Keeping resolutions and breaking bands on the festival trail

Young Scientists have the technology to positively charge Mark Graham’s failing batteries

Paul Clarke - vicious cyclical graph theory

Paul Clarke - vicious cyclical graph theory


Tread softly – the place is so littered with shattered New Year’s resolutions, you could easily pick up a nasty dose of hoof gash. Outer ring roads throughout the country are paved with good intentions being pounded into the surface by a phalanx of huffers and puffers in luminous vests and shiny new runners.

In a strange turn of events, my sweaty red head can be seen bobbing amongst them. I’m as alien to the situation as Axl Rose chairing a Macra meeting, but festival fitness requires some degree of actual fitness. This year’s sessions are building towards a week in Black Rock Desert, Nevada at Burning Man; I’ll end up like one of the Dead Zoo’s bog bodies if some hard miles aren’t put in between this and then.

Only two weeks in and some of my own New Year resolve is crunching under foot, but it couldn’t be helped. Just like St Patrick’s Day was an oasis of chocolate, Fanta and crisps in the middle of a barren Lent in the days when God was still scary, there are certain situations where self-enforced abstinence must be abandoned.

Technically I’m off the drink until mid-February, but when faced with free beer, all bets are off! Festival Rule #17 states: Under no circumstances should you ever refuse a free pint. It would be rude and wasteful; remember the poor thirsty Bedouin children.

It was with the parched páistí in mind that I pulled hard on a free entry pint, like a dehydrated sucky calf on a udder, after stepping in-
side the door at the Ones To Watch Festival in Dublin’s Whelan’s. The plan was to immerse myself in a sound bath of distorted guitars and sawtoothing synths provided by the breaking bands who were performing on three stages over four days. I was in need of a shot of enthusiastic, unadulterated, overdriven, fuzz-
boxed energy and this seemed like the perfect place to get it.

There was always going to be a few long-necked, reverse-knee’d hip stretches here, more concerned with pouting and preening their plumage than thumping it out. A smattering of angsty twangers and beard-stroke provokers were to be expected as well, but the sham shape throwers and faux flangers make the real deal cut through a bit sharper and deeper.

The line-up for Ones To Watch made about as much sense to me as Paul Clarke’s wining project at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. But after consulting the social media channels, I had a pocketful of recommendations to help me navigate the maze of musos. It was one of those steers that pointed towards the tonic I was after. Four-piece Race the Flux combine the complex raucousness of And So I Watch You from Afar with the musical playfulness of Vampire Weekend, blissfully blowin’ the bulbs off smirking punters. They make an impressive sound. The Galway lads’ unassuming stage presence is the perfect foil to the assured sonic assault they’re capable of unleashing. They are truly Ones To Watch.

Just to make sure the batteries had received a full positive charge, I ducked down to the RDS for the annual hotbed of hopefulness that is the BT Young Scientists. Projects that provided designs for optical illusion-generating Irish dancing costumes; investigations into Facebook’s promotion of narcissism; and smartphones killing the buzz at gigs were within my grasp, but Paul’s winning “Contributions to Cyclic Graph Theory” impressed, confused and scared me. “Am I Thick or Just Disinterested”, a project from Avondale Community College in Wicklow, spoke to me. Turns out I’m a healthy mix of both.

The enthusiasm and energy of the Young Scientists boosted my commitment and strengthened my resolve. God knows both will be badly needed. Shannonside Winter Music Festival in this weekend’s destination, and they do a serious session in Co Clare.

Safe travels, don’t die.

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