Metal festival RoadBurren Fleadh finds new roots in the harsh landscape of the Burren

Conchúir O’Drona of the Roadburren Fleadh metal and experimental festival on the rise and rise of the Irish metal scene

Clockwise from top left: Abaddon Incarnate, Oiche Samhain, From The Bogs of Aughiska and Zhora

Clockwise from top left: Abaddon Incarnate, Oiche Samhain, From The Bogs of Aughiska and Zhora

a
 

When it comes to metal, the leather-clad tattooed pierced vision of a typical fan instantly comes to mind. Metal still means Metallica to many. It’s easy to be dismissive, but like many preconceptions, they mask the reality.

Metal has many subcultures within it and it evolves, as other genres do. It’s not black and white, though you might think it.

Metal music has been more than death metal, thrash metal or Scandinavian-inspired black metal for a long time now. Like many other genres, since the internet enabled greater outside influence, metal has embraced outside influence but has remained an outsider art.

The organisers of the Roadburren Fleadh, have embraced their position on the outside, both figuratively and literally. The second edition of the one-day festival, which puts on a line-up of metal and experimental music, takes place near the Burren, a karst landscape, suitable for harsh music to be heard.

“I think the Burren is a perfect setting for an event like RoadBurren Fleadh - cold, bleak and yet beautiful, just like the music,” says organiser Conchúir  O’Drona.

O’Drona lives in Lisdoonvarna where The Burren Storehouse, the venue that will host the festival is operated. The idea for the first edition, which took place in April 2016, came from a conversation O’Drona had with publican Peter Curtin of The Roadside Tavern and Burren Brewery.

From The Bogs Of Aughiska
From The Bogs Of Aughiska: the band organiser Conchúir  O’Drona plays in

A gig grew into a one-day festival and this year’s event takes place on May 6th with sets from death grind band Abaddon Incarnate, gloomy ambient black metal music from O’Drona’s own From The Bogs of Aughiska, Tipperary “progressive sludge” band Zhora, Dublin experimental duo Deathness Injection, Tipperary/Offaly dark post-rockers Unkindness Of Ravens and Cork atmospheric band Oiche Samhain among them.

Oiche Samhain: Burren bound
Oiche Samhain: Burren bound

Is there a scene in Lisdoonvarna for metal?

“I am the scene,” responds O’Drona. “But the place is fairly multicultural and open-minded. The local doctor even came to the festival last year.”

O’Drona agrees that the preconception persists of metal fans and musicians is that they are odd or worse, that they are simple. 

“That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am friends with people in Irish bands who are working in higher education, mental health or even in the archaeological field.”

Audiences abroad
Many of bands playing Roadburren Fleadh have developed audiences abroad, have toured worldwide  -  Abbadon Incarnate have Ecuador, Colombia and Peru stamped on their passport - and O’Drona says while metal may be outsider music but it is thriving on the fringe.

Abbadon Incarnate: have toured widely

“The scene is much stronger than 10 years ago, with a lot of bands touring worldwide and making a name for themselves, even though they might not be well known back home in Ireland.”

That activity is reflected in online sites such as metalireland.com, irishmetalarchive.com, at events like the biannual metal festival The Siege Of Limerick and gigs from DME Promotions in Dublin. Streaming services such as Spotify are also helping the discovery of metal bands.

“I’ve worked in digital music distribution for nearly 13 years and Spotify is phenomenal and continuously growing all the time,” says O’Drona.

Anti-metal sentiment in the arts
O’Drona claims he’s encountered anti-metal sentiment from arts funding organisations and programmers.

“The Arts Council won’t give any grants to metal-based projects as they are too ignorant of the music,” he says.”From The Bogs Of Aughiska were put forward to do a special performance as part of the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin, but they rejected us with the reason ‘metal shouldn’t be played in a church’. The thing is, we aren’t really a metal band. And why are you having a Bram Stoker festival in a church in the first place? What’s the craic with that?”

zhOra
zhOra: “progressive sludge” from Tipperary

Despite growth, Metal isn’t seeking validation outside itself. O’Drona says most people involved in metal do it for themselves first. Being a metal band in 2017 echoes the experience of many other bands in other genres – it is like an “expensive hobby”.

“The good thing with working with bands in this scene is there is a strong sense of community and everyone tries to help each other out,” says O’Drona. “As long as we break even and the bands have a good time, that’s all that matters.”

And for the embracing of the traditional Irish word “fleadh”? O’Drona explains.

“Fleadh means a festival of Irish or Celtic music, dancing, and culture. Which is exactly what the event is about. All the acts are Irish and have their own take on Irish music. The first edition last year was fantastic. There was the sense in the air that it was the start of something."

Tom Lawlor, then Director of Bram Stoker Festival, in responses said, "From The Bogs Of Aughiska were included as part of a proposal for an open call for ideas for inclusion in the 2016 Bram Stoker Festival programme. The producer of the event proposed a well-known Dublin church as the venue, not the festival. There were a number of assessment criteria for proposals and this proposal did not meet a number of these. In our feedback declining the event, we stated that the event was excellent in terms of concept but too niche for our audience and that the metal element of the overall production was unlikely to be allowed in a church setting - information we know from previous experience in that venue."

a
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.