I never expected to go to a festival alone in my entire life. Sure, going to three festival in four weekends was probably a touch excessive (and certainly far too much to expect to drag Helena around), but when you’re covering them for magazines, you at least expect a photographer in tow. Not in this case, which left me in charge of pics. Ouch. Not to worry, though, as it took me all of five minutes outside the train station to bump into some nice folks heading towards and obscure County Offaly castle (well i say nice folks, one of them spent the entire festival wearing a t-shirt proudly proclaiming ‘I f*ck nuns’, though I’m sure he doesn’t actually…), and probably spent less time alone than I normally do at festival when I insist on seeing that random obscure band in the ‘far to small to bother with’ tent at a normal festival. Castlepalooza only had two stages, and escaping the crowd was more than a touch difficult.
In truth, there’s only one reason I even bothered to head all the way over to Offaly and hang out in the shadow of a castle all weekend, and they go by the name Mercury Rev. Saturday night’s headliners are a band I’ve wanted to see live since developing a massive fixation with tracks like ‘The Dark Is Rising’ and ‘Godess On A Hiway’ whilst traveling in India a few years back, and their slightly camp melodramatics made the entire things worthwhile, even if they did insist on covering the most obvious of Peter Gabriel songs. The Irish line up was pretty special, too, though. I’ve grown to really apprecaite the day to day bands around here – the likes of The Cast Of Cheers, CODES, Adibesi Shank and Attention Bebe keep life interesting.
Castlepalooza, all in, though, just failed to quite live up to Knockanstockan the week before. The site was almost too small, with the four tiny segments of the campsite (‘Eenie, Meanie, My-Knee and Mo’ – nice!) each almost literally in the shadow of the castle, and the arena so small that you could almost fall from one tent to the other. The strength in depth of the line up was a bit lacking, too, especially on the Sunday. Still, given that I could sneak into the backstage areas with my ‘artist’ pass and have a free beer or two, and there were a few odd workshops at the back focusing on everything from burlesque (no thanks!) to circus skills and yoga, it was well worth going to.
With such an abudance of festival in Ireland these days, though, I think I might be heading elsewhere next year. Especially as Indiependence down in Cork is the same weekend, and by all accounts want of the best events of the summer. Incidentally, I’ve been told by a few slightly ignorant German students recently that Irish music isn’t all that good (really? And German music is?). While I’d agree that there are stronger scenes around the world, there are some amazing bands here. I’d highly recommend anyone at all into angsty rocky stuff downloads The Cast Of Cheers debut ASAP, for example (legal free download). Weakest festival of the summer so far? Well, that seems unfair as it was relaxed and had some nice touches (free coffee and soft drinks in various tents, and the workshops), but it didn’t have the line up on offer at Oxegen or the atmosphere of Knockanstockan. Can’t win ’em all I guess!
Now, how many weeks behind am I at this stage?? Busy summer…