Tuesday 30 May 2017

nights in shining armour at the temple of sound

As you read this, some of you may well be frolicking like a loon at the Electric Picnic. But why should the frolicking stop when Monday morning rolls around? If you've got festival fever and can't abide the prospect of leaving loon-dom and returning to the real world just yet, then you can happily postpone the evil day by heading to the Sligo countryside where the inaugural Temple House festival takes place next weekend.

It's the second in a triple-whammy of live music jamborees in the North-West after the unforgettable Leonard Cohen shows in Lissadell House in July and the forthcoming Sligo Live blow-out next month.

Compared to the goings-on in Stradbally, the Temple House festival near the town of Ballymote is a more modest and low-key affair, but what it loses in wow factor, it gains in the intimacy of its smaller scale -- and in these cash-strapped times, a three-day camping ticket is a fraction of the cost at €79, and day tickets are €45.

There's hardly a medieval castle or aristocratic country demesne left in Ireland that does not host its own music/arts/Guatemalan kick-boxing festival these days, but Temple House has a history as rich as any.

The remains of a 12th Century lakeside castle (built in 1181) occupied by the Knights Templar -- yes, they of The Da Vinci Code infamy who fought in the medieval Crusades in the Holy Land -- can be found on its grounds close to the impressive 18th Century Georgian mansion that is home to Roderick and Helena Perceval, in whose family it has (mostly) been since the mid-1600s.

Indeed, the family trace their ancestry back to Sir Perceval, one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. Skipping through the generations, a member of the family helped to invade England as part of the retinue of William the Conqueror; and in the 16th Century, a Perceval was granted land in Ireland as a reward for his services to Queen Elizabeth I, and a descendant of his wed Mary Crofton -- heiress to the 1,200 acres of Temple House -- in 1665.

It was also said to have been rented out to local chieftains at various stages in its history, after it advertised on daft.ie.

But having withstood the Knights Templar and 900 years of our turbulent history, can it survive a set from Reef on the main stage on Saturday night? The West Country outfit are currently on a reunion tour, intent on making the public fall in love all over again with their retro swaggering blues-rock that briefly rode on the coat-tails of the Brit-pop explosion in the mid-90s.

That electro-hippy chieftain, Howard Jones, headlines the main stage on the same night. Mister Jones is tapping into our baffling nostalgia for the 1980s by re-releasing his first two albums this autumn. Back in the day, the synth-pop supremo liked to perform in day-glo orange jump-suits. If he reprises that wardrobe this weekend, he could fin himself mistaken for a Guantanamo Bay escapee and hauled back to Camp X Ray before he's got to the chorus of 'What Is Love?'.

Another highlight is the late, great Bob Marley's old backing band The Wailers, who strike me as a perfect way to see out a lazy, sunny Sunday in Sligo.

But the lion's share of the line-up is proudly guaranteed Irish and sees young hopefuls like The Revolutionary Commandos of the 3rd Secret of Fatima rub shoulders with more established acts such as the Choice Prize-nominated Codes and RSAG; buzz band du jour O Emperor; stout-hearted troubadour Damien Dempsey; and beloved veterans like The Undertones, The Stunning and The Walls.

New Order and Specials fans take note, there are also guest DJ sets from Peter Hook and Terry Hall, as well as our own turntable legend Donal Dineen.

But as has become customary now at these events, there's as much going on off-stage as on it -- including poetry readings, face painting, holistic therapies, art exhibitions, a farmers' market, and a vintage clothes and jewellery fair.

Inside the walled garden, a variety of activities is promised, including "an eco-detective nature walk", African drumming workshops, Pixie Yoga, Faerie Meditation and Bubble Workshops through sing song. Can you guess which of these is aimed at the kiddies?

Resembling the Father Ted sports day, there's also a Wheelbarrow Race, Tug of War, Egg & Spoon and, er, a Sack Race.

And in a nod to the history of the Big House, there'll be a Medieval Village with living history demonstrations, and where you can dress up in the arms and armour of yesteryear.

From Jamaican reggae legends to Derry punk icons to larking about pretending to be, literally, knights in shining armour, it's not a bad way to say goodbye to summer. And if all else fails, there's always the Pixie Yoga.

nkelly@independent.ie The Temple House festival runs Friday to Sunday. www.templehousefestival.ie

Irish Independent

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