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Patrick Freyne’s Irish festivalgoer guide: 11 kinds of people and things to avoid

If you’re heading for Electric Picnic, All Together Now or Beyond the Pale this summer, beware

Punters facing away from the stage, taking selfies

One perspective: For some time we have known humankind is not at the centre of the cosmos but lives, in fact, on an outlying spiral arm of just one galaxy in an infinite universe. Cosmologically speaking, we live in Donegal.

Counterpoint: I am the centre of the universe and Kylie Minogue is but a backdrop to my adventures.

The acts

Jiggy-Wiggy and the Prunes, Count Bopula Greeves, Funk Cassidy and the Ripe Smell, Wibble, The Trippy Capybara, $&%?!, Pope Pius II, Ikea Shelving Unit 100 x 136cm, Flump, Armadillo Delicious, Loose Goose and the Goslings, Bryan Gosling, Small Simon*. Who even are these people? What has it come to that a confused man in his middle years doesn’t recognise the acts playing at a music festival largely designed for young people? It’s not right. All festivals should be headlined by The Beatles, the Count Basie Orchestra and Sooty and Sweep. (*Not actual bands but possibly accidentally actual bands)

Babies wearing ear protectors silently judging me

Babies think they’re so great with their adaptable brains and poor sense of object permanence, and now they go to festivals where they are propelled along in party chariots by fully grown retainers, sullenly observing and judging their elders. You can’t judge me, babies! I was at the Saw Doctors’ New Year’s Eve concert in 1992!

Old musos complaining

“Finding music is too easy now. Kids don’t know they’re born with their Spotify and their TikTok and their big festival acts. In my day if you really cared about finding new music you’d hitch a lift to a tiny music shop in Carlow where a guy with six fingers on his left hand would take you out back to a corrugated shed and stop your heart for a few minutes. There, while caught between life and death, you would see a vision of Jesus/Buddha/Moses and He would hand you a fifth-generation blank tape of rare Prefab Sprout B-sides. It was brilliant. It was mainly tape hiss.”

“Who are Prefab Sprout?” (Old muso collapses into a weeping heap on the ground.)

Bad drugs

“Don’t take the brown acid.” This was good advice when it was given at Woodstock in 1969, and it’s good advice now. The other colours of acid? We have no information on that at this time. Presumably it’s fine. Have at it.

There is no roof

Look up. There is no roof! Aaaagh! It’s all sky and clouds and the terrors of the cosmos. Nothing is stopping any one of us from flying off this swiftly spinning orb – nothing but the whims of gravity and the fact that I’ve tied myself to this tree.

The food

In the olden days, the only food option at festivals was a half-frozen burger and soggy chips slung at you by a man with a cigarette hanging from his bottom lip. The chip vans had names like Eat This, You Pigs and We Hate You. That changed, and soon there was a selection of delicious food from all over the world at every festival, and the vans had names like Elysium and Your Father Loved You, Actually. This was wonderful for a while, but soon we were jaded. Yes, we have all eaten of the finest noodles, pies and birianis, but are we sated? We are not. We crave more. A whisper goes around from one gourmand to another of another meal, a forbidden meal, the most delicious of all: “You do not mean ... no ... not ...” “Yes, I speak of ... Man! (There’s a van doing it in the artists’ area.)” “Okay, but just a small portion. I’ve already had chips.”

Stupid nature just hanging out being lovely

Don’t get me wrong. It’s pleasant to be out in the countryside observing the world’s treasury – the trees, the grass, the birds of the air and cows of the earth – but it’s also important to bombard it all with unearthly speaker systems, flashing lights and lots of plastic and aluminium, so it knows its place in the food chain (our bellies). Ha! Take that, Nature. My favourite bit of every festival is when everyone stands up as one and says, in unison, “I am God’s supreme creation and have dominion over Earth.”

The evening horde

At a certain point in the evening the horde arrives. They have been drinking cans all day at the campsite, and now it’s time to enter the festival, where they will rampage, having “fun”. “You no-good kids!” you shout, shaking your fist. “You need to take things seriously, fly straight and study for your exams or ChatGPT will take your jobs!” “Raaagh!” say the horde.


“Get out of my tent, please, Steve. No, I don’t work for the CIA, I know your name because your friends have written it in marker on your forehead. Yes, I realise that you’re sleepy, but this is my tent and I’ve never met you before. That does sound difficult, Steve, but Vietnam happened a long time ago, and I don’t think you’re old enough to have fought in it. Steve? Are you wearing my clothes? Steve?!? Steve!! Wake up, Steve!!”

Middle-aged people

Deep in the centre of many festivals is an arts area where middle-aged people listen to poetry and hear intellectuals discuss the issues of the day on live podcasts. Nobody knows where this area came from, but it is believed that it was here first and the festival accreted around it. The artists, podcasters and broadcasters in this area are insulated from the barbarity of the wider festival, much like the Eternals in John Boorman’s Zardoz. But from time to time one of them wanders in horror through the drunken wasteland beyond and writes a newspaper article about the youth of today, and then we all have to deal with that for a while.