My 10 Step Guide to Summer Festivals, with advice on wellness, Dad Dancing, Unicorn Toast, explaining a boutique festival to your mother and the fun that can be had with a Spanish guy you met at a reiki workshop.
GET YOURSELF CONNECTED
Forget who’s on the bill and what’s in the food court. It’s mainly just Mumford and Sons and over-priced burgers. The only thing that really matters is the quality of your internet connection.
It’s vital you stay connected. A lot of major artists like to announce their secret gigs at festivals via Twitter. Miss one of these tweets and you could easily stumble into a pop-up Ed Sheeran gig by mistake. There goes your music credibility and there’s no getting it back. So, make sure you remain in the loop.
This isn’t so easy, given the number of festivals that place in rural Ireland. Getting a decent 3G connection at these things is like trying to find a bottle of water under €3. The good news is UK festivals like Glastonbury and Creamfields now have on-site wi-fi, and you can expect to enjoy it here soon. The bad news if you’ll have to share this wi-fi with throngs of local culchies, sitting outside the festival site in their cars, downloading Netflix boxsets until their iPads go on fire. There was a time they would have been selling you Choc Ices and Cadet Cola. Now, it’s all about getting a proper broadband connection for a couple of days.
What did you call the guy who brought an orange to Feile back in the day? A health freak. It’s not like that anymore. It’s clear that a lot of festivals are more about recovery, than they are about getting wasted in the first place. As any 1990s’ festival veteran will tell you, the most disgraceful thing you’ll see at the modern shindigs is the queues of people lining up at dawn for a Greet the Sun Workshop. You will also find people doing yoga when they could be losing their minds in a three-person tent. It’s shocking what the kids get up, when they are away from their parents for a few days.
Body and Soul, in Co. Westmeath, leads the way with a wellbeing section in what they call the Second Nature Arena. It is, according to the website, ‘an enchanted menagerie, that encompasses music, performance, art and zen-like pockets of peace.’ They also have hula-hooping and chanting. What you do with that information is up to you. Although you probably will need somewhere to calm down alright, after Sleaford Mods are finished roaring at you from the stage. (Your man is fierce angry.)
The biggest musical event of the year might just be Fleadh Cheoil. It’s back in Ennis again this summer, having attracted 400,000 visitors to the town last year. If there is a Wellness Area, it’s probably a woman dressed as Mammy who says, “Ah look, you’ll be grand.”
The Fleadh runs for a week in August. Sure, if you can’t get a dry day in August, you’ll never get one, say people in countries other than Ireland. You’ll probably never get a better chance to watch someone playing the squeezebox in the pissing rain. That said, you’ll never get a better chance to watch free busking, performed by some of the best musicians in the country. And nobody fancies themselves as Ryan Adams. No wonder it gets such a crowd.
The real beauty of the Fleadh is that it’s in a town. Rather than wading across a field to queue for an hour, so that some young one can fling a pint of Hop House 13 at you, there is the option of walking into an actual pub. And for anyone who can’t make it to Ennis, you can follow the event on Fleadh TV. That’s handy, even if it does sound like a porno channel for the Gaeltacht.
There’s talk they are going to introduce music at this year’s Electric Picnic. But let’s face it, music festivals these days are mainly about food. The most popular foods, at the time of writing, are donuts, noodles, kimchi, Asian Street Donuts and sausage sandwiches for the culchies. (The hunger do be huge after the spliffs, lads.) Obviously, these are current trends and unlikely to last through the summer. Anyone coming across an Asian Street Food stand this year will think they have taken a time machine back to 2014. (Particularly if they bought one of those pills off your man, Chemical Noelie.)
So, what on-trend food can you expect at this year’s festivals? It’s hard to say this and remain upbeat about the future of our species, but it appears that all the hipsters in New York are eating unicorn toast. This is bread topped with dyed cream cheese and sprinkles. Its female equivalent is mermaid toast, which is dyed blue rather than the pastel colours favoured on unicorn toast. Like I say, these are the end days. This is food for people who have trouble moving into adulthood. So it will probably be a huge hit at Electric Picnic.
This could be confusing for your mother. You: “I’m going to a boutique festival.” Mam: “Why are they celebrating small shops that are perfect if you need something for a wedding?” You: “Mammy, you’re the gift that keeps on giving.”
Why is it called a boutique festival? To keep away working-class types, who are rightly suspicious of anything with a pompous French name? Correct. To make doubly sure by putting the phrase ‘Wellbeing and Sustainability Tent’ in huge letters on the poster? Correct again. Your working-class types will do anything to avoid running into a hippy. And still people say they have no taste.
The acts on the boutique festival bill often include a fading star who has seen better days. It’s a nailed-on certainty he will say how much he loves playing in front of a small, intimate crowd again. It’s also a nailed-on certainty that he doesn’t mean it, and neither does his bank manager.
These events normally take place in the grounds of an old country house, so you can escape the music. The adjoining woodlands are perfect if you want to spend time reflecting on your life. Or shag that dusky Spanish guy you met at the reiki workshop. Or both at the same time, if the Spanish guy isn’t up to much on the sex front.
You’ll remember that video of a middle-aged man dancing at the Island Beats Festival in 2015. You can view this video in a number of ways. I’d view it through my hands, if he was my Dad. Bear that in mind if you’re a 40-something man, tearing it up to Krafty Kuts this summer. It’s nice that the millennials in the crowd are whooping and shouting, “Never grow old, you crazy diamond.” It’s not so nice that their lifetime ambition is to get 10,000 likes for some video of a nutter they shot at a music festival. Think about that for a minute. And just tap your feet to the beat.
This obviously doesn’t apply at Nostalgia Festivals around the country. The Punchestown Music Festival plays host to a list of music legends this summer, along with Shane Filan. There’s Tom Jones, Village People, Culture Club, All Saints and more. This is a safe space for middle-aged types to down five pints in half an hour and lose the run of themselves. Unless you feel a bit icky at the sight of senior-citizen mouthing ‘you’re my sex bomb’ at her husband, which can be disgusting when you see it for the first time.
TIS THE SEASON
You could always give music festivals a miss and dip into the Irish Summer Season. This is where well-off types go to horse related events and pretend to be British. The effect is usually more Aintree than Ascot, which is probably down to the fact that we’re a pack of savages.
These horsey events include the Galway Races, Derby Day at The Curragh and the Horse Show at the RDS. Some people will add the Rose of Tralee to this list. Whether or not this is horse-related depends on your taste in women. The big event for snobs on Leeside is Cork Week, hosted at the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Anyone is welcome there, as long as they can look down their nose at people, while speaking through it. (It’s all about nasal in Posh Cork.)
Don’t worry about being stuck for conversation, if you plan to crash these high society larks. If all else fails, say “I’ve just being talking to Robin.” There isn’t actually a person called Robin, but it makes you sound well connected. Also, be careful when talking about Marbella. Some people pronounce it Mabs instead of Marbs – that can sound like you are going to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service for your holidays. Awks.
I’m not suggesting that these summer events are just an excuse to get shitfaced in a crowd of strangers. But, discoverireland.ie lists the Irish Gin and Tonic Festival as a Food event. Let’s just say you’re never that far away from the booze.
But what about food, or soakage as it’s known by 93 pc of festival-goers. The growth in vegan and vegetarian number is reflected in dedicated festivals and food trails this year. You can expect to meet lots of people with terrible breath, passing out in front of you because they could do with a bit of meat. There will be people enjoying themselves as well.
The coming thing on the culinary festival front is food trucks. Limerick hosted an International Food Truck Festival over the June Bank Holiday. This food truck craze isn’t just chipper vans, with knobs on. The Limerick festival had lobster, shark, crocodile and, wait for it, insects. This is a brave new world for you festival foodies. Except of course for the insects. The chipper vans have been serving those for years, they just weren’t on the menu.
Credit where credit is due. It isn’t every country in the world that would organise a slew of outdoor events, when it’s effectively located at the bottom of a waterfall. The price we pay for this level of foolishness is a slavish addiction to long-term weather forecasts.
Ken Ring, also known as ‘that guy in New Zealand’, has had his say on summer 2017. Basically, north, east and western parts will enjoy a drier than normal summer. People in the south? You don’t want to know.
The problem with Ken is, that while he might predict it will be nice for 10 days in June, he can’t say if it will be raining at 8:43 pm on the 15th of July. This is where the internet comes into its own. Where better to get an accurate, scientifically-based view of the world?
The key phrase here is ‘the Norwegian crowd.’ This is the Norwegian weather website, Yr.no, which would appear to have a better grasp of Irish weather than Met.ie. The good news is they can give you a pretty accurate picture of what’s coming down the road in a fortnight’s time. The bad news is that picture is of a dark cloud with a woman under it shouting, “Jesus lads, that’s the last time I buy cheap wellies.”
I’m so disgusted hotels have jacked up their prices for Bruce Springsteen, I’m not going to bother going, said no Irish person ever. We’d take any kind of punishment to see our heroes, which in the case of Garth Brooks, includes sitting there and listening to him for three hours.
The punishment includes paying well over the odds if we leave it too late. At the time of writing, there are still tickets available for Electric Picnic, on Ticketmaster’s official resale partner, seatwave.ie. A ticket with a face value of €165 was available for €499, before you add the booking charge of €90.99. There is a pop-up that explains the purpose of this charge, if you fancy a laugh, at your own expense.
Again at the time of writing, that total cost of almost €589.99 would get you a week in Majorca, flights and accommodation included. So there you have it – Majorca or watching Duran Duran in the pouring rain. The truth is we’d prefer the latter. Because for all the hassle, there’s nothing like a festival in summertime.