Metropolis is Dublin’s premier indoor music festival. An indoor festival is good business in Dublin in November, this being the time that you begin to see your breath hanging in front of your face and the idea of being outside for extended period of time is almost as painful as actually doing it. It is also the time of year people tend to gravitate more toward staying in and saving for Christmas, so a big indoor multi-staged festival is just the thing they need before hibernation. I brought my girlfriend along with me. We had both been to Metropolis the previous year, the first year, and while we both noticed some obvious teething issues, we saw the potential for it to be a great festival and like the organiser’s POD and Hidden Agenda, we were right.
A growing and welcome theme for a lot of festivals these days is to focus on art and culture as well as music. Metropolis has this nailed down, the Concert Hall is devoted to talks and offbeat performances i.e. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip doing a Prince Tribute, and there are a few installations, the biggest and most obvious one is the giant three-story high disco ball, this is the focal point of the whole festival and greets you on your arrival. The legend behind the ball goes that Nile Rodgers from Chic asked Bestival to build it for him when they wanted him to play. We arrived at the party a bit late. Having only managed to secure tickets a couple of days before, there were a few prior commitments I had to take care of. This meant I missed (or at least thought I missed) Fatima Yamaha.
We made our way to the Shelbourne Hall, this is the first of the four main halls that make up Metropolis that you come to on arrival. This suited us fine as Crystal Castles were already playing there, or so we thought. When we walked into the room all ready to dance our socks off we found an almost completely empty space, save for a crowd waiting at the bar and another very much so larger crowd waiting to use the toilet. An announcement soon told us that Crystal Castles had been delayed for twenty minutes. Another announcement followed which pleased me. This was to confirm that Klangkarussell had to pull out at short notice and because of this Fatima Yamaha had been bumped up the list to perform after Crystal Castles.
My elation at this news was further helped by the fact I now had time to get a beer, go to the toilet, have a smoke and still manage to get a good spot in front of the stage. My priority at this time was to get a beer. Metropolis then dropped another nugget of brilliance and my feet, the lager on offer was not the long-held standard of these type of events – Heineken or a similar derivative – it was from a local brewery, Dublin’s Five Lamps. After we got our affairs in order it was time to hear some music, Crystal Castles came on and got stuck right in. No sooner had they started when the strobe lights came out. This is not a show you would want to see if you have epilepsy, ear trouble, are faint hearted or have any sort of health problems because it knocks you off your feet.
To be honest I wasn’t expecting much but I was totally surprised. Alice Glass looked like she was channelling her inner Keith Flint but with a certain air of elegance, she belted on her lyrics and danced like crazy throughout the whole show, only stopping to join Ethan Kath on the tables or to pour water over herself and the crowd. The pace was electric as they drove through songs like ‘Concrete’, ‘Frail’ and ‘Baptism’ with the whole show culminating in Glass singing while cradling a strobe light, I don’t even remember seeing her pick it up but there she was shining it almost directly in my face. The performance was so energetic and fantastic that a couple of Dublin-based publications called it the highlight of the weekend, an honourable accolade considering they were performing at the same festival as Grace Jones, Moderat, and Groove Armada among others. Next up was Fatima Yamaha. He was due to play in the same hall but there was a gap in between that allowed us to go get another drink and check out the industries hall. This is a high-ceilinged room with a seating area and an Absolut Cocktail bar. The cocktail bar comes complete with disco ball headed people mingling amongst the crowd. Beside the seating area was a giant flower laden gauntlet that lead you down to a dance floor that was attended by a host of Irish DJ collectives; Bodytonic, Abstract, District 8 and Hidden Agenda amongst others.
After checking all this out and having a short bop we headed back to the Shelbourne hall, just as Fatima Yamaha was warming up. We were surprised to find the room was kind of empty. I guess this could owe to one or two reasons, the first was that he was clashing with the huge draw of Paul Kalkbrenner – I had gone through a Kalkbrenner stage years ago, that I am over – the second is that if you were unfamiliar enough with Fatima Yamaha to tie his name in with the nearly ubiquitous ‘What’s a Girl to Do?’, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a show you could miss. He looks unassuming enough, glasses and cropped hair, standing alone in front of his synth. His set started off slow enough too, dreamy synths with not too much kick. Then suddenly he drops that bass in and it is like someone dropped you between the above ground and underground levels of Mario. These snappy bass hooks that tickle your spine and run up to your ear and whisper ‘Dance’.
And dance is what you do, it is like your body has no other response. It is what I spent the next half an hour unconsciously doing. The next time I looked back the crowd had swelled to gigantic levels as if they had been drawn in finally by that enthralling bass. Fatima is an endearing stage presence, smiling all the way at one point he almost missed a note on his synth because he had been busy bouncing up and down. The stage itself was a sight to behold, a multi-coloured setting sun that modulated along with the music, I hadn’t noticed it earlier as it had been obscured by Crystal Castle’s strobes. The next act was difficult choice. There were three very decent acts all clashing with each other. Grace Jones, Booka Shade and a Floating Points DJ set. I have seen Booka Shade more than once in different capacities throughout my clubbing days and after weighing up Floating Points with Grace Jones there really seemed to be only one winner.
And while I felt kind of guilty going to see Grace Jones on assignment for an Electronic Music magazine I was able to logic it out like this: Grace Jones encapsulates everything that is right and true about dance music, self-expression and approval, joie de vivre, and an alternative edge. It was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting shows I have ever seen. A sixty-eight-year-old women wearing little more than a corset and body paint; yes, even at her age everything still points in the right direction, hula hooping for an entire song while singing her heart out. I definitely don’t regret seeing that. My only regret for the whole weekend is that I missed Moderat on Friday, watching some of the videos, it looked incredible. Honestly, can’t wait for next year.