Sea hear now


TONY CLAYTON-LEApicks his top acts and happenings at next weekend’s Sea Sessions

A SURF AND MUSIC festival? The President of Ireland (that’s Michael D Higgins to you, mate) is going to make a speech, tour the festival site and present awards to the, ahem, Barefoot Expression Session Surfers? Sign me up right now . . .

Sea Sessions is one of a kind – a multi-stranded event that blends music, extreme sports, surf contests, beach sports and even beach Olympics. The really good thing about the event, however, is that it is neither fish nor fowl – the ingredients are sifted through a finely-holed pop culture colander, and end up as a rounded weekend where music (covering quite a few hipster genres) co-exists quite happily with the kind of activity that’s great to watch but perhaps not to participate in and, yes, we’re talking high-octane, two-wheel mash-up BMX freestyling.

The event is also well located in Bundoran, a town very much used to catering to the needs of not just the native holidaymaker but those irritatingly cool types that flex their six packs as if they were going out of style. Of course, we’re talking about surfer dude babe magnets who flock to the area due to its singularity as a bona fide surfers’ paradise.

So there you have it: an open-air event where people go to get wet, an area of south-west Donegal that’s simply breathtaking in its natural beauty, and a bunch of music (see our Must Hear panel on this page) that stretches boundaries without fear of snapping.


Happy Mondays

Now regrouped into, by all accounts, a boisterous, occasionally ramshackle live unit, Mancunians Happy Mondays bear witness to the fact that you don’t have to be a genius to make a living in the music business. You just have to own a few decent tunes and a collective hard neck.

Rev Run

When he isn’t rocking the mic, Rev Run (the lead guy from Run DMC, sillies!) rocks the decks, and here – in cahoots with DJ Ruckus – you can expect a rigorous, riotous mix of hip-hop, electro, funk, soul and rock.

The Minutes

A three-piece no-messing machine, Dubliners Mark, Shane and Tom take the templates of garage rock/classic rock and pop, and give ’em a good kicking.

Kaiser Chiefs

The Leeds band with enough pop song corkers – try Ruby, I Predict a Riot, Everyday I Love you Less and Less and Never Miss a Beat – to rouse the bones and spirits.


Since their latest album, Little Sparks, was released in January, we haven’t stopped playing it. Simply put, it’s rammed to the hilt with tunes, tunes and tunes. A highlight, for sure.


Twice Meteor Choice Music Prize winner Richie Egan is a small ball of leftfield electro-influenced pop with hints of singer-songwriter lurking about. Think Beck with very large knobs on.

Yukon Blonde

The only Canadian band at Sea Sessions happens to be one of the most underrated. From Vancouver, British Columbia, YB make a detour to Donegal to deliver brash power pop that places early Elvis Costello beside latter-day Fountains of Wayne. Oooohhhh, yessssss. . .

Ham Sandwich

With their second album, White Fox, Ham Sandwich proved that they had the means to fashion classy indie-pop from dawn to dusk. With a batch of new material under their collective oxter, expect a blend of familiar and foreign – albeit with a connective thread of sheer quality.

We Cut Corners

It’s been asked before and we’ll ask it again – how can two guys make so much great noise? So far, it’s so sweet and short: their Meteor Choice Music Prize-nominated debut album, Today I Realised I Could go Home Backwards, doesn’t last for long, which means new tracks. Yay!

Toby Kaar

Smart guy Kaar is one of Ireland’s most justifiably lauded producers/ remixers/performers of the past few years. We caught him at the Camden Crawl and Forbidden Fruit, and he just gets better and better.

The Gandhis

It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for, yet while The Gandhis may not turn up their amps to 11, they have another, smarter trick up their collective sleeve – how to engage the senses with ambitious music that references the classics. Think Beach Boys, Beatles and The Band.


The first thing you need to know is that the action men and women will have, for the first time, their very own Surfers Village. It might be an intimate affair (we can’t see it having its own village green, but it will have a blend of food, shopping and music) but the joint will be hopping with all manner of extreme sports enthusiasts. These will include Co Wicklow-based extreme sports events professionals Adrenaline State, who specialise in customised showcases of, among other areas, skateboarding, BMXing and free-running.

Other experts in their field attending the Sea Sessions’ stunt spectacle include three-time world BMX champion Matthias Dandois. The French innovator – making his Donegal debut – is hailed as one of the greatest BMX freestylers of all time. Also on the bill will be the UK’s leading freestyle mountain bike trials riders, including YouTube notable Ben Travis. Travis and many others will be displaying their courage and talents on a purpose-built course that will include a Mad Max mash-up of wrecked cars, scrap metal, industrial containers and all manner of other heavy-duty items that remind you why you’re the sad sap who’d rather play a video game than be in one.


Ha! And you wanted to relax? The bad news is that you might get a stubbed toe – no footwear is allowed during Beach Sports games. The good news is that you might win €500. There are two main events – soccer and tag rugby – that are organised by local clubs Erne Wanderers and Ballyshannon Rugby Club. The soccer event will be like the European Championships, with teams named after a country. Tag rugby will also run on knock-out lines, but will have a losers’ round, which means everyone is guaranteed two games. You need to register quickly, though, as these events are always over- subscribed. Email for more info. All team members must be weekend ticket holders and have a good sense of humour.


Featuring two Olympic sports tailor-made for sand: handball and volleyball. Volleyball comes to Sea Sessions courtesy of the Volleyball Association of Ireland (, which hosts four tournaments over the Saturday and Sunday, each featuring players from all over Europe. To register an interest in playing, email

On Sunday, the inaugural Irish Open Handball tournament (organised by the Irish Olympic Handball Association; will feature teams from across Europe. To enter a team of eight, email


The unwieldy sounding Barefoot Expression Session in association with Billabong is the major surfing competition of the weekend.

Sanctioned by ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) Europe, and running from June 29th to July 1st, the event is structured to allow it to run in two hours in order to maximise the opportunities for best tides and waves.

The main areas of competition will be at the Peak, Inside Left, Main Beach and Tullan Strand.

This is the biggie. The ASP is in town, which means that local surfers have the chance to gain international recognition, and the prizes include €3,000 cash, as well as the possibility of winning a boat trip with Trade Wind Adventures ( for Best Irish Surfer.


The SS app for iPhone and Android handsets can be downloaded from The app will allow you to access right-here right-now event news and information, the day-to-day line-up as well as updates on stage times during the event. The app will also provide surf reports and tides updates.

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