Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

That summer festival feeling

Am I the only who thinks that it is suspiciously quiet on the festival front at the moment? Yes, I know, February has just begun and yer man from OTR is already previewing what awaits us in the fields this …

Mon, Feb 1, 2010, 11:03


Am I the only who thinks that it is suspiciously quiet on the festival front at the moment? Yes, I know, February has just begun and yer man from OTR is already previewing what awaits us in the fields this summer. But rewind a year or even two and there was already plenty of chatter at this stage about who and what was on the cards. Indeed, many of the big summer shows for 2009 such as Oasis (remember them?) or AC/DC or Take That were sold out before New Year’s Eve 2008. In 2010, we’ve got next to nada so far on the indie or alternative rock front. Well, bar Green Day at Marlay Park which seems to be doing OK numberwise, if our usually reliable sources are anything to go by.

Perhaps, though, this is further proof of the great re-alignment when it comes to summer shows. Remember 2009 was the year when the Big Two fests didn’t sell out months in advance as the recession hit home, punters went abroad in greater numbers for their festival kicks (as noted by PRs for numerous European music fests already on a sunnysideup charm offensive with Irish media), music fans demanded more value for money (and this didn’t mean gourmet pies with mushy peas and no homemade cider) and the O2 effect saw promoters hedging their bets on big productions.

In 2009, you also got a slight sense that that those festival vibes which have been all-conquering since 2002/03 have finally abated a little. Maybe, just maybe, the Irish gig-going community are over the big communal festivals. I know, we’re also supposed to be “over” blogging, but we all know when that death notice was published.

Last summer was also the year when those Big Two fests found themselves wrapped up in the same Venn diagram when Festival Republic, the company formerly known as Mean Fiddler and co-owned by MCD’s Denis Desmond and Live Nation, bought into the Electric Picnic. Despite an annus horribilis on other fronts, EP originators POD continued to book and program the event, but a slew of acts who would have made more sense playing at the Stradbally soiree ended up playing the Bebo-bop that is Oxegen. Given those ties which bind, acts like Fever Ray (who played to less than 300 people in the Charlie McCreevy Memorial Dance Lean-To at Punchestown) and The Specials, to name just two, would have been idea for the Picnic yet ended up leaving Co Kildare with large pay-cheques and a lingering smell of anticlimax. In the wake of last year’s Oxegen, we suggested that clearer, cleaner demarcation lines between the Big Two fests might be the way to go so it will be interesting to see how the two will tog out in ’10.

Of course, there will also be plenty of smaller fests having a go. One of the first new arrivals (though the press blurb will claim it has been around since St Patrick was into hard-house) is the Grouse Lodge studios-helmed Festival of the Fires, which is happening on a hill in Co Westmeath (as a by the by, Leviathan boss Naoise Nunn’s muses on that same hill in today’s paper). It sets out to be “a festival unlike any other, designed for both a national and international audience and created through the alchemy of ceremony, music, theatre, literature, poetry, holistic health, art, crafts and more”. Meanwhile, also in Co Westmeath, the Life festival is moving to Belvedere House, past lodgings for the aborted Midlands and Hi-Fi fests. You can also expect many of last summer’s fests to return for another bite of the cherry in ’10.

What will be really interesting to see, though, is who will feature on the bills for the Big Two. While there’s no shortage of acts who can fill the mid and lower levels, it’s the headliners who will really command all the interest especially given the apparent lack of big acts seemingly on the road this year. Much as I like the look of this line-up and that line-up, I can’t see either Oxegen adopting such a wide remit or EP being able to afford the fees.

So who can we expect to see on these shores in ’10? Well, Leftfield are back on the road so expect them to turn up for one. The Strokes are also touring because they need the cash to pay for stuff so you can add them to the list. It would be damn cool if EP booked Gil Scott-Heron and stuck him in the Body & Soul area (and pigs might fly). All other guesses – educated or otherwise – welcome.