Fuinneamh 2017 Festival Review

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Oldcastle, Loughcrew, Co Meath

Friday 15th September.

This was my first time trying Fuinneamh festival, myself and Kevin set out from Galway about 5 pm in the camper, Kevin had be doing a fine job with the GPS guiding him all the way up to Mullingar, a pit stop at Mullingar for some supplies and off out of Mullingar. For some reason the GPS stopped working causing us to take the wrong road out of Mullingar and it took ages to find the other side of the road to get back on the right track.  My GPS didn’t work at all, but eventually Kevin worked out that the direction we needed to go was toward Castlepollard.  We eventually arrived onto the site about 9.30, the pulsing beat in the background somewhere while myself and Kevin sorted out our wristbands.

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Wristbands please.

I can remember the Fuinneamh massive drum way back in 2012 at both the Life festival and Body & Soul festival, they always had a great crowd making a beautiful tribal racket, having not made it to the Elysian Circus nor Lunasa festival last year, I was glad to make it to this one.  In a recent interview with Icon Underground magazine, Luke Reddy, one of the four directors behind Fuinneamh Productions said that his interest in outdoor events stemmed back to 2010 with forest parties called Keep Her Lit in Wicklow and the Fusion festival in Germany which he attends every year.  This years festival had a capacity for 3,000 people and seemed to be doing very well on Friday night, with fair crowds at all the stages.  Like Townlands Carnival and Scrobarnach, Fuinneamh had quite a diverse range of electronica, hip hop, reggae, jungle and dance music over its nine stages, some adorned with stunning visual art like the Ogham Alignment stage, the Wagwan stage and the Cosmai Ceol stage.  There was also the excitement of having the festival in such a spiritual ancient area with the ancient court cairns overlooking the festival from the top.

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The Fuinneamh 2017 map.

I thought the festival was very well organised for a small event, right down to the food catering entrance into the festival site and pulsating techno providing the soundtrack, my first mistake being forgetting how to say Fuinneamh, as you will hear in the video clip.  Fuinneamh means literally energy and vigour, which could describe the power of the music on offer, energy also meaning the leyline energy connecting the ancient court cairns to the area the event was taking place in.   One small criticism would be lack of signage for the camper van area, it took us a wee while and with the help of a friendly steward to find the area.

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Catering entrance into the main arena.
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The dining bus.

By the time we got into the main arena it must have been about 10.30 – 11 PM, so a considerable bit of Friday missed so far, but not too worry there was still loads of time to soak in the atmosphere.

Kalizer  10  –  11 PM.   Digital Specie  11 Pm  –  12 AM.  Cosmai Ceol Stage.

I’m not sure who is playing this stage, either Kalizer or Digital Specie, I was well impressed with the effort that went into this stage, which was the shape of a head containing the DJ booth and gorgeous psychedelic colours and patterns projected all over it.  To the side of the stage were other beautiful pulsating visual projections on lovely backdrops and a cool Ultraviolet glow from the surrounding lights on the audience and area around.  The music a constant galloping beat of snares, squelchs and monologue ambience and tones that matched the visual splendour.

I met Salim (Mr Upfull) and Aminah who had just finished a gig at 10 Pm at the Wagwan stage so it seems I just missed them as I arrived after that, but they are good friends and festival veterans that I have met at numerous festivals over the years, it was delightful to see them again.

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The Cosmai Ceol area on Friday night.
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Cosmai Ceol Stage.

Wagwan Stage  – Rub A Dub Hi Fi, Ras Tinny, Cian Finn  11 PM  –   2 AM.

Various trips were made back to this stage to hear the Dublin lads, Rub A Dub Hi Fi Soundsystem with Executive Steve, Ras Tinny joining them at midnight and Cian Finn joining them at 1 AM.  The music, a pounding roots reggae with liberal doses of lovely Jungle and DnB in a very impressive sound system that crew were handing out ear buds for.  I like a good bit of torture from a thumping bass so no ear buds for me.

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Rub A Dub Hi Fi with Ras Tinny, Cian Finn and Executive Steve  Wagwan Stage.
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Rub A Dub Hi Fi Soundsystem.

Tinfoil (Sunil Sharpe & DeFeKT)  – The Ogham Alignment Stage 12  –  1 AM.

This was some of the most intensest techno I ever heard, I regretted not seeing Sunil at the Rave in the Woods at Electric Picnic on the Saturday there but the weather was abysmal, so this more than made up for it.  Tinfoil are Sunil Sharpe and Galway techno producer DeFeKT, they are a force to be reckoned with and I hope they do Life, Body&Soul festival and Electric Picnic in 2018 as well as making a return to Fuinneamh, even do a few shows in Galway would be fine by me.  I had the camera zoomed in too close, I should have stood at the end lighted stones and filmed from there, nothing wrong with the crunchy techno though and a fine pumping crowd gathered.  Earlier in the set I went up on the hillside and took a video on the phone from there which I got a good bit of the stage on film, but I do wish I had a wide angle lens that could take it in all at once.

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The Ogham Alignment Stage.
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The Ogham Alignment Stage.

The temperature got a lot cooler and the techno stage was a bit too out in the open now, so we retreated back to the Wagwan area to soak up some more jungle and roots reggae plus there was a bit of shelter and warmth at that stage with a nicely gathered crowd.  I vowed to explore more of the arena tomorrow and take some nice daylight shots of the main arena.  Back to Kevin’s camper for a few cans and a smoke, he had a heater in the van which was very nice.  We hit the hay about 4.30 AM, a night well spent soaking up one part of the arena, time to get shut eye and prepare for a full day two.

Saturday 16th September.

Saturday was a late enough start at 11.30 AM but it was pouring outside anyway, this went on for a good four hours of relentless rain after such a nice Friday, one of Kevin’s mates from Limerick was playing a set at the Cosmai Ceol stage, Digital Aum.  So we ventured out when the rain lightened a bit around that time giving me a chance to take a daylight shot of the Cosmai Ceol stage and the set by psytrance artist Psyom, a nice chillier psytrance vibe, more ambient than the usual mangled affair.

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The Cosmai Ceol Stage on Saturday afternoon.
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The Cosmai Ceol head and DJ booth.
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Psyom at Cosmai Ceol.

Kevin wanted to hear some dub roots reggae so we headed to the Wigwan stage to shelter a bit from the heavy drizzle that seemed to be picking up again, this gave me a chance to take some clear daylight shots of the reggae stage as the ones I took last night were a little dark.

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Some of the stage art at the Wagwan Stage. DJ: Saoirse Sounds.
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Stage art at the Wigwan Stage.
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The Rub A Dub Hi Fi speaker system.
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Art at the Wigwan Area.
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Art at the Wagwan Area.

With the onset of heavy rain again we made tracks back to the camper, stopping anymore exploration of the site until it finally subsided about 7.30 – 8 PM.

Boots & Kats   Keep Her Lit Tent    8.30  –  10 PM.

Boots & Kats play good thumping squelchy acid techno in the vein of Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert, the Dublin DJs have a solid following in their hometown from playing well known dance clubs such as the Opium Rooms and Toast as well as the Carbon nightclub in Galway.  They have also headlined stages at Life festival and Electric Picnic among others.  Judging by the crowd gathered in the tent tonight the popularity has not diminished and continues to grow.

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Boots & Kats  Keep Her Lit Tent  Saturday 16th September.

It was around this time I finally got the camera out in the main arena and took a video of the area, trying to catch the last remaining daylight which was diminishing fast and trying to check out as many stages as possible.

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The Main Arena with the Keep Her Lit Stage.
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The Main Stage (Hill of Danu) from a distance.  Luke had the idea that it would resemble a passage tomb entrance at the bottom of the hill.
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Another shot of the packed Keep Her Lit Tent.
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The Ogham Alignment stage in the background through the sides of the Keep Her Lit Tent.

I checked out some of the bubble tents, first one was the Discoim tent which at the time I thought said Discuit or so I say on the video anyway, the clip walks into the tent, does a loop, looks at the dancers and DJs and goes out of the tent.  The music a funky happy house sound that verged on acid jazz, there was a few in there lost in the intoxicating beat.  I have no idea of the DJs as there was no timetable for this tent.

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Revellers grooving away to the funky happy house acid jazz of the Discoim Tent.
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the DJs making the sonic sound of the Discoim Tent.

 

I made a beeline for the other bubble tent known as the BDTU tent standing for the Back Door to the Universe tent.  The music here was a bit more difficult to define but it was a very progressive rocky house and techno sound, so absolutely banging music.  I don’t think there was actually a stage at this festival that had me running away in horror, all the music was absolutely amazing.  Again no identity for the DJs involved as no timetable for this venue either.

Deliverance  –  Main Stage (Hill of Danu)   8.00   –   8.30 PM.

Caught a bit of the main stage act Deliverance from Rush, County Dublin who happen to come from the same place Brian Kelly comes from the singer from my own group The Living Stream.  Deliverance put on a deadly performance of hip hop, rap and good old rock n roll and had some pretty decent songs such as Love for Mary Jane, an ode to the waccy baccy.  They had a small tidy audience but one that appreciated their festival vibe and Babz Allen has a serious larynx that oozes that Maggie Bell/Mary Coughlan influence.  I thought the act was originally PrYmary Colours, but they contacted me to say they played on Friday instead.  When I looked at the timetable I realised Deliverance were slotted later than 6.30 PM.  Check them out a good fun act to see.

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Deliverance  – Main Stage (Hill of Danu)  Saturday September 16th.

Gnosis  –  Anam Cara Tent    7.00   –   9.00 PM.

Gnosis from Dublin are a pair of DJs who make absolutely banging techno, there is no other word for it, but they smashed it tonight with a fairly packed tent.  The timetable says that they were playing the Anam Cara tent but a few swear it was the Keep Her Lit tent, but there is no barrier thingy above the DJs heads like the tent Boots & Kats played in.  Another dilemma is I can’t remember if it was Boots & Kats or Gnosis who dropped the amazing The Drums DMS 12 remix track, but that was one of the highlights for me and Kevin for the weekend.

 

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Gnosis at the Anam Cara Tent   Saturday September 16th.
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Gnosis at the Anam Cara Tent   Saturday September 16th.

 

Sarah Lennox   –  Keep Her Lit Tent    10.00   –  11.00 PM.

Sarah Lennox played a whopper techno set at the Keep Her Lit tent that was packed to the brim and you could tell she was really enjoying the gig, she is up there with one of my favourites from last years Scrobarnach festival, Maedbh O’Connor who was playing the Ogham Alignment stage earlier in the afternoon.    Sarah has played loads of festivals including Life, Lunasa, Ministry of Sound and had some amazing spots in Ibiza. She really knows how to work the crowd and she oozed the confidence on the stage tonight, long may she continue.

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Sarah Lennox at the Keep Her Lit Tent  Saturday September 16th.

I think we ventured back to the camper for a bit of a rest up, soft seats, a replenishment of cans and a good smoke, that was a bit of walking about and investigating the stages. King Kong Company was making a glorious racket at the main stage but since I’ve covered King Kong Company umpteenth times including the last Electric Picnic review, I think enough has been said there but they had a nice wee crowd gathered.  We ventured back into the arena one last time about 1.30 AM and made for the Ogham Alignment area bringing us into the early hours of Sunday 17th September.

Sean Markey  – Ogham Alignment Stage   1.30 AM   –  Close.

Sean Markey was just starting off his set with a few mingling about the area, he was playing a thumping techno set, maybe not as spacey as Tinfoil the previous night but still bloody good, myself and Kevin hung around for half an hour soaking up the sounds but it was starting to get Baltic cold no matter how good the music sounded, so no offense to Sean intended, we drifted off to the Wagwan tent as it was a bit warmer there.

The last half an hour was spent at the Wagwan tent chilling to the jungle and DnB roots sounds of the Rub A Dub Hi Fi Soundsystem and talking to randomers at the stage from the North of Ireland.  It was here I had an epic fall in the mud when trying to scrabble for a seat at the side of the stage.  It was back to the camper for a few tins and the luxury of the heater.  A fantastic little festival to end the summer of festivals, I honestly didn’t think I would have had the energy left after Electric Picnic but there ya go.

Sunday 17th September.

God bless Kevin, he fed and watered me through the weekend and I was delighted to wash some dishes in the morning and to fill the water bottle at the campsite two minutes from the camper van area so that we could have a coffee and some bacon sandwiches, absolute bliss.  In a way the festival wasn’t over yet as Kevin had a plan, that we climb some hills and to go and see the amazing court cairns of Loughcrew.

On the way to Cairn T I thought I was going to die halfway up the hill, I’ll tell you something, its a good way to get rid of toxins and your hangover when you climb a bloody big hill.

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Kevin took a photo of me struggling to get up the hill or is that down the hill

There was a great feeling when you did reach the top though and looked at the awesomeness of the cairn.

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Cairn T.
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Cairn T.
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Kevin at the entrance to Cairn T.
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Inside Cairn T.

Whilst up there we could spot the odd festival goer amongst the tourists, because they had big grins and were sporting either green or pink wristbands, we gave them a knowing smile.  When we came back down we opted for a coffee at the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre and Cafe.

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The Loughcrew Megalithic Centre.
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The Cafe.
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Kevin enjoying a coffee.
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Myself enjoying a coffee.
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Sign for Cairn T.
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Sign for Cairn L.

Now one of the workers at the cafe told us the Cairn L was on private property, but we weren’t going to let that put us off, therefore we had the whole hill to ourselves as there was no one else up there.  It was tough going, going up that second hill which I think was steeper than the first, but there was a few more tombs up there than just the cairn.

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Cairn L.
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The entrance to Cairn L.
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Inside Cairn L.
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Some of the other structures near Cairn L
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Other structures near Cairn L.
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A capstone at the entrance of a tomb.
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A court cairn near Cairn L.
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A Standing Stone near Cairn L.
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I think this is a Longbarrow.
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Info sign for the cairns.

Well Kevin was parked up in the free car park, so we decided to stay for the night as it would be a long and arduous journey to Galway after all that climbing, there was some food and tins of beer in the camper so Kevin continued to spoil me and we ended the night listening to some of the best radio DJs on Today FM, you know who they are without me saying anything.

Well that was an adventure my heartfelt thanks to Kevin Keehan for a wonderful weekend, my thanks to Luke Reddy for his generosity in providing me a free wristband to review the festival which I hope helps it in future runs in the coming years and to the festival stewards who helped us on Friday night and the kind lady at the box office who gave me my wristband and Kevin the camper pass.  Roll on Fuinneamh 2018, I hope to return next year as its a wonderful little festival.

 

 

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