Festival Fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMdismisses rain as water off a duck’s back

GETTING MAD at mud is like trying to play pool with a rope. You’ll be left feeling impotent. It’s Ireland, we expect rain. If we enjoyed Benicassim-type weather, we could expect an influx of leathery- skinned German naturists occupying beaches from Bandon to Bundoran. West Cork would be crowded with Kusadasian creeps and criminals. God forbid, marauding Leaving Cert students would swap their Tenerife tickets for trips to Tramore.

I once spent a day in the drizzle at the Nire Valley Walking Festival. The walk leader brought us through the mountains and described in detail what we would have been looking at if we could have seen past our noses. After hours hours of damp trekking, the clouds parted, the rain stopped and we were treated to a blast of glorious sunshine. Spontaneously the crowd of some 20 people cheered and whooped as one.

I doubt that the sun ever gets that kind of reception in Barbados. Roy Keane would not have approved.


Meeting House Square in Dublin is a great spot for an al fresco gig. It has four giant umbrellas that cover the space. I was there on New Year’s morning last for a céilí that was part of NYE Dublin Festival. (You know you’re at a céilí in the capital when you’re stepping out The Cashel with a transvestite.)

Last Thursday it was the setting for one of the jewels in the crown of love:live music, a nationwide series of events organised by Music Network to celebrate National Music Day. A highlight on the night came from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and DIT Traditional Music Ensemble playing the premiere of a piece by RTÉ Lyric fm composer in residence and all-round lovely lady Linda Buckley.

The night was topped of by Tarab, with guest percussionist Koushik Chandrashekar. The group melded Turkish tunes with Trad while Koushik tapped out some southern Indian rhythms. A nice blend that was somehow enhanced by the sound of the weather beating off the brollies. Keep an eye out for this day next year, top-notch events for nowt.


The main event last weekend was undoubtedly Body and Soul at Ballinlough Castle. For years Body and Soul chugged away at the core of Electric Picnic until it eventually fledged and it’s been running under it’s own steam now for three years. The ethos behind this festival is to give punters a unique and thought-provoking festival experience, drawing inspiration from the likes of Burning Man. The line-up had all the cool kids salivating and they were satiated by stormers from Django Django, Little Dragon, M83 and Gold Panda.

I was impressed by a bill that eschewed the nostalgic banker and commercial pandering that you get at almost every other major summer festival. It worked – the gig sold out.

The woodland is the heart of this hooley. Sculptures, shacks, jook-joints and wicker dragon tunnels in the moodily-lit glades makes this shindig stand out from the crowd, it’s what these people do best. The festival expanded this year and it felt like there were some minor growing pains.

The extra bodies seemed to push resources to their limits, and the poor weather at the start of the weekend didn’t help. These were only minor hiccups. The thought, effort and craft here creates a special atmosphere ever before an amp is plugged in.

I bumped into Nell McCafferty. “The vibes are wonderful, man!” she told me. Some poor eejity young fella asked Nell if she wasn’t too old to be at the gig. He didn’t know who’s cage he was rattling – he left chastened.


Having witnessed some epic struggling in the mud last weekend, I’ve got an addition to the list:

Festival Tip #31: A wheeled suitcase in an Irish field is about as useful as boot-skates in a bog.

Safe travels, don’t die.

* ayearoffestivalsinireland. com