All pictures by Brid O’Donovan (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram)

Emmet Condon, organiser of Another Love Story, which took place last weekend at Killyon Manor, Co Meath, was telling me recently that the done thing with a ‘successful’ festival is to expand things, to grow bigger the following year. But ALS isn’t like other festivals. He said on the TPOE podcast: “I think our intention has always been to keep this selective in size and not to grow it beyond – I think when you go beyond a certain size you lose a certain amount of specialness and the whole idea of this all along has been to create that thing that didn’t do that. Very much our idea is to keep the scale of it while keeping the quality of it really high.”

ALS is small – about 400-500 punters plus the various bands and performers and others who inevitably want to stick around for the weekend. It’s intimate in the extreme. It also takes place in a legit manor house – the main stage is the ballroom, the second stage is the front room, which holds at most 50 people, and then talks and some other goings-on take place in the library, curated by Young Hearts Run Free. There’s a Cosmic Canopy for DJs and Sing Along Socials, a couple of other tents, a run-down outhouse in the forest. It’s special. And there’s hardly any advertising (*cough* Hendricks Gin *cough*). I was talking to someone over the weekend who’s going to Electric Picnic in ten days and is almost wary of it now – it’s going to be a shock to the system. But if S Club 7 and 5ive at Electric Ireland’s Throwback Stage are what you’re into… Also anything that hasn’t got Live Nation’s fingers all over it yet can only be a good thing. And as Jim Carroll put it: “It turns out that there is another – and better – way to put on festivals than the shite we’ve become sadly used to.” (Emmet had good things to say about Electric Picnic, though: “I think Electric Picnic is all things to all men and I think it does it really really well in the last couple years.”)

As for the music, Another Love Story feels like a festival that rewards people who have been paying attention to the careers of various Irish performers. Mergie Lewis is hardly a well-known artist, yet there was a palpable air of anticipation for the packed front room at midnight on Saturday – she rarely plays a show, she eschews the obvious and it feels like a special moment. Emmet Condon is Homebeat, who have been putting on shows in mostly non-traditional venues since about 2011, featuring a host of up-and-coming Irish acts and friends – they’re putting out music by Carriages and Let’s Set Sail on the formative Homebeat record label over the coming months, and those two bands were the first to kick off ALS on Friday night. The crowd is appreciative – they’ve probably seen Carriages a couple of times over the years, and sets at ALS mostly feel like a triumph. Ships on Saturday night was my personal highlight. I haven’t seen Sorcha and Simon live before, something that only dawned on me as the first notes hit. But the ballroom was packed, fun was had both onstage and off, and the songs sounded huge. Also Simon might be the funkiest bassist in the country – popping and locking those shoulders! (Special mention for Bantum – it was great to see his AV set play out to such a good crowd too. All the tracks from Move just sounds so flipping great.)

Emmet also talked on the podcast about how important programming and flow is to a festival, something which is lost at some other festivals, especially when it comes to Irish music, where it feels shunted onto the bill late in the planning process. Katie Kim kicks things off at 1.30pm on Saturday, easing a lot of hungover people into the day. Tomorrows, plying a sunny Real Estate vibe, pick things up a little before the Replacements tribute band Seen Your Video (four-fifths of the original Villagers lineup plus Peter Toomey from the Immediate; I popped for Conor O’Brien and another member of the Immediate being onstage again, I won’t lie) turned up the fuzz, Conor in particular seeming to revel in electric guitar solos. On Sunday it’s something similar – This Is How We Fly easing people into the day, JFDR providing a powerful atmosphere (her songs are quietly unassuming, building up for four minutes before they truly reveal themselves and you get it), and David Kitt and (his only) friends, Margie Lewis and Richie Egan, capping off a triumphant party. (I haven’t stopped singing ‘Me and My Love’ since.)

In the programme for ALS, the team states: “This story, like all great love stories, was born from a series of seemingly chance encounters – a set of apparently inconsequential twists in the road which has led us here together with the silently inevitability of the tides. This is the thing about true love, it is as unavoidable as day or night. It doesn’t so much happen as impose its will upon you – suddenly before you know it, it is impossible to imagine life before or after it. ALS is the thought we now spend our year turning over in our heads like the memory of a lost lover’s laugh, we are so thankful of your support which makes this all possible, and we are so delighted to welcome old friends back, and new friends here for the first time.”

I was one of those at ALS for the first time and had a glorious time – I haven’t even mentioned Gilbert Steele killing it until 4am Saturday night, or Siobhan Kane and the YHRF talks, or Richie Egan picking the Ponyo theme tune to open up the Loose Joints podcast recording on Sunday, or Davey Kehoe being my discovery of the weekend, playing krautrock in the woods, or Oose being, well, Oose. Another Love Story was amazing. It’s the only Irish festival of the summer for me – and it’s everything I could’ve asked for and more.

“You, you got what I need, don’t say this is the end, don’t say this is the end…”

Carriages

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Let’s Set Sail
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Overhead, The Albatross
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Bantum

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Wastefellow

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Katie Kim

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Dowry

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Tomorrows

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Hilary Woods
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Seen Your Video

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Into the woods For Conor, feat. Wry Myrrh and Davy Kehoe
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Ships

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Oose

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I am the Cosmos

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Margie Lewis

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Saint Caoilian

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This Is How We Fly

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Saint Sister (surprise set in the Cosmic Canopy)
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JFDR

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David Kitt and (his only) friends, Margie Lewis and Richie Egan, feat. balloons

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Young Hearts Run Free talks, with Aisling O’Riordan, Bob Gallagher and Daniel Fox, Loose Joints

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Sing Along Social

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Cian O Caoibhain

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Various other pics from the weekend

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