Festival Fit: A crucible for hot new acts – and a good place to set fire to Furby

A year of festivals in Ireland: Mark Graham catches tomorrow’s stars today


Have you noticed how many musicians there are around the place? It seems that a bus stop in this country isn’t official unless there’s someone with a gigbag on their back standing at it. If musos are Gremlins, somebody’s been hosing the feckers down after dark (understandably, a couple of them look like they could do with a dousing from a power hose).

There’s no shortage of eager young hopefuls on the bench, waiting for the nod from festival organisers to come on during injury time and get a run on the big stage. Festivals are a perfect opportunity for fledgling Fender-slingers to throw a few shapes and shake a mane under some coloured lights.

There is something satisfying about witnessing a band serving their time, honing their skills and mastering their trade. The Riptide Movement played a stormer to a couple of hundred people in a field at a homely festival in Knockanore in the summer of 2011; next month they’ll stuff the Olympia and Phantom have a justifiable band crush on them.

Little Green Cars have gone from last year’s evening set at Castlepalooza to whooping it up at Lollapalooza in Chicago, killing Coachella and topping up the suntan in Benicàssim this July. Jealous much?

The Late Late Show might be the pinnacle of an Irish band’s career, but having played small afternoon slots at Sea Sessions and the Body and Soul stage at Electric Picnic in 2012, The Strypes are now tearing up the choons with Jools, garnering approving nods from Cat Power and getting sartorial pointers from Paul Weller in Abbey Road. Jealous a-f***ing-lot!

For more than a few seasons now Le Galaxie have been shindig stalwarts in fields throughout the land, banging out beats, filtering bleeps, laying down grooves and whipping up crowds. They were great supporting God is an Astronaut at Vantastival last year, and I didn’t think they could top a storming finale at First Fortnight in January – but top it they did.

Phase One in Carrick-on-Shannon last weekend was the first outing for a little festival with a big, bassy, beating heart. The electronic arts festival is centred on music, but there were installations, film, visuals, workshops and even thumping toons for toddlers. The circuit-bending workshop gave kids from four to 50 a chance to break open some toys and short circuit them until they screeched with pain and we screeched with pleasure. Tackling a Furby with a flame-thrower, defibrillator and set of jump leads is a funstructive way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Ulrich Schnauss and LTJ Bukem were the big guns, but there were plenty of top turns to tickle and tempt the technophiles. I chatted to an enthusiastic Glaswegian character who’d travelled especially to catch the Duke of drum’n’bass and sample the Shannonside session. He was very impressed – hefty praise from a dancehall fiend who looked like he knew the right end of a Buckfast bottle.

Le Galaxie provided a stomping set that bridged genres, impressing the electro geeks while also rocking the curious local rubberneckers. These brokers of Big Beat are constantly improving, and the added swagger and character from plying and refining their trade is serving them well. Similar to a dwarf lionfish’s dinner, Le Galaxie are a dish best served live. This shower are a wound-up party spring ready to boing.

The next chance you get to jump to Le Galaxie, take it. When Little Green Cars return to a green-field festival here, there’ll be a chance to go nuts as The John Wayne kicks in, and I’ll be in the saddle right behind you.

In the meantime, late-night headliners will grab attention, but by sampling some local heroes at small festivals and uncrowded, chilled afternoon stages, you might witness the germination of next year’s supernova and save a few bob on flights to Benicoachapalooza.

Safe travels, don’t die.