It’s always survival of the fittest on the festival trail

Light Colour Sound, Groove and Daytripper - tripping through another trilogy

Wallis Bird: flying high at Light Colour Sound

Wallis Bird: flying high at Light Colour Sound

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 16:30

As we made our way down the M50 towards Groove Festival in Bray, our bass player urgently requested the car be pulled over. He then proceeded to decorate the side of the motorway with a day-glo orange mix of Berocca and that mornings’ flash fried sausages. Sympathy was in short supply as the rest of us endeavoured to keep the sniggering silent, averting our eyes and ears lest we should end up joining him; we were all a little delicate.

Eventually the pretence was abandoned, abuse was dealt out and we broke down with laughter, tears running down our faces. Served him right for the heinous gaseous exchange he’d subjected us to earlier in the trip. Life on the road is far from glamorous.

One of the triggers for the obsessive festival adventures that have peppered these pages is that I sometimes find myself at festivals playing drums and trombone worrying with fellow ne’er-do-wells in King Kong Company. Gigging can distract from the feckless abandon, but it can throw up, so to speak, some interesting insights. This weekend we did three on the trot, an undertaking that will always require energy drinks, protein and roadside relief.

The line-up for the inaugural Light Colour Sound Festival in Paulstown, Co Kilkenny was impressive, with 90 bands tee’d up for the two day event. Scroobius Pip and Dan Le Sac, the headlining act, cancelled their gig, blaming communication difficulties on the side of the festival. Some last minute changes to curfew times by local authorities and internal organisational wrangling meant folks behind the scenes were somewhat fraught, doing their best to pull everything together, to get the festival over the line.

There couldn’t have been more than 1,000 people at the gathering, a number lost on the ambitiously spacious four stage site. A storming set from Wallis Bird was a stand out moment. The audience basked in Wallis’s irresistible energy. A healthy slice of the crowd were other bands who’d played over the weekend, everyone lapping up a pulsating performance from this funky and frenetic chica. Wallis wocks! Smooth running Groove Festival in Co Wicklow was a different planet. The stately manor with manicured lawns and sumptuous surroundings is as much a star of the show as any act on the bill. It’s a nice place to be even when nothing is happening. The atmosphere was much more relaxed than that in Kilkenny, the event running smoother than a sock strained Petits Filous, an impressive feat for a festival only in its second year.

The people involved with festivals will tell you that three is the magic number when it comes to finding your rhythm. Very few events manage to break even during their first couple of years, but if they cross the three-year marker, learning as they go, the chances of covering their asses and assets, establishing themselves as a feature on the festival calendar increases. Groove feels like it will get there.

Daytripper in Waterford had a tough 2013 debut, finding itself about €20,000 short of covering costs. Ciarán and Mick, who organise the festival, smiled as they told me they’d “Got over the line” this year. Groove and Daytripper have established an interesting relationship where they share acts on alternating nights, reducing their catchment, but sharing expenses. It seems to be working for them.

Paloma Faith headlined Waterford on Sunday night, providing an interesting mix of Elle Macpherson, Tina Turner and Jimmy Carr. She dedicated a song to the line-up of latchikos outside the venue, dancing atop the wall beside John’s River.

Paloma told us that seeing head-the-balls enjoying the gig for free appealed to her socialist leanings. Like many people I’d met at the festivals last weekend, the buachaillí ar an mballa may not have been political theorists, but they were certainly socially active.

Safe travels, don’t die.

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