About a decade ago, you could have counted the number of really good Irish music festivals with one hand. But in the past couple of years the number of music festivals in Ireland has exploded. And it’s not just the tastes of indie and rock fans that have been catered for – although these are indeed spoiled for choice - all kinds of genres now have festivals in Ireland.
The following is user’s guide to some of the main music festivals that take place in Ireland each summer.
September 4-6, 2009
Stradbally, Co. Laois
This festival, which began in 2004, years, bills itself as the “boutique music festival.” Electric Picnic is a real music lovers festival. More partcualrly, its for music fans who be getting that little bit older, but who aren’t prepared to not wash and eat nothing but half cooked burgers for three days. So the crowd is that bit older than Electric Picnic’s main rival, Oxegen. (See below.) Still, it may be that bit older, but it’s certainly every bit of fun: there have been some terrific acts who have played here over the years, such as Wilco and Arcade Fire. The location, Stradbally in County Laois – less than a two hour drive from Dublin – is an almost ideal festival location, replete with lush green, natural amphitheatre-type fields. The lineup for 2009 has yet to be announced at the time of writing, but expect it to be strong and eclectic. This festival is also noteworthy for the pretty good camping arrangements (as festivals go) and the wide variety of food and drinks available, ideal for the more discerning festival-goer – think vegetarian wraps and mohitos, not half-cooked burgers and warm beer. Electric Picnic is also commendable for being one of the best organized – and certainly more eco-friendly – festivals in the country.
July 10 – 12, 2009
Punchestown, Co. Kildare
This festival typically attracts a younger crowd than Electric Picnic, but can usually also boasts a fairly strong line up each year. In recent years, it has attracted some negative publicity for excessive teenage drinking, and for alleged sexual assaults, although last year’s festival apparently went much smoother by comparison. Last year, this festival was extended to three days: acts who played headlined included MGMT, Interpol and Kings of Leon It takes place in the Punchestown Race Track, which is about a 30 minute drive from Dublin City Centre. (The festival organizers run plenty of bus services to and from Dublin.
A fleadh (pronounced ‘fla’) is the Irish word for festival; ceol (ce-ole) is the Irish for music. But the Fleadh Ceol, which takes places in the County Offaly town of Tullamore, is as much a competition as it is a festival of Irish traditional music and dance. Individuals and groups – mainly from Ireland, the U.K and the U.S – against one another in a range of different categories, playing instruments such as the fiddle, accordion; flute, concertina; uilleann pipes (uilleann, pronounced ‘ill-en’ is the Irish words for elbows and the uileann pipes are the national bagpipes of Ireland), harp, mouth organ, banjo and mandolin. It would be hard to get a more authentic experience of Irish culture. Check out our video of the Fleadh Ceol.
Wexford Opera Festival
Wexford Town, Co. Wexford
October 15 – November 1, 2009
Wexford, in the "sunny south east" of the country (well, it’s sunny there by Irish standards at least…) is one of the most popular county with tourists and this opera festival is one of its main attractions. Last year saw this festival take place in a new opera house, which by all accounts has been a tremendous success. This year’s program has already been announced: Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze by Nino Rota (who scored the Godfather trilogy), The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano, and Donizetti's Maria Padilla.
Cork Jazz Festival
Cork City, Co. Cork
October 23-26, 2009
Although "jazz" mightn’t be synonymous with ‘Ireland’, this is one of Ireland’s best established music festivals, first taking place in 1978. Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin, and its inhabitants tend to be an extremely proud of their home – with considerably justification. Corkonians resent snooty Dubliners who think of their city as being a provincial backwater– and this jazz festival, one of the city’s best known tourist draws, is proof of why they are right.