Festival Fit: Warm and cosy – and knee-deep in gemütlichkeit – at the Derry Fleadh

The Germans have a word for that feeling of being cocooned in a friendly situation – and it’s there by the bucketful on a LegenDerry weekend

Rock ’n’ reel kids: Scoil Éigse at The Fleadh

Rock ’n’ reel kids: Scoil Éigse at The Fleadh

 

There’s something satisfying about learning a new word, ever so slightly expanding your ability to communicate and hopefully pushing something like the name of that New Orleans Rose out of your head forever. Gemütlichkeit (warm friendliness, cosiness and sense of belonging) was one that crossed my path this week and I’ve become a fan. Partly because I find something pleasing about the jaggedness of some German words that make your mouth work a bit harder as it struggles to set the strange syllables free, partly because we don’t have an equivalent word in English, but mainly because I’ve been feeling it regularly, unbeknownst to myself.

In the early days of my festival odyssey I rolled up to the gate of a festival called Rock an Oir in west Co Waterford. At the security checkpoint a burly dude in a luminous vest approached the van and made that defunct but still recognisable gesture to roll down the window. I readied some tried-and-trusted blags for dealing with such bouncer buachaills, but he caught me on the hop. “Open your mouth and say ahhh,” he instructed, and, startled by the odd request, I obliged. He produced a super-soaker and proceeded to spray a jet of beer directly into my gob. I had an immense sense of gemütlichkeit.

There’s no denying that Marshall Mathers grew up in tough circumstances, having to deal with the meanest streets of Detroit as a chiseller. Somehow, somewhere along the way, he developed a fear of giraffes. If Lord Henry Mount Charles rode the lanky quadruped bareback onto the stage during the rapper’s set last weekend, I would almost have been tempted to attend. Almost. Reports from Eminem at Slane suggest the crowd weren’t exactly knee deep in gemütlichkeit.


KICKS IN THE DERRY AIR
Instead I ducked up to Derry for a gander at what was happening at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the first Fleadh to have been held north of the Border. The buzz in the Derry air was palpable. Businesses had their windows painted, temporary stages and bars popped up in the most unlikely places, and the PSNI felt more like holiday reps than the Law. Continental markets, bunting and banners, friendly natives, wall-to-wall trad and T-shirts that overcame that old political hot-potato of the city’s name by having “LegenDerry” emblazoned across the chest – there were heaps of gemütlichkeit corralled within the city’s walls.

Hitting so many festivals every week, there are always some familiar faces knocking around; one of these faces belongs to a dude called Cheeves. You can usually find this fella after sunset by following the trail of balloons that light the night with their internal LEDs. Cheeves brings hundreds of balloons and tiny LED lights with him to festivals, handing out the bouncy night-lights to strangers for free. The LEDs cost only 10 cent, so for a tenner a night he inflates and lights up a hundredweight of joy. Cheeves is a gemütlichkeit generator.

At Castlepalooza I parked my van beside a fellow festival fiend by the name of Martin; turns out that he’s the head responsible for putting together Trenchtown, the Jamaican shanty session that’s become such an integral part of Body & Soul and Electric Picnic. Having aligned our vans, we slid the doors back and chewed the fat about festivals.

Martin excitedly told me about plans for an installation/drive-in that’ll be screening Jamaican flicks in Trenchtown at this year’s Electric Picnic, and about some of the savage acts who’ll be dropping beats and booming out sub-bass on stage. Martin explained how it’s getting tougher to put the whole show together without making a loss. I asked why in the name of God he and his crew work so hard putting the thing together if they’re not making a few bob out of it. “Seeing people’s expressions and how much they enjoy the thing.”

A marvelous masala of gemütlichkeit, cairdiúlacht and irie na hÉireann. Ya mon.

Safe travels, don’t die.


ayearoffestivalsinireland.com

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