Festival veterans relive their party highlights

FABULOUS music, sunshine and rain — then more rain… As a new generation prepares to repeat the cycle again, we asked festival veterans to remember their highlights....

Seamus Begley, Accordion player and singer performs at Masters of Tradition Bantry August 14-18

Glastonbury 1989 — We were supporting The Waterboys and it was the most fantastic gig. When I stepped out on stage and saw 150,000 people in front of us I remember thinking, it won’t get any better than this.

But we got off to a bad start because the guy introducing us said we were ‘The Waterboys’. When the audience realised we were Begley and Cooney, I think we got a sympathy vote.

Alison Curtis, Today FM Saturday 7-10am

Electric Picnic 2005 — The highlight was Arcade Fire. I had bought their debut album Funeral in Toronto the year before and fell in love with it.

They arrived on Irish shores a year later and the buzz had definitely built around them. Myself, my hubby-to-be and a group of our friends headed to the tent (yes tent not main stage) they were playing in.

And it was an absolutely surreal, all encompassing and totally lifting set. None of us uttered a word for the whole gig. It was so special that a few years later, after they became one of the biggest bands in the world, I interviewed the band and they said it was one of their favourite gigs ever.

Shane Mitchell, Accordion player from Dervish co-founder of Sligo Live International Festival, October 23-28, 2013

The Boys of Ballisadaire 1982 — This Sligo event was one of Ireland’s first outdoor festivals and it is the one that had the biggest impact on me.

It was my first festival — I had the honour of playing at it when I was 16. It has stuck with me my whole life. De Dannan, Stockton’s Wing and Clannad were all there. It had a unique atmosphere and unbelievable sound and lighting, Joe O’Herlihy from U2 was involved in the sound.

There was a very free love hippy 1970s vibe and the festival was completely focussed on the music. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since, although I’ve been at hundreds of music festivals as a performer and as a producer.

Red Hurley, performs Spiritual Hits, Gospel & Pop hits

I had been to a few smaller events in Ireland before I went to the US in the 1970s and went to a festival in LA in 1974 that was held in three different venues — you could go to any of the three — and we went to the one in The Coliseum which was a massive gig with Taj Mahal, Crosbie, Stills, Nash & Young, Bob Marley and the Wailers — and the piece de resistance: Stevie Wonder.

I remember he had just broken his leg in a car crash so he was in a wheelchair. The show was spectacular.

It was a warm summers day in August. You could buy drink at a bar, I think, but it didn’t even dawn on us to do so — we’d no interest — everyone was there purely for the music.

Red Hurley, Saturday, September 21, at the National Concert Hall Dublin, Sunday, September 22, at Cork Opera House and Friday, October 4 at UCH, Limerick.

Shane Dunne, indiependence

A big highlight for me is when I go to festivals and see bands I’ve worked with for years, bands who started out really small, being booked for gigs on the festival stages. Seeing Ham Sandwich at Electric Picnic in 2011 was one of the best moments for me.

Although I’d a personal festival low-point there the year before — monsoon rain descended at 11pm on the Sunday and when we got back to our tent it had flooded and all our clothes and belongings were completely destroyed. We had to pull down the whole thing and head for home early — luckily I hadn’t been drinking.

Adi Roche, Chernobyl Children International

Rose of Tralee — My first encounter with the Rose of Tralee Festival was way back in the early 1980s when I attended the festival as a street campaigner highlighting the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The streets were alive with “buzz”— music from a mobile radio station, Radio Kerry, street theatre groups performing everywhere, Fossetts Circus, kids passing by with ice creams and candy floss, street stalls like ours for the idle curious and the keen excitement and anticipation about who was going to be the new Rose of Tralee. I have been hooked ever since and make it part of my annual holiday to Kerry.

Tralee has a special place in my heart and my charity, Chernobyl Children International, has always received a great welcome from the Tralee home crowd and visitors.

Thanks to amazing work done by our local volunteers, the Rose of Tralee will always hold a special place for me, a festival of beauty, warmth, fun, delight, and caring.

John Creedon, RTÉ Radio 1 weekdays 8-10pm

Rory Gallagher Macroom Mountain Dew 1978 — the scale wouldn’t have been as huge as some of the festivals in the 1970s — maybe 20,000 — but it stands out for me as one of the best ever.

I was 18 and had no money and wasn’t even supposed to be going to the gig but I had a notion that if I got down there things would have to work out as I was big Rory fan.

My first break was that when I got on the CIE bus in Cork the driver knew my dad, who also worked in CIE, so they let me off the price of the ticket and, then, when I got down there, I blagged a few pints off someone — but I still had no concert ticket.

The concert was being held in a beautiful natural amphitheatre in a field by the river in Macroom and I waded into the river until I was knee deep in water, trying to get across — which of course I’m not advocating — but naturally they had bouncers even on the river.

But I kept blagging, telling them my dad was from the area — Inchigeelagh — and the guy took pity on me and let me in. Not only did I get in for free — after the concert I’d no idea how to get home and was wandering around Macroom when I saw my first cousin — he was a guard on duty and told me to wait 10 minutes as he’d be driving back to Cork and could give me a lift.

Heidi Higgins, Fashion Designer

Electric Picnic 2012 — Besides the fact that the picnic saw a great day of sunshine and thousands of happy people I was impressed by the diversity of music and creativity on offer.

There really is something for everybody and for me the best thing was just being there, meeting friends, soaking up the atmosphere and going with the flow which is very unlike my everyday life! I made the best of the day, swapping my heels for a pair of wellies, lasting out the night topped off by a stunning performance by Elbow.!

If the gods are willing we will do it all over again this year.


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