Festival Fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMdoesn’t have a bull’s notion

WHAT DO YOU think of when you hear the word festival? Once upon a time, like most people, I would have imagined something to do with al fresco frolicking to a much-hyped musical ensemble, made more palatable by the administration of over-priced and under-cooled frothy anaesthetic from a squidgy cup (plastic glasses? I’m no physicist but surely we need to find a better name for those things). It soon became obvious when planning my quest that the festival calendar of Ireland is about as predictable and straightforward as Lady Gaga’s taste in frocks. You can expect the essentials to be just about covered, but there’s plenty of room for expression in between. My festivaling this week was as erratic as a Jedwardian train of thought after a three-day red lemonade binge.


The Camden Crawl brought the hoopla of field festivals to the streets of Das Kapital. The same crew responsible for The Crawl in London cottoned on to the fact that the sister street in Dublin also had a somewhat similar vibe. If you look at the bill for any of the upcoming festivals, there are usually a few well-established names on there that have been around for donkeys, safe bets as bankers. Not so with this gig. Tieranniesaur and Le Galaxie were up there with Duke Special. ASIWYFA and Fionn Regan (below) getting a bulb or two more on their mirror than Gaz Coombes. I wasn’t blown away by Gaz’s gig, but I can tell you that his drummer has Incredible Hulk underpants. Katie Kim and Fionn Regan did impress. Both gigs managed to evoke a stillness and really engage the audience. Lots of bands can play quite loud, but it takes something special to be allowed to play quiet.


It was the sonic assault of And So I Watch You From Afar that took the Boland’s biscuit for me. After a shaky year, the Belfast boys are back with a bang and a half. They tore the Button Factory apart. There’s a vibrancy and twist to the tunes these lads lash out that would have a monk moshin’. Whoever is responsible for their light show was in their element too. Explosive.

I stood in Whelans watching Funeral Suits and the guy besid me asked: “Do you think they’re taking the whole Shoreditch thing a bit too far?”

“You could be right there,” says I. I didn’t have a bull’s notion what he was on about. I’ve looked it up since. The lads fit the description alright. Wife-beater vests, impeccably messed hair and jeans so skinny they’re almost subcutaneous. They are worth a look though and possibly even a listen.


Fast forward from this den of distingue to Sunday, at the Country Fair in Dunderry Co Meath. I stood grasping a paper plate of heaped colcannon, topped with a fried egg, talking to a young fella in wellies and a lumi-coat, who wanted to sell me a goat. As the band played “I’m going home to Nobber” (I hope it was consensual), I couldn’t help but feel this was a whole different but still wholly enjoyable side to our fair isle.

I’m blessed that I get to enjoy the many facets of Ireland as I bounce around the place. I don’t think that one is necessarily better than another, but fashion, be it in music, clothes, food or fame feeds on change. It would seem that the good people of Dunderry feed on daycent colcannon and probably have done for quite a while.

To quote the childhood refrain — Beidh aonach amárach i gContae an Chláir. Festivals include Dylan Thomas in Enistymon, Slow Food in the Burren and over on Inis Oírr, a very interesting looking free festival of visual art and sound called Drop Everything. A much-needed break from the rock’n’roll. I’m fading.

Safe travels, don’t die.