Monday 19 November 2018

I heard the news today... a green fest

Kraftwerk are set to play in Luggala
Kraftwerk are set to play in Luggala

Nick Kelly

The news that Kraftwerk are to play their only European gig of the year at the inaugural A Day In The Life festival in September will be music to the ears of fans who would otherwise be suffering the horrors of post-festival cold turkey. Now, just two weeks after the Electric Picnic, we've another day out to look forward to. And rather than some anonymous field, the setting of Guinness heir Garech de Brun's stately pile in Luggala, Co Wicklow, adds a distinct flavour.

The festival is named for du Brun's late brother, Tara, who was killed in a car crash while high on drugs in London in the 1960s, an incident that was documented by his friend, John Lennon in the Beatles song that closes Sgt Pepper. (Indeed, Neil Young ended his own shows in Cork and Dublin last month with a well-rendered version of A Day In The Life).

Located between the Sally Gap and Roundwood, this bucolic stretch of the Garden of Ireland is known as the first port of call for advertising executives and TV location scouts when a scenic backdrop of rolling green hills and verdant valleys is required.

But for one day only (September 13 to be exact), the Ballykissangel paddywhackery will be replaced by puppet robots standing sternly in front of bleeping laptops playing the finest Teutonic dance music in the world, as hyperactive green strobes duck and dive around them.

Anyone who saw Kraftwerk's astonishing shows in the Olympia and the Electric Picnic a few years ago will know that a singular multi-media spectacle awaits.

The irony is that the video screen projection celebrating Germany's great autobahn network that the band likes to use will only serve to irritate the avid motorists in the 5,000-strong crowd -- officially the capacity is 4,999! -- who are being forced to leave their wheels in their garage -- all private transport having been banned from the site. Instead, the price of the buses to and from the venue is included in the price of the ticket. Organisers say that this makes it the greenest music event of the year. It certainly solves the problem that bedevilled the first day of last year's Electric Picnic festival, when thousands of fans got stuck in the grandmother of all gridlocks on the glorified boreens straddling Stradbally.

This is the problem with hosting large music events in remote rural areas: there simply isn't the infrastructure to cope. Hands up who endured four-hour drives back from Slane Castle? There was certainly no bullet train to Lisdoonvarna when that festival reigned supreme. How that outpost of East Clare coped with the traffic Christy only knows.

And yet ... Probably the best festival I was ever at took place on the outskirts of Skibbereen. The Liss Ard Foundation was some sort of ecological body that owned the beautiful sprawling gardens in this part of West Cork in the 1990s.

The location was hard to get to -- a car was essential -- but once inside its walls, you were met with awesome botanic splendour and an extraordinary line-up that featured legends like Lou Reed, John Cale and Patti Smith and American indie stars such as Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Smog.

I remember seeing the long-awaited comeback of Pulp, who played most of their show behind a Venetian blind (I've still no idea what that was all about). And then there was Mark Eitzel playing to a dozen or so people under a tree in the forest, like some sort of travelling minstrel.

Then, at midnight, there was what was called the Parting Glass -- a small tent where all the acts would gather and play impromptu sets or collaborate with each other. Liss Ard had an intimacy I've never seen replicated, since. As it happens, the self-same gardens are hosting the Cork X SouthWest festival today.

Now, under different administration, the current festival is sponsored by Murphys. This time the emphasis is on Irish acts (Cathy Davey, Jape, The Walls) and on world music (Mali's Afel Bocuom, who played in Ali Farka Toure's band). Meanwhile, the Rula Bula tent caters for the clubbers, with headliner Andrew Weatherall mixing it with local heroes such as Fish Go Deep.

If The Showgrounds in West Cork sound too remote for you, there's always the RatCellar in the Phoenix Park. This is the specially erected tent in which Tom Waits will play his first Irish concerts for 21 years. Needless to say, tickets for these three shows (July 30 to August 1) sold out long ago, but at the time of writing, Waits was offering some front-row seats in an online auction for charity on

The word filtering back about the Glitter And Doom tour, currently snaking its way around Europe, has been very positive, so it seems that good things do come to those who Waits.

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