Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

What you did last summer: the Mountain Dew festival

Colm O’Herlihy tells the story behind the Mountain Dew festival which happens in his family’s back garden in Macroom, Co Cork

Relatives at the Mountain Dew festival. Photograph: Bríd O'Donovan

Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 09:24


It always fascinates me to hear the stories behind how festivals and gatherings come together. Over the summer, I bumped into Colm O’Herlihy a few times here and there and he told me about the Mountain Dew festival which has taken place in his family’s back garden in Macroom over the last few summers. Young Wonder, The Shaker Hymn, Daithi, Toby Kaar, Cack Jollins, Grave Lanterns, The Altered Hours, The Great Balloon Race, Moustache Latte, Relatives, The Mandolas, Superblondes, Elastic Sleep, Stink and Stevie G all played at the event in July and there was catering by Rocket Man.

Those with long memories will remember that there used to be a Mountain Dew festival in the town in the late 1970s/early 1980s which attracted acts like Rory Gallagher, The Undertones, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Paul Brady (though it didn’t attract Idi Amin – the urban myth goes that the Ugandan dictator was invited by the organisers in 1977).

Here’s Colm talking about how the event started and has developed. There’s a video from this year’s event (shot by Brendan Canty and Blair Massie and edited by Blair) and a Soundcloud playlist of the acts who played below.

Mountain Dew started four years ago as a big farewell party to celebrate my band Remma going off on a US tour. We thought it would be fun to stage a concert in our back garden and the original concept catered for family and friends only.

Funnily enough, when we played New York on that tour, we had a problem with an amp and ended up renting one. We called up a company called Vinny’s Music Hire and he asked if we were “Irish Rockers”. I replied “err, I think so, we’re from Cork”. Later that evening, Vinny arrived at the venue and rolled out a flight case with Rory Gallagher Band painted on the side. It turned out Rory kept his equipment stored in Vinny’s warehouse and this amp was left to him after Rory died. It was quite a strange and overwhelming experience, felt like a blessing in a weird way.

My family home in Macroom, has, over the years become a sort of half-way house for touring artists and musicians. It has the right atmosphere for such creativity as it’s a peaceful place, nestled between the river Laney and Mushra Mountain. We’ve had bands and singers from Kentucky, Nashville, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York and all over the world stay here and make it their home. Over time, it has really developed into a place for an extended musical family.

Grant Hart (Hüsker Dü) stayed for a month leading up to the festival this year and even painted a Marcel Duchamp ‘R.Mutt 1917′ on one of the cubicles to see who’d get the reference. The previous year, Daniel Martin Moore was helping me shovel gravel around the grounds and building the stages. Mountain Dew is always a joint effort, people coming together to create something unique and utterly unforgettable.

This year’s festival was a watershed moment for this small endeavor and the results blew me away. Word got around and suddenly I was faced with 16 bands and DJs who wanted to get involved. The Cork music scene at the moment is so joyful and inspiring. It really feels like there’s an energy and warmth among the acts. It’s at a point where people are helping each other, being proud of one another and supporting, while asking for nothing in return. Not just musically but across the whole cultural spectrum from photographers, writers, actors, artists, chefs and directors. It’s a melting pot of positivity and desire to create beautiful experiences.

I feel so proud to be in Cork right now because it honestly feels like it’s at a stage where anything is possible. As a touring musician, I’ve been lucky enough to see the world and I’ve interacted with a number of different people and scenes and there is something special here, a group of wonderful kindred spirits. I know people are probably thinking ‘oh, a Cork man saying Cork is great’ but I can honestly say I feel the most creative and inspired right here right now.

This year’s Mountain Dew was a celebration of that, and it couldn’t have happened without these people. As my granny put it ‘all those people, and not a flower broken’. With next year’s festival, we aim to move it to the city centre and make it public so more people can come down and see what all the fuss is about.