The best music festivals and outdoor gigs in Ireland in 2018

From It Takes a Village in April, to Electric Picnic in September, via The Rolling Stones

Summber vibe: Electric Picnic, in Co Laois in September. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Summber vibe: Electric Picnic, in Co Laois in September. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

With more than 30 music festivals across Ireland between April and the end of September, there’s one for almost every age, county and genre, whether you’re fresh out of secondary school, still living the college dream or bringing your army of babies, complete with protective headphones and a papoose, along for the day. Yet Twitter goes into a Liveline-style meltdown at every line-up announcement, with accusations that the main festivals are selling out and the smaller ones are too hip for their own good.

When the act list for Longitude was announced, some people declared that music had died. “Where are the bands?!!!?” tweeted one disgruntled Kings of Leon fan. “Ugh! I’m never going to Longitude again,” said a woman who has never gone before. “If you don’t like the line-up, then you’re old, grandad!” chimed a chorus of ageist teens, hitting a nerve in those who still wear Witnness T-shirts to bed.

Longitude’s hip-hop heavy line up reflects the changing tastes of Ireland’s yoof, with J Cole, Travis Scott and Solange as headliners and Cardi B, Migos, Khalid and J Hus taking you from the afternoon into the night. If you’re crying for the indie days of your youth, your needs are still being met; they’re just being met in a different way.

Longitude has changed – just as Electric Picnic has changed, I’ve changed and you’ve changed – but plenty of other things are going on for you to experience. The August bank-holiday weekend is particularly saturated with festivals, between Castlepalooza in Offaly, Indiependence in Cork, the Beatyard in Dublin and All Together Now in Waterford. All Together Now could steal a huge portion of the festival-hungry in August, as people are intrigued to see what John Reynolds, Electric Picnic’s former promoter, has to offer with his new event.

It Takes a Village is the other new festival that has piqued people’s curiosity. Taking place at Trabolgan, in Co Cork, it goes against the usual format by including accommodation in one of the holiday village’s houses (or on one of its camper-van pitches). One person acts as the lead booker for their gang of friends, and everyone gets a bed. If you’ve ever seen your tent float away in a flood stream at Body&Soul or Oxegen (RIP), it’s as if all your prayers have been answered. We’re not in Fairyhouse any more, Toto, and thank Christ for that.

The blueprint has changed, and if you can’t find something to suit your needs here yet decry the Longitude or Electric Picnic line-up, then maybe you should go talk to Joe.

APRIL

It Takes a Village
April 13-15; Trabolgan, Co Cork; €200-€280pps; ittakesavillage.fm
This new festival has Young Fathers, Talos, Lankum and Andrew Weatherall on the bill. Your ticket includes an actual bed in one of the 172 self-catering houses or 35 camper-van spots and access to the swimming pool, complete with wave machine.

MAY

Feile na Bealtaine
May 3-7; Dingle, Co Kerry; feilenabealtaine.ie
Feile na Bealtaine greets summer with open arms, music, spoken word and other acts, as a general gathering of madcap minds. Tickets are required for most events, but keep your Sunday wide open for the parade that works in magic, folklore and street theatre.

Kilkenny Roots Festival
May 4-7; Kilkenny; kilkennyroots.com
Running since 1998, Kilkenny Roots Festival calls in some of the finest acts in contemporary roots; this year it has Darlingside, Rachel Baiman, Seamus Fogarty and The Blasters, among many others. Tickets are priced per gig, not for the festival as a whole.

The Rolling Stones: at Croke Park. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty
The Rolling Stones: at Croke Park. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

The Rolling Stones
May 17; Croke Park, Dublin; €70.45-€456; ticketmaster.ie
As part of their No Filter tour, The Rolling Stones will be playing all the hits at Croker. With pit standing tickets going for €456, you’d certainly hope they have no filter on whatsoever. Give us all you’ve got, Jagger.

Drop Everything
May 25- 27; Inisheer, Co Galway; dropeverything.net
You have to register for tickets to attend this biennial festival of arts, food, music and good vibes – and that’s when the magic starts to dissipate. A collaboration of local artists and those from farther afield, this festival’s only headliner is the Aran island.

Fatboy Slim: at Life Festival. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty
Fatboy Slim: at Life Festival. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty

Life Festival
May 25-27; Belvedere House, Mullingar, Co Westmeath; €159; life-festival.com
Notorious for exporting all of District 8’s clientele to Westmeath for the weekend, Life has a male-heavy techno, hip-hop and house line-up that this year includes Fatboy Slim, Jax Jones, Jeff Mills and Wiley.

JUNE

AVA Festival
June 1-2; S13 Warehouse, Belfast; £7075; avafestival.com
Pushing conversations as much as live music, AVA is a way for people in the industry, or hoping to break into it, to discuss and experience electronic music and digital visual art from Ireland. In other words it’s a good place to hobnob and boogie.

Vantastival
June 1-3; Beaulieu House, Drogheda, Co Louth; €10-€120; vantastival.com
What started as a camper-van festival has expanded in its nine years to welcome tent dwellers as they celebrate the best in Irish music. Kids are welcome, with their weekend tickets costing a tenner, and it’s one of the more easy-going camping festivals.

Cowboys and Heroes
June 1-4; Drumcoura City, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim; €50-€70; cowboysandheroes.ie
This country-music festival offers not only Mike Denver, Jimmy Buckley and Lisa McHugh but also horse shows, car shows and plenty of line dancing, to fulfil your Stetsons and Stilettos dreams.

Idris Elba: at Forbidden Fruit. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty
Idris Elba: at Forbidden Fruit. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

Forbidden Fruit Festival
June 2-4, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin; €64.50-€162.50;  forbiddenfruit.ie
Forbidden Fruit suffers the effects of the June bank-holiday weather, either selling out at the last minute if there’s a hint of sunshine or trundling along in the lashing rain. But with Justice, Grizzly Bear, Earl Sweatshirt and Idris “the Dris” Elba performing, it’s a good one to keep an eye on, while your other eye scrutinises every weather app going.

Malahide Castle concerts
June 5-15; Malahide Castle, Dublin; €49; ticketmaster.ie
If committing to 72 hours of life in a makeshift village is not your thing, the Malahide concerts could be for you. With LCD Soundsystem (June 5th), Kodaline (June 8th), Gorillaz (June 9th), Liam Gallagher (June 15th) and Nile Rodgers & Chic (June 16th), you can dip in and out of the festival scene and be in bed by midnight – if you can beat the brutal traffic.

Live at the Marquee
June 7-29; Centre Park Road, Cork; €35-€66; ticketmaster.ie
Pitching up just outside the city centre for almost a full month, Live at the Marquee will host A-Ha (June 12th), Tommy Tiernan (June 9th), Picture This (June 19th-20th), the RTÉ Orchestra & Jenny Greene (June 22nd-23rd) and The Script (June 25th-26th), among others.

Taylor Swift
June 15-16; Croke Park, Dublin; €74.50-€144; ticketmaster.ie
And the prize for best support goes to Taylor Swift, who’s bringing Charli XCX and Camila Cabello on her Reputation tour. Even though tickets have been on sale since December, neither date has sold out. Last time she played here you couldn’t even trade your granny on the black market for a ticket. Hmm.

Future Islands: at Donnybrook Stadium. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty
Future Islands: at Donnybrook Stadium. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty

The National, Future Islands and Jenny Greene
June 15-21; Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin; €49.50-€76; ticketmaster.ie
With each day acting as a mini festival, the Donnybrook Stadium gigs cut out the hassle of packing up the car for the weekend. With The National acting as curators on June 15th and 16th, with Lisa Hannigan and John Grant as guests, Future Islands will take the lead on June 17th, and Jenny Greene and the RTÉ Orchestra will wrap it all up on June 21st.

Belsonic
June 18-30; Ormeau Park, Belfast; belsonic.com
Belfast’s Belsonic gig series will see the omnipresent Nile Rodgers & Chic (June 15th), Liam Gallagher (June 16th), Picture This (June 17th), Timmy Trumpet (June 21st), Carl Cox (June 23rd), The Script and Gavin James (June 24th) and Eric Prydz (June 30th) take over the city centre.

Fever Ray: at Body&Soul
Fever Ray: at Body&Soul

Body&Soul
June 22-24; Ballinlough Castle, Clonmellon, Co Westmeath; €174-€199; bodyandsoul.ie
Even though Body&Soul has been growing, its line-up remains niche. And, sure enough, Fever Ray’s headlining act will be an art-house exploration of her bewitching electronic music. But Jon Hopkins and Shamir will turn this summer solstice into a party.

Sea Sessions
June 22-24; Bundoran, Co Donegal; €49.50-€134.90; seasessions.com
While Body&Soul has the solstice, Sea Sessions can claim the Atlantic Ocean as its selling point, with Dizzee Rascal, Walking on Cars, Rudimental, Everything Everything and Hudson Taylor taking care of the music and dry entertainment.

The Killers: at Summer in the City. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty
The Killers: at Summer in the City. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty

Summer in the City
June 23-26; RDS, Dublin; €49.90-€79.50; ticketmaster.ie
With The Chainsmokers and Picture This as headliners on June 23rd and 24th, those two dates at this noncamping festival will be the hot ticket in Dublin for anyone finishing school exams, while The Killers, on June 26th, will tend to anyone applying for a mortgage.

Billy Joel
June 23; Aviva Stadium, Dublin; €70.45-€136; ticketmaster.ie
As the only Aviva gig of the summer, Billy Joel is a fine choice. Tickets are still available, and if you can, leave the car at home. Don’t dampen the tunes of Joel by getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way home.

JULY

Alanis Morissette, Eels and The The: Live at the Iveagh Gardens
July 5-21; Iveagh Gardens, Dublin; about 35-€55 each; ticketmaster.ie
Kicking off with Alanis Morissette, on July 5th, and closing with Aslan, on July 20th, the Iveagh Gardens gigs are some of the more easy-going ones. Eels (July 6th), The The (July 7th), Aslan (July 13th), Damien Dempsey (July 14th) and The Academic (July 20th) are the other evenings’ delights.

Steps
July 6; Thomond Park, Limerick; €45-€72.50; ticketmaster.ie
The open-air gig of the summer! No . . . but maybe the gig of the week. Ahem. Steps are bringing Blue and Aqua with them to Limerick, their only Irish date this year, on their Grandslam 2018: Summer of Steps tour. It’s a late-1990s dream. Lucky Limerick.

Michael Bublé
July 7; Croke Park, Dublin; €89.50-€129.50; ticketmaster.ie
Every generation brings one man who will make his mint by covering other people’s songs. This generation’s crooner extraordinaire is Michael Bublé, whose charm has proven irresistible to half the planet. The other half are left scratching their heads.

Heather Small: at Groove. Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty
Heather Small: at Groove. Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty

Groove
July 7-8; Kilruddery Estate, Bray, Co Wicklow; groovefestival.ie
Groove is a music festival for all the family, with climbing walls and roaming characters to distract the kids, while the adults can fend off any festival Fomo. They have Fun Lovin’ Criminals on the bill, along with Heather Small, who’s listed as “the voice of M People”, when she’s really the voice, the face and the spirit of M People. Get it right, guys.

Willie Clancy Summer School
July 7-15; Miltown Malbay, Co Clare; scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com
The music during Willie Week is built around the summer school, where traditional musicians from around the world attend workshops and classes for a fee of €140. In the evenings, the pubs host sessions that can carry on into the wee hours.

Queen & Adam Lambert: at Marlay Park. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty
Queen & Adam Lambert: at Marlay Park. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty

Marlay Park Concerts
July 8-12; Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin; ticketmaster.ie
Queen & Adam Lambert (July 8th, €79.50) and Bruno Mars (July 12th, €79.50-€89.50) will cause enough noise to break the sod of Marlay Park, but nothing will compare to the forthcoming madness of Longitude.

Solange: at Longitude. Photograph: Mireya Acierto/Getty
Solange: at Longitude. Photograph: Mireya Acierto/Getty

Longitude
July 13-15; Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin; €69.50-€189.50; longitude.ie
With J Cole, Travis Scott, Solange, Cardi B and Princess Nokia on the bill, Longitude has one of the most refreshing line-ups this summer. These hip-hop and R&B acts are mostly geared towards those born in and around 2000, so if feeling old isn’t your thing, maybe look for your jollies elsewhere.

Galway International Arts Festival
July 16-29; Galway; giaf.ie
A fusion of film, theatre, conversations and music, Galway International Arts Festival is a craic den. There’s plenty going on in the city to lose yourself in, but Caribou’s Festival Big Top gig (July 28th, €49.50) is a real highlight.

The Summer Series
July 23-29; Trinity College Dublin; €44.90-€60.45; ticketmaster.ie
Taking place on the college’s cricket pitch, the Summer Series has pulled together a deadly line-up, with Grace Jones kicking things off on July 23rd and Imelda May wrapping things up on July 29th. Il Divo (July 24th), Rag’n’Bone Man (July 25th), Bryan Ferry (July 27th) and Gavin James (July 28th) are the hefty sandwich filler between those two powerhouse women.

Knockanstockan
July 28-29; Blessington Lakes, Co Wicklow; €55-€135; knockanstockan.ie
Knockanstockan pushes Irish acts to the forefront, giving them top billing every year. Add Kojaque, Farah Elle, Bantum, Elaine Mai, Roe and Super Silly to your must-see list, then let the rest fall into place.

AUGUST

Chaka Khan: at All Together Now. Photograph: Bennett Raglin/Getty
Chaka Khan: at All Together Now. Photograph: Bennett Raglin/Getty

All Together Now
August 3-5; Curaghmore Eustace, Waterford; €149.50-€179.50; alltogethernow.ie
This new festival by the former Electric Picnic honcho John Reynolds is an antidote to the huge production that EP has become. With a line-up that includes Chaka Khan, Kelela, Nils Frahm and Ghostpoet, it sways away from the commercial and grandiose side of things, which feels like a breath of fresh air for those of us who are too old for this sh*t.

The Beatyard
August 4-5; Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Co Dublin; €59-€75; the-beatyard.com
As one of the few festivals that don’t face the obstacle of mud, the Boatyard is an escape for anyone who likes their feet on firm ground, which is perfect for its dance-heavy line-up of Daphni, Little Dragon, Modeselektor, Kiasmos, Sugar Hill Gang and more.

Indiependence
August 3-5; Deer Farm, Mitchelstown, Co Cork; €109-€179; indiependencefestival.com
In order to cater to the thousands of people who want to see Primal Scream, Jake Bugg and Walking On Cars live, the boars, deer and pheasants – the usual residents of Deer Farm – are tucked away for the weekend, making for an unusual migration that David Attenborough will never examine.

Castlepalooza
August 3-5; Tullamore, Co Offaly; €49-€139; castlepalooza.com
Castlepalooza makes partying as easy as can be, with stages and campsites never more than five minutes away. Ideal. Playing second fiddle to the partying are All Tvvins, Chk Chk Chk, Ships and New Jackson, among many others.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann
August 12-19; Drogheda, Co Louth; fleadhcheoil.ie
Running since 1951, the Fleadh is Ireland’s biggest traditional-music festival. This year’s location, in Drogheda, promises a week of craic agus ceol, with courses and workshops across the city.

Another Love Story
August 17-19; Killyon Manor, Co Meath; €125-€215; anotherlovestory.ie
Produced by Homebeat and Happenings, Another Love Story has an air of magic. It uses Killyon Manor’s library and ballroom as venues, so guests can get up close and personal with the performers, who all get to use the fields and woods as their playground. Although the line-up has yet to be announced, ALS will deliver the goods.

SEPTEMBER

St Vincent: at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty
St Vincent: at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty

Electric Picnic
August 31-September 2; Stradbally, Co Laois; electricpicnic.ie
As soon as the line-up was announced, at the start of March, Electric Picnic sold out. It may be humongous, and it may have more sponsors than necessary, but with Kendrick Lamar, Massive Attack, St Vincent, Nerd and Dua Lipa, EP has outdone itself this year.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
August 31-September 30; Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare; matchmakerireland.com
Before Tinder and Plenty of Fish we had Willie Daly and Lisdoonvarna. Using music and rakes of booze as a social lubricant, almost 40,000 people have the chance to fall in love and fall in like, with Daly on hand to set you up if you need some professional help.

AND IF YOU WANT TO GET THE HELL OUT OF IRELAND

If you want a virtual guarantee of good weather, or never want to hear people screaming “Alan! Steve!” in a campsite at 5am ever again, these festivals are worth saving up for.

Primavera Sound
May 30-June 3; Barcelona, Spain; €215; primaverasound.com
Björk, Lorde, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. This line-up is stunning. Sort yourself out with a nice Airbnb and embrace the siestas, because the Primavera party goes on all night.

Boom Festival
July 22-29; Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal; boomfestival.org
If Burning Man is way out of your financial league, then Boom might be your Ryanair festival destination. It’s all about social harmony and community with this one, so leave your emotional baggage in terminal 1.

Lowlands
August 17-19; Biddinghuizen, Netherlands; €195; lowlands.nl
With Gorillaz, Kendrick Lamar and The War on Drugs performing, the line up some of the festivals happening here but at a cost that will give you chance to have a a bit of a holiday too.

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