Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Irish festivals 2013 round-up: from the fields to the courtrooms

The state of play with festivals like the Electric Picnic, Longitude, Slane, Oxegen and many more players in what’s going to be a very busy summer

The Killers: unwanted guests at the Electric Picnic

Tue, Apr 9, 2013, 09:10


It was always going to be an interesting summer for the Irish festival and outdoor shows’ sector given the growth in the number of events and various incidents which happened last year which will have a bearing on shows in the future. Few, though, could have predicted that it would have turned out to be this interesting so early in the campaign. And that’s before we start wondering about the weather.

The latest venue for those on the Irish festivals’ beat is the High Court where, as Mary Carolan reports in depth, Electric Picnic founder John Reynolds has brought a case against his partners in the event, Festival Republic Dublin Ltd (FRD), alleging that he has been excluded from management of the event. One such instance of this exclusion cited by Reynolds was the inclusion of The Killers on last year’s Picnic bill. FRD’s Melvin Benn denies these charges, arguing that “The Killers did not cause the 2012 losses” which Benn believed were “due to ticket prices being too high given the economic clinate last year”. FRD plan to make this year’s Picnic more affordable, Benn added. The case was adjourned yesterday by Mr Justice Peter Kelly to allow for mediation between both sides.

As the case is ongoing, comments can’t be made on it. However, speculation around the make-up of this year’s Picnic can, of course, continue unabated. There is increased talk about some class of announcement next week (which heightens the urgency about the mediation between the aggrieved parties, especially as it’s very late in the day to be making announcements) and a number of acts – My Bloody Valentine, Portishead and The Knife – keep getting mentioned with regard to the Stradbally event. Preparation and bookings are also underway for other elements of the Picnic, such as content for the spoken word and arts spaces.

One of the reasons why there is so much interest in the will-they-won’t-they nature of the Electric Picnic is that there’s a large coterie of punters who are still hanging on for the event. If there is no Picnic in 2013, they may well go elsewhere and that’s a sizeable floating vote to be captured for any event. Hence, why we have MCD putting their irons in the fire with Longitude and what is, IMHO, the best pound-for-pound line-up on any Irish festival bill this summer. Indeed, some might argue that the Longitude line-up looks very like what the Picnic would resemble in a normal year. Yesterday, Longitude announced even more acts and a day-by-day breakdown to rev up day ticket sales. No details, though, of any of the spoken word and arts’ stuff mooted at the launch which will make it “more than just a music festival”, but I suppose that’s to come in the next few weeks.

Another announcement yesterday which MCD hope will shift a couple of thousand tickets was the support bill for Bon Jovi’s gig in Slane. Despite what some deluded people (no, not him) claimed at the time, this gig is far from sold-out so the promoters are hoping that the addition of Bressie, The Coronas and Ham Sandwich will do the trick. It’s unlikely to happen, given the fact that all of those acts will be playing their own shows over the summer. It is, though, an all-Irish support cast which is striking, though the cynics would argue that it’s also probably cheaper than going for international acts who might not be playing here this summer. Meanwhile, there is this sticky wicket to cotend with as well.

Next, there are the series of shows slated for the Phoenix Park. It’s noticable that the third headliner who will join Mumford & Sons and The Killers in the middle of Dublin in July has yet to be announced. The clever money says this will be Justin Timberlake, but it’s worth noting that his promoter-of-record in Ireland has always been Aiken Promotions. However, that was when Timberlake was an AEG act and he’s now in the Live Nation stable, thanks to a $20 million deal in 2009. There is also talk that Timberlake is to be joined on the bill by Jay-Z, which will be interesting for some from an audience profile point of view.

Hello Phoenix: Justin Timberlake gets set for a Dublin date

This brings us to the Phoenix Park area residents, who are very much up in arms, spitting feathers and fuming about their lot. They feel that ongoing consultations with them, something which has taken on heightened importance due to last year’s Swedish House Mafia set-to, are really just lip-service. Pat Allison of the Navan Road Community Council told Aoibhinn Twomey of Dublin People that “it would appear that it’s a foregone conclusion and that we will be objecting to something that will go ahead regardless. The park and particularly the site where the concerts were held last year was left in a terrible mess with hoarding around it for months.”

"A terrible mess": what the Phoenix Park looked like after last summer's shows. Photo by Aoife O'Connor

Speaking of “terrible mess”, it remains to be seen too if questions will be asked of the Office of Public Works, the people charged with managing the site on behalf of the Irish people, about their instant yes-yes-yes-y’all to the shows, despite what happened last summer.

Hey, anyone know what happened to Oxegen? Remember back in February when MCD boss Denis Desmond talked about an announcement to come in March? We’re well into April and there is no sign of anything about the event last seen in Punchestown Racecourse in 2011 (the website needs an aul’ spruce-up). OTR has heard a few mutterings from agents about enquiries for various dance and hip-hop acts (The Prodigy were mentioned a few times), but nothing concrete or confirmed (UPDATE: via Elaine Buckley below, we see that Calvin Harris’ agent has taken a booking deposit for Oxegen and Ciaran tells us that Jack Beats is also Oxegen-bound). We know that record labels are announcing new album releases later and later in the day for various reasons, but we hadn’t realised it also now applied to live events requiring thousands of people to make plans for a weekend.

And then, there’s everyone else. It’s hard to recall a time when there were so many festivals and outdoor events hustling and jostling for coverage and ticket sales in one summer. From such festivals as Castlepalooza, Sea Sessions, Forbidden Fruit, Body & Soul, Knockanstockan, Indiependence, Glasgowbury and Vantastival to the one-off shows by acts like Beach House, Grizzly Bear, Neil Young, Eminem, Imelda May and Bell X1 in venues like the Iveagh Gardens, Slane Castle and the RDS, it’s a summer bursting at the seams with acts and unsold tickets. Indeed, many promoters are going to have a lot of sleepless nights in the coming months until that ticket inventory starts to shift.

There is one winner, though, so far and that’s Bruce Springsteen, the man with 140,000 tickets for five sold-out outdoor shows in Ireland in July under his belt. Thing is, Springsteen could announce another five shows and sell ‘em all out too. Now, that’s what we call showbusiness.