Festival fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMsuffers for the cause

FOR MORE than 11 months I’ve been buzzin’ around to some of the most savage sessions Ireland has to offer. Many of the gatherings that I’ve found myself at required some extreme socialising in order to experience them fully. You can’t really go to the likes of the Matchmaking in Lisdoon, a Trad Festival in Ballydehob or Tedfest on Inis Mór without firing yourself fully into the madness. I’ve suffered for my lark. Super Size Me is only in the ha’penny place next to this caper. It’s no shocker that I eventually ended up in an ambulance, just surprising that it was as a result of trying to be healthy.


After finishing a swim in somewhat stormy waters last Friday, a large wave decided I needed another dip and swept me off the platform, down onto some railings and steps, across the rocks and back into the tide. The second swim wasn’t as enjoyable. Two black eyes, a busted nose, a nobbled knee, fecked foot and bruised ego. The finish line of my quest is in sight, hopefully I’ll manage to limp over it.


Resembling a foxy and purple raccoon with a sore shrón and gout, I swung off on the crutches to the National Hen Racing Championships in Kill Co Waterford. The competitors were in much better shape than I was, and there were a few young birds lining out that had probably been laid more recently too. There were hens of every shape, size and colour. Pitch-black birds that laid perfect white eggs, sandy scrawny scratchers, brown bulky brawlers and golden-winged sprinters. Owners and trainers were taking things somewhat seriously. Team Hennessy spent months finding the right whistle and call to make their two entrants (Thelma and Louise) sprint for the line. Willy Mongey told me that his hens had been taking tips from the Jamaican track team.

As they gathered for the first race, the tension mounted. The hens were held on the starting line by their owners and the trainers gathered at the finish with their lips pursed and hands cupped around their mouths. The referee called “On your mark. Set. GO!” The primed, feathered athletes were released and they didn’t budge. It seems that one of the most difficult parts of training a champion racing hen is getting the bloomin’ thing to move from point A to point B. The hens were coaxed and cajoled, but they just ambled about the track nonchalantly scratching and pecking at the ground. One hen made towards the finish line, put a claw on it and the crowd erupted, only for the bird to turn around and strut back towards the start. The antics of the bird-brained competitors added to the general hilarity of the whole affair. This was a fun way to spend an afternoon, especially if you fancied a flutter.


I caught Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian Wedding Band at Kilkenny Arts Festival earlier in the week. It sounded at times like Frank Zappa was doing a guest slot with Weather Report and someone had been messing around with the regional settings on my ears, configuring them for somewhere east of the Adriatic. This was some tasty Shopska. Much later, I passed Abrakebabra on what was Leaving Cert results night. Imagine Beirut had the conflict there been between scantlily clad teens and aspiring minor hurlers. You’re there.


Hopped up on painkillers and held together with gaffer tape and cable ties, I crossed the border into Wexico last Sunday night to play at New Ross Summer Festival. I may have discovered the perfect mix of self-medication and bandaging to get me over the finish line. Being asked if we played any Rihanna by a pretty young girl at the front of the stage didn’t do anything for the bruised ego though.

Safe travels, don’t die.


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