The last time I took a visit to Moira Park it was abundant with screaming children and I wrestled my nephew in one hand and his changing bag in another.
On this visit I was prepared to swap my nephew for a local beer in my hand instead and his changing bag to the most ‘festival’ bag I could find in my collection. Instead of nappies and toys, my bag now prepared me for whatever the day was going to throw at me, including sunglasses and a raincoat. You can never be too prepared for the weather in Moira. What my two year old nephew felt that last day waiting on the swings was probably something similar to how I felt today waiting on Dublin brothers Hudson Taylor.
I began trudging up the hill in my boots that I had earlier deemed the easiest I could wipe muck off (when I say ‘I could wipe’ yes I do mean my mum) when the rain began. Of course with all rain on a Saturday afternoon comes crying children running from the park. As I looked around I couldn’t help but feel Moira Park was looking rather empty and I did begin to wonder how the day was to go.
Once I got through the gates with my Moira Calling wristband strapped on, my questions surely began to fade and as I took in my surroundings I half expected to come across a gathering of fairies sat around because they would look far from out of place in this festival set up. To say the set up for the day was looking pretty magical would probably be an understatement. With an array of massive tyres, bales of hay and picnic tables scattered around for people to park their bums throughout the day was far from anything I had seen in Moira before. Of course my eyes went straight to the various food stalls scattered across the festival to see what was on offer throughout the day and I wasn’t disappointed. I had already began to plan when to have my pizza slice and to get my hotdog from Street Dogs. My eyes quickly settled on The Picture Bus that was set up and couldn’t stop thinking of how I couldn’t let this bus pass me without getting in and getting snapped. I would have been a fool to miss out on a few Instagram worthy shots from the set up.
The upright bass was enticing us to ‘All The Little Lights Stage’ and we made a run for it to get out of the rain and we were glad we did. Cup O’ Joe were having their time to shine and when Banjo player Tabitha announced she was playing alongside her two brothers their tight connection made a lot more sense. When this was revealed I got in my ear “ah, so that’s how you go about finding a banjo player for your band.”
After handing over our money for a Moira Calling cup and getting it filled with Strawberry Cider – who cares if it was 2pm… – we took shelter under the Maine Stage. Of course it wasn’t long before I had my phone out taking photos of whatever I could just to make good use of the backdrop. I fairly shoved my phone away though when New Portals took to the stage. I could go on to say the usual, they gelled well together, they had a good sound and so on but the truth was, I had serious wardrobe envy of singer Ruth Aicken and I wanted to hang out with the band.
Throughout their set pretty much the only things that came out of my mouth were along the lines of “omg this band is class, omg have you heard of this band before? I wonder where she got her trousers? Why have I not heard this before?” You get the drift… I liked them… A LOT. As a small Princess Elsa walked in front of me eating an ice cream a group of young girls, clearly avid fans, performed dance routines in front of me while singing every word of New Portals songs (I also wanted to be firm friends with these girls too). I was torn between wanting to Snapchat “Do It Right” to every single one of my contacts to make sure everybody knew about this band right now and not wanting to watch them from behind a phone screen.
Next thing I found myself sat once again at ‘All The Little Lights Stage’ with Bear Skin ahead of me. When lead vocalist Tyler Michael opened his voice I was pleasantly surprised. Bear Skin would be far from out of place at a larger stage. It may have been a ‘little’ stage they were on but they were certainly receiving a large response from the not so little crowd they had gathered. The highlight from these guys was definitely “Blame It On My Father”, it’s hard to compare this band to anyone else out there, which is always a good sign for me. In between songs I could hear Arborist starting out over at the other stage and torn between the two I took to a tyre in between both stages and let my ears drift in and out between the two acts.
By the time the fabulous Beulah Kim took to the stage the sun was coming out at last and the crowd was steadily growing. Throughout Beulah’s set she certainly demonstrated her ability to draw in a crowd with her personality which was just as enticing as her music. Especially the song about going to a wedding alone, I might not know the name of it but I liked it a lot so big ups Beulah for that one.
Not only were the many families, couples and friends there to enjoy the local music and food (and obviously beer) but to be a part of the Moira Calling experience was set to be an unforgettable day. The main Moira road lay so close with many families marching their way to McCartneys Butchers to get the weekend meat in and going about with their regular Saturday afternoons. Yet here we all were, in amidst of it all but at the same time, so far from it all. Which is a tough experience to capture but Moira Calling seemed to get it just right.
After hearing Michael Mormecha sound check the crowd began to abandon their tyres and bales of hay that they had become comfortable on and headed full force to ‘All The Little Lights Stage’. There may have been a difference in the size of the stages but certainly not the size of the acts. When I eventually took my eyes away from the stage I couldn’t help but notice one of the largest crowds gathered of the day.
What stuck out to me most about the day was the appreciation the others acts showed for each other. Taking up a place amongst the crowd once their set was over to listen in on the rest of the talent from the day showed the down to earth and chilled feel to the day. Not wanting to miss out on the day, Hudson Taylor brother Alfie, joined by Gabrielle Aplin enjoyed a break on a tyre amidst the festival. Any other festival would have had screaming fans diving head first towards the headlining acts and a load of lunatics crying for a selfie but thankfully there was none of that. This day was a day for musicians to appreciate the work of other musicians and for fans to experience class acts in such close proximity. The day still had that same festival feel – just minus the lunatics.
As the light started to fade the ice cream stall had nothing left to offer me for my ice cream sandwich but cookie crumbs – a sure sign of a good day, the photo van packed up to leave but the crowd steadily remained. As people drew their jackets closer around them, I perched myself on a bench which gave me full view of everything going on. Callum Stewart was sound checking behind me and I took a minute out from counting out the rest of my change to see what I had money left for and checking who was playing where and at what time. I took this time to get a good bit of people watching fit into my day and although many of the people there had work and school on Monday, it felt to me like one of those long summer nights with nothing to think of past those gates.
Once I saw the crowd swarming towards me I swung back round to face Callum Stewart. As the last of the light was being taken from the night I was able to get full appreciation for this stage. Twinkling with lights and covering the crowd from the outside the best words to describe it would be cosy and intimate. Callum was at pure ease upon the stage, which gave the impression that he was where he belonged and would remain for a very long time. Showcasing his song writing talents I wouldn’t describe Callum as ‘one to watch’ more so, one that was already being watched and would continue to be watched for years to come. Covering The Weeknd “Can’t Feel My Face” showed that not only can Callum do his own stuff he can do a cover that gives the original a fair run for its money. As the set began to end the crowd stormed towards the Maine Stage and not to be left behind, Callum Stewart joined the crowd for the much anticipated Hudson Taylor.
After 8 long hours it was time for the Dublin brothers to take to the stage. If there was anyone among the crowd close to needing a nap (and I expect that there might have been) Harry and Alfie fairly made sure of lifting the mood again anyway. There was honestly no part of the brothers set that I could point out as being the best part for me. I don’t know if it was from waiting all day for them, getting a sneaky peek at Alfie earlier in the day or just their sheer talent and unfaultable moods but they were by far the best artists I have seen in a long time.
Harry and Alfie both took time out to speak to the crowd and Harry explained to the crowd that they wrote about things that they knew about and subjects that were close to them. After explaining that “Holly” was written about their sister and proceeding to play it gave it a more intimate feel, knowing that the lyrics meant that bit more to the brothers.
As well as singing about their sister, Hudson Taylor touched upon another subject they feel strongly about, going on to sing “Don’t Tell Me”, written around the topic of the same sex marriage referendum. When Alfie revealed they had a special guest with them to invite up on stage it wasn’t hard to guess that it was Gabrielle Aplin and I certainly wasn’t complaining as the three of them went on to sing “Beautiful Mistake”. Inviting another guest up on stage Jack Morris joined for “I Don’t Know Why” I’m confident in saying any hints of half opened eyes filled with tiredness were well gone by this stage and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who would have had no problem staying to listen to every song Hudson Taylor had ever sang.
Like all good things, the day came to an end. Part of me wanted to take camp amidst the festival set up but a bigger part wanted to run home to my bed after a pretty long day spent in the park. With no money left in my pockets (a pretty costly day for students) and the cold well and truly setting in I bid farewell to Moira Calling. Never did I think Moira Park could be transformed into what I had seen that day but there it was and I had another successful day of good music and memories behind me.