I arrived at Festival of the Fires well prepared, with a case of my favourite brew in tow. I was tucking into the first of the day, nice and early, when a security gaurd stopped me. “Sorry there, you can’t bring glass bottles into the gig”. Shit! “Hide them in your bag there like a good man” said the bouncer as he winked at me. This was a good start
I’m watching you! Strange mix of cuddly and scary there from Ragnor Olafson
It never does any harm to have a good backstory to help give something a bit of depth and gravitas. Festival of the Fires on the mystical hill of Uisneach has got skills when it comes to historical significance. The guys in Co. Westmeath are selling this as being the oldest festival in Ireland and it might very well be. For thousands of years there were fires lit on this hill to celebrate the festival of Bealtaine (May) and the arrival of summer. Liam O’Maonlai and Kila were buzzing on the whole celtic mysticism thang, right up their ley-line. The tradition of the place is at the core of this relatively new festival, running as a one day gig at the moement, but more than likely going to stretch out to a weekend affair next year.
Expect lots of this kinda thing… it works
The vibe at this is laid back and friendly. Child friendly, hippy friendly, viking friendly, dog friendly and horse friendly. The lineup of bands isn’t stellar, but that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking quality. Some really good acts on some of the smaller stages, giving punters a chance to see bands they won’t have caught before or will have heard about, but not had a chance to see yet. Bressie was a big draw and there were loads of teenies screaming and whooping for the newly appointed Prince of Irish Pop. I’m reliably informed he’s a ride!? For those who wanted to shun the commerciaslism, the Button Factory stage served up a feast of non mainstream acts of high quality and I caught my favourite act of the day down there.
Some legs in that dress fella – Rural Savages
Top band of the day for me were Rural Savages from Donegal. Their lyric “Failed livers and broken teeth, in rock ‘n’ roll we still believe” pretty much sums them up. Chris Martin take note. A punter shouted up at them between songs “Who are ye?”, to which the singer responded “We’re fuckin’ Bressie!”. Beer came out my nose. Punks not dead, it just went to Donegal and doesn’t care if you know who it is or not. Interestingly, if these lads weren’t your bag, Ireland’s oldest band were also playing at Ireland’s oldest festival. Kings of ceili, The Kiifenora Ceili Band were on the main stage at the same time.
Raglans – ones to watch
If there was some kind of system where you could buy shares in a band who you thought would give you a return on your investment (have I just invented something?), I’d buy shares in Raglans. This was the second time I’ve seen these lads and I liked them then. They’ve gotten even better. Tight tunes that pack a wallop, cleverly weaved harmonies and a fine balance between simplistically catchy but complexly interesting instrumentation. Keep sketch for them and tell me if I’m wrong.
Tough gig for some bands hitting the stage early in the proceedings, but it’s also a chance to rise to a challenge. Late in the evening there was a cover band playing Sweet Child of Mine in one of the tents, don’t ask me why, but there was. They had people dancing to them cos the crowd were well lubricated at that stage, shit, I even sang a snatch. But getting folk up dancing early in the day ain’t easy, but Propellor Palms did it. By the time they finished belting out heir feisty funk rock, I was even throwing a few shapes meself. When they started playing you could see people nodding their approval to each other, and those nods eventually spread to their feet. Some excellent musicianship, with the brass section giving things a nice punch and bit of colour. You could do a lot worse than have a boogie to Propellor Palms when the pop up near you.
Value for money is becoming more and more important for people when forking out for a ticket for a festival. Festival of the Fires was serious value for money, nice to feel that you weren’t being ripped off and that you might even be getting a bargain for a change. 40 quid for the day is decent for what was going on in the field. €4.50 for a can of beer was a bit much, they were only €2.50 up the road at Vantastival, but we’ll get to that later in the week. You could bring your own, but do you ever bring enough!? Although the headlining acts here aren’t going to be filling stadiums any time soon (unless Bressie ends up ridin’ Simon Cowell or something), the whole vibe of this festival made for a good day out. The link to the heritage, spirituality and mysticism of this place makes me think that this festival has legs and is going to grow and grow. The reasonably priced tickets also meant that you got a good smattering of head-the-balls who didn’t feel priced out, and let’s face it, head-the-balls make festivals!
I love head-the-balls
There are loads of class festivals in Europe with big reps – Roskilde, Sziget, Sonar, Beneicsasim etc. But Glastonbury has to be the Daddy when it comes to days out, jumping around in a field. There are a number of significant paralells with Michael Eavis’s Bash and this do in David Clarke’s pastures. First off, both shindigs are based on a cattle farm. The historical and mystical significance of both places share a helluva lot of similarities with ley lines, druids and all that malarky. Kila, Liam O’Maonli and the Kilfenora Ceili band have also played Glastonbury, I saw all three there on the same bill! Most importantly, when you leave both festivals, you don’t feel like the sole purpose for it’s exisitence is to empty your pockets, you can bring your own beer for feck sake! Festival of the Fires has one up on the Somerset spraoi. The stone circle in Glastonbury is not ancient or mystical and most of the freaky earth energy line stuff is centred near the town of Glastonbury, not at the site of the gig. On the Hill of Uisneach you’re in the middle of all that craic, so they are right to tap into it. Oh Yeah, I nearly forgot – in Westmeath they burn shit.
Safe Travels, Don’t Die
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