Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Here come the summer festivals

The very tasty bill for the new Longitude festival at Dublin’s Marlay Park ensures it’s going to a hectic summer for Irish music festival fans – and promoters

Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 09:05


Last night’s Longitude launch has set the bar very high for this summer’s events. While we’ve had plenty of high-profile announcements already about who we’ll see in the country this summer – from The National and Grizzly Bear to Beach House and Bruce Springsteen – Longitude was the first festival to show its colours.

And what colours. When we initially broke the news about Longitude last December, we didn’t really expect a line-up like this, to be honest. This bill is the work of someone who knows what they’re doing because, from top to tail, the Longitude line-up is strong as festival bills come in 2013. You’ve your heavy hitters like Kraftwerk, Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Villagers and Vampire Weekend. You’ve the mid-level acts who’ll always help to pull a crowd like Modest Mouse, Foals, Hot Chip and Mark Lanegan. And you’ve a fairly ace selection of newbies like AlunaGeorge, Flume, Mikhael Paskalev, SOHN and the excellent Petite Noir, who were one of my highlights at last year’s Transmusicales festival.

More acts and attractions (we’re fascinated by what attractions will make it “more than just a music festival) will be added in due course but, for now, the MCD bookers have done extremely well. By the way, if they’re planning a comedy tent, they should call it Lolitude. Ticketwise (and the Marlay Park three-stage event’s capacity will be 9,500 per day, according to Ronan McGreevy, who seems to have been the only hack at the launch to forego Dinny’s hospitality long enough to ask that question), it’s €129.50 for a weekend early bird (€149.50 after April 7) or €44.50 for a day (€54.50 after April 7) plus Ticketmaster’s bespoke SoCoDu charges.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs say yes to Longitude

Longitude’s arrival into what was already a fairly crowded summer season does mean serious competition for other bookers and promoters ploughing the same field. While Harmonic were already up and running with their Iveagh Gardens’ line-up (and I’m sure The National, for one, were on MCD’s radar, but the shoddy treatment the band endured at Oxegen 2011 probably meant they were always going to look elsewhere), that line-up reminds you that Forbidden Fruit, the festival Longitude most closely resembles in style and scale, has yet to come to market. The original of the recent Irish urban-festival-in-a-field set is due to announce its initial line-up next week, so perhaps they have some very tasty acts that no-one has thought of booking. By the way, as of last week, My Bloody Valentine were still awaiting an offer for Irish shows. And, while we’re at it with news of acts, Blur will be playing a standalone Irish show, not an established festival, in 2013.

Add in the bills of fare to come from such popular homegrown festivals as Castlepalooza, Sea Sessions, Indiependence, Body & Soul and Westport (which also went to bat last night announcing Elvis Costello, Imelda May, ABC, Damien Dempsey, Blind Boys Of Alabama, LAPD, The Stunning, Ryan Sheridan and many more for the Co Mayo event on June 29 and 30) plus the soon-come Oxegen announcement (dance and hip-hop FTW for sure with all the “hipper” acts sent to Marlay Park) and the mooted shows for the Phoenix Park and you’ve a busy summer season ahead. Those promoters will be jostling for everything in the coming months: headliners, mid-bill acts, new bands, punters, ticket sales, media attention and even PAs, if some of the festivals occur on the same weekend. Are there enough ticket sales to go around? Who will get squeezed out? Who will win? Do those festivals which have been around for a few years have enough to withstand slippage to new entrants like Longitude? Jaysus, are there even enough PAs in the country?

Of course, there will not be a crossover in audience between all of these festivals (those heading to Westport are unlikely to be Body & Soul or Longitude targets), but many festivals will be looking to sell tickets to the same constituency. Given the ongoing recession and cutbacks in disposable income, there will be very few fans who can afford to go to all the events they want to see this summer. This will mean decisions and those decisions will be taken on the basis of price, vibe (camping vs non-camping, for instance) and what the rest of their social network are doing that weekend. Those decisions will dictate which festivals and promoters turn out to be the winners – and losers – this summer.

The one event not mentioned above is, of course, the Electric Picnic. They are due to announce their line-up in March so that means anytime from tomorrow until Easter. There have been a lot of on-off rumours about the Stradbally event in the last few months, something that even promoter Melvin Benn’s assertion to this reporter in January, that the event will go ahead as usual, has done nothing to stop. Word is that there is a MCD-housed booker at work on the line-up for the festival’s tenth run and that it will go ahead. But given that the Picnic didn’t embark on an early bird ticket drive this year – something which always works as excellent word-of-mouth promotion for the festival – how the festival has struggled to attract big numbers in recent years, the huge losses incurred and the various bouts of ownership arm-wrestling which have been going on, it may well be a tough year for this chequered event.