Wednesday 24 January 2018

Nightwatch: On festival virginity

Declan Cashin

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Winter, that wheezing, sputtering, moody old monster that once seemed so powerful, has been sent packing with about the same piteous levels of public goodwill and affection that was accorded to the dying days of the Bush-Cheney presidency.

Ha, winter: look at the state of him! Seriously, take a moment to look around at him, laugh at him, boo him, mock him. Loser! Thought you were so tough didn't you? Now look at you: friendless, sociopathic, alone; cowering as you're vanquished by the cheeky, welcoming warm touch of spring. LOSER!

Phew. Now that we've got that out of our collective systems, don't you find that your thoughts are beginning to turn more and more to summer plans? I can't tell you how many midweek pints have already been consumed, emails exchanged, Skype chats conducted and Saturday afternoon tea sessions expended among my posse in the plotting of schemes, hoolies, getaways, shenanigans and holidays for the coming months.

There's nothing like a healthy dose of sunshiney vitamin D -- no matter how meek and fleeting its first appearances -- to propel you into getting the to-do lists scribbled and the holiday-leave forms signed.

However, in between the all-consuming, only-thing-keeping-me-going holiday thoughts, there is one personal Everest that I feel I must conquer this year: I've never been to a music festival.

I'll pause now to allow you to reach for the smelling salts or dab at your mouth having no doubt spat out your morning coffee at this revelation. Yes, it's true: I'm not entirely the cool, hip, finger-on-the-pulse pop culture renaissance man you might have thought I was (shoo tumbleweed, shoo!).

Oxegen/Witness, Electric Picnic, Cois Fharraige, Glastonbury, Feile -- you name it, I haven't done it. In fact, the extent of my musical travails has been Slane (for Robbie, U2 and, ahem, The Stereophonics) and concerts and gigs in various sports arenas and corporately monikered venues.

"Why? How??" cry the hard-core musos in my midst. Even pensioners in their twilight years have been to a festival (which I know for a fact as I've interviewed said golden revellers).

You want the simple answer? I am too much of a princess. There's no other way to say it. I like my creature comforts -- as opposed to creatures for comfort on a muddy campsite that resembles the scene of a humanitarian disaster. I haven't slept in a tent since I was a wee lad, and even then it was pitched on the top of my bed in my room, with my parents on call outside to attend to my every whim.

The idea of spending up to three days in a tent, with countless sweaty others and limited-to-no bathing facilities, surviving on a diet of warm beer and pre-cooked burger-like meat substances makes my blood run cold.

Every summer, when I see the footage and pictures of festival-goers soaked to the skin from the inevitable deluges or surfing on mud rivers, I genuinely revert to a trance, before I start screaming uncontrollably, clawing at my own face and babbling gibberish like a clairvoyant getting a premonition of some fire-and-brimstone, Sarah Palin/Tea Party-induced Armageddon.

I hate crowds, I hate queuing, I hate being wet and muddy, so why on earth would I subject myself to my own personal hell which no festival line-up is enough to over-ride? Affixing the word 'boutique' to the bash hasn't won me over. Not even the thought of going there and back on day passes has managed to convince me.

And yet, here I am, seriously thinking about the hitherto unthinkable.

I've never felt like I've been missing out on anything -- until now (I attribute this Ox-istential crisis to turning 30 next year).

So I'm thinking I need to just jump in to one of these festivals: three days of camping, cleaning with baby wipes, brushing my teeth with my own vomit, sleeping with a friend/stranger's gangrenous foot in my mouth, the whole shebang.

Who knows: it mightn't be as harsh as I fear.

Having spent all these years thinking festivals were total winters, maybe they'll turn out to have been spring/summers all along.

Irish Independent

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