Thursday 29 September 2016

Festivals: Your ultimate survival guide

As Forbidden Fruit kicks off a summer of rock and roll, our music critic has the lowdown on all you need to know

Published 03/06/2016 | 14:00

Glastonbury Festival - the festival season is upon us.
Glastonbury Festival - the festival season is upon us.

It's time to retrieve your trendiest wellies and assemble your hippest friends. With Forbidden Fruit kicking off in Dublin this afternoon, summer festival season is officially upon us.

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From now until Electric Picnic brings the shutter down in early September, practically every week will feature an outdoor musical event brimming with beloved superstars and intriguing new artists waiting to be discovered.

If you adore music and are not opposed to spending a few hours in the great outdoors, it's enough to make you glad you are alive.

But festivals are not always for the faint of heart and you need to understand what you are about going in.

Tickets are typically ¤100-plus so you want to get the most from your time. Which means knowing which bands to see, what food-stalls to frequent and when to pack it in for an early night.

If you're confused - and with more festivals than ever this year why wouldn't you be? - worry not. We have here assembled the ultimate Irish festival survival guide.

What to bring

We are going to leap to the conclusion that you aren't a complete idiot and will have remembered sunscreen, a spare set of shorts (someone will spill beer all over you - if it turns out to be me, apologies in advance) and a floppy hat. But that's just the start.

Other essentials include a spare battery for your mobile phone (plus charger as you never know when you may come across a power source) and all the cash you will realistically require, because, really, who needs to spend 70 minutes queueing at one of the two on-site ATMs?

Also remember a backpack to carry your must-haves around and all the layered clothing you can manage. This being Ireland, rain, wind and pavement-melting sunshine will invariably feature in a typical festival afternoon.

If you've enough space left over consider some toilet roll as well. Portaloos are hellish enough already without a paper drought.

What to wear

"Festival chic" is apparently now a thing - or so 'Xpose' and Saturday fashion spreads keep insisting. However, the great thing about festivals is that, in fashion as in music, truly, anything goes. Yes, ladies can be predictable and opt for the "Haim" outfit of hippy-dippy wide-brim hat, garlanded with a ring of flowers, and tie-dye leggings.

But, really, there's no need to conform. Irish festival-goers are generally open-minded. You can march about in the most crazily mismatching costume - or simply in your normal going-out clobber - without meriting a second glance.

One exception is donning a GAA replica jersey, which will draw the enduring opprobrium of hipsters (rugby jerseys are in contrast fine - for reasons it would probably take a team of psychologists weeks to unpick).

What to eat

The best music festivals double as mini-gastronomic fairs. It was at Electric Picnic that Irish foodies were first introduced to the thick-crusted delights of Pieminster, for instance.

In later years, the Stradbally fest expanded its gastronomic offerings further, with live cookery demonstrations and wine-tasting. Electric Picnic remains an outlier to a degree but even at less self-consciously hoity-toity happenings, the food offerings are varied and, indeed deciding where to dine, is now part of the fun.

In other words, fret not if you have an aversion to half-frozen chips served from the back of a van by a man you saw handling a dog five minutes ago. None of that is on the menu.

What to listen to

The first lesson of festival going is that trying to see every last act on the bill is a recipe for misery (and a sprained ankle). Your humble correspondent can attest to this first hand having once dragged his pregnant wife across half the Electric Picnic site for Bat For Lashes's Natasha Khan only to discover, upon arrival, that she was poorly and had been replaced by David Kitt at the last minute.

The point is that festivals aren't regular music gigs and the outset you need to make peace with the fact that you will invariably miss some of your favourite artists. Strike a pact with yourself going in that you'll take the musical distractions as they come and not get hung up on what you see and what you miss. Really, it's the only way.

Alright so we'll make some specific music recommendations.

At the risk of contradicting ourselves, some artists are worth a concerted effort to catch. At Forbidden Fruit, try to arrive on Friday for Pusha T, the Virginia Beach, USA rapper blending wrong-side-of-the-tracks lyrics with killer beats; on Saturday carve a space in your schedule for the psychedelic pyrotechnics of Tame Impala, a bedraggled crew parlaying hippy meanderings into an arena-friendly sound. And on Sunday, stick around for The Field, the best minimalist techno outfit to have ever built a song around a Lionel Richie sample (early hit 'A Paw In My Face').

At next week's BARE festival outside Portalington (June 11), squeeze in headliners The Sugarhill Gang, the trio of New Jersey musicians who helped invent hip-hop with their 1979 single 'Rapper's Delight'.

Six days after that, it's time for Body and Soul Festival (June 17-19) an offshoot of Electric Picnic at Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath. Here there are too many must-sees to list, though recommendations include Canadian art-rockers Wolf Parade, jazz influenced electronica purveyors Floating Points and French house act St Germain (a day by day breakdown has yet to be unveiled).

Over the July Bank Holiday weekend (July 1-3), festival-goers are spoilt for choice with Castlepalooza taking place in Charleville Castle, Tullamore. Headliners include dance clever-clogs Caribou, the devastating Cat Power and haunting Polica.

Down south four weeks later it's time for Independence in Deer Farm, Mitchelstown, Co Cork (July 29-31).Here old-school guitar bands such as Editors and The Kooks are joined by popular Irish staples Bell X1 and Walking On Cars.

And then, as summer gives way to autumn, the official biggie, Electric Picnic (September 2-4). Topping the bill are reformed punk-funk outfit LCD Soundsystem, eighties indie icons New Order, retro-fitted siren Lana Del Rey and Noel Gallagher, fronting his own Oasis-tribute act, the High Flying Birds.

Who to take

A festival friend is not like any other acquaintance. Special qualities are required. It helps if they know more about music than you - just not to the point where you are made feel like a knuckle-dragging boor. Moreover, they should be reasonably chilled out. You don't want to spend all day with someone who loses their temper over a 10-minute wait for their morning falafel.

Also, though a drink or two has never spoiled the fun, avoid the festival-goer more interested in the beer tent than the music stage. You will end up carrying them back, with a better than 50pc chance of their barfing on your shoes. Okay, they're your disposable festival runners. But still, it's the principle.

Irish Independent

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