Metropolis Festival 2016

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  • With no guarantee of decent weather in Ireland and the summer festival format growing tired and oversized, Metropolis is a welcome change from the status quo. Now in its second year, the indoor winter event has already established itself as a staple on the Irish scene. It offers a well-considered lineup that's as tasteful and diverse as it is accessible, housed within RDS, an exhibition centre that's almost 300 years old, in Dublin's leafy embassy suburb. There were five stages onsite, intertwined with artistic installations and a programme of talks. Following Thursday's pared-down opening, which saw Mount Kimbie debut two new songs and DJ Shadow headline with an incredible visual show, the festival proper kicked off on Friday afternoon. Serpentine Hall's intimate stage hosted a winning performance from grime MC Novelist, while in the huge main hall, Moderat's excellent live set drew one of the biggest crowds of the festival. On Saturday, Floating Points delivered a stellar mix of funk, jazz, house and techno over the course of three hours. Grace Jones, who closed the main hall, performing her third gig in Ireland in six weeks, absolutely stole the show. The 68-year-old displayed an unparalleled energy from start to finish, changing her outfit between each song and hula-hooping her way through the final tunes. No festival lineup is without minor hiccups, though the crowd didn't seem too disappointed when it was announced that Klangkarussell had cancelled at the last minute. Fatima Yamaha got pushed back as a result, though it barely mattered—his set was still easily one of the highlights of the weekend. One complaint after the first edition of Metropolis was that the rooms were often over-subscribed during the more popular acts. The organisers had solved the issue by staggering the set times, though it meant that it was difficult to enjoy a full show before having to move on to another.
    RBMA's Conversations stage, set up in an old library, offered a welcome break from the music, featuring talks from the likes of Shaun Roberts on the closure of fabric, career discussions with Jessy Lanza and Paul Kalkbrenner, and a performance from slam poet Saul Williams. The installations, on the other hand, weren't quite so satisfying. The courtyard's centrepiece, dubbed "the world's largest disco ball," sat motionless like a giant paperweight, while Andy Warhol Silver Clouds, an exhibit that looked interesting on paper, was closed by Saturday after punters had apparently burst all of the balloons. The thing that stood out from many of the performances was the relationship between the artists and their crowd. Both Grace Jones and The Sugarhill Gang were praiseworthy and thankful for the reception and warmth they received, and rightly so: the crowds danced, cheered and sang along like there was no tomorrow, contributing to an energy and atmosphere that, at times, was spine-tingling. These days, for a festival to rise above the rest, it needs to have more than just a great lineup. Proper organisation and a venue that's dynamic and visually enriching feeds into the mood of the crowd, which then translates back to the artists and their performances. Already, Metropolis has this almost down to a tee. Photo credit / Eoghan Barry