The last weekend of July brought the ever-popular return of Sunflowerfest to its home at Tubby’s Farm. The festival has become renowned for its showcasing of local talent alongside world class acts. Mix that with face painting, a Heverlee tent and a Boojum van you’ve got a damn good weekend. We saw a huge variety of talent across different stages ranging from reggae and funk to heavy metal and silent discos. It doesn’t matter what music you’re into, Sunflowerfest had it covered.
Is a mixture of blues and psychedelic funk your thing? Then Electric Octopus in The Barn would have been one act to catch. The Jimi Hendrix-esque guitaring, funky bass and jazz-like drumming had the crowd erupting in the intimate venue. The lads opted out of vocals on their tracks which only emphasises their incredible talent as musicians. Their style of music mixed with the bohemian artwork on the surrounding walls perfectly juxtaposed one another. Electric Octopus were the perfect band to set off the evening in one of Sunflowerfest’s most enviable stages.
Just a few steps away from The Barn, one of the headliners kicking off the evening on the Main Stage was South London duo Too many T’s. These guys have been referred to as the British version of The Beastie Boys. I could not agree with this comparison more as their amalgamation of 80’s rap with modern day hip hop gives them an undeniable edge over many other acts that attempt a similar genre. Their energy rubbed off on the crowd instantaneously as everyone was flailing about to their heavy bass lines and 80’s synth. Not only was their set completely flawless musically, the crowd interaction throughout was met with such incredible ease and suaveness it was incredibly tough to not like these two. The fact they were having genuine fun on stage with everyone allowed us all to enjoy not only their music, but their presence on stage as a whole.
Next to grace the Main Stage was Derry’s very own Ryan Vail. Ryan boasts collaborations with local artists such as Ciaran Lavery and Jealous of the Birds and brought his unique take on electronic/house music. He ingeniously interweaves classical piano with electronic sounds and soft vocals. Not only was his set brilliant at getting the crowd going, it was a near mesmerising experience. It was borderline astonishing how Ryan could convey so much emotion through so few lyrics and the synth sounds. The dynamical change between the previous Too Many T’s and Ryan Vail was very noticeable but was in no way a negative trait of the set. The opposition of two completely different acts on the one stage beautifully demonstrated the musical diversity of Sunflowerfest.
The final band to take to the Main Stage on day one was the Nottingham based Crazy P. Their sound was very much electro pop with 80’s vibes seeping out of it. Showcasing tracks from their multitude of albums, the entire stage had erupted into this huge energy from as soon as the set began. It is almost sad that these guys are not more well-known. Their career spans 20 years and on day one they really showed everyone their experience in this industry. Danielle Moore swapped and changed between singing throughout or dancing across the stage as though she was in an empty flat with the music blasting out of the TV. She, alone, allowed everyone in that crowd to copy her and dance like nobody was watching. Towards the end of their setlist you could physically see the bars emptying as everyone was making their way towards the stage to experience the electronic dance and soul that was being thrust upon us.
Act of the day
Out of the multitude of bands and acts that I saw throughout day one I have to say the one that sticks in my head the most was R51 in The Barn. These guys have, over the past few years, exploded onto the Northern Irish music scene (and now the Russian scene). They suavely entered the stage from the side as everyone in the room erupted into cheers. It was the perfect spot for the guys as it was both intimate and incredibly bohemian.
The eager onlookers varied between diehard fans, children that were excited to see some live music and people that just wandered in after hearing those immense vocals. Their setlist varied between older and newer songs and even included the latest single “Heavy Friends”. It was noticeable that as soon as the guys started to play the liveliness in the room near enough tripled. Their confidence whilst the performance visually rubs off on the crowd as everyone is there to simply enjoy themselves.
From start to finish, R51 played with incredible professionalism and stamina (and also confetti and fluorescent hair, which is always a bonus). After speaking to the guy’s, it was apparent they enjoyed their set just as much as we did. They stated “It was one of our favourite shows to date. Sunflower have always been really supportive of us in previous years and for them to have given us a headline slot like this was a huge honour. We want to thank everyone who bounced, partied, and invaded the stage with us!”
All in all, day one was a huge success! We had soulful funk, Beastie Boys realness, a variety of dance/synth and pop rock to finish it all off. Day two had a lot to live up to.
Click on the photo below to view more images by Chris McGuigan: