Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Distillery rocks out to music that lifts the spirits

Of Monsters and Men lead singer Ragnar Þórhallsson
Of Monsters and Men lead singer Ragnar Þórhallsson

A day out on the Bushmills would normally be followed by headaches, DTs and a promise of never again – at least until the following weekend.

But Bushmills Live merges our official regional spirit with the spirit of rock and roll and offers a languorous, day-long celebration of good music and even the odd whiskey cocktail.

Heck, how debauched can it be? The unimpeachably keep-it-clean duo of Ian Paisley jnr and DJ Alan Simpson were carousing about together on what seemed to be apple juice and high spirits, such is the lack of debauch at this "handcrafted whiskey and music festival". Now in its second year – the premise is simple: bring a bunch of music lovers (ie journalists and competition winners) down to the distillery, and lay on an alluring spread of bands, beverages and pulled pork, all within the evocative walls of Bushmills, where spaces such as the cooperage and the still room are proper period buildings.

As for the music, Bangor's finest blue-eyed soul man/boy Foy Vance hit the cooperage early, sporting a vintage moustache, and played his engaging batch of head-bobbing soul soothers and blues stompers, that had every lanyard swinging in time in the building.

Over at the still room, with the eponymous brass still dominating the room like a beautiful prop from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the London trio Bears Den were a revelation, unseen in north Antrim since Ian jnr's dad divined the divine in these parts.

And so onto Of Monsters And Men. Their brand of epic Icelandic heartbreak filled the cooperage with enough nuanced melody to soundtrack an entire evening's advertising campaign on ITV.

Think Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire with that extra twist of far-Nordic quirk.

As they tore through the single Mountain Sound, which had the refrain "sleep until the sound goes down" as dusk actually fell, the rapt audience must have surely forgotten that they were far from home. But there was enough decent music and whiskey in the tank to get most people home in fine fettle.


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