Honouring the wellied wet warriors of Castlepalooza

After years of being torn between two hooleys, Mark Graham stumps for Castlepalooza over Indiependence

Exotic wildlife at Castlepalooza

Exotic wildlife at Castlepalooza


Waking up with one of your finger-nails painted blue, a rainbow running through your beard, green glitter all over your mud-encrusted boots, in the back of a van that resembles Francis Bacon’s studio and smells like a smouldering beer-sock cigar, with a head on you like Eamon Dunphy after Bill O’Herlihy’s retirement do, could be indicative of many things. I’ve decided to look on it positively.

Two days of incessant rain at Castlepalooza broke the spirits of a small section of the festival faithful. A parade of backsliders could be seen dragging soaked sleeping bags up the long muddy lane, socks squelching and jocks damply clinging, as they gave up the ghost, heading for home on Saturday and Sunday morning.

For those who stuck with it, the wellied warriors who refused to be browbeaten by the báistí, a glimpse of sunshine on Sunday was the spark needed to light the fuse on a barrel of explosive festival fun. The “three-for-two” offer on buckets of cocktails added fuel to the fire.

A rain-soaked festival offers the perfect chance to assess the capacity of the temporary community and its curators to endure and overcome. Two years ago, Indiependence had its biblical mud-bath to contend with, and as a result the Beer Hall stage was born and has become one of the most popular areas of the festival. The 1980s vs 1990s disco that continues into the small hours in the beer barn is a highlight for many of the Mitchelstown mob.

Castlepalooza has a large tented stage, but on Friday and Saturday night it was cleared shortly after the last band had been “one-more- chooned”, and the only other sheltered spaces were too small to deal with the wellied wanderers still hungry for divilment.

A homely buzz For three years I’ve been torn, splitting the August bank holiday weekend between Indiependence and Castlepalooza. Both appeal on different levels, but this year I opted to stick with Castlepalooza, unsure if I’d made the right choice.

Indiependence has a more impressive line-up and is better kitted-out, but the atmosphere feels a little like a nightclub in a field (not necessarily a bad thing). Castlepalooza lacks any real headliner, but the crowd are super friendly and the compact site feels homely; it’s more about the buzz than the bands.

There were complaints from both gigs this year that organisers charged for car parking – €10 at Indiependence and €15 at Castlepalooza. Surely this should be covered by the ticket price? It was disappointing to see prices of beer creeping up in Tullamore; their token system used to be much better value. You weren’t allowed bring your own booze on site, but security staff were decent and it wasn’t a strip-search scenario, so some smuggling was possible.

Beer craftiness gave birth to one of my favourite quotes of the weekend : “I’m going up to the car on a beer run; d’you want anything? I have cider, lager and Buckfast.” To which the reply was: “Yeah. I’ll have a pint of that.”

After an epic Sunday’s festivaling – it started with Philipa banging on the side of Wanderly Wagon, brandishing a bottle of champagne shouting “the recession is over bitches, the dickheads are back”, followed by a day greased with buckets of cocktails and contraband Scrumpy, and a perfect soundtrack provided by the aptly named Meltybrains? (a musical highlight of the festival) and topped off with some mud encrusted grime from Elijah and Skilliam – it’s perfectly clear which festival is best.

Wherever you can find a like-minded crew with whom you can ruck’n’roll, lustily laugh, share dry socks and stories, glitter your boots, rainbow your beard, and tear it up, that’s definitely the one you should be hitting. Choose carefully and enjoy thoroughly – this festival season’s hourglass is bottom-heavy.

Safe travels, don’t die.


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