Partying under a plastic poncho is no picnic

It is Saturday afternoon in Punchestown, barely a couple of hours into Oxegen 2006, and already a month's worth of rain has bucketed…

It is Saturday afternoon in Punchestown, barely a couple of hours into Oxegen 2006, and already a month's worth of rain has bucketed down on the site, accompanied by cold, wintry winds.

The ground has turned to mud, and punters, many of them dressed more for a summer picnic than a day-long downpour, are huddled under plastic ponchos and doing their best to party on regardless.

Was Day One of Oxegen 2006 a damp, miserable experience? Certainly. Did rain stop play? Certainly not.

Quirky New York singer Regina Spektor, performing in the New Band Tent, offers to sing a song to banish the rain. She obviously doesn't realise just how impervious to magic spells Irish weather can be.


In the Green Room tent, where Los Angeles singer Jenny Lewis is performing, a giant waterfall pours down into the middle of the crowd, the result of a crew member cutting a hole in the roof to release a large pool of rainwater which has gathered.

On the main stage, British band The Magic Numbers, more accustomed to performing their summery, American west coast-style tunes under clearer skies, adapt some of their sunnier lyrics to suit the prevailing conditions. "Don't let the rain be the one to change you, baby," sings vocalist Romeo Stodart. No danger of that, Romeo - we're well used to it by now.

The rain lets up temporarily during a set by American nerd-rockers We Are Scientists, so naturally the band take the credit. However it's not long before the clouds open up again.

For many of the lesser-known acts, the rain ensures that they have a full attendance in their tent. Most of the performers express their sympathy for the sodden festival-goers; Julian Casablancas, singer with New York rockers The Strokes, shows his solidarity by jumping off the stage and lying down in a muddy pool. It's all right for him, though: he can have a nice hot shower afterwards.

Happily, the campers also have shower facilities, but how they're going to get their clothes dry is anyone's guess.

In the VIP area, the Hard Rock Café provides a haven for celebs and media, who dine in comfort. Musicians such as Majella Murphy, Foy Vance and Jinx Lennon entertain the VIPs with acoustic sets.

Back in the muddy fields, the rain is beginning to dissipate, and the skies clear in time for the headlining set by The Who. We won't even go into the supreme irony of two 60-year-olds performing tunes entitled The Kids are Alright, My Generation and Teenage Wasteland. Suffice to say that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey play a blistering set, and show the young 'uns how to make music that lasts well into the next generation.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist