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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 7 December, 2019
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6 wild and wonderful festivals to party at this summer, according to Irish musicians

Looking for a unique festival experience? We asked the people who know best.

King Kong Company playing at Knockanstockan
King Kong Company playing at Knockanstockan

THERE ARE FEW pleasures in life equal to lying in the sun while your favourite band plays. But when you’re sharing a field with 50,000 people, it can also sometimes feel like the last days of Rome.

We’ve asked some of Ireland’s best live acts to recommend their favourite smaller festivals – intimate alternatives where you can support Irish artists, take in the scenery and not wait half an hour to use a dodgy festival toilet.

Junior Brother

In 2017, I was starting to really get stuck into gigging and taking the goal of being an artist seriously. Up to that point I’d never been to a music festival before, even as a punter. Mark Sheridan asked me to play Arcadian Field, a small festival in Bellurgan House at the foot of the Cooley Mountains in Louth. As my first festival experience, I haven’t had another which has topped it since. 

The location is incredible. There’s so many walks to enjoy, and the house the festival is based around is a beautiful building. They have these creatively rejigged vehicles where VHS machines play old videos of a punter’s choice. I could go on about the various corners of the festival and the character of the surroundings. The size of the festival is perfect, the crowds are lovely, the music fantastic. There’s not much more I need in a music festival really.

Junior Brother, aka Ronan Kealy, is playing the Central Arts Festival, Waterford (June 8), the Roisin Dubh, Galway (June 13), Lost Lane, Dublin (June 15) and De Barra’s, Clonakilty (June 27). His debut album Pull the Right Rope is available to stream here.

Jafaris

Sea Sessions is sick. It’s in Bundoran, so it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. They had this kind of skate park I think they set up for the festival where people would do flips and shit on a bike, skating and stuff.

The vibe was cool. It felt like everyone was embracing us, cuz we’re like this black group, a bunch of black teens from Dublin doing hip hop in Donegal, but they were all bumping and dancing. Ireland’s been surprising me a lot in terms of where you’d have the turned up people.

Jafaris, aka Percy Chamburuka, will be playing Body & Soul and Beatyard this Summer. His debut album Stride is available to stream here.

Nigel Kenny of Bitch Falcon

For me it has to be the Christmas of Summer: Knockanstockan. It’s an incredibly important festival for the continued success of the Irish music scene. Knockanstockan takes all the weird and wonderful bands from around the country and gives them an audience that really cares about music in one of the most beautiful festival sites in the world. It’s amazing to see how this festival has grown over the years.

The lineup is insanely good and i’m looking forward to making the trip to Blessington this year and seeing amazing acts like Sacred Skin, zhOra, Just Mustard, The Scratch, Chief Keegan, Shookrah, Bats… there’s too many to list. The craic is always non-stop, and at this stage it’s turned in to the unofficial Irish Band Summit, so it’s a great place to meet bands you’ve been listening to or hearing about over the last 12 months. If you haven’t been before, make this year the first!

Bitch Falcon are playing Carlow Arts Festival (June 8), Sea Sessions (June 21) and Y Not Festival in the UK (July 27). Their new single Panther is available to stream here.

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Faerie Fields

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Meltybrains?

It’s as small as it gets but we love Way of the West in Connollys of Leap, which only sells about 120 tickets. I suppose like most good small festivals, it’s really conductive to meeting people and making connections. I think the friendships you make there are those which can resume afterwards. A bit like going to the Gaeltacht and having a reunion months later. Good times.

Meltybrains? are playing Body & Soul’s Midnight Circus Tent at 6pm on June 22. Their latest single Roger Federer is available to stream here.

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Ready?

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Ben Bix, bass player and singer in experimental pop band Meltybrains? & producer for Sim Simma, has recently enjoyed plays on BBC Radio 1. An enthusiastic collaborator, he has worked with Loah, Bantum, GodKnows, Fehdah and more. Expect his DJ sets to be an eclectic mix of party tunes from all over the world. . . . . @benbix always delivers the right tune, just at the right time. We've witnessed it before & we'll happily witness it again. @wayofthewestfest . . . #wotw #notacult #irishmusic #irishartists #irishfestival #irish #irishrap #folk #musicfestival #summerfestival #westcork #westisthebest #livelife #livemusic #liveband #lovemusic #irish_daily #folkmusic #irish_passion #exploringireland #cork_daily9

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Daithí

Battle for the Lake is a kite surfing festival in Achill where basically every September, they put on a bunch of music acts and fly over a pile of professional kite surfers. The whole thing is run by these lovely French guys who’ve lived on Achill for years. They have this really nice hostel that everyone goes back to afterwards.

The whole festival has this thing that I really like, which is that in most festivals on islands in Ireland, there’s a bit of a sense of lawlessness, but also this strong sense of community. When I was there last time, you’d go back to one of these pubs that are open super late and some of the kite surfers would just step up and start DJing. There’s a very thin line between the people who are playing or working at the festival and the people who are just going, and for me that’s the best part of small festivals.

Daithí is playing the Mother Pride Block Party on June 29 and supporting Orbital in the Galway Arts Festival on July 27. His latest single Submarines is available to stream here.

Cara Dunne (Mongoose)

Mongoose played Stendhal Festival in Derry in 2017 and it was the kind of experience that had us staring wide-eyed at each other throughout the day, whispering ‘this is nice isn’t it?!’ An utterance which in our experience over the years, you don’t hear yourself say very often when booked to play a festival. Every aspect of the event, from the punters to the volunteers to the general ethos of the festival was just lovely.

Despite the fact that we arrived with very little time to spare before our set, the organisers, stage managers and sound engineers were nothing but friendly and helpful (and forgiving!). There were excellent facilities in the form of proper waste recycling, a designated tent for breastfeeding and platforms for wheelchair users in the fields. Our strongest memory is that of being looked after as artists, a feat which we know can be difficult for festivals, but which Stendhal pulled off perfectly.

Mongoose are playing McHughs in Belfast on June 6 and Dolan’s in Limerick on June 14. Their debut album Suck the Wound is available to stream here.

 

 

More: 19 of the best late bars and clubs around Ireland, as recommended by insiders>

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