Colours of Ostrava (photo: press)

Irish festivals are as popular as they’ve ever been, but are we missing out on a whole lot more?

Festival season is back with avengence, and consistent with the last few years, it’s bigger than ever. Electric Picnic continues its annual foray into in its expanded form. Marlay Park’s Longitude has departed the world of its UK sibling Latitude and fully grabbed the zeitgeist, with an of-the-moment lineup laden with hip-hop and UK grime.

There are ample newcomers, from the imaginative recent ‘Vinyl’ event at IMMA, to the holiday park meets rave concept of Trabolgan’s ‘It Takes A Village’, modeled on the now-defunct Butlin’s based All Tomorrow’s Parties. ‘Body and Soul’, a spin-off from the popular leftfield area of Electric Picnic, has grown into something truly atmospheric and memorable.

These festivals, though, come at a price. Electric Picnic tickets start at over €200, and you can easily double that if you plan to stay on sight for the entire weekend. Besides – a sure indicator of its success – it sold out before announcing a single act, and then announced a selection of acts that plenty found lacking. It Takes A Village is resident’s only, and while conceptually clever, came in at a stonking minimum of €250, and that subject to buying together with a load of mates.

You could argue, of course, that a weekend with a load of mates in front of some solid music is worth that kind of money: it’s no more than you’d spend jetting off somewhere for a party, after all. But then you start looking at the alternatives.

Glastonbury, which takes a break this year, typically comes in at around €300, but comes together with over 100 stages, and a selection of music that undeniably blasts any Irish festival utterly out of the water. They have field after field of non-music stuff of all shapes and sizes, astonishing all-night raves, there’s no transparently sponsor-focused ‘arena’ to ensure you buy at the bars, and the whole things for charity. Plus, you can stay five days if you want.

Further afield, the appalling named Mad Cool festival in Madrid in July costs €150 for a weekend a ticket, virtually guarantees sunshine, and features Arctic Monkeys, Pearl Jam, Jack White, Depeche Mode, Jack Johnson, Snow Patrol and Queens Of The Stone Age (and we could go on, for quite a while).

Arguably the best value for those who go for a solid mix of lineup and vibe comes in Ireland’s long-standing mid-sized festival Indiependence and Knockanstockan, the latter of which returns from a break this summer. Both are excellent at price substantial under €100, especially when Knockanstockan has long let you walk the entire sight with an entire backpack full of beer.

If you’re going to spend hundreds of euros on one of Ireland’s bigger weekend-long outings, though, it’s high time you considered hopping to Europe instead.


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