LIVE: Sunflowerfest Official After-Party – Pavilion, Belfast

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SSFAP2 SSFAP3 SSFAP4 SSFAP5 SSFAP6 SSFAP7The Sunflowerfest Official After-Party was in the Pavilion Bar on a smooth late summer evening.

Filled with festival volunteers and staff, it was buzzing too with attendees and zealots and a few who haven’t been to the festival before. Three bands were on the line-up.

Blues-rock trio Villanova Junction were first up for the still growing crowd. Obviously they’ve been listening to their Hendrix albums, but you could hear other influences in there too. ‘Rattlesnake Blues’ brought on big drums and good weighty guitar from Joel Harris on lead guitar and vocals. And then ‘Crossroads’ had a cooling Americana feel that that made it sound like local boys The HardChargers could lend them their washboard to thrash it out.

There was a good pulsing beat to it and people had started to dance – always a good sign for the first set of the night. Indeed members of The Twisted Sisters, the next band on the line-up, were stuck in doing the old sexy hands behind the head dance. Class, it was bringing more people onto the dance floor and the buzz was well kicking in.

‘Feeling Free’ gave us a cracker solid blues track. OK, with a hint of AC/DC giving it a rock angle, but still, good old blues that put me in mind of Dublin outfit Black Crow Chicken, and that really is a good thing. And so their set progressed. ‘Further On Up The Road’ highlighted how tight the band were; and then the stand-out for me was ‘Mexico’ with that pumping riff running right through it, Joel’s voice doing it justice and a truly impressive guitar break in the middle. Ending on a quality cover of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, Villanova Junction left us with a good taste in our mouth for the next band.

After a break that next band took to the stage and told us “I had so much craic at Sunflowerfest that I had to be taken home in a bucket”. And so the scene was set for the next half hour or so of pure entertainment from The Twisted Sisters. They started with a version of ‘Stone Cold Dead In The Market’ supported with bodhrán and guitar in the background. I couldn’t help noticing that every time the line ‘I killed nobody but me husband’ was repeated by the crowd, it got louder and more arms waved in the air. And so, with a vague hint of misandry (I had to google that word to be honest), the set progressed.

Next was their ode to the humble spud. They sang ‘I’m gonna eat twenty spuds every day till I’m dead’, making us shout “spuds” over and over as the dance floor filled up. ‘Living On Chips & Guinness’ presented us with two of the band going bananas on stage shaking their shakers. (That isn’t a pun by the way, I’ll leave that to them). They couldn’t speak highly enough of the festival. “Sunflowerfest is our favourite festival in the whole fuckin world”.

As I sang along to ‘He’s Pissed (He Can’t Resist)’ I remembered them egging on the crowd at Sunflowerfest a few weeks before, and they were doing the same tonight.  I choked on my drink when she stated “I know a woman who smoked pot and now she’s gay”; and this was followed by bringing on stage a group of people called ‘the Clitorati’ to offer vocal support for a song that sang the praises of their lady parts.

The set just went on like this. Bawdy festival fun by a band of people obviously loving every minute of it.  They dedicated ‘Thanks To You’ to their sister who had passed away and I was impressed at how they were able to stand on stage and do that while still enjoying it all, making sure that everybody (including her maybe) were enjoying it all.

There was quite a bit of anticipation for The BaRLey MOB, the last band of the night. The Irish folk reggae outfit have been firm favourites at the festival, and I’ve managed to miss them every time. Front of stage was packed, ready for action, so without much ado they kicked in with their first song and the dancing began.

‘Nothing In The World’ had frontman Adam Daly dancing on stage waving his dreads and the crowd dancing with him, minus dreads.  Conor Byrne on keyboard was keeping it all alive with his vocals and a neat wee 80s feel to the keys.  The beat was mighty and the whole band was moving in rhythm to it, which was infectious.

“Are you up for doing a bit of dancing yeah?” heralded ‘We Go The Distance’ which had Adam standing at the edge of the stage pointing into the air with a “We go, we go, we go” chant. The dance floor and indeed people who were still seated had their arms in the air. It had got all hot and sweaty by this stage.

There was an almost ‘Shaft Theme’ vibe to the reggae opening bars of ‘The World Today’. Serious boogie kicked in at this point. Adam turned his back to the crowd and did an all-out running dance on stage before getting the audience to join in with “do what you want with this life”. Meanwhile the keyboards and the drums were noticeably good. Now I knew why people felt sorry for me when I said that I had missed seeing them. This was class.

‘Bubble Song’ brought on an all-kicking-all-bobbing momentum to things. The man beside me had somehow managed to affix a crocheted sunflower to his bald pate and was merrily waving his two drinks in time to the music. The Twisted sisters incidentally had been on the dance floor from the first song.

‘She’s Falling’ had a stage invasion of lovely dancing ladies (which did lead to other ladies dancing on the tables). For their last song they had the whole room on their knees, literally, and when he sang “This is for love” they jumped up in the air and basically went enormous with arms and legs and hair, jumping, pointing, singing. It was a cracker, absolutely cracker end to the night.

Sunflowerfest 2015 dates were announced as July 31st – August 2nd. And there are rumours of another after party taking place. I would keep my ear to the ground for those if I was you. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com