Three festivals every week for a year. Mark Graham digs seaside rock
A recent festival sold itself as being the last festival of the year. Would ya g’way outta that! There mightn’t be any large commercial behemoths this side of silly season, but as the evenings get darker, festivals around the country get quirkier.
Dublin Burlesque Festival is highlighted and underlined on my calendar for the middle of this month, purely for the cultural experience. November also sees the Irish wing of the Burning Man posse throw a smaller and chillier but similarly spirited sister shindig in Tullamore.
Other Voices will be filmed in Dingle in three weeks’ time and the crowd behind this production have built the event into a highly enjoyable festival by adding some gigs around the town and piping in the sound and visuals from St James’s to big screens in watering holes dotted around An Daingean.
It’s easier to find a virgin in Clonmel than it is to get into the gig in the chapel, but some punters get lucky and the Co Tipp town ain’t all bad either.
Those smaller and specialist festivals that tend to pop up at this time of year get more chance to breathe without being choked out of the market by monster sponsored sessions. These niche gatherings are often where larger festivals get some of their more interesting sideshows.
It would be no shock to catch a speaker from Kilkenomics on the Wonderlust stage at Body and Soul or to see a trad act from Spirit of Folk set the Festival of the Fires stage alight. Getting out to some specialist festivals is like following minor and club hurling teams; once the talent makes it through to the senior ranks you can always say you saw the latest All-Star playing Junior B in mid-winter mud.
Bragging rights to having seen an act before they go stellar isn’t the only attraction and God knows the people who go on about that kind of shite would give you oigher. The overall experience of some smaller festivals is its own reward.
A ROLLICKING TIME WARP
Seaside Jump rockabilly festival in Tramore, Co Waterford last weekend was a good example of this.
Take a small seaside town near hibernation. Bus in a cohort of Teddy Boys and glammed-up girls in vintage clobber. Place them in front of boisterous bands from Germany, Holland, the UK and Ireland. Bang out a some blistering rock’n’roll and what you get is a bizarre raucous and rollicking time warp that is as enjoyable to watch, as it is to jump into the thick of.
The rockers came from all over Ireland and the UK to quiff and quaff in the salty air.
The charm of this event wasn't just the style and neck tattoos, it was how appreciative the mayor of the town was in welcoming the crowd before he cut the ribbon. It was locals joining the ravers for early afternoon jive lessons, it was how much fun the rockers had cutting a rug and revved-up tunes that roared through the night like a souped up Mercury.
Gene Vincent would have been proud. This was niche, but it was nice.
For some balance I watched an overdraft of economists take to the stage last Sunday night for the final gig/show/talk/lecture at the hugely successful and mostly sold out Kilkenomics.
I was digging the presentation, but having been earlier taught how to jive by a peroxide blonde lady with Indian ink spider webs tattooed d on her knuckles, it seemed just a little tame. I was starting to drift when David McWilliams suggested Ireland become a centre for hosting international festivals. “Festivals are an obvious income generator from something we do quite well,” he said.
I’ve been on the road so long that McWilliams is starting to make sense. He makes a good point, but in the meantime I suggest seeking out festivals that focus on generating enjoyment.
Safe travels, don’t die.
IRELAND IS BANJO'D, SAYS GUNTER, AT KILKENOMICS