Feck art – let’s line-dance! Mark Gra­ham makes new friends in low places at In­niskeen Coun­tryfest 2014

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES - ayearoffes­ti­valsinire­land.com

To­wards the end of some per­for­mances, Tommy Tier­nan takes on the role of a ring­mas­ter, grin­ning ma­ni­a­cally as he con­ducts au­di­ences in a singsong: “Oh, we’re go­ing out the same way we came in/ Doesn’t mat­ter who you know or where you’ve been/ Makes no dif­fer­ence who you are/ Skid Row Joe or su­per­star/ You’re go­ing out the same way you came in.”

His main plea­sure isn’t de­rived form the pro­fun­dity or meta­phys­i­cal in­sight of­fered by the lines, but more from leading a crowd in a cho­rus from Big Tom and The Main­lin­ers’ piece de re­sis­tance, and from pre­sent­ing the Co Mon­aghan cow­boy’s hit in an eerie new half-light.

Tier­nan isn’t the only one who’s cot­toned on to Big Tom’s con­tri­bu­tion to the canon of Ir­ish cul­ture. The Castle­blaney crooner has just been awarded the free­dom of his home­place. In most cities this usu­ally means the re­cip­i­ent is free to drive live­stock through the town. In the case of Castle­blaney, one would have to imag­ine that this is a prac­tice al­ready en­joyed by quite a few un­dec­o­rated cit­i­zens. Blaney may need to find an­other beastly bonus for the big fella.

Adu­la­tion and “adult dancing” were the or­der of the day in the neigh­bour­ing par­ish of In­niskeen last weekend as Coun­tryfest brought three of the big­gest names in coun­try ’n’ Ir­ish mu­sic to a GAA pitch just out­side the town. The squad of Nathan Carter, Mike Denver and De­clan Ner­ney at­tract- ed more than 2,000 pun­ters to Páirc Grat­tan, where crowds bliss­fully jived and jigged into the small hours of the morn­ing. It’s easy to scoff at a genre of mu­sic that sees lads from Mon­aghan play-act­ing at be­ing mav­er­icks from Mon­tana, but cow­pokes from Cross­ma­glen and Vir­gini­ans from Co Ca­van flock in their droves to these gigs, mak­ing them the best-at­tended live shows by any Ir­ish acts in venues through­out the coun­try.


The feed­ing frenzy around Garth Brooks tick­ets high­lighted the ap­petite for this type of mu­sic, but wit­ness­ing it first-hand made an im­pres­sion. Mu­sic can some­times be a badge worn to re­flect things we want to high­light about our­selves. It can be a fash­ion ac­ces­sory that dis­plays our taste and abil­ity to be on or ahead of trends. Mu­sic can also be­come a com­mod­ity that we col­lect, like stamps, with rare al­bums and oc­ca­sional per­for­mances whip­ping choon-lov­ing twitch­ers into a frenzy. I’ve been guilty of all of the above, but is that what mu­sic is for? Watch­ing a whole com­muni- ty dancing and whole­heart­edly en­joy­ing them­selves with­out re­gard for the cul­tural ca­chet of the mu­sic that moved them had a sense of free­dom about it. An un­self­con­scious and un­fet­tered aban­don per­me­ated the Co Mon­aghan night.

That sense of a com­mu­nity bonded by sound was ev­i­dent again at Van­tas­ti­val when The Bar­ley Mob kicked into the cho­rus of their rebel-rous­ing track Ev­ery­body’s

Mu­sic and, on cue, the en­tire crowd sprang to their feet and chanted “this is for love.” Bar­rence Whit­field & The Sav­ages cap­tured that feel­ing of com­mu­nity at Kilkenny Roots Fes­ti­val. Be­tween soul­ful screams that punc­tu­ated the night like TJ Reid frees punc­tu­ate Kilkenny score­lines, Whit­field ded­i­cated a song to Wil­lie Meighan, one of the fes­ti­val’s or­gan­is­ers and co-owner of Roller­coaster Records. Roller­coaster is a hub of ac­tiv­ity at fes­ti­val time and, as long as Meighan is be­hind the counter, ev­ery day is Record Store Day.

Hav­ing over-in­dulged at yet an­other trio of fes­ti­vals, steep­ing my­self in their in­tox­i­cat­ing sense of tem­po­rary com­mu­nity, I awoke last bank hol­i­day Mon­day in Wan­derly Wagon, ap­pro­pri­ately parked up at the side of Maudlin Street, Kilkenny. As I pon­dered the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of a tongue shave, a De­clan Ner­ney lyric came back to haunt me, and I sang it out with feel­ing : “Oh, stop the world and let me off . . .”

Those coun­try ’n’ Ir­ish boys got mad philo­soph­i­cal skills, yo!

Safe trav­els, don’t die.



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