Falafel and fags on the festival trail

Festival Fit catches the bus

Recently, when taking part in a panel on 2FM discussing festival ticket prices and value at festivals, I realised it was extremely likely that no one else on the panel had bought a ticket, lugged their gear five miles, roughed it or had their cans confiscated in quite a long time. It made me question whether there is anyone who knows as much about festivals as you, the wellied warriors who buy the tickets, pitch the tents, wheelbarrow the slabs of cans, jump around in the fields, raise your hands, shake your heads and brave whatever elements the Irish summer can throw at you.

It turns out there might very well be someone.

Session obsessives will be familiar with the big red double-decker Eco Bus Cafe that pops up at festivals all over the country. If it's a decent do, Deirdre and Bryce will have been there lashing out curries, steak sang-ee-jes and that king of festival fodder, the falafel. This has lent the lads on the bus a unique perspective on the festival landscape. They interact with organisers, starving musos and hundreds of hedonist heads every working day/night/morning. Their latex-gloved finger is on the pulse of how we play.

Sea Sessions, Indiependence, Longitude, Life, Electric Picnic and other stops are all on the victual vendors' timetable this year, so which festivals are a top ticket for the bus conductors? Bean an Tí told me that Knockanstockan has a special place in her heart because of the earthy atmosphere and characters who populate the páirceana round Blessington. Fear an Bus got a bit more wistful and teary-eyed when he offered up the late, lamented Flat Lake Festival in Co Monaghan as his BFF (Best Feckin' Festival). Flat Lake and Eco Bus fit well togehter, but unfortunately the Monaghan festival hasn't run for the last two years; a statement on its website last year asked whether commercial hedonism has reached saturation point: "There are now probably more festivals dotted around the country than libraries, more exotic catering trailers than local butchers shops."


Interesting questions made even more relevant when I went to investigate a very flash double-deceker debutante recently arrived on the festival scene. It's an alluring, bright green affair decorated with silhouettes of birds and flowers bustling around its "Keep My World Green" slogan. It has a white picket fence round the front to house the brightly coloured bean-bags under the awning, and baskets hanging from the half-open top deck. It is much prettier than the Eco Bus Cafe and its staff are tanned, healthy, young, beautiful people made even firmer by tight-fitting things that leave little to the imagination.

There's no branding on the outside of this attractive autobus that might hint at its purpose. It sells fags. Banned from putting up signs , logos or branding related to tobacco, the nicotine vendors have upped their game big-style for this year's festivities by wheeling out a top-notch, tantalising tobacco
trap. This colourful paradise for puffers will be coming to a festival field near you soon, so you know what to look out for/avoid depending on your oral fixations. I'd be more inclined to stick with the falafel, but they are an awkward bastard to keep lit.

There are a couple of festivals this weekend that are more likely to hop on board the red bus than cough up a lung onto the green one. Fastnet Short Film Festival in Schull, Co Cork is a quirky, characterful affair that boasts Hollywood directors, short films on a long island and a first-birthday bash for the genius Sminky Shorts, my top tip for the weekend.

Meanwhile, in the other capital, Dublin Writers Festival have pulled out all the stops with an impressive and varied lineup that's definitely worth a gander. I'm off to see if I can make falafequitin patches from gaffa tape and hummus.

Safe travels, don’t die.