JIM CARROLL’S GUIDE TO THE BEST MUSIC FESTIVALS OF THE SUMMER
Jim Carroll runs through the best 25 out-and-about music events of the summer – and this year, every shade of fandom is catered for
Between now and September, a weekend will not pass without a festival or big music show of some stripe or other to tempt you with its wares. The big ones, the small ones, the artsy ones, the hipster ones, the community ones and the ones with the cowboys: the choice is yours.
For about 400,000 people, this will be the summer of the stetson. Unlike the Kilkenny hurlers, Garth Brooks succeeded with his drive for five, and that run of sold-out shows at Dublin’s Croke Park is one for the record books as he betters One Direction and U2.
Leaving friends in low places to one side, the sheer quantity of outdoor events happening in the coming months is staggering. We have become a festival republic, a nation who’ve taken to gigging in the open air with great gusto over the past decade, regardless of the prevailing weather conditions.
Yet caveats come with the width and depth of events on the calendar. The disappearance of Oxegen points to the fact that even festivals with long, fabled histories can’t rest on their laurels. In the case of Oxegen, a mixture of changing market taste, carelessness and hubris did for it in the end.
Then, we must remember this festival republic is also an austerity nation. The money to pay for a banking collapse had to come from somewhere. Those extra taxes and charges foisted on citizens have had a knock-on effect on disposable income, both for the would-be gig-goers and, in the case of younger music fans, their parents.
Festivals and outdoor shows are also subject to the laws of supply and demand. We’ve become used to seeing packed summer schedules, but the past few years have taken this to new extremes. With the exception of metal fans, who are always disenfranchised when it comes to Irish festivals, every shade of music fandom is catered for.
This means repetition in terms of line-ups (you’d be forgiven for thinking Nile Rodgers and his band have moved here). The same Irish acts of a certain level appear on festival bills all over the place and throughout the summer.
The quantity of events is good news for fans, but it means sleepless nights for promoters, who are loath to admit this. It’s impossible to find promoters who will state publicly that they’ve got thousands of tickets to sell for their cursed event because of the public’s new-found penchant for last-minute purchasing. Instead, they grin and bear it – and put up more posters and buy more ads and watch their phones anxiously for calls from the bank manager.
So, enough preamble, on with the show. Here are the 25 events and festivals we’re giving the thumbs-up to this summer.
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, May 31st-June 1st A city festival that combines longstanding acts (Flaming Lips, Public Enemy, 2 Many DJs), evergreen Irish favourites (Bell X1), indie scene stars (Warpaint) and the interesting names of the moment (Little Dragon, Thundercat, Klangkarussell). “Comedy, fine food and festival fun” are the advertised extras. forbiddenfruit.ie
DOWN WITH JAZZ
Meeting House Square, Dublin, May 31st-June 1st Now in its third year, it takes its title from the colourful anti-jazz movement of the 1930s, which held sway in certain parts of rural Ireland, and has a bit of crack with it. A fine gathering of Irish jazz and blues performers, acts not to miss this year include DFF (compos- er Dave Flynn’s anything-goes collective) and the outrageously talented Ensemble Ériu. downwithjazz.ie
LIVE AT THE MARQUEE
Cork, June 29th-July 15th Cork’s long-running pop-up summer venue returns with another run of acts capable of enticing a crowd to the 5,000-capacity big top, including Pixies (June 30th), The Prodigy (July 2nd), Brian Wilson (July 4th) and Lana Del Rey (July 15th). aikenpromotions.com
BODY & SOUL
Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath, June 20th-22nd. One of the real stars of the Irish festival scene in recent times, Body & Soul has got things right, with both acts and ambience. Performers to pull the cognoscenti to the midlands next month include John Grant, Caribou, Jon
Hopkins, Of Montreal, Mount Kimbie and Jessy Lanza. bodyandsoul.ie
Live at the Marquee, Cork (June 24th); Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin (June 25th) You know that after these shows YouTube will be cluttered with shaky videos of the band doing A Day Like This. Aside from the classics, you can expect Guy Garvey and his seasoned mob to feature tunes from current album, The Take Off and Landing Of Everything. elbow.co.uk
Bundoran, Co Donegal, June 27th-29th Sea, surf and sounds are the Donegal festival’s big calling-cards, and they’ve gained the trust of a sizeable community of music fans over the past few years. We’d happily surf to the northwest to see Kelis, Lonnie Liston Smith, Ella Eyre, Flight Facilities, Drenge and Erol Alkan. You can also check out what The Strypes are like two years after their breakthrough. seasessions.com
WESTPORT FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND FOOD
Westport House, Co Mayo, June 28th & 29th As you’d expect from a festival with both music and food in the title, as many chefs as drummers feature on the line-up. On the music side: David Gray, Kool & The Gang, Bryan Adams, Little Green Cars, Tinariwen, Bell X1, Daithi, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and the Kilfenora Céilí Band. And in food: Darina Allen, Ross Lewis, Neven Maguire, Rachel Allen and Clodagh McKenna. westportfestival.com
Marlay Park, Dublin, June 29th They’ll be plugging last year’s ambitious Reflektor album, but those still going on about seeing them at Electric Picnic in 2005 can relax, as the more seasoned classics should also surely feature. arcadefire.com
Live at the Marquee, Cork (July 14th); Big Top, Galway (15th); Iveagh Gardens, Dublin (18th & 19th) Another band who enjoy a strong affinity with Irish audiences, The National’s four Irish summer shows are proof that the long game works. It might have taken them five albums to become overnight sensations, but they’ve resolutely stuck to their guns rather than going for the quick fix. americanmary.com
Kilruddery, Co Wicklow, July 5th & 6th Having arrived on the scene last year, Groove showed that there’s always room for another event, especially one just on the outskirts of the capital. Acts this time around include David Gray, Paloma Faith, James, Cathy Davey, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott and Big September. groovefestival.ie
Marlay Park, Dublin, July 12th Last year’s AM album showed that no one comes close to the Arctic Monkeys in delivering sleek, tough, audience-friendly arena rock. It helps, too, that Alex Turner appears to have borrowed a lot of his onstage tics and mannerisms from fellow Sheffield man Richard Hawley. The only rock band you need to see this summer. arcticmonkeys.com
Marlay Park, Dublin, July 2nd You probably didn’t get an invite to the wedding either but you are invited to (buy a ticket for) Marlay Park. It’s Ye’s biggest show to date in Ireland, but he has stellar company in Pharrell “Happy” Williams to help shift tickets. Support from ORB. kanyewest.com
Paulstown, Co Kilkenny, July 4th & 5th It’s always good to see some new arrivals on the scene so hello Light Colour Sound. A huge line-up of acts are set to play, including Cathy Davey, Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac, Wallis Bird, Jape, Clive Barnes, Jerry Fish, Come On Live Long, O Emperor, The Raglans and more. Bonus feature: a full-on funfair. lightcoloursoundfestival.com
Marlay Park, Dublin, July 18th-20th Last year, the sun shone for Longitude’s debut and all raved about what was the line-up of the summer. Things are a little more muted this time around, although we’re looking forward to Massive Attack, Disclosure, Haim, Rudimental and James Vincent McMorrow. longitude.ie
Croke Park, Dublin, July 25-29 As we’ll see with today’s election results, 400,000 people can be wrong, but rather you than me when it comes to arguing with these country music fans. It’s a mind-boggling piece of business and, yes, we’re concentrating on the business so we don’t have to write about the music. Or the hats. garthbrooks.com
Blessington, Co Wicklow, July 25th & 26th One of the best little festivals in the land, Knockanstockan makes great use of a fantastic site overlooking the lakes and a strong community vibe. Acts confirmed include Booka Brass Band, The Eskies, I Draw Slow, The Hot Sprockets and Tandem Felix. knockanstockan.ie
Macroom, Co Cork, July 25th Billed as a “a little festival in the countryside”, the Mountain Dew festival draws a crowd of curious music-seekers to the O’Herlihy family’s back garden. Acts on the bill this year’s include the excellent Talos, Slow Skies, Farewell JR, Conor Walsh, Oliver Cole and more. See facebook.com for details
Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly, August 1st-3rd One of the country’s finest small festivals continues to draw a crowd of happy punters because of great attention to detail. This year’s music-makers include Gruff Rhys, We Cut Corners, Summer Camp, We Were Evergreen, Dan Croll and some sterling DJs in the form of Gilles Peterson, Andy Weatherall and Norman Jay. castlepalooza.com
Mitchelstown, Cork, August 1st-3rd Firmly established, this one pulls ’em in with a strong booking policy of prime local and international names. Fans of White Lies, Tom Odell, Hozier, Delorentos, Dan Croll, The Minutes, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Damien Dempsey will want to check this one out. indiependencefestival.com
Sligo, August 10th-17th After last year’s triumphant visit to Derry, the biggest traditional music festival in the world heads to Sligo for a week of concerts, sessions and workshops. Expect trad masters, apprentices and and general good times.
BELSONIC Custom House Square, Belfast, August 15th-22nd Belsonic has long been the smart choice for those looking for a cool city fest with a decent line-up. Highlights this year should include Example (August 15th), Queens of the Stone Age (20th) and Imagine Dragons (22th). belsonic.com
Boucher Playing Fields, Belfast, August 21st-24th Bookended with The Killers and Bastille on the 21st and David Guetta with Steve Angello on the 24th, Vital is setting out its stall with verve for this city festival. tennentsvital.com
Tubby’s Farm, Hillsborough, August 2 2nd-25th A festival growing in reputation every year, Sunflowerfest is about more than just music. Family-friendly attractions include storytelling, poetry and art, dance and music workshops. For music fans, the line-up includes The Barley Mob, Chelsea Chambers, King Kong Company, The Hot Sprockets and Scorpion Jack. sunflowerfest.co.uk
Stradbally, Co Laois, August 29th-31st The big daddy of them all. The Picnic turns 10 this year – as in, it’s 10 years since the first one as opposed to last year’s fake 10th birthday – and is set for this next decade with Festival Republic firmly in charge of things. You know what’s involved at this stage so let’s hope for season-defining sets from Portishead, OutKast, Beck, Pet Shop Boys, Kelis, St Vincent and the hundreds of others heading for Stradbally. electricpicnic.ie
SPIRIT OF FOLK
Dunderry, Co Meath, September 19th-21st The festival took last year off, but returns for 2014 with a two-day wham-bam of music and other activities. Acts yet to be announced, but you can expect such side attractions as storytelling, battle re-enactments, tours to local historic sites, holistic therapies and child-friendly entertainment. spiritoffolk.com
FUN LOVIN CRIMINALS
LANA DEL REY
KOOL AND THE GANG
PET SHOP BOYS