hits.
Among the best of these are Oh Yeah, Burn Baby Burn and A Life Less Ordinary. Yet nothing holds a candle to the outstanding Shining Light. From the iconic opening riff to the chorus which has every last audience member singing along, the crowd are enthralled.
As Emmy leaves the stage, Tim, alone on stage, rounds off the evening with Girl from Mars a slacker anthem that’s lost none of its resonance in the fifteen-odd years since its release. On this, Ash’s breakthrough track, in particular, one thing’s clear – You can take the boy out of Downpatrick, but you can’t take Downpatrick out of the boy. Ash may have sold eight million records worldwide, soundtracked major movies and headlined some of the biggest stages in the world, but here, signing some of the finest words he ever penned from the side of a ramshackle lorry, it’s evident that, in whichever context you place him, it’s Tim Wheeler’s incredible talent which shall shine through. Playing to a small crowd of family, friends and other revellers, Tim and Emmy’s headline gig at Willowstone festival is every inch the triumphant homecoming.
Words by Tara McEvoy
All Gone Pop - Live Review Part 2
We’ve been graced with good weather today, suspiciously good in fact, but it’s given to stay hot and sunny for the day and it’s creating a positive mood all round. The family orientated vibe of the festival hits you as soon as you arrive with parents lying back casually on the grass looking on as children playing with stilts and hula hoops. The late forties and over contingent is well represented by some men who have staked out their place about half the field away from the stage, planted a camp chair and stuck themselves in it, seemingly for the duration. Don’t worry; young people still exist and they’re here as well, looking laid back and ready to chill out for the day with good craic and quality music.
This brings us to the first act of the day in the form of Audio Cavalry whose upbeat and catchy indie matches the weather well. The band play with an almost unstoppable energy and give every ounce to a performance they themselves are clearly enjoying. Sadly, as is often the case for the opening act, there is still only a small crowd present but they offer their appreciation all the same, as they should. The indie continues on, albeit with slightly sharper sounding riffs, in the form of More Than Conquerors. Their songs have a big feel to them and they are capable of turning on the heaviness when needs be. They treat the stage like epileptics on a bouncy castle, giving their all to the still small but respectable gathering and giving us our first dose of cowbell today. Sunny days need cowbell.
Robyn G Shiels took to the stage next and what can I say; it was brilliant, the music was gorgeous, draped in an air of gentle alt country and presented in a way that made you ache, just a little, for the better. About five people cared. Such is the trappings with playing mid afternoon at a family friendly event; parents are more interested in getting their child a burger or talking to the jugglers than in listening to songs about the devil worshippers and serial killers. It was their loss. Despite this, Shiels commands an awesome presence on stage and having previously only heard him acoustically I was pleased to find a full band only compliments him further. For those that paid attention, it was special.
A dander round the campsite to shake my post Shiels blues finds us running into a veritable motley crew of folk from the aforementioned juggler to canvas painters, creating a great 60’s free love inspired tapestry with some Northern Ireland flair (Mr Tayto’s grinning bake right in the middle). We run into a man, who must be dying in this heat, dressed as what can only be described as Quasimodo after a serious bender, called Maurice before eventually bumping into Tim Wheeler and Emmy The Great. Last night’s acoustic headliners are down having a scope on proceedings and talking to the organisers and runners. I chat to Emmy about her thoughts on the festival and she tells me how it’s “the best Glastonbury ever; there are no queues, no mud and great music”, She talks about how happy she was with last night’s set and the covers they chose to play before going on to challenge me to the Spud Toss at Allotment Olympics, which is essentially a mini shot put, with a spud (obviously).
When we return to the music Pat Dam Smyth is playing a crowd pleasing set of country rock as more people start to filter in to the festival grounds. Smyth and his band play well and are capable of shifting gears between the rowdier numbers and the quiet ones with ease. There is a real sweetness to his songs and they add to the unrelenting good mood of the day. A break for some food and a good sight of the giant hog on display has us ready to go again as Minutes take the stage. What starts off as seemingly promising heavier and hard riffed music devolves quite quickly into generic dad-rock. It’s easy to spot the bands influence a mile off and given they’ve added nothing of their own to the songs it doesn’t really make for much. At one point, they say they’re not a cover band, I still don’t believe them.
The day is turning to evening now and as it rolls on, the Inishowen Gospel Choir fills out the stage with their large numbers. Last night’s small show of beautiful gospel renditions has me filled with hope for their performance, as at this point we’ve all been standing in the sun all day and are tired and weary and need a little relief. Thankfully, the choir do not disappoint and lead us all through a classic hit filled set that brings us on into the cooling evening and gives us enough respite to prepare our feet for the party ahead tonight.
Words by Jonathan McAllister
All Gone Pop - Live Review Part 3
Those who were expecting a more traditional Ska band may be surprised by the onstage arrival of The Vals, a Belfast four piece whose lead singer looks as though he may just have stumbled out of a fancy dress party which he attended under the guise of a Sgt. Pepper eraPaul McCartney. That is, of course, until the crowd hears their music, yes – Ska is the overriding influence, but there are also shades of The 13th Floor Elevators style psychedelia, and, if you listen hard enough, even strains of The Beatles to be found amongst all the trumpeting.
Those who are suffering from an apparent lack of Ska, however, needn’t worry – that situation is quickly rectified as the following band, another of Belfast’s very own, Pocket Billiards take to the stage. Those who bemoan the entire genre needn’t worry either. With song titles such as S.P.I.D.E and lyrics like ‘He’s only thirteen and he’s already a Dad’, Billiards’ absurdest brand of witty social commentary set to hooks Madness would have killed for goes down a treat, as the crowd throw out some shapes more commonly observed on the dance floors of cheesy weddings.
By the time the sun begins to set behind the main stage, then, all present are pumped for the performance of Shlomo, acclaimed British beatboxer and winner of the world Loop Station championship, he more than lives up to expectations. While the structure of his set is initially somewhat confusing for an audience expecting a string of reworked but recognisable tunes, as he consistently ad-libs, reminiscing about his upbringing, his Loop Station Championship win and his upcoming Edinburgh show, no one can argue with the talent he showcases as he performs tracks as diverse as Seven Nation Army, Drop it Like it’s Hot and Salt ‘n’ Pepper‘s Push It.
Already part traditional gig, part ‘an audience with Shlomo’, the gig takes a turn towards exaggerated visual comedy á laThe Marx brothers as the beatboxer replicates the sound of a heart monitor flatlining. The following two songs, however, are serious contenders for tune of the night. Firstly, we’re treated to an unparalleled level of crowd involvement, as Sholmo records the whooping of revellers, feeds it into his sequencing station, and spits beats over it. Yet arguably the best song of the night, the evening and perhaps even the festival comes as he recounts the sounds of his youth – the clacking of his Grandfather’s wooden beads, his Grandmother’s sayings, and layers them to create a tune which is not only insanely catchy, but also encompasses the flavour and culture of three separate nations, as well as concisely relaying his own potted history.
Not Squares have a lot to follow then, but from the moment they stride onstage and find themselves lost amid the maelstrom of bass, drums and synths that makes up Release the Bees, it’s clear they’ve upped the ante. No actual bees are released, though – instead we’re assaulted with a hook so catchy it’s contagious. The opener segues neatly into the excellent Don’t Do Nothing, yet perhaps the standout track from the set arrives in the form of pre-encore closing number Asylum. Tribal, guttural and mesmerising, Not Squares’ performance signifies that they could soon be claiming ASIWYFA’s title as the kings of pulsating, electronica steeped rock music. Confirmation of this, if it were needed, is found in the band’s encore number In Front, as a stage invasion, replete with members of the crowd whacking cowbells with gay abandon, ensues.
Bringing to a close a weekend that has already witnessed some memorable moments by all accounts, Not Square’s set typifies the atmosphere of Willowstone, as those who make music, and those who just love it, come together for the sake of a party – in all its big, bewildering and above all brilliant glory.
Words by Tara McEvoy
Gigging NI review Willowstone 2010 Words faye rossi, pics clair mcallister
The beautiful Delamont Country Park is home to the willowstone Festival, which returned for its second year with an impressive line-up, headlined by The Answer. The gates opened a day early allowing revellers to get the party started that little bit earlier. Being a small site, it was such a relief not to have to lug all the camping gear for miles, and the camping field, which was pleasantly spacious, had stunning views over Strangford Lough. With the first band not starting until 2.30pm, there was plenty of time to have a drink and relax before the short walk to the stage. The relaxed, laid back atmosphere continued within the walled garden, which held the stage, food stalls and the Hilden Brewery Tipi.
The first act of the day was The Red Admirals. The Ballinahinch band got things off to a great start, performing to a small but enthusiastic audience, most of whom were up dancing and clearly enjoying the set. Their catchy tunes and lyrics had many fans singing along, especially "Fake Nails" which has been stuck in my head ever since, and I obviously wasn't the only one, as it was being sung across the campsite in the early hours of the following morning! The two piece Folk-rock act Scorpion Jack, successfully kept the attention of the audience with their unique style and sound. The combination of the bodhran and guitar, and their energetic, humorous songs about computer errors and apple based desserts, suited the fun festival vibe. Ruby Colley had a hard couple of acts to follow. She is a solo artist who creates complex instrumentals, using an electric violin, she builds up layers of sound with loop pedals. She is no doubt an interesting and talented act, but I could see people becoming bored and distracted as her set went on.
Things got back on track with Colenso Parade, who picked up the pace with their happy, summery anthems, much to the crowds delight. I had been looking forward to seeing this band in a festival setting, and they didn't let me down, they wouldn't be out of place at the big name festivals. Katie and the Carnival followed in their own fabulously quirky way, with their drummer (Jitterbug Jackson) in a white sailor suit, a percussionist playing wooden spoons, and ventriliquist dummy taking centre stage. Katies voice is fantastic, and suits the songs perfectly with smooth bluesy tones. Boc Social were one of the highlights of the day for me. The Wicklow Ska band burst into their high energy set and had the majority of the crowd up on their feet dancing for their whole set. Dark Room Notes were in the same unfortunate position as Ruby Colley. Their set began with a few chilled out electro tunes, they were good songs, but I kept waiting for the set to liven up, and it just didn't. The highlight of their set for me was when a young boy treated the crowd to some robotic dancing infront of the stage.
By the time John, Shelly and the Creatures were on, the walled garden was filling up, and it was the first time all day I had seen a crowd gather infront of the stage. The fans lapped up the folk-pop sound and their well known "Long May You Reign" delighted many who ran to the stage to join in the singing and dancing. Cashier No 9 did not have the most successfully set. They had sound issues, starting off too loud, then too quiet, then deafening, and by halfway through the set, they still had little or no sound in their monitors. I understand this must have been incredibly frustrating for the band, but it is never a good idea to get irate with the soundguy in front of the audience. Sound problems aside, by the end of their set they were back on form and "When Jackie Shone" was worth the wait.
Having not heard much of The Answers music, I was looking forward to seeing them live. Some die hard fans had sat by the stage in their tour tee-shirts all day, and there were a few Cormac lookalikes hanging about too, they had a big following at the festival and a few fans had travelled from Germany just to see them! The band strutted onto the stage like true rock legends, Cormac Neesons voice is pure rock, as is his swagger and showmanship. The whole band are without doubt, world class musicians, and a real pleasure to see live thanks to the effort and enthusiasm they put into every single song. However, I wouldn't call myself a fan. I can appreciate them as a very talented band, and I loved their whole rock attitude, but the attitude and showmanship for me, was more memorable than the songs.
Willowstone is a wonderfully laid back but fun festival, fantastic for all ages, including families. It was not overcrowded, and the food and drink was not overpriced. I would love to see the festival do well and be successfull, it deserves to be, but the selfish side of me doesn't want to tell you how good it is. It really is a hidden treasure, with it being so small and with no big crowds, in such beautiful surroundings, you really feel a part of something special.
Ah summer, the start of many seasons, such as sporting, holiday and most importantly, festival season, and so it's the cue for ATL to drag its pale, sickly, sleep-deprived body out of the late-night clubs it winters in, and step blinking into the sunlight which makes its annual appearance today (ATL would like to take this opportunity to remind you all to practice safe sun while festivaling this summer, wear sunscreen and a hat, enjoy the shade and drink water - on an entirely unrelated note, any aftersun manufacturers should send a card to us for boosting your profits this week).
Set near Strangford Lough (it was visible from the campsite, and the sound was coming across loud and clear down by the Lough according to people who were there), it's a nice intimate little setting, a Walled Garden, creating an enclosed, safe environment isolated and protected from the world (and World Cup) outside. Kids scampered around, the beverages flowed (not near the kids obviously), the art areas entertained us (throwing paint is very therapeutic) and once we got over the disappointment that it wasn't an actual bouncy castle, the stage provided music.
The Red Admirals kicked off proceedings with their classic rock stylings, mostly to kids, friends and mankini-wearers (there's always one), who all enjoyed this relatively gentle Stereophonics-esque start to the day's live music. Scorpion Jack are a very different prospect, a sort of fast folk a la Rodrigo y Gabriela meets John Martyn with a dash of wit and humour in songs like Error 404 and a death metal interlude on the bodhran and acoustic.
Another change in direction follows for Ruby Colley who offers atmospheric strings and loops as a one-woman show armed with a collection of pedals to augment her violin, before yet another sharp musical turn towards the more lighthearted casually dressed pastel-shaded Colenso Parade and their 1960s style guitar pop and good natured banter prompting a bit of crowd-dancing to Young And Beautiful and Better Off.
Katie and the Carnival continue the slightly scatter-gun musical policy with their smoky voiced jazzy tones, allowing us to chill in the afternoon before the infectiously catchy jaunty quirkiness of If I Knew Then What I Know Now rouses us with its bombastic da-da-dums - just what you need for a festival. Also perfect for the context are Bocs Social - dubby, reggae, ska-punk goodness to bounce along to and get the most of the gathered crowd dancing for the first time. It's ideal festival fare - nothing too taxing, and you can get caught up in the rhythm without having to know the band. Mentioning rhythm, Dark Room Notes fail to get any, hitting wrong Notes, as the one disappointment of the day. They suffer with the context, as their chilled synthy electro and occasionally clubby beats are too subtle for the open air, especially after the up-tempo Bocs. Indeed they're at odds with the rest of the line-up, perhaps being a little too cool and contemporary, and are (on past experience) a lot better suited to a small dark club.
John Shelley and The Creatures have no such problems, carefully blending the gentle and delicate with the strong and raucous, including the inevitable TV song. Yes we've heard it dozens of times, but it's still class. At this rate they'll be headlining next year. Unless of course Cashier No.9 agree to do so instead. They're practically there already with the material they have, it's just we're waiting on the public to catch up with Cashier's genius. From opening number Goldstar, through the Manc shuffle of 42 West Avenue and the little funky roll of Lighthouse, to the closing Goodbye Friend, this is a band who've grown in confidence and stature into a genuine headline prospect even while they're still polishing and perfecting their material.
And so to the headline act. The local boys done good as The Answer stroll onto what is pretty much home turf for them (and quite a few other acts in our musical history - must be something in the water), promising to continue the party the next day in various local hostelries. The bouncy castle suddenly seems very small for the crowd and indeed the band's stage presence and exuberance. Come Follow Me is classic rock class, proving that this is, with respect to the other bands on the bill, their gig as the crowd is properly united for the first time. Piece By Piece arrives straight out of the practice room to be greeted like an old favourite, like Never Too Late for example.
The couple of attempted stage invasions are quickly halted, but fail to disturb our lads, as practiced and polished as they are at belting out their primal straight up blues rock. It's been a while since they've been around, but it's like they've never gone away. As for the day itself, we'll be back next year. Possibly with a hat.
“Willowstone is a wonderfully laid back but fun festival, fantastic for all ages, including families. In such beautiful surroundings, you really feel a part of something special.” Faye Rossi – Gigging NI
Faye Rossi – Gigging NI
"GREAT festival, had a total blast...well done to everyone involved!"
“Stuart and all the Team at Willowstone,
Thank you for creating such a great experience. The music was all so fantastic, which usually doesnt happen at a festival, some are usually stronger than others, but the line up, talent and showmanship were excellent. The energy at the festival was pure relaxed and enjoyment. I wish you much success for the next one, and future projects.
It's so great the rain stayed off for another year and only started in the early hours on Sunday, the weather was even for you!
All the Best and Thanks to All.
TRC Promotions www.myspace.com/stu_trcpromotions started life as a few bands playing at a house party in Turmennan Co. Down in summer 2004, in 2005 it was a few more bands playing on an Island in Donegal:
This the Innishfree Rock Festival ran for three good years, but after a break in 2008 it was time to put on an event a little closer to home and that didn’t involve bringing everything needed to run a festival, on a three hour drive and a 15min ferry crossing on to an island with no electricity or running water. So we looked to Delamont Country Park www.delamontcountrypark.com in-between Killyleagh and Downpatrick on the shores of Strangford Lough and just 30 mins drive from Belfast. It soon emerged that in the summer 2009 it would be the 10 year anniversary of the erection of the Strangford Stone http://www.downdc.gov.uk/uploads/docs/StrangfordStone.pdf , and that the strangford stone consortium were planning a celebration as 10 years ago 1000 children from various youth groups in the community all lifted the stone by hand using just ropes and pullys. So after contacting the consortium and discussing our plans we decided it would be a good opportunity to run our events at the same time.
The plan was to have a one-day live music event, with camping in the grounds of the country park. Setting Willowstone apart from other live music events, would be the unique setting of the walled garden, featuring living willow sculptures, interactive art instillations, award winning locally produced food and drinks and of course a diverse mix of the best live musicians playing in the country. Here is a taster of what happened in 2009:
The Willowstone Music and Arts Festival 2009 review
A small but certain success in Killyleagh.
"In summertime the green spaces of County Down offer attractions for families and artisans alike, but few match the appeal of the Willowstone Festival in Killyleagh. Taking place in Delamont Country Park, the festival proved to be the perfect bridge between smaller events like Castle Ward’s Easter Craft Fair and bigger musical events such as Castlewellan’s Celtic Fusion Festival.
With the twin teepees of the Hilden Bewing Company on one side and a fully-equipped main stage on the other, the tall strands of willow at the centre of the walled gardens were surrounded by cross-legged music fans as the bands Heliopause, Albrecht’s Pencil and Little Green Cars played unamplified acoustic sets in the sunshine.
The campsite, one field over in the shadow of the Strangford Stone, quickly filled as six tents became twenty-six, then thirty- and forty-six, with campers competing for the best views of the lough.
While the first acts performed, groups of people casually dandered in from Comber to create a crowd including visitors from Scandinavia, the USA and all over Ireland.
By the picnic benches and small pavilion, Oxfam Ireland sold vintage clothes to bargain-hunters while staff from Pheasant’s Hill Farm sold pork and chorizo and vegetarian burgers. Smiling customers showed why the Farm’s shop was commended as one of the best independent retailers in Northern Ireland by the Observer Food Monthly.
Beyond lines of people buying crêpes and pints of Belfast Blonde or Headless Dog ale, revellers swung and circled in Paddy Bloomer’s carnival contraptions; a giant white enamel bath or fan-propelled bicycle and cradle contrived to hang from something like the blades of a helicopter, for perfect rotary motion.
Families and toddlers were entertained by gamesmaster Francis Barking. A little calm, a little composed, you roll a blanket out on the grass and look people sitting on bales of hay. If you had a pillow you might have chanced a crafty nap.
But Belfast duo The Continuous Battle of Order were the first act to play on the stage. Two stacks of black speakers stood like sentries at either side, with an inflatable canopy arching like a grey rainbow between them. You felt the snap of the snare in your chest. While The Continuous Battle’s music – an electrified amalgam of improvised jazzy guitar, metallic riffs and ever-changing drumbeats – was the most avant-garde on the bill, it was also the most exciting.
During a climactic three-drummer tattoo the sound bounced around the walled garden, drawing curious and impressed onlookers to the stage. And during a skiffle-style hi-hat solo, drummer Craig Kearney played with such force that a stick snapped and somersaulted into the crowd. He had a replacement in hand before it landed on the grass.
Where Continuous Battle create the sound of ten men with only two members, the eight-strong NI Soul Troop create sassy, heartfelt music for hundreds of people to dance to. Like a present-day Jimmy Rabbitte, Donal Scullion rallied the team through a set including ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, ‘Nice Indication’ and ‘(Happy to Watch You) Boogie’, as pockets of people sway.
Ten Gallon Hat follow, with country tunes a few steps to the left of Garth Brooks. The first poi of the day can be seen flying in front of the stage, with yellow and green ribbons looping above the dancer’s heads. From here the festival takes off with Panama Kings, Ed Zealous and Republic of Loose playing to an audience that, while not hundreds of rows deep, listens attentively and enjoys each performance.
Organised by Stuart Campbell, the Willowstone Festival follows previous unique events like the Innishfree Rock Festival by attracting a diverse and dignified set of people to an often-unexplored location. Free from the immediate rudeness of scatterbrain drunkards that greets concertgoers at larger-scale events like Vital in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, the first Willowstone offered plenty of breathing space, with ample room for expansion. It felt all the more memorable and enriching for it."
Kiran Acharya - Culture NI
Check out these Bandwidth Sessions of Ten Gallon Hat made just after their 2009 appearance at Willowstone: