Electric Picnic 2016 Festival Review

New Order on the Main Stage Sunday 4th September.

Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland.   September 2nd – 4th.

Sunday 28th August to September 1st the week before the big party.

Met the lovely Eilís Ní Laighléis, her daughter, Shannon and friend, Shauna at Kinnegad off the Galway bus to Dublin and we set off for Stradbally, I couldn’t believe the time had come around again for that annual pilgrimage to wonderful sights and sounds and true friendship.  We met Catherine Kehoe at the volunteer HQ and got wristbanded with the temporary pre-event wristband.  Our shifts were from 2 pm till 8 from Monday to Thursday and I was going to be working at the crew camping and campervan area much like Body & Soul festival this year.

Entertainment was covered by Campervan John aka John Dooley, he had brought his DVD player, projector, screen and some films to show at 10 pm each night from Monday to Wednesday of the week, he also supplied the whole crew camp at times with copious amounts of hot beverages, tea and coffee which was a life saver any time of the day.  The films of choice seemed to be about junkies and their adventures, Adam and Paul, a tragicomedy about Dublin junkies with the late Tom Murphy on the Monday night, and Scottish junkies from Edinburgh the following night with Trainspotting.  Some of the music in that film reflecting acts that played in previous Picnics.  Wednesday there was no film as John had to do something and couldn’t make it to set it up.

John’s cinema screenings for last year at the crew camp. Photo by John Dooley.
Campervan John.

Kevin arrived in the campervan on Tuesday night with a pal from Galway, Gary, also working at the festival, we had a few drinks and listened to some of the music we were going to be viewing over the weekend, Kevin was doing Soul Kids again with Craig Peggs and a bunch of others.

Basically my job for the four days was to sit on a seat at the crew camp entrance and direct people to the car park and to where they would be wristbanded at the Body & Soul office, I had to make sure that all traffic stuck to the one way system, the exit to the place being at the car park end.  It was fairly quiet for the first few days so I brought my little speaker and ipod blasting sounds of some of the weekend artists and hopefully creating a welcome vibe to people entering the crew area.  I had great chats about music with my supervisor Dan Traynor about previous EP line ups and on the Thursday shift with security guard Kevin from the Northern Ireland.

I quickly come to realise that Electric Picnic is not just about the music and the craic on the weekend but since I’ve volunteered in 2011, its like meeting an extended family of friends, mostly all of them on an annual basis although I have met John and David Curran at Body & Soul and I also have met John at various Fleadh Cheoills as well as he like myself is a bodhran player, musician and singer of ballads and Irish traditional music.  And some who do the advanced volunteering agree that some of the best craic happens at the pre-event build up.

Which brings me to the Thursday night, we were all sitting outside John’s camper having a drink and a bit of a sing song, my bodhran was down in the tent so I borrowed John’s for the odd song.  I spotted a fellah walking about with what appeared to be a banjo case, I called him over and asked him if that was a banjo and did he fancy a tune as we had bodhrans.  His name was Fergus Costello and he sat down and pulled out a Joe Foley mandola, he had an unusual style of playing, he didn’t use a plectrum but hit the strings with his fingers and parts of his hand and he had the strangest most comical Irish ballads that he self composed and had us in stitches laughing.  Songs such as Keep building hotels and The best traditional music shop in world.  Fergus who is based in Nenagh, Tipperary would be up there with such greats as Galway man Brian O’Rourke, Tim Lyons and Fintan Vallely as composers and singers of hilarious traditional Irish ballads.  It turns out that Fergus was booked by Body & Soul to play a gig on one of the smaller stages over the weekend, so it was by wonderful coincidence that he wandered to our gathering.

So I want to say an extended thanks to everyone who made my week and weekend at Electric Picnic 2016, John, David, Coyle Carina, Jenny O’Mahony and Aiden Mac McCarthy, Eilis, Shannon and Shauna, Catherine, Olga, Ross and the other Ross, Diarmuid and all the lads from Cork (Diarmuid and myself have similar electronic tastes in music and he turned me onto a guy called Max Cooper who I hope plays either Body & Soul festival or EP next year), Chloe Wong, Kevin Keehan, Craig Peggs, Adam Coburn, Susan, Dan, Laurie Purkiss and many, many more, you know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Shannon and Shauna.
Volunteers setting up at crew camp on Sunday.
David Curran and Chloe Wong and various other volunteers.
The ladies heading off to work.
The hole in the wall staff entrance.
The new Electric Ireland Tent.
A cool thatched archway in the Green Crafts area.
Catherine Kehoe hard at work in the Volunteer HQ.
The tree house above Volunteer HQ.
The crew road ways that split through the intersection of the festival site.
The main stage taken from the festival production side.

Friday 2nd September.

My Community Employment wages were paid into the bank today so when I woke it was up to the town centre to make a withdrawal, buy some breakfast, some booze and the lanyard timetable as, as per usual the Picnic is very late at releasing the information and my smart phone was too old and not compatible to download the timetable app.  I headed up to the main arena in the late afternoon with David, no music in the actual main arena had kicked off quite yet so we headed for the Salty Dog and Other Voices area as they had music on earlier.

Booka Brass Band  – Other Voices  4  – 4.40 pm.

The Booka Brass band had a packed out tent, the venue is tiny and because of its proximity to the Oscar Wilde campsite it would be the first sounds campers would hear and why the place was heaving, grooving to the funky sounds.  The 8 piece band played lots of classic hits and famous melodies and have guested on many famous artists records such as Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan, James Vincent McMorrow and Jerry Fish among others.


There was many punters already in fine tipsy form as Other Voices and Salty Dog were places to drink your own booze before going through security into the main arena and in some cases unsuccessful booze smuggling, causing folk to turn back and go to the nearest periphery music venue to drink it there.  And can you blame them, at €7.20 for a pint of Heineken and €7.40 for a pint of Tiger lager you would need a mortgage to get through the festival weekend.  Festival prices now matched prices of the Temple Bar Hotel in Dublin.

I was supposed to meet Cork Dave here an old festival buddy of mine I met at Liss Ard festival in 2012 but he didn’t seem to make it.  Myself and David Curran hung around for the next act as the Other Voices tent emptied after the Booka Brass gig.

Skipper’s Alley – Other Voices  5 – 5.40 pm.

Skipper’s Alley, normally a seven piece band was playing today as a six piece and the fiddler Danny Diamond who I know from sessions in Galway and Dublin was standing in for the normal fiddler Ultan O’Brien.  The band had a Bothy Band/Lunasa feel to their sound possibly because of that uilleann pipe and fiddle combination, but they were lovely and lively and the place filled up again with tipsy revellers tapping their feet to the tunes, great selections of jigs and reels ensued and some lovely songs from John Flynn.  Skipper’s Alley have a CD out that is self titled and most of the tunes and songs featured on the set will be on that. I took a few video clips and the audience sounds noisy and chatty but it wasn’t actually that full, probably people over excited about day one of the festival.  Check them out if you get a chance.




David Curran near the Other Voices stage or thereabouts.


Myself and David decided to stay in the woods as we still had a few cans and I had a bit of louched Spanish absinthe in lovely spring water to drink and we weren’t in the mood to be searched yet or to take the long way round to the metal gate.  Besides it was still early enough yet, we wandered into the Trenchtown area where we met Kevin and Craig and hung about there enjoying the ambience.  We also checked out the new area called The Hazel Wood which seemed like a quieter Trenchtown with one stage, some lovely art and the really cool horse drawn gypsy caravans.

Hazelwood Stage. Photo Kevin Keehan
Hazelwood. Photo Kevin Keehan
Hazelwood. Photo Kevin Keehan

Myself Kevin and Craig thought we took the correct path towards the iron gate but we took the crossroads before and realised we didn’t have access through this way so we tried to take the shortcut through the Hendrix campsite which was absolute carnage by this stage, tents absolutely everywhere, no emergency lane enforced there like it used to be, the nearest lane being the string of light bulbs that seemed ages away, even worse it was dark and a guide rope hell, we lost Kevin in the process when we ran into a crowd of people.

When Craig and myself headed back in we were about to get searched by Specialised Security who were mainly Scottish (Lads and lassies from the T in the Park security) and mostly from Glasgow, when they heard my accent they just waved me through, they seemed to be happy when I addressed them as ‘awright big man’ which is the Glasgow way of saying hello to another fellah.  We took the volunteer short cut to the Electric Arena as I’ve never saw Todd Terje before and I wanted to catch a bit of his set.

Todd Terje – Electric Arena   9 – 10.15 pm.

The Norwegian DJ and electronic musician had a nicely packed tent bouncing to his house nu-disco sound, a happy pulsating beat with lovely airy synths and the audience singing and humming along to the noodling.  It was light, poppy and commercial but had a strong bass beat that gave it a nice stomp and refreshingly it didn’t have cheesy type Xfactor female vocal overdubs.  Classics such as Inspector Norse, Srevie Nicks and Whitney Houston remixes got an airing, he was the perfect early night set to either set people up for the Super Furry Animals or perhaps the rampant progressive rock techno of the Chemical Brothers.



The Chemical Brothers – Main Stage   10.30 pm  – 12 am.

The Chemical Brothers audience was bizarre, half looked like they were on another planet licking the moon and the other half weren’t and wishing they were, every second person asking ‘Any yokes!’  The Chemical Brothers always, always have an amazing visual spectacle and a fantastic sound, they had some lovely sky scraping lasers and retina bursting LED visuals in their back screen, but they are not obvious techno like say Ben Klock, Paul Kalkbrenner they are more like a progressive rock experimental techno with cool vocal and spoken samples alternating between techno and hip hop.  This is just my own view for as long as I’ve been listening to them and after seeing them at two other Picnics, I’ve not been able to accurately describe what I’m hearing sometimes.

The visuals were really magnificent but they started to give me a bit of a headache so I decided to retreat to where the mixing desk was as it was really rammed and hot down the front. I met Kevin to the left of the mixing desk and stayed there a while.  The Chems played quite a bit of back catalogue including a few numbers from their most recent opus from last year Born in Echoes, Swoon and Escape Velocity from Further, some classics from Push the Button.  One of my highlights was Setting Sun where they used really cool lasers and that track is so funky, wacky and weird.  The lights though were still giving me a bit of a headache so I decided to split from Kevin and get a coffee, I was probably dehydrated from boozing a bit and I think a caffeine injection was what I needed.  I watched the last few numbers from the seats at the main stage and wasn’t able to locate Kevin again. another great show by the Chemical Brothers and a nice way to close proceedings on the main stage for Friday.

Since I couldn’t find Kevin I decided to go for a saunter through the Body & Soul village, the headache now dissipated I felt great again, I wandered slowly through the site taking in everything around me and enjoying the different sounds coming out of the stages.  At one point I became transfixed by a string of triangular lights and whisked out the small Sony camera to capture this cool decoration.

Some cool lights in the Body & Soul Village.

I headed for Trenchtown as I thought I would definitely bump into Kevin there, but no sign of the dude, I wandered around looking at the various stages there, I settled for a while at the Treasure Beach area I think and I think maybe Rootsman Wurzel was playing a set there as I heard the Eek a Mouse track Ganja Smuggling he dropped at Scrobarnach Festival a few weeks back, he also played a nice dub reggae dubstep version of Nina Simone’s My Baby just cares for me remixed I think by London Zoo.

I just called it a day after that in went back to my tent about 3.30 am, I had done a lot today and wanted to get some nice rest so I was in good form for Saturday festivities.

Saturday 3rd September.

I awoke about 10.30 am and wandered up to John’s for a coffee, a few were already sitting there, John, Corina (I always called her Corina rather than her first name Coyle, just a daft habit I have and don’t know why), David and Lisa.  Kevin got up a little bit later and he cooked up a bit of a fry for us, some sausages and beans which set us up quite nicely for the day.  It was a bit of a wet one this morning many of us staying in our tents until the rain somewhat subsided and there was a wee bit of a gust at times, although warmer than last year.

Myself, Kevin and Craig headed of into the arena about 2.30 pm, through the iron gate and went through the specialised security search, why was the festival doing this now I ask, its not like the crew was taking the piss with bringing or sneaking a bar into the festival, just a few cans of beer and a mixer decanted bottle.  I mean why does the festival think we a volunteering for?  Firstly we love this festival, secondly some of us volunteer as its our only foot in the door.  Some folk are lucky to have the €165 Euros to buy early bird tickets at the time, the reality is most of us don’t have that and even more don’t have the €240 odd Euro to pay the full price, so what makes the festival think that we have eighty odd Euro to spend on 8 pints during the day.  My point, leave the crew staff alone, they have been down all week and the same goes for anyone working the festival for just the wristband, life is expensive enough, how much does this successful sell out event need to cream from the festival workers.  Anyway I charmed the Scottish lads with my Glaswegian and they let me through as they know very well it will affect them in their time off too, they realised I wasn’t trying to smuggle a keg of beer into the venue.

We headed for the Body & Soul area and wanted to find some place to sit and chill, the Bog Cottage seemed the perfect place, sheltered in case it started raining again plus it had plenty of windows to people watch the Body and Soul Village and best of all a cool wee session going on in the back of the house, I had my bodhran and joined in and its good for my soul to play.  It turns out I knew one of the tin whistlers, Liam Lyons, who is the nephew of Tim Lyons who I’ve played many a session with in the Crane Bar and Taaffes in Galway city.  I also took a photo of Craig and Kevin, the Body and Soul Village area and a wee video clip of inside the Bog Cottage.

Craig and Kevin in the Bog Cottage.
The Body & Soul Village looking onto the Earthship Stage.

Time for an evening meal myself and Kevin settled for some burritos from the Mexican stall, there was regular size at €8.50 Euro and the larger one at €10 Euro.  I settled for a pork and beef one at the 10 Euro price and, man was it worth it, my big mistake was unwrapping the foil packaging as most of the contents starting falling out over my light blue jeans making them slightly psychedelic, I had to get a fork from the stall and eat it from the table or it would basically become my jeans.  But it was a meal and a half and set us up proper for the night.

The Mexican stall in the main arena.

The lads headed off back to the crew camp but I hung around the arena and called into the volunteer headquarters to say hello to Catherine and Susan and have a coffee or two.  I could see that a large crowd was gathering at the Electric Ireland stage and realised that it was amassing with old Bananarama fans and curious alike, I went up to take a look myself.

Bananarama – Electric Ireland Throwback Party  (No time is given in the booklet but about 7 – 7.30 pm the gig started.).

Now back in the days that Bananarama were in the charts I was a staunch metal fan and would’ve baulked at the thought of going to a Bananarama gig but in retrospect I always remember them quite fondly as an airy summery sound, especially the stuff they done with Fun Boy Three (with Terry Hall from the Specials).  My sister Alicia was always fond of Bananarama so I was doing this for her too, hopefully she will get to see them at some point too.  But it was a hit packed set starting with Cruel Summer, which couldn’t have being more appropriate at the time as there was a downpour during it.  I met Coyle Corina who was loving the set and managed to successfully rush the stage when they invited members of the audience to join them.


Corina was off to the Comedy Tent to see Dylan Moran, I ran into the volunteer HQ as another shower was taking place but I fancied the comedy tent for a change myself, believe it or not it was ten years since I went near the comedy tent at EP in 2005 or was it 2007 when I went to see the headline act, Tommy Tiernan and again like this year the tent was packed out so I watched the performance on the screen outside.

Dylan Moran – The Comedy Tent   8.15  – 9 pm.

Dylan Moran was on a rant about the state of the Irish economy, politicians and how our current generation perceives those who run our country and he had a go at American politics too giving a special mention to Donald Trump and his rival Hilary Clinton.  The comedy tent was lapping this up and I enjoyed a bit myself, but it felt like I was looking at an RTE broadcast rather than being in the confines of the tent.  It meant you would have to been there about 40 minutes earlier to get an actual place inside the tent.  Some people had mixed views to whether his stand up was funny or just an angry sarcastic rant but I enjoyed what I seen nonetheless.  The folk who weren’t impressed preferred the comedian from the day before, Abandoman who I would’ve like to have seen, remembering him from the RTE coverage from last year, a rapper who made up raps on the spot from peoples suggestions.


I bumped into Kevin again at Trenchtown, he had just come back from the crew camp and was restocked, I never bothered myself, I still had a drop of absinthe and some cans and I was drinking fairly slowly and pacing it, mainly just drinking coffees in the arena during the day.  I took a clip of the Trenchtown area as night time had settled in and the beautiful fairy forests lit up with lights and colours and to the booming lively soundtrack of The Hacklers who were playing on the live stage with some great ska music.


This time I put my drinks into my jacket as security were only searching the bags and I handed my bodhran bag over which they just gave a light squeeze and handed back to me, the protocol being just checking for glass like when you first enter the festival site.

DJ EZ – Rankin’s Wood Stage  9  –  10 pm.

Went to the Rankin’s Wood stage to check out a bit of DJ EZ set, having watched some of his Boiler Room set a week before I was interested to see what he would come up with, the Boiler Room stuff reminding me of DJ Nu-Mark’s set from Life festival in 2015, a bit of funk, house, techno and scratch hip hop thrown into the mix and he is a show man who is great to watch when performing.  This particular set though to me fell into a more niggly Ibiza sound with the dreaded female Xfactor vocal overdubs type dance music and is far too cheesy for an old rocker like me and the starting of the gig didn’t really grab my attention so I moved on.  Whether he started playing the funkier harder style stuff from the Boiler Room set later was anyone’s guess.


We went for a saunter into the Body & Soul area and a bit of slightly windy drizzle had set in, I was quite taken by a band on the Body & Soul main stage.

Blaenavon  – Body & Soul Main Stage  10 – 10.45 pm.

Blaenavon from Hampshire in England had a cool dark melancholic sound that complimented the drizzly damp atmosphere around the Body & Soul Village, the singer had bits of a Syd Barrett / Ian Curtis vibe about his demeanour and the main stage was suitably darkly lit to suit the doom-laden feeling.  The music gave a balance to the other uppy uppy happy stages sound bleeding slightly into their performance.  I wish I had filmed more of their set but Kevin had an agenda to get to the main stage for Noel Gallagher.


Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Main Stage   10  –  11.15 pm.

Noel was just about going into his third number when we arrived, he had a lovely tight band on stage and played a selection of his High Flying Birds and the Oasis classics for the latter part of his set.  Some of the solo stuff stands up there with the Oasis back catalogue, tracks that stood out were You know we can’t go back and If I had a gun.  When it came to the Oasis classics he messed up Champagne Supernova but handled the mistake with superb professional aplomb turning it into a humorous parody.  At the end it was rather emotional when he played both Wonderwall and Don’t look back in anger to an amazing singalong.  I fairly enjoyed the gig and Kevin too despite being more of a Blur fan myself.

We wandered about the main arena for a while until we settled just at the Cosby Tent entrance as the place was jam packed for the King Kong Company set.

King Kong Company  – Cosby Tent   11 pm – 12 am.

Its great to see this Waterford electronica dance rock band go on to greater things having just released their debut self titled album a few months back.  It was only last year that they closed the Salty Dog stage on the Sunday to rapturous applause from adoring fans and it was nice to see them make it to one of the marquees in the main arena.  The Cosby actually this year seemed to have a strong Irish flavour of acts whereas before there used to be more international acts playing the stage.  The band covered some of their classics spanning their career and done an ace version of Blue Monday that got the tent pumping. So now I know where Mark Graham and cohorts were going to be on Sunday night, rocking it out with New Order on the main stage.

LCD Soundsystem – Main Stage  12.05 – 1.45 am.

The Lcd Soundsystem were one of the massive draws to the main stage, this was my fourth time seeing them, my previous three times were the subsequent Picnics they had played before, so in a way kind of like their 2010 show without the really fast numbers like Drunk Girls and North American Scum.  It was Kevin’s first time seeing them and I think he was impressed.  When Us and Them kicked off in the intro they used the glitter ball during the electronic overload bit and it looked amazingly effective and trippy, but I have to say they nicked the idea from Pink Floyd, Floyd using it for the second half of Shine on you crazy diamond but still, LCD were back bigger and better in sound too.  The back catalogue choice was nicely put together.

Having recently got hold of This is Happening I was loving some of the tracks from that such as I can change and You wanted a hit and some of the old dizzbusters like Tribulations, Movement and Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I had planned to leave half an hour before the end of their set as I wanted to go to the Little Big Tent to see Daniel Avery and I feared it would get too jam packed there to get into the gig.  I wasn’t to bothered about missing the last part as I have saw them three times before.  But only after Someone Great.  I was so happy to see Someone Great performed, it is without doubt my greatest and most favourite LCD track of all time and when they reached the lyrics ‘when someone great is gone’ I had tears in my eyes as there is such an emotional depth in that track, I dedicated that moment to my parents who were long gone by that stage, Kevin’s dad who passed away a few years ago and to the recent passing of one of the comedy greats, Gene Wilder.  I looked at the time 15 minutes before Daniel Avery was due on so we split for the Little Big Tent.

‘…When someone great is gone
When someone great is gone
When someone great is gone
When someone great is gone

We’re safe, for the moment
For the moment.’ (Lyrics James Murphy)

Daniel Avery – The Little Big Tent   1.30 am  –  3 am.

The anticipation for this guy was unbelievable, I had been waiting for an Irish festival to announce him for the last two years now and was milling that I couldn’t make Boxed Off festival last year as I had to go to a wedding, although I didn’t regret that as I knew he would visit Ireland again sooner or later.

He kicked off with the Nice intro that I’ve heard on previous youtube clips and his most recent Boiler Room set and boom!  Straight into Naive Response, one of his seemingly Underworld influenced  numbers from the amazing Drone Logic album.  From then on it was a relentless pounding of some of the heaviest intense techno I have ever heard and some serious retina scraping visuals on the back screen.  There was a really young crowd at the gig, younger than the usual Electric Picnic standard.  I noticed this throughout the weekend, but I must be just getting older and the new crowds getting younger.  What with the proliferation of tacky looking nightclub stages such as Logic and Heineken Sound Atlas the Picnic seems to be catering for a younger crowd these days.  Anyway some of the lads at the front started slagging me and calling me granddad, I didn’t really bother me at first but they kept on at it a bit so I moved back to where Kevin was to try and enjoy the rest of the gig.  Just as I thought Avery was going to leave the stage to a round of applause I turned around to Kevin and said, ‘The fecker didn’t play Drone Logic when BOOM! Drone Logic kicked off and the crowd went mental, that was a gig and a half and must be about an album and a half of new material that he dropped tonight.  I wait in anticipation for his next new album.

Daniel Avery taking a photo of the audience.
Daniel Avery in action.

Myself and Kevin decided to head for the crew camp after that as that was a fairly action packed day with nine acts and a session too, we just wanted a good rest so we would be in top form for the early afternoon gig of Toots and the Maytals tomorrow.

Sunday 4th September.

Both Kevin and John were cooking up fries this morning, twas like having our own personal cafe in the campsite, bacon, sausages, toast and coffee, we must be in heaven. Craig came up to join us as well and we all tucked in, it beats eating cereal bars and fruit in the tent.  It had rained overnight and the sun had come out so hopefully it would stay out for a while to dry the ground and that we wouldn’t have a mucky ground, the festival site was actually coping quite well with the rain and there was no major mucky quagmires.  I had intended to take a shower but looked at the size of the queue waiting and it being 1.30 pm Toots was due on in an hour so left the shower queue and just changed my clothes, used wet wipes and deodorant and set off with the lads to the main arena to get a good spot for the Toots show.

Toots and the Maytals – Main Stage  2.30  –  3.30 pm.

This was the third time seeing this amazing reggae group who continue to keep blowing me away with their sound and vibes.  Its really hard to believe that Toots Hibbert will be seventy four in December, he still has a most amazing energy and a voice so pristine and like velvet, he can still hit all these notes I have nothing but incredible respect for this man.  I’m so, so happy that Kevin got to see this group for the very first time.  At his age he may never tour again and we would respect him for that.  The band went through classic after classic and the massive crowd gathered boogied and skanked through the whole set.  Hippies, rastas, metallers, punks, two tone rude boys, granddads like myself. flags with Jamaican colours and a colourful crowd comprised the Toots audience.  This was Craig’s first time seeing Toots too and he must of got fed up with me raving like an apostle of the Toots temple through the whole weekend, by the end of the gig though I think he knew what I meant.  We got to hear Monkey Man, Country Roads, Funky Kingston and 54 46 was my number among other amazing ditties.  The sun didn’t come out though like in his 2005 EP show but who needs the sun, it was dry and warm and the sun was up in the stage, the sun was in fact Toots.

Craig at Toots and the Maytals.
Kevin at Toots and the Maytals.
Toots and the Maytals on the Main Stage Sunday 4th September.

Straight after Toots set myself and Kevin headed to the Casa Bacardi stage to catch most of Kelly Anne Byrne’s set.

Kelly-Anne Byrne  –  Casa Bacardi Stage   4  –  6 pm.

It was a delight to catch this lovely lady playing a DJ set at the Bacardi stage, Kelly-Anne Byrne is probably mine and Kevin’s favourite Irish radio DJ at the moment and The Beat Goes On our most popular show which we listen to religiously every Sunday night keeping us psyched up leading to the Electric Picnic, she has impeccable taste in music and we have made so many discoveries through her show.  Her set today was more based on her Saturday show on Today FM, where she played liberal doses of soul, funk and pretty cool deep house music.  I asked someone else to describe the sounds to me and they came up with uplifting house music, which I think is quite apt.  I’m usually more a techno fan than house music but the stuff she was playing was incredibly funky and kept us rooted to the spot, no cheesiness whatsoever. Everyone else there seemed to be gorgeous and in their late teens whilst myself and Kevin must have stuck out like sore thumbs, the elders going crazy to her music and I think she may have noticed too, with me in my psychedelic waistcoat and wild hair looning about with my arms.  Saying that Kevin is still a young one in his early thirties but I must look quite gonzoid myself.  Anyway a fantastic set from Kelly-Anne Byrne.

Kelly Anne Byrne at the Casa Bacardi Stage Sunday 4th September.

We headed back to the crew camp for a rest up and a restock of our final booze for the night, Kevin went back to the camper for a power nap whilst I went and sat in my tent for a while listening to the New Order concert from Electric Picnic 2006.  The rain had come on again in a heavy drizzle and I feared it was there for the night now, I wasn’t too bothered the weather could have been a lot worse and we got mostly dry spells for the last two sets we attended.  Kevin said call up to the camper in about an hour so we could set off for the New Order set.

I took a daft wee video clip of my tent with Blue Monday playing in the background and showed a view of the wet dreary crew camp, I sight I had not seen at the Picnic since the Sunday of 2010.

I went up to Kevin’s camper, woke him up and we set off for the main arena, in our haste I slipped and fell in the wooded path and bruised my left shoulder and chest, thankfully there was a few folk around who helped me onto my feet again, we could have done with some wood chipping or hay there as it was very mucky.  I tried the same trick as before carrying the booze in my jacket and handing security my bag, but it was a frisk this time and the pretty Scots female security guard was not having the, ‘But I’m fae Glesgae’ routine.  She was probably pissed off having to work the night shift in the rain and thought why should anyone else have any cheap fun.  I retrieved my bottle of absinthe (louched of course, which just means weakened with water) and a can of Guinness off her and walked back out of the main arena to drink them rather than sacrifice them to the Heineken guards.  Needless to say I was slightly inebriated after that and recorded a slightly comical video of me entering the main arena and ambling towards the lighted cubes to New Order on the main stage.  Absinthe is too expensive in Ireland to be giving away to the Heineken overlords.

New Order  – Main Stage   8.45  –  10 pm.

New Order’s indie urban electronica was pretty dense and melancholic and madly it suited the driving rain that fell upon us, still it would have been better if it was dry but what can you do there.  The band played some of their classics and Joy Division’s Love will tear us apart.  Some of their newer stuff from Music Complete (Released last year) sits nicely with their eighties material and I loved the way they have updated the older stuff like Waiting for the siren’s call into a nice electronica version with absolutely stunning visuals.  The bands light show and backdrop screen showed some amazing visuals and art that suited their sound down to the ground.  Classic after classic, True faith, The perfect kiss among other. When that familiar drum beat of Blue Monday kicked off the audience went bananas.  The band put on an amazing show and I’m really glad I got to see them for the first time even if Hooky is not there, they can still pull it off big time.

Skepta – Electric Arena   11 pm  –  12 am.

British grime hip hop artist Skepta had a nice crowd gathered in the tent despite the huge crowd gathered for Lana Del Rey at the main stage, it was mostly a very young and fit crowd who were pumped for some cool bassy British hip hop.  I don’t know too much about Skepta but enjoyed the clips from Glastonbury of him and thought, hell, why not, go and check someone new out.  I was fairly tired at this stage so lasted about 35 minutes of the gig, I just couldn’t keep up with the audiences energy, they were just too wild.  I will probably check out some of Skepta’s catalogue though as I missed my rap injection this year, missing Joey Badass’s set and Nas’s sets, although I did catch Nas touring Illmatic at Life festival 2015.  I enjoyed Skepta’s set but I had enough for the night and was quite happy with my lot.

Out in the open again I started getting soaked right through and the thoughts of finding somewhere under cover in Body & Soul or Trenchtown disappeared, I cut my losses and was fairly content with all the acts and sights I seen.  I didn’t know where Kevin was so I made for straight back to the crew camp.  I knew I still had a dry tent, dry towel and some fresh clothes so back I went and got changed and dried up.  I didn’t see the point in going out and getting all wet all over again and crashed out for the night.

Monday 5th September.

The roads round the crew camp was a sight to behold the following day, thankfully the sun dried it off a bit but not before a few vans and campers gut stuck in the muck.  I took down my tent and went up to John’s camper to ask for wee coffee, it was sad to see everyone go off again.  John taking his awning apart, Kevin and Craig going away for their breakdown shift and myself going back to Kinnegad with Eilis, Shannon and Shauna to catch my Galway connection and make it to my Monday night session at Tigh Cholis with Anders and Geoff.  Till next year have a good one everyone and thanks for a great week, will see ya all at the pre-event for Electric Picnic 2017, that’s if the Picnic will have me again ha ha. 🙂


Scrobarnach 2016 Festival Review

logoFriday 12th August – Sunday (Early Hours) 14th August, Tudenham Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland.

Friday 12th August.

I got a lift from Galway at 7.15 pm bound for Scrobarnach festival in the company of three lovely people, two French girls, Cécile Robin and Soléne and a Canadian chap, Brian and we made it to the festival site in no time at all, out of the wind and heavy drizzle of the West and into the drier windless Westmeath, although drizzle was setting in a bit here too.  It was quite cool going to security, ‘I’m on the guest list as a journalist’ and then receiving my wristband.

Brian and Cécile Robin in the Bush Bar on Saturday.

The festival was a nice compact size taking in one meadow with stages evenly placed apart to minimise on sound bleed, it was nice to see Gabriel Marques’s Reshape stretch tents being put to good use here as with Townlands about a month ago and the range of music on offer was fairly varied.  Irish rap, rap and grime, techno, house and deep house, disco, drum and bass, psytrance, dubstep, reggae in all its forms, bass music, live bands (Anything from metal, punk to wild gypsy style music) and the open mic stage and a few nice food stalls, clothes stalls spread throughout the site.  Another cool thing about this festival was that some of the music would swap stages over the two days so it was a little adventure to find your particular genre.

Boss Level Series – IUS Stage    7.30 pm – 11.30 pm.

The first music to catch my attention was the Boss Level Series that was happening in the IUS Stage (Irish Underground Sounds), Irish rap spoke in Dublin accents, this arrested my attention immediately as I’ve never seen a stage dedicated to this before, it was a blast and the Boss Level Series had a nice curious crowd lapping up the words and sounds.



Jobseekerz – Spiorad Óg Stage   10.30 – 11pm

I wandered over to the Spiorad Óg tent which functioned as an open mic tent by day and afternoon and became a venue at night for live bands.  Jobseekerz, a band from County Cavan was just kicking off their set, a mix of metal licks, social commentary, comedy and general all madness around, an enjoyable fun act with a crazy front man who wrote ditties about, of course, job seeking and being on the dole.


Jobseekerz at the Spiorad Óg Stage, Friday night.

From there I heard the first strains of reggae music coming from the tent opposite the Spiorad Óg tent so wandered over for a listen.

World Bass Culture   – IUS Stage   11.30 pm – 1.15 am.

World Bass Culture from Cork had a clean crisp dubby sound and a lovely comforting bass and some fine toasting, singing and rapping from MC Rungus aka Brendan Evans (Galway).  A nice wee crowd had gathered and were skanking away to the sounds.  Most of the tents were using Funktion-One sound systems so crystal clear audio sound, they can create a phenomenal volume but at the same time you can have a clear coherent conversation with the person next to you without roaring into their ear, that’s the sign of a good quality sound system it will not deafen you like some.  I also caught some music from the following act, Ras Tinny who had a very interesting slant on the reggae music, he was singing what sounded like Rastafarian hymns to the dub music, which sounded quite unusual and refreshing.  I hope to catch some of his set at Trenchtown at Electric Picnic as he had sound problems with equipment ten minutes into his set at the festival.

I spent quite a bit of time around the Blue Mountain Cafe area with Donal Finn, Brendan Evans and Ruby Tuesday, we were soaking up the techno sounds from the main stage which was now in full flow.  Because of the rain and wind earlier the main stage hadn’t opened up or there was complications that prevented it from been opened earlier.  I soaked up the sounds from the main stage anyway courtesy of Eric Moore, Jamie Behan and Noid the Droid while milling about there at times.

I took another walk around the arena, having spotted the Doppler Lab tent earlier and liking what I heard from it when checking out Noise Agent’s set, I went for a closer check, the music for this stage ranged from DnB, psytrance and bass music in general.

Noise Agent 11 pm – 12 am, BadManDeego 1 – 2 am   The Doppler Lab

This was one of my favourite stages, the thought that went into its design was incredible and although my camera doesn’t pick it up clearly or do it any justice you could have stayed there all night just staring at the stage.  It was very futuristic looking with triangular lit shapes flecking around the sides of the stage and a very subtle or minimal use of lasers that were truly complimented the sounds.  And the music, as ever DnB is an energetic music that truly has you flailing like a wild animal and the crashing pounding beats are an absolute pleasure.

I can’t really remember the rest of Friday night/Saturday morning, only that it became daylight and that the acts I seen were a blur by this stage probably not helped with no visible timetables near the stages so most of the time you were wondering who the hell you were looking at.  I only remember fleetingly glancing at the timetables whilst in Galway through Facebook, but I had no credit for internet usage on the phone and no one seemed to know who they were looking at, at the stages.  Maybe the organisers will be a bit more adept next year with timetable information near all the stages.

I started getting a bit peckish so decided to go for the Home Fries place, I went for the chorizo and home fries dinner at a reasonable seven Euro, which was delicious and filled the hunger spot quite nicely.  Worth checking out, real slow fried potatoes and a nice mixture of sauces, meats and vegetarian options too.


Home Fries hot food stall.


I must have called it a day about 5 or 6 am in the morning as I didn’t really want to do an all nighter and I wanted to get up at least in the early noon to get some daylight shots of the festival venue.

Saturday 13th August.

I was awoke at about 10 am by the sound of an engine, I peeked out of the tent and saw the toilet cleaner truck cleaning the only portaloo that was in the smaller campsite at the top, was feeling a little refreshed anyway and just lay awake a while in the tent, Cécile my next door neighbour brewed me a coffee so absolutely perfect and we sat around the campsite listening to sounds.  I eventually went into the arena about 12.30 pm and up to the Blue Mountain cafe to talk to my friends and to take some photos.

The Blue Mountain Cafe had a nice range of food on offer, Jerk Chicken with salad in baps or with rice and peas and goat curry along with various other niblets, beverages, coffees and teas.  With the culinary skills of Ruby, a Londoner living in Dublin, Brendan and Donal, Galway based but from Jamaica and Dublin respectively they make a damn fine Jamaican eating house.  Brendan also ran Jamaica Joe’s, a Jamaican restaurant in Galway for a while, concentrating more now on festival catering and impromptu appearances on reggae stages at events as well as, of course playing gigs there.  Donal also being a dedicated producer of both techno and dub reggae and running sound systems and playing gigs at festivals too.




Donal in the Blue Mountain Cafe.
Brendan, Ruby and Donal.

The Blue Mountain Cafe had an extended space opened today with excellent DJs and a few milling about and dancing, you also get to see the lads and lassies at work in the Blue Mountain cafe.

I took a wander around the arena the first time really appreciating it in the daylight, I tried to give a sense of perspective and space when I took this video clip, taking in from the IUS Stage, then by the Spiorad Óg tent, the Doppler Lab, the little avenue up the top with the drum stall, cool wee seated areas with DJs and some shops, the Bush Bar bubble looking stage and finally the main stage and area around there.

I had my bodhrán with me and I heard there was an open mic stage at the Spiorad Óg tent during the day and afternoon, so I headed up there with Speedy, a fellow Scot I met the night before, he also had a drum with him.  We went up to the tent and watched a few acts, one them being the guitarist and the singer from the Jobseekerz doing some rap numbers, there was a poet going on a rant about Enda Kenny and all sorts throwing their lot out there.  I done three songs with Speedy joining me on the first and third song, I done my usual repertoire of Christy Moore songs, Home by Bearna and As I roved out and we got a nice round of applause.

I popped over to the Bush Bar to check out the change of music, today it was changing to reggae music from house and techno, I avoided the place on Friday as it was too packed and it was really warm in there too.  Today there was a bit more space in the place and Jaheire was just kicking off his fine selection of reggae sounds.

Jaheire at the Bush Bar.

I went over to the Blue Mountain cafe for a while and had a coffee with Donal, Ruby and Brendan. Techno, disco, funk and house music was blasting out from the main stage and Blue Mountain had their own reggae smash hits playing too so things were livening up.  I took another walk over to the Bush Bar to see who was playing there now.  Rub A Dub, who I first met at Life Festival 2015 were playing a nice selection of obscure dub reggae ditties that were keeping the crowd skanking, Rub A Dub, always a festival crowd pleaser and an absolute necessity for laid back reggae areas.


Rub A Dub at the Bush Bar, Saturday 13th August.
Ewa Miernik and Martin Ras Tinny Naarendorp at the Bush Bar.
The Blue Mountain extended area.
The Main Stage.

A/X  – The Doppler Lab   1.15 – 3.15 pm.

Took a look at the Doppler Lab, A/X was playing to an empty tent with some nice energetic DnB apart from seven people sitting on the grass outside the tent, I suppose most of the festival was still hungover from the night before, the arena filled up a bit more as the day wore on.

Brian relaxing at the Doppler Lab.
The Doppler Lab.

I went back to the campsite a while to rest up, get a few cans and listen to some of my own playlist with my ipod and speaker and grabbing a few snacks.

I went back to the Bush Bar to check out some more reggae sets, the place was filling up a bit more and the weather drier and fairly warm but not sunny.

Rootsman Wurzel – The Bush Bar  4 – 5 pm.

Rootsman Wurzel or Sean his proper name had a nice selection of classic reggae, but some of the vinyl was occasionally skipping but it was down to the tools and not the state of the vinyl, possibly the deck slightly lop sided or something, but I liked the carefree way he handled the set.  I heard some classic Marley, Eek-A-Mouse among others.  I requested some Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry but surprisingly he didn’t have any, he hinted he might have some Upsetters but was doubtful,(Edit: Having talked to him since he had in fact played the Upsetters so my bad there for not noticing this) I enjoyed his set anyway and will probably check out a bit of his Trenchtown set at Electric Picnic 2016 as well.

Rootsman Wurzel at the Bush Bar.

I went back to the campsite for a power nap as I felt a bit of headache come on, I put it down to not getting a proper nights sleep and the dehydration from drinking cans of beer, thankfully Donal had some aspirin and gave me two.  I got up again about 8.30 and headed for the main arena armed with a few cans and feeling that bit more refreshed, I could hear nice dubsteppish roots reggae emitting from the Bush Bar so headed for there.

Dubtrash –  The Bush Bar  8 – 9 pm.

Dubtrash had some really cool electronica weaved into his instrumental dub reggae, he really was like reggae for the future, mad electronic bleepy reggae, exciting and adventurous.  But the thing that gave his music the wow factor was his manipulation of the dubstep.  One of my highlights of the weekend.

Dubtrash at the Bush Bar, Saturday August 13th.

I think I wandered back to the tent for more cans my memory slightly foggy at this point in time and not actually having timetables made it harder to identify certain acts, I’m looking at the timetable that was on facebook and realise some changes were made to that too, such as the Bush Bar becoming house and techno again instead of the advertised reggae, not that, that was a bad thing, the music was good.  At some point I went up to the main stage to see what was going down there, a nice crowd was gathered and the music belting.

Maedbh O Connor – Main Stage   10 pm – 12 am.

This girl was a beast, she had a nice audience going loopy to the music and you could hear some of the sounds pulsating around the arena where ever you were but not in a noise bleed way.  Hard driving techno and fantastic lasers from the stage set up made this a memorable set.  I got a bit carried away at filming the lasers as I couldn’t really get a view of the stage as I haven’t worked out how to tamper with the ISO ratings to take pictures of installations or gigs with low lighting so I couldn’t really see the DJ.  But I did try to capture the lasers etching of peoples dancing bodies, I don’t know if the camera really picked this up well.

At this time my phone battery was flat so I didn’t really know the time now, it could have been midnight or 1 or 2 am, I went exploring the arena again, for the moment I had my fill of electronica and wanted to seek some live music so I headed for the Spiorad Óg tent.

Grand – Spiorad Óg Stage (Time ??).

Grand blew me away with their brand of gypsy infused folk rock, they also had a touch of American old time, blue grass elements and Dixie jazz about them too.  The seven piece group from Drogheda had a steady growing audience pulled in by the trumpet and trombone playing of Kiefer Wilton who was the shining star of the group and his charm could be heard from all around the arena.  I hope they show up at Electric Picnic, a really good time sound and another of my highlights of the festival.


I wandered across to the IUS stage which was fairly empty but it seems that DJ Teknonotice was just starting his set so he still had to pull in some numbers.  The music was laid back ambient techno with a steady beat and you could tell at some point it was going to liven up pretty soon, the IUS being at the opposite end of the field to the main stage it meant that the techno heads would be balanced out evenly.  The brilliance of Grand was sound bleeding into the IUS stage and was the only example of sound bleeding I heard at the festival over the weekend.

Ian Hart – The Bush Bar  1ish, 2ish am.

I decided to check out the Bush Bar, I would have put the time about 2 or 3 am in the morning, there was house music playing and it was Ian Hart manning the decks, he was spinning some Chicago house music and had a nice packed audience grooving to the beat.

Ian Hart
Ian Hart at the Bush Bar, Sunday (early hours) August 14th

I wandered up to the main stage, I figured it might be Exit the Void and John Hussey, was just milling about the main stage enjoying the beats and was about to go off exploring again when they dropped the Aphex Twin track  Curve – Falling Free (Aphex Twin Remix) from the album 26 mixes for cash, which made me linger for another fifteen minutes, enjoying the Forbidden Fruit 2011 euphoria all over again.

Luke PSY and McKenna – IUS Stage    3ish, 4ish am.

These lads were giving off a good drum and bass energy with grime, rap or hip hop, I couldn’t understand a word of the rapper, it sounded like spouted Cockney but perhaps that’s intentional, that we are not supposed to understand the lyrics, its the feeling of the way they’re pronounced almost like swear syllables that are punctuated by the beats.  It looked like they were starting their set as the place was fairly empty but a few were milling about, I enjoyed them anyway, check them out if you get a chance.


The final few acts I caught at the Doppler Lab, I’m not sure if I caught a bit of Psytori, I remember that at the Doppler the music changed from DnB to psytrance in the early hours and I cannot remember if I was tuning into the end of Psytori or the starting of Bandia’s (Kate Bandia) set, unfortunately my camera battery ran out in one camera and I ran out of space on the other so none of these artists were recorded.


One thing was in the back of my mind but I couldn’t put my finger on it, then I remembered, Kormac?? I remember walking up to the Spiorad Óg Stage when I heard the horns from the group Grand and initially thought it was Kormac as he does have barber shop quartet music and a little Dixie jazz in his electro swing ska style.  Anyway I heard later he had cancelled  as he couldn’t access the av screens needed for the performance.

It was around 4.40 am when I hit the hay as I was fairly tired and pummelled by sound, so I bowed out for the night.

Sunday 14th August.

Well what can I say, that was a neat little event and celebration of the Irish underground music scene and refreshing to see one avoiding the installation art thing although the constantly changing floodlight effect on the trees was subtle and brilliant, unfortunately I couldn’t capture it properly on my cameras.  I saw no trouble over the weekend although Ian said some local nutbags broke in on Friday but were dealt with swiftly by security.  All the collectives that comprise Scrobarnach give a nice balance of sounds and vibes for the event.  Galway Basement Project, Irish Underground Sounds, Puzzle, Boss Level Series, World Bass Culture, Jaheire and Will Softly and their motley crew of DJs, Blue Mountain Cafe, Homefries.ie and everyone involved my hats off to you.  I wish this festival all the success and I hope they achieved a near capacity of visitors to make it worthwhile, I would also like to point out that there was a nice balance of male and female DJs and musicians taking part in this event.  The thing I like about the smaller festivals is that quite a lot of people involved comprise the same  people running the periphery of the Electric Picnic areas.  So look forward to seeing some of you again and roll on Scrobarnach 2017.

Cúla Búla – Is It?CD Review

Cúla Búla – Is It?
  1. Stick The Kettle On (Intro)
  2. Cuppah Tae
  3. Pirates
  4. Enchantment
  5. Bella Ciao
  6. Fair Little Child
  7. Spanish Misfortune
  8. March Of The Frisbees
  9. Karunga
  10. Follow Me Up To Liddle.

Cúla Búla are a bunch of Galway city based musicians, who play a bit of traditional Irish music, but they are also clearly influenced by rock, punk, Klezmer, gypsy, reggae and ska music, they have this archaic Celtic punk energy culled from years of busking, gigging and playing at festivals.  They aptly describe themselves on their Facebook group bio page, “…It was clear from the start that we worked well together and after just one week of practice in full, we opened a festival. It worked, by the end of the first song we had everyone dancing their socks off…”  Cúla Búla have just released their first full album called Is It?  And I will take you through a track by track review.

Kúla Búla are:

Bisckits Musicman – Guitar, Whistles, Vocals.
Henry Egan – Violin, Fiddle, Guitar. .
Ricky Brown – Guitar, Keys, Fiddle. ..
Luke Longarms – Bass, Occasional Shouting. .
Tadhg Kelly – Drums, Percussion.

Track one Stick the kettle on (Intro) is exactly that, you hear a radio playing traditional music in the background and you hear the kettle boiling, fancy some cha man.  Cuppah Tae (2) This is a chirpy number about the joys of drinking tea.  A tight band with whistle, electric bass, fiddle and guitar rocking it out in a nice uptempo number.  Pirates (3) A rollicking set of self composed jigs that slips into a bit of spacey dub reggae and comes cartwheeling into the jig again, spacey Celtic rock, a nice combination.  Enchantment (4) This a slow moody reflective piece that starts with some lovely picking on the guitar, building when an accordion (played by Luca Verga) adds to the sound giving it an almost Eastern and Parisian feel in parts.  The tune picks up tempo into Balkan and Klezmer territory with a ska undertone until it races to a dizzying height and finishes softly again.  Bella Ciao (5) This has a slow jazzy type of intro with lovely strings and sung in Italian, it breaks into an upbeat reggae number in a Balkan Ska style, a build and slow, build and slow track.  Great experimental folk rock.  Fair Little Child (Air) (6) A lovely soft exultant piece of music with fiddle and strings.  Spanish Misfortune (7) This is a set of three jigs, the first Morrison’s is more the pure drop style with just the whistle, fiddle and mandolin, when the tune comes around again a guitar joins in filling up the sound, Banish Misfortune the second jig brings the drums and bass rocking out the second tune and onto the third the Mooncoin Jig where the group has merged into a space rock sound with Celtic overtones kicking proper ass. March of the Frisbees (8) This would be the groups progressive rock piece, with some nice stick work from the drummer Tadhg Kelly on the intro to the track, a proper proggy anthemic march, lovely slow sections with the fiddle building up into a space rock fusion, I also heard some nice funk in this track too.  Karunga (9) Starts off with an Eastern or maybe klezmer inspired shimmering fiddle etching an ambience across the strings, this to me even sounds like Turkish music at the starting and builds into a slow steady rock piece and eventually builds uptempo into the Tamlin Reel, in Cúla Búla fashion this rocks out into a headbanging reel. Follow me up to Liddle (10)  The final track is a punky growly send up of the traditional song Follow me up to Carlow, Bisckit’s comedic inspired rant about the price of drink and beckoning everyone to follow him up to Lidl, culminating in a breakneck speed of punk and crashing out to the sound of sirens.

Yep Cúla Búla can play the oul trad, rock, reggae, gypsy klezmer and psychedelia to a fine charm, get yer hands on the CD or visit the bands Bandcamp webpage to find out where you can buy it or download from there.  If you get a chance watch the lads in action on the streets of Galway when they are out busking or gigging, also watch the odd festival listing you never know where they may spring out.



CB 2
Cúla Búla in the streets of Galway City.


Scrobarnach Independent Music & Art Festival 2016 – Preview

12th – 14th August, Tudenham Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland

Scrobarnach Festival 2016

Scrobarnach festival will be on its second year now, having entertained a capacity of 600 people in 2015, the second edition of the festival will cater for 600 to 800 people.  Scrobarnach literally translated from Gaelic to English means Scrub or as the Scrobarnach website says, Undergrowth, the festival being about celebrating some of the top electronic talent emerging from the Irish underground scene, from playing other festivals and club nights nationwide.  The event is a BYOB (Bring your own booze) event with a free flow to all the stages at the festival.

The brains behind the festival are Ian Hart, Tim Dowling and Jasper Mathews, Ian, a DJ and musician himself has a good grasp of the electronic scene and plays regularly around Galway city.  The lads have booked a bill of sounds ranging from roots reggae, bass music, electronica, punk and rock music, a feast of festival sounds.  There will also be eye catching installations and art on display at the festival.  Acts that will be gracing the five stages will range from Kormac who will be presenting a special AV show, Stray, RSCH14, Noid the Droid, Jon Hussey, Richard Entropy, Revelation Soundsystem,  Jamie Behan, World Bass Culture, Lionpaw, Stray, Bandia, Jaheire and Sionnagh among the many others appearing over the weekend.

cool tent
Night time at Scrobarnach 2015
night time shot
One of the stages in full flow 2015.
Forest lit tent. 2015

There will be five stages hosting events, the Doppler Lab handling bass music, jungle, DnB and techno, the Bush Bar catering for fans of electro swing, disco, ghetto and more.  Puzzle stage being the psytrance stage, but also with DnB and Neuro sounds, the main stage will host sounds ranging from disco, house, techno and electro music and finally the Irish Underground Sounds Collective which it seems will function like a Trenchtown or Riddim Shack (Townlands) hosting some of the best Irish reggae acts and alternative sounds floating around, Jaheire curating the big reggae takeover all day Saturday.  The stage will also host some alternative bands over the weekend too.

Also don’t forget to visit the Blue Mountain Cafe with the finest of Jamaican food on offer and some sizzling roots reggae sounds too.

There is not much more I can add to this, just get yourself along to the festival to check it out, I’m very much looking forward to it myself and hopefully the weather will stay nice for the weekend.  Look out for my review next weekend.




Townlands Carnival 2016 Festival Review.


8th – 10th July, Rusheen Farm, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland.

Friday 8th July.

We set off at 1 pm onward bound in Kevin’s camper for Townlands Carnival, a festival happening on Rusheen Farm near Macroom in County Cork, stopping off in Limerick to see a friend and get some beers and camping supplies.  We took the wrong road out of Limerick and got caught in a tailback for the good bones of an hour.  Back through Limerick we eventually saw a sign for Buttevant which was somewhere near the possible festival site but also avoided driving through Cork city as well.  I eventually got in touch with a friend already onsite as I was buying a ticket from them, they said either go for Mallow, Ballincollig, Macroom or Coachfoard, we chose the Coachford route as it was the only one that had a sign going to it, no Ballincollig, Macroom nor Mallow signs.  In fact quite  a majority of County Cork has no signs at all, leading to many WTFs!  When we eventually got to Coachfoard, the Centra dude directed us to the next village about 8 kilometres away, still no sign posts for this blasted festival and no idea where we were really, after driving through the first village and then a second village, I got Kevin to stop, ‘there is a pub’ I said, ‘I’ll ask there.’  The directions I got were to go right then take the left fifteen seconds later and then a right, I was warned it was steep so basically we were going up bumpy mountains.   Eventually we came to a sign on the other side of the road its back turned to us, I jumped out and had a look, Townlands Carnival Main Entrance and an arrow pointing down the road, it was just a matter of spotting the day glows of security and volunteers and we were there.  Woooo Hoooo!

By the time I had my tent up, wristbanded and cans of beer, clothes and camping necessaries together it had turned 10 pm, so we must of drove about in circles for about two hours or something, we did have a dinner and coffee break on the way as well, campers are great that way.

By the time we actually hit the arena it was 10.30 – 45 pm, so late enough for Friday’s proceedings but we did get to see a bit of Cork.  Just in time to catch the Jerry Fish closing set on the main stage.

Jerry Fish – Main Stage 11 pm.

Jerry has a gothy jangly thing going on in his music, definitely influenced at some point by Nick Cave, I only stayed for a few tracks as I was mad for exploring the place but the clip I recorded Hole in the Boat reminded me of the Cramps, Tom Waits and Screamin Jay Hawkins, punk psychobilly music, its sounds dated but at the same time twisted and new, Mr Fish and Cohorts sure put on a fine show.

I also wanted to take in a bit of festival scenery so took shots of the fake town come alive by projections, fantastically creative stuff, mesmerising to look at, a neon lit town centre with night clubs and bars, the only thing missing was door men.  Here is my suggestion Townlands for the craic, get some of the event security to dress up as doormen to make the night club thing more authentic, just for show, no ID asking or stuff like that.  This clip I’m posting, play it at a low volume as its atrociously loud in Samsung audio or even mute sound and take it in as a visual document.

Myself and Kevin wandered up to the top part of the site, this area had three stages, stalls, a Red Bull tent and most importantly, three portaloos.

Sim Simma Soundsystem were playing some nice roots reggae, hip hoppish, drum n bass and jungle sometimes and some of the coolest densest dub.  This was all happening in the Riddim Shack (red tent), at the next stage there was a techno being made out of ska and Balkan music, well that is what it sounded like anyway courtesy of DJ Kyem in the Cirque De Freakout tent (white tent) and into the Sub-Atomic Stage, the big looking castle building with a tent inside blasting out hardcore techno courtesy of Jamie Behan.  Of course my recording won’t sound anything like their music as it was also taken on the Samsung phone, so play low volume and enjoy my stagger about the top of Townlands.

Eventually all these three stages and the main stage were shut down by 2 am, so like you do when you get kicked out of the pub you go clubbing, so off we went down to the town centre of Townlands and into the Gramophone Disco, twas grand enough classic oldies and ancient tracks but we wanted something more thumping.  So into the Minus tent where Greg C was blasting out some tight techno, the Minus stage is quite a cute white tent with red ball lamps, twas the place to come during the day to hear Deep House, disco and funk and probably more techno later.  I remember looking through the tent entrance and saw torrential rain, so we stayed in the tent till close down and security told us to go, this was just after 3 am.  I could still hear banging music, frantic drum n bass verging on gabber dance music but couldn’t work out where it was coming from, like a fenced up area or something, I found out on Saturday where that sound was coming from.  Security eventually cleared us out of another three stages in the main arena and eventually we went to the campsite cafe where they were showing a film which I didn’t know but at least we could stay dry as it was lashing.  We ended up going back to the camper as I didn’t fancy opening my tent in that downpour, it was a great decision as Kevin has a heater in the camper so we could dry off too, a final night cap of a can of beer before we conked out for the night.

Saturday 9th July.

Saturday I woke up early enough and sat in the drivers seat for a while smoking a few cigarettes, eventually I heard a voice say are you making the coffee, so went to the cooker and made the coffee.  Kevin got up and cooked us a fry, a smashing way to start the Saturday at the festival.

It was a very drizzly day so kind of dampish, that kind of mountain mist that soaks you, not ideal weather but at least six of the stages were covered areas so not so bad, it was nice to see the arena in the daylight, the Riddim Shack beckoning, the hum of dub roots bass vibrating of my temples.  The last quarter bit of the hill before you get to the reggae area always catches me, I have to take a few deep breaths before I continue, you can also see the older folk arriving and composing themselves getting their breaths back before launching into some timely skanking to the reggae beat.  Met Dolly, Somhairle, Gavin and Caroline who all share the same love for the reggae, tuned into Worries Outernational with Mikey Joyride Soro, Community Hi Fi and 1 Ness from London who played some amazing music, some of which I never heard before, real earth moving dub reggae.


1 Ness – Riddim Shack, Saturday.
1 Ness – Riddim Shack, Saturday.

The sounds of 1 Ness.


The delightful Dolly and Blakey Blake.
Kevin enjoying the festivities.
The arena beginning to wake up.
The Sub-Atomic Stage (Hardcore Techno)
The Cirque De Freakout Stage.
This is basically the main stage mixing desk area, where the people mixing the live sound and their friends hang out.
The Main Stage.
The town centre.
Mixing desk area for main stage.
WOB! Fourth opening act on the main stage, Saturday.

Watched a bit of the early evening main stage act Magnus Major, a ska, rap and punk band from Bristol who played an energising music, I sensed they were all Beat fans as they had that pummelling energy similar to the Beats Mirror in the Bathroom sound and the Dub Pistols too, they drew a nice wee crowd no matter how heavy the drizzle was this band won a fair few devotees, check them out, worth a watch.


I took a look into the Minus stage, Efa O’Neill was playing a sweet set of disco electro ambient techno buzz if that makes any sense, but it was definitely a chill dance music that was very mellow like the charming Efa.


I went back to the tent for a little rest and to get some Guinness, it was then Kevin told me about a forest area, yippee some more secret parts of the festival, it was getting mucky making it to the entrance, but solid ground on the muck when you reach the lights in the trees, you pass a small wooden shack, will come back to this after, onward you see a glimmer of red lights in shapes and a wooden stage, the Sibin Stage, impressive but dark enough for the camera not been able to focus properly, still a very chill area like Trenchtown or Port Royal. Aine Duffy and her band were rocking out a nice set, of melodic rock and pop songs, I am probably worse for wear to actually remember to describe her sound, but I got a Polly Jean Harvey/WolF Alice vibe, so take what you will from that, I enjoyed it and hope to see them at another festival or venue soon.


There was another chill space through the other path from the Sibin stage that led to another white tent/cocktail bar with a DJ, the stuff blasting out of here was incredible, DnB, Jungle, Gabber, sky scraping dubstep, but mainly frenetic drum n bass and bass music in general.  The area around was covered in luminous decorations and dream catchers, a chill out area where you could dance like a loon to crazy electronica.

More gabber and drum n bass started coming from the small wooden shack I mentioned earlier, crazy music and a bunch of nutters squeezing into the shack area and going loopers to the music.  Now I worked out where that source of sound was coming from in the early hours of Saturday morning.  We stayed there for the rest of the night until I could not support my body anymore and I hit the hay, Kevin falling into the tent an hour or two later.

Update 26th July: Some folk have got back to me on the Townlands event Facebook page about the small wooden shack.   The area is known as the Goat Shed and some of the DJs featured over the weekend was, Liver Lifter, Welfare, Jonezy, Shiv, Sensar, Inflatable Fuhrer, Gash and Slev.

The small shack with banging music, The Goat Shed. Photograph by Debra Mac.

Dance terms: Gabber: Known as Rotterdam Techno, Murder House, Gabba House also called Early Hardcore.  To me on Saturday and Sunday, a very fast kind of punk techno sound expertly mixed with DnB and Jungle and can move between these genres quite fluidly, well that was the buzz I got from the forest area, sometimes it could be explosive and at others times beautifully chill, the best of both worlds.  Gabber is also characterised by the last ten or fifteen minutes of Aphex Twin’s live sets for the last ten or fifteen years of him touring, possibly longer.



Sunday 10th July.

Woke up at noon and headed into the arena to the Riddim Shack to catch the last of Revelation Sound’s set and a bit of the next one courtesy of Warren Roots, catching up with a few friends and dancing to the music.  The weather still being niggly drizzle so moving a bit further into the tent.  Somhairle called me over to one of the half cars and gave me one of the seats, lovely and comfy and most of all, sheltered.

The cool half cars seating areas.
Inside the Cirque De Freakout tent.
Cirque De Freakout tent art.
The arena.
The devil playing pan pipes.
Myself in fine form.
Fugitive Dreams.
Townlands Town Centre Art.

After getting a slice of pizza at a reasonable 3.50 Euros, I went wandering about the arena bumped into Jeremy, Danyl, Gavin and Caroline and a few others, investigated the Gramophone Disco that was having a bit of a trad day with Planxty’s Cunla and various other classics and a well steamed merry audience baying for more.  Into Minus for some electronica and then I started to feel really tired, worn out a bit and that feeling of being constantly damp so I decided to go back to the tent for a lie down, Kevin done likewise going back to the camper.  I didn’t get up again till about 9.30 and just in time to see Kevin and Joe and get some cans together.  Joe is an old mate of Kevin’s from working the festivals who lives in Wicklow, we all headed into the main arena which would be the last time till 2017 I suppose.

The Gramaphone Disco.
Kevin and Joe.

Mungo’s Hi FI – Riddim Shack   9 – 11 pm.

Having caught Mungo’s Hi Fi at Life festival in 2011 I was well impressed with their sound and now the Glasgow collective were back to play Townlands on Sunday.  Their music has a very dub rootsy feel but incorporates dubstep, drum n bass, jungle, a gorgeous kinda bass music, I think they might be in the soundtrack to the fire show clip as well. They describe themselves on their website as ‘Forward thinking reggae music’ I go with that term myself reggae music for the future and the now.  This clip was taken on the Samsung so keep the volume down.


I talked Kevin and Joe to come with me and check out Cula Bula who were starting up in the Sibin stage at 10 pm.

Cula Bula – Sibin Stage     10pm.

Cula Bula have a take on the rock trad style aka Horslips meets the Pogues meet Willie Clancy, having seen them many times on the streets of Galway busking they know how to kick off a grand party.  Tonight’s gig when I arrived the band was having sound problems, some sound levels were needing adjusted and took a little time.  But things kicked up a few notches when the lads kicked off with the Butterfly and into the Kid on the Mountain jig.  A fun show and a good act to bring the spirits up at any festival.  I would have stayed for more of the set, but I was grabbed by mates to go near to the reggae stage in the arena, some sort of fire display was going to take place.


A wicker two headed effigy had been built where the Earth Circle fire was previously, the whole area around there was cordoned off, as fire acrobats and security gathered around and the overpowering smell of paraffin, you just knew you were going to see something rather epic.  Well, guess what, they set fire to it and it went up in flames and we all gawked in wonder at it while sweetly being soothed by a tin whistle playing in a piece of reggae music I think Mungo’s Hi Fi were playing from the stage.  But it was a lovely spectacle, and a grand heat from it too, fire acrobats, people with skeletal rowing boats with lights on them walking around in a semi-circle around the spectacle added to the depth of the show with Townlands town centre illuminated in the background.

I forgot to mention the food stall and forgot to take photos of the places selling food I had sampled but after nearly 72 hours of partying, a good square meal works wonders.  I had about 8 Euro left of my festival finances, I settled for the peanut and chicken vegetable curry dinner with rice, it was also served with optional rice or noodles.  I can’t for the love of me, remember the name of the food stall.  I appealed on the Townlands facebook event page and Toby Hatchett got back to me, the place was called Wokabout which sounds like a distant relation to Wok n’Roll, but Toby explained they were a local crowd from Bantry.  Anyway Wokabout done a fantastic peanut and chicken vegetable curry with either noodles or rice or mixed together if you so wished for 8 Euros, the perfect medicine to help wind up the festival blues.  I’m glad to say that the rain and drizzle stayed mostly away for Sunday night.


Gentleman’s Dub Club – Main Stage     11 pm.

The Leed’s based dub band gave it socks tonight as the closing main stage act for Townlands 2016, crisp sound, lovely brass section and a few charismatic front men singers and a very tight rhythm section.  A perfect closer for the main stage and a nice audience gathered grooving to the sounds.  A band well worth checking out, I have done no research on this group and I would link their website but as with Mungo’s Hi Fi, If I link the site it for some reason creates a blank space in my blog so I will add the Wikipedia link which should link directly anyway to their website and a short clip I took of their performance on my small Sony camera.


We departed the arena for the last time and headed for the forest area, Sibin stage and dance tent in the woods.  Kevin and Joe stopped off in the tent on the way to pick up the last of our cans.  Aindrias De Staic and his band The Latchikos were the closing act and the final live act we would see for Townlands 2016.

The Latchikos – Sibin Stage      11.45 pm.

The Latchikos are a trad/rock band that can get a good stomp going, De Staic, raconteur, storyteller, fiddler and general all, mad chap had a great banter that was avidly received by a nice tidy gathered audience who could easily transform into a ceilidh as soon as the fiddle started jigging and reeling away.  Yup, De Staic had plenty of reels and jigs but he also had lyrics he composed with the tunes.  Some crazy Eastern European gypsy sets and a tight band ensuring that the Latchikos are a damn fine closing act for any festival going.


The other stage at the back was playing a fine minimal chill drum n bass set as if it knew it was Sunday night and that it had to be chiller than Friday and Saturday.  Joe said that an artist called Wiggle was due to start a set there at 4 am, but myself and Kevin had, had enough at this stage so we made tracks for the camper and I’m glad we did, otherwise I would be too tired tomorrow and would’ve probably got up late.

Monday 11th July.

Kevin eventually drove back with the camper to Galway and I’m sorry I sort of ruined his plans to visit a bit of West Cork, but I never thought through the journey back to Galway plans, I thought that with there being a few from Galway there I could’ve chanced a lift back to the city, but these plans never materialised and we quickly found out that it was a hopeless case of relying on Bus Eireann to connect to Citylink in Cork to get me in time for my gig at 9.30 pm in Galway.  So out of the goodness of his heart Kevin decided to drive me back to Galway to make the gig and thank you Kevin for that.

About Townlands, I might volunteer for this one next year, Townlands is like the halfway house between the dance of Life Festival and the cool alternative vibe of Body & Soul festival.  I would go as far to say that the dance music on offer at Townlands was more wide ranging that both Life and Body&Soul, two stages dwelt with house and techno, Minus and Fugitive Dreams, whjlst the Sub-Atomic provided hardcore techno and on Sunday they were playing Warp sounding music aka Aphex Twin, Squarepusher.  The Riddim Shack and Cirque De Freakout tents dwelt with drum n bass, dubstep, reggae, techno, jungle, Eastern European folk music, World music.  And then there was the forest stages one for live music and two for banging gabber and DnB music.  Danyl, a mate was explaining to me that he was a big Boomtown Fair fan, an English festival that occurs in early August, a 4 kilometre area built like a fake city, all the stages are represented as districts or boroughs of the city with awe inspiring building structures all around and a mouth watering indie, electronic and reggae line up.  Some of the Townlands organisers have been inspired by this festival too and hence, Townlands have just completed their second year as a fake fantasy town transplanted into some fields in County Cork.  Unfortunately the elements were against them this year, had it been the heatwave that Life Festival enjoyed it could have sold out, but many people probably looked out of their bedroom window looking at the drizzle smeared and just went no.  Which is a real pity as this festival has fantastic potential.

Roll on Townlands 2017.

Body & Soul 2016 Festival Review.

Absoulut Bar, Friday Night.

This year Kevin had a campervan so we set off for Ballinlough on Tuesday 14th June, I had to do two twelve hour shifts on Wednesday and Thursday and then I would be free for the rest of the event.  I was stationed at Gate F this year which was the crew car park, campervans and temporary car park areas (for people registering their vehicles and getting festival accreditation).  Things not to do when you are working the pre-event or weekend for that matter, don’t forget your wellies or your rain jacket, I done both this year but thankfully one of my fellow volunteers lent me a mac as it was raining on and off during Wednesday and Thursday.

Now I won’t go into too much detail about my work but some people arriving for accreditation had the neck to park up in the area I was working in, Charlene my supervisor said no one by any means unless they were accreditation staff or someone delivering a generator could park there.  I explained it to these people which is all I can do that they can’t park there, if they didn’t heed me I left them to the wrath of Charlene or occasional security who would come up and check now and again.  The work was fairly easy but because of the rain many seemed to be holding off arriving onsite till the last minute.  This meant that Thursday, my last shift dragged on quite a bit as it would be a busy flurry and then quiet for certain lengths of time.

Another small niggly problem on the job was people misunderstanding me or the other volunteers I was working with, the scenario was I directed cars and vehicles to the temporary part of the car park, whilst the other volunteers handled the long-term car park bit.  What would happen is some people would abandon their cars at the temporary spot mistaking it for long-term and before you knew it the spaces would be filling up for people just seeking accreditation forcing me to run down to people emptying their cars of camping gear and redirecting them to the long-term parking area, man, I was glad when that Thursday shift ended.

Thursday 16th June.

Myself, taken near the end of my Wednesday shift.
Kevin’s Campervan.
Kevin in his camper.

I have to admit, staying in a campervan was a completely different experience to camping in a tent, a fecking proper bed, you cannot beat that and Kevin brought his proper stereo and bass woofer so bassy dubby goodness.

For my carryout I had a crate of Guinness, some French Enigma absinthe and some Spanish absinthe I had left over from my holidays in Spain at Xmas, a few litres of spring water to louche the absinthe with and a few small plastic bottles to decant into for our walks about the festival site.  We hooked up with Simon Outram, a good buddy of mine that I made at previous Body & Souls and who was working with the Earth Guardians this year and went on a ramble to look at the site.  Not many major changes from last year but I was impressed with the new Woodlands stage, which I suspect used the roof of the old Body & Soul main stage and the placement of the Reckless in Love stage into its very own meadow.

It was chilly enough on Thursday night so we made for the enclosed woods of the Port Royal who had some nice Jamaican sounds going.  We took a look at the main arena, the Absolut bar was moved to the spot that the Chai Wallahs brown tent was last year and the Midnight Circus had a new bigger marquee this year too.  Onto the next field there was a new main stage, much bigger than the previous stage and the usual exquisite Body & Soul decorations.  The wind picked up a little and the drizzle came back so we repaired to the Port Royal enclosure again to keep that little more warm, Simon also had his own home made absinthe which gave a nice lasting heat, it has to be said.  We took a wee detour to the Walled Garden area and into one of these cool stone shelters near the Soul Kids area.  We met a sound bunch from Donegal who were volunteering for the weekend, I had my bodhran handy so I whipped it out and gave a lash with a bodhran solo and a song which everyone seemed to enjoy anyway.  There was one memorable girl there who kept winding people up who were passing outside pretending she was a dog and would give them a jump barking.

Port Royal before the invasion of the masses.
Port Royal before the invasion of the masses.
Port Royal before the invasion of the masses.
A lovely installation in the main arena.

Friday 17th June.

Hungover, I hear a knock on the camper door at about eight in the morning, it turns out its Simon, he turned up for his shift at eight but was told it was put forward to ten so he called up to us, we muttered to call back later, 8 am in the morning when you are not working and hungover is too early.  Most of the morning was spent talking to our neighbours, Dolly who was working at Port Royal, Hugh who was helping with work on one of the stages and Debra and Sharon who were Earth Guardians like Simon and various other folk.

I had no wild music agenda this year, the line up didn’t grab me like previous years so my own take on this is to follow this music with your heart, whatever grabs you, go to it. Friday was cloudy but mainly dry apart from occasional drizzle but it was cool enough in the evening time.  The first music I recall seeing was the Bitch Falcon set at the Midnight Circus on Friday evening.

Bitch Falcon – Midnight Circus Tent   7 – 7.30 pm.

Its hard to forget a group like Bitch Falcon, at Electric Picnic last year my friends group, GIRO (Which I guested with on tambourine) had just finished their set on the Body & Soul main stage and on came Bitch Falcon who blasted the cobwebs of anyone’s hangover away with blitzkrieg riffs, indie hardcore metal.  Body & Soul is bizarre that way, firstly a group playing vaudeville and gypsy folk music and then a group playing a molten indie metal with a pile driving sound.  Their performance this year in the tent had a more restrained elegance, their sound crispier and polished but still with lots of balls to make you nod your head to the beat.  Body & Soul are faultless with their sound systems and Bitch Falcon gave a nice wallop for the second opening act in the main tent for Friday, an energy akin to Iggy Pop’s Stooges.




The main arena gradually filling up on Friday afternoon.
The Absolut Bar and stage in its new location.

Of course, I paid my usual visit to the Charcoal Grill in the Walled Garden for my favourite, a big juicy steak burger, I bumped into Fran Hogan, the Life festival volunteer coordinator who was helping to run the Wanderlust Stage.  I traipsed about the woods for a while taking in various art and wandered back up to the camper where Kevin was to put my feet up for a bit.  I had brought the tent but had still not put it up in the crew camp yet so it was a wee bit of an extra walk.

We went back into the main arena just after ten to get a place at the main stage to catch the Gloaming set, I was intrigued to see what they would be like being a bit of a trad head myself.

The Gloaming – Body & Soul Main Stage    10.30 – 11.30 pm.

Now I am a big fan of Iarla O Lionaird’s singing, but why did the Gloaming decide to start their set with a slow Sean Nos number, beautiful as it was it was just away too slow a start for a main headliner set, I thought a lively set of reels would’ve a more appropriate introduction, but maybe its just me.  There was nothing wrong with the music, there was some lovely sets of jigs played in that sublime slow Clare style and you can not fault the musicians, each of them a master at their own instrument.  Caoimhin O Raghallaigh is another fiddler and musician I much admire and I recommend anyone to check out his album Where the One Eyed Man is King (2007) for a true trad experimentation album.  Iarla sang some more exquisite songs and a few more sets of slowly building jigs were proffered to the audience.  As much as I loved the set and I know they were pushing that second album recently released The Gloaming II, there seemed to be a lack of faster numbers such as lively reels, polkas or marches.  When it comes to fiddlers I still prefer the Kevin Burke crunch over Martin Hayes’s playing, similar when they do for example Bobby Casey’s hornpipes, Burke’s has more balls, Hayes’s playing for me can be too overtly soft for my liking but it depends I suppose what you get from fiddling yourself.  That is not to criticise Hayes’s playing, he is the master of his craft but I prefer riffier fiddling if that is even a term to use.  I think there was a set of slow reels at one point during the set but the final closing set was a set of reels which did advance in speed, I took my bodhran out and started playing along in the audience, one or two folk egged me on, Kevin included.  An enjoyable enough gig though from the Gloaming, I think the Afro Celt Soundsystem would have been a better choice for that time also because they have Iarla as their singer too.  The Gloaming are a very talented act but I think their set would be more appreciated in a more intimate indoor setting.


We headed off for the lively Port Royal for a while, I should have checked more acts out during the drier weather but there was no hurry to see anyone really, we did catch the crazy screams and electronica of Ninos Du Brazil as we stood outside the Midnight Circus tent for a while, they were finishing up their set.

The Port Royal area was now fairly busy, all the crazy dreaders, hippies and all sorts of colourful characters and randomers bouncing about to ska, dub, calypso and reggae.  We stayed there for the rest of the night till 4 am when they had to cut the music.  I could still hear a bass somewhere, so we went in search of that sound.  Up through the main arena and up into the Absolut stage who we thought might be Donal Dineen but it was a bunch of lads called Lumo DJs who were keeping the remaining revellers entertained until 5 am and alas the weather broke again with the onslaught of heavy drizzle ushering in the dawn.

Port Royal Friday night.
Late night revellers dancing to the Lumo DJs at the Absolut bar near 5am.
Absoulut Bar, Friday Night, early Saturday morning.
A dusky Friday evening in the main arena.

Saturday 18th June.

Finally got it together today to bring my tent up to the crew camp, Kevin cooked himself a fry in his camper and then we set off to the campsite.  Simon was there and it was the first time we had seen him since Thursday, while lazing at the crew camp the sun came out and the heat was fairly welcomed as there wasn’t much of it over the last few days.  This was short lived after about an hour as the clouds closed over and a steady rain started coming down.  I heard from Kevin that Wok n’ Roll were doing volunteer discounts so I headed into the main arena and got a meal which normally costs 9 Euros for a fiver, I got a vegetarian Thai rice meal which was absolutely scrumptious and set me up for the day.

Kevin at Crew Camp in the one wee sunny spell on early Saturday evening.

The first music I remember encountering was Saint Sister on the Woodlands stage at about 7 pm, I’m such a lazy fecker having missed half the music of the day, but it is more about the event rather than the music bill, distractions and seeing old friends annually  aside, Body & Soul is all about being carefree and one thing I increasingly noticed, people watching, especially in a place like Port Royal, the festival basically comes to you as the there are two pathways through Port Royal and a constant flow of people escaping the rain.

Saint Sister – Woodlands Stage  7 – 7.30 pm.

I was enchanted by the sound of the Irish electro-folk band Saint Sister who had a lovely crowd gathered at the Woodlands Stage, for me they had elements of Cocteau Twins (Victorialand era) and elements of early Clannad with a beautiful electronic ambient sheen over the sound.  The perfect act for the gorgeous Woodlands Stage, we were merely passing through bound for somewhere else but their dreamy sound rooted us on the spot. Their music as described on their website draws from early Celtic harp traditions, 60’s folk and electronic pop to create ‘atmosfolk’ – a mix of soulful vocal harmonies, dreamy synth and electro-acoustic harp.  A perfect Body & Soul choice I’d say, met David Curran there a fellow volunteer, his job to stand around the Woodlands stage area and give festival punters helpful advice, that was a nice number you landed there David in one of the most delightful parts of the festival.

Kevin and David at the Woodlands Stage.
Saint Sister at the Woodlands Stage, picture quality a little blurry like myself.


Borrowed from the BBC Glastonbury coverage as I have no clip of Saint Sister.

A cool little hut to the side of the Woodlands Stage.

Many trips were taken back to the Port Royal area as the rain was intermittent and we just wanted to stay dry, I also realise I love reggae music its just so easy to dance to and Toots and the Maytals was getting played a lot of the time which for us Picnic heads we canna wait for, Toots is playing the Sunday afternoon reggae set, so why not stay in an area with the music you love, good friends and delightful nutcases.  So we basically listened to selections from Port Royal DJs such as Nigel Woods, Miss Scotty, Jay Sharp and finally some of the mighty Mikey Joyride Soro (Worries Outernational) set which went on to about 12 am.

I went out looking for cigarettes in the main arena and walled garden areas but discovered to my horror that there was no cigarette kiosks open anymore but Kevin, Debra and Sharon stepped in and saved the day giving me a bit of tobacco each which kept me going till Sunday.  Whilst wandering through the arena I took in a bit of Hudson Mohawke’s set, at that particular moment I was looking at the main stage he was doing some drum n bass workout that sounded fairly decent.  I bumped into Kevin again outside the Midnight Circus where he was soaking up some of the sounds of Cassy in the tent, I hung around, filmed a short clip outside the tent and went in for a look myself, it wasn’t too rammed and there was plenty of space to throw yourself about to the beat.  I don’t know how to describe Cassy’s music, there was a bit of house vibes and a bit of techno too so maybe it was tech house but interesting enough to arrest my attention.


At some point I met up with Debra and Sharon again and we went for a gawk at the Reckless in Love stage, the Mother DJs had a nice packed crowd dancing to the sounds, which was Underworld’s Two Months Off, I couldn’t help thinking deja vu here, it felt like I was looking at the Electric Picnic main stage on Friday night during Underworld’s set.

Mother DJs at the Reckless in Love Stage.

Myself, Kevin, Debra and Sharon ended up back in Port Royal again to dance away to the selections of Tom Beary and Slick Normal & Reggae Richie till the 4 am close again and then off to catch the final hour I think at the Absolut stage with DJ Deece and the This Greedy Pig DJs.  It started drizzling heavy again so we made tracks back to the crew camper site and sat in Sharon’s camper drinking a few cans and watching the daylight come in.

Sunday 19th June.

Sunday was a proper lie in till at least 2 or 3 pm as we stayed up so late Saturday night/Sunday morning plus it was bucketing down so no rush to leave the camper as yet. Simon called up at some point and we all headed into the woods area in the early evening, I had still not moved into my tent as yet.  Today I needed funds so it meant I had to make the trawl to the atm to get money, while waiting in the queue at the bank some group was sound checking on the main stage, it was only then I realised the time as I thought it was the main stage opening act till Simon reminded me it was about 7 pm.

Batida – Body & Soul Main Stage   6.15 – 7.15 pm.

It seems Batida was supposed to start at 6.15 pm but there seemed to be technical problems with their backdrop video screen so they didn’t really get started till about 7.  Batida were a fairly exhilarating listen, part political part electronica and part world music.  They reminded me of the Kudoro music of Alo Wala and Baraka Som Sistema, Batida is the brainchild of Pedro Coquenao, a radio, video and music producer born in Huambo, Angola but raised in Lisbon, Portugal.  His 2009 album is described on the Body & Soul website ‘as one of the most relevant records done in Angola and Portugal by Antonio Pires, a referential Portuguese music journalist.’  The music was fantastic and was a nice diversion to the otherwise chore of queuing in the muck to get some money from the bank at the time I didn’t have a camera with me so I never took photos or video clips of this act, but do check them out if you get a chance.


The rain kicked in big time with heavy showers so that put an end to my exploring the main stage and main arena areas as it had become a mucky quagmire and I was ill equipped with proper rain wear or wellies to take on the muck so myself, Simon and Kevin headed for Port Royal and the cafe in there for some Marley coffee and a lovely bite to eat, some gorgeous Jamaican chicken pasties which was basically my food for the day.  We were sitting at the very back of the cafe so the outside was like a cinema film running about the weird and wonderful characters that frequented Port Royal and all to an intoxicating Jamaican soundtrack provided by Nigel Woods, Chonkie and Iarla, Sibh Conway, Sherron St Clair and the Port Royal mash up with Will Softly, Slick Normal, Rub A Dub Crew & Special right up to 2 am and the close of the festival.  So I missed Santigold and I heard earlier that she almost missed Body & Soul, a friend of mine who I work with at the Picnic advance works in passport control at Dublin airport in her normal job, she met Santigold and part of her crew.  It seems she just made the gig as half her equipment and crew were stranded at Barcelona airport, in fact another friend texted me this as well.  I did partly catch the David August gig from the Port Royal, the bass echo came in strong from the Midnight Circus behind me so i basically was enjoying two gigs at once.  Back to Kevin’s camper to drain our booze and hit the hay for the night.

Monday 20th June.

So the end to the Body & Soul 2016 edition if a little wet and mucky and not as bad as Glastonbury patrons had to endure the following weekend.  Kevin had to work the Soul Kids break down for the Monday so I nipped out earlier to bring down my tent which sat unused for two days, just got back in time for Kevin heading off to his shift so sat in the camper for most of the day having the blether with Dolly and Danyl who were milling about the crew camper site.  My thanks to the coordinators Catherine Kehoe, Karolina and supervisor Charlene Cristopher and all my buddies at Body & Soul, no doubt I will see some of you at Townlands Carnival and Electric Picnic in September.

Love and peace Y’all.

Southern Spain: A Trek Through Andalucia


Monday December 28th 2015 – Monday January 11th 2016.

So off we set, myself, Marguerite, Brendan and Oisin on our second sojourn, the first being in Istanbul in 2012, this time it was to Malaga in Southern Spain and an exploration of the Andalucia region.  From the brisk and breezy climate of cold Dublin to the warm climate of orange trees, magnificent cathedrals, churches and castles. terraced balconied houses, incredible food and drink and the happy Spanish vibe.  We couldn’t have set off at a better time, through the throes of mid winter near the end of December to what seemed like mid summer to us Irish folk.

December 28th, 29th 2015  Malaga.

Having just come out of Malaga airport it still hadn’t dawned on us how hot it actually was, it was just amazing to see bright sunshine and dry pavements.  Our first encounter with Spanish public transport was a bit weird, all we had was an itinerary with a rudimentary address in Malaga, the bus driver had no English so we had to work out what he said.  It was nearly a disaster when I hopped off the bus at one point thinking it was our stop, which it wasn’t.  The doors closed again and the rest of us didn’t get off, so I had to hammer and hammer the doors to get back on again.  God knows what would have happened if the bus sped off without me and myself with no notion where I was.

We eventually got off in the town centre with wide marble streets and set about trying to find Pepa’s place, our first landlady in Spain and our first Air B and B.  It was a bit of a task, Por Favor was the most used phrase asked to strangers here to find our street.   Luckily we bumped into Pepa I think outside the Ispana cafeteria and bar where she was having a coffee and we found our first little bit of paradise tucked in behind the tapa bars, castles and cathedral.

The Living room in the first floor of our accommodation.
The bedroom in the first floor.
Some of the pictures that adorned the wall of our apartment.
The Entrance to our humble abode.
Some of the art or cool graffiti outside our apartment.
The coolest thing of all was the top floor was the roof.  Oisin and Brendan playing footie.

I have no real idea at this stage where we visited on that first Monday afternoon and evening, all I know was that Oisin was on a quest to taste churros, a doughnut type stick that you dipped into a cup or mug of hot chocolate.  This is the cool kiddies breakfast in Spain but you have to be fast, most places stop serving them after noon.

We did eventually find a place just off the square in Malaga central somewhere, a bar and also a cafeteria like most other places in Spain.  The adults settled for a cool glass of beer whilst Oisin got his desired churros.  That is the thing with this part of Spain, everything is so pretty to look at that you cannot stop taking photos, right down to small details like the balconies on nearly every building and intricate details on ceramic tiles adorning halls, doorways and arches of buildings.

Oisin enjoying his Churros breakfast.
The beautiful balconied buildings of Malaga.
Oisin choosing Barcelona football postcards to send to his mates.

Another cool aspect about Spanish culture is the tapas thing, instead of getting one square meal, you choose a bunch of things in the menu, I will elaborate the more I get into this review.  All the different portions come out in three or four plates and you just sample a bit from each dish.  One of my favourites was Calamari rings fried in batter, deep fried pieces of Squid.  Bread was customary with your tapas and normally you are given bottles of olive oil and vinegar to soak the bread in, simply delicious.  Lovely plates of Manchego cheese and incredible red wines.  Ah, this is the life.  Washed down with a Cafe Con Leche, a Spanish latte made with half espresso and half scalded milk.

I think we checked out a few other places, in particular a restaurant called Taberna el Piyayo that was adorned in ceramic tiles where we had some lovely wine and I had a nice meal of Iberian ham and egg and a nice strong Americano coffee.

I didn’t sleep great, the Spanish love their fireworks and they were going off intermittently during the night, I probably didn’t help the situation by having a strong coffee so late last night.  Anyway was first up and showered when I called Brendan.  We both set off to find a place serving coffee to go and orange juice to bring back to the apartment for breakfast.

The Xmas light display during daylight on the main street, Malaga.
Cool art in the streets with Oisin, Malaga.

I caught a short clip of the ambience outside the TragaTapas bar/restaurant in Malaga.

We were walking about the area near the Alcazaba, a fortress dating from 700 but completed in the 11th century, It was also in the area outside the Alcazaba I spotted my first Flamenco guitarist busker, I threw in a few coins.

The Alcazaba in Malaga.
The Amphitheatre at the Alkazaba, Malaga.


Marguerite on the Carousel.
Brendan, Oisin enjoying a chocolate crepe and myself at the amusement park in Malaga.

Oisin on the Slide at the Amusement Park in Malaga.

This was a real twilight place, it seemed the later it was the better it became.  The additional Xmas lights came alive and Malaga lit up.

The Xmas lights display in Malaga’s main thoroughfare.

A busking jazz group who moved about the main cathedral square in Malaga.

We were hanging about around the cathedral square area, which had many outdoor bars and dining areas so this attracted wandering buskers such as the jazz band in the video above and an accordionist who was playing pleasant waltzes, a few beggars mingling in too.  Wonderful drinking areas that insured we wouldn’t be cold in the night with neat little fire lamps blazing near the tables.  I tried various beers, Sam Miguel lager I suppose works out like Spain’s answer to Tennent’s lager in Scotland but I still consider it a nice crisp beer, there was some nice local Malaga brands and Alhambra beer, Estrella Damm among others.  Our final port of call for the day was the Mercado de la Merced bar and dining area, I never seen anywhere quite like it, groups of restaurants and bars like little stalls under one roof with a general seating area in the middle and an array of different Xmas cribs near the seating and the place was absolutely rammed.

Mercado de la Merced, Malaga.
Mercado de la Merced, Malaga.
The flood lit Roman amphitheatre just outside the Alcazaba, Malaga.

December 30th  Malaga / Seville.

I awoke first this morning again and woke up everyone else, we were meeting Pepa at the apartment at 11 pm so went for a walk in search of breakfast, we found the same cafeteria myself and Brendan got the carry out from yesterday.  I settled for a Spanish fry up which was delicious, lovely thin sausages, real yolky fried eggs and lovely crisp Iberian ham.  The orange juice made your eyes water it was that fresh and probably fell from a nearby tree that morning and of course, I have never turned down a cafe con leche, simply the business.

Today was the clearest and hottest day so far, we chanced upon this really cool second hand store which seemed to specialise in psychedelic clothes from the late sixties, I bought myself a psychedelic waist coat, Oisin spotted a bag that Marguerite might like and when she saw it she fell in love with it, so I bought it for her Christmas present and she got herself a lovely velvet hat and Brendan kitted himself out with a new pair of jeans.

So with taxi booked from the apartment, we met Pepa at eleven and handed back her keys and said our goodbyes, she took a photo of us on my camera.  We would be back in Malaga for a night on the 6th January.

Photo taken by Pepa as we were leaving for Seville.

The trains were quite cheap and fast compared to Iarnod Eireann and buses even cheaper to travel, public transport being fairly affordable in Spain. I put on the last Harry Potter film for Oisin on the laptop, Deathly Hallows Pt 2, I timed it perfectly the film finished up fifteen minutes before the journey completed.  Half the time I was looking at the film the other half of the time with my jaw dropped looking at the Spanish scenery, such as the mountain range we passed through coming out of Malaga.

Our next destination was the Hosteria Del Laurel in the heart of Seville, it took a bit of walking to find the place as the taxi can only drop you off at a certain part of the town, but once we found the place, we immediately set about exploring Seville.

Hosteria Del Laurel, Seville.


The courtyard outside the Hosteria Del Laurel, packed with tourists, gift shops and bars.

Seville had a similar feel to Malaga, but seemed more local and with cool narrower alleys and streets that winded this way and that and some incredible musicians plonked in street corners earning their dinner for the night.

There was price differences in Seville, postcards and gifts seemed to be a bit cheaper and there was a concentration of more tapas bars and restaurants, although that is not to say Malaga had any less, its just I suppose some of the streets seemed narrower, so the eateries seemed closer and more in abundance.

Seville thoroughfare in the late evening lit up for the festive period.
Lovely  Christmas illuminations dotted the streets of Seville.
Great big Christmas tree in Seville.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you the first restaurants we stopped at on the first night in Seville, we were all walking around awestruck that sometimes you forget you have a camera on you.  The first tapas bar we stopped at wasn’t too far from the hotel but all of the family voted that it was a bit expensive although it was nice food.  There was a memorable harmonica busker who played a low down cowboy version of White Christmas which I liked and handed him a few coins but he got shooed away by bar staff.  He started up at another place nearby playing the same tune, I wish he varied it, maybe played a little blues too.

We came to another children’s Christmas theme style park, that had a skating rink blasting out classic Christmas melodies, Oisin was in a wonderland.  The Spanish really know how to look after the kids, lots of play parks, theme parks and amusements, perfect for family holidays.

Oisin having his first ice skate in Seville.

Walking about the streets we chanced upon an ice cream shop that was crammed with customers and I could see why, some of the loveliest ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my life. La Campana was the name of the shop, I treated the family to a cone each, the chocolate ice cream was a clear winner for the majority whilst Brendan went for a coffee flavoured ice cream I think.

La Campana Ice Cream Shop, Seville.

The first night was tricky trying to find our hotel, we were accosting people with Por Favor and Perdon and showing them our hotel receipt with the address, Marguerite could speak the best broken Spanish of the lot of us.  Most gave directions of go left and left again and possibly a right.  I don’t know how we done it in the end but we just walked into the square and there we were at the hotel.

December 31st 2015, January 1st 2016, Seville.

I awoke early again, it must be something to do with the climate, no bundling bed clothes around me to keep warm, or maybe I was just pinching myself looking at orange trees in the sunlight whilst having my morning roll up.

Orange trees in Seville.

I got talking to the receptionist at the Hosteria del Laurel, the hotel was run by two brothers and a sister, one brother is a Flamenco guitarist and the other brother is a Flamenco dancer and the sister too, so we were living in the centre of Spanish tradition. Now time for my morning shower, did I tell you about this shower.  Its the weirdest contraption I have ever come across, apart from the usual shower head it had various shower heads lined up from the top to the bottom, if you didn’t know what you were doing it came across like being stuck in a sinking U Boat, with leaks springing everywhere, eventually I got it to come out the main nozzle.  Oisin was apparently in stitches laughing at the sounds of me coming from the bathroom.

Fancy bull ornaments that were in the hotel lobby of our floor.

Yesterday Marguerite and Brendan worked out a two way deal with some guides for today, we got tickets to go on a open top double decker bus with accompanying headphones to relay the history of Seville to us and later on a Flamenco show with the complete works and a drink included.  We discovered that the Spanish are quite protective about their traditions, they wouldn’t be doing free shows in the bars with their traditional music, it was usually a drinks or meal deal with a Flamenco show provided afterwards.

One of the churches of Seville.
There was some amazing castles in Seville too.
Some of the amazing buildings photographed from on top of the double decker bus.
Buildings photographed from the bus.
Beautiful water fountains in every Spanish town and city.

It started raining during the bus trip so we trooped down to the covered section although the impact and view was ruined, so we decided to hop off and head for a restaurant out of the rain taking in a few shops on the way.  We stopped at a nice tapas bar called Boca A Boca, a nice cosy restaurant that had a very appealing Andalusia décor. I can’t remember specifically what we had in the menu but it was lovely food.  It was a busy enough place so we were lucky to get seats at a table there.

Boca A Boca.

After that we went back to the hotel for a refresh before we set off for the Flamenco show. Getting sort of lost again, we were trying to work out what entrance from the square to our street was, was it the illuminated cow area or the shop front with the seventies disco lights.  One stranger we accosted to get directions, Marguerite guessed from his broken Spanish that he was Scottish, to which he was and from Glasgow too.  He was the first Scot we met on our travels in Spain and he made the distinction as it was raining at the time that this was only the third time that it rained in Seville since September.

Boca A Boca Tapas Ber, Seville.
A well fed and watered content lot at Boca A Boca in Seville.

We eventually found the place for the Flamenco show, I’ll spare you the name of the place as there is just too much info to take in at this point.  But the show was fantastic, two Flamenco guitarists, five or six Flamenco dancing Señoritas and singers in colourful costume and three dancing sharp dressed men.  We were treated to some amazing singing in all its traditional Spanish glory, amazing footwork and steps stamped out in time and beautiful intricate guitar playing.  I tried to take a video clip on the camera but an usher came up to me saying photos were prohibited so I can’t show you my own clip.

We took the opportunity to visit one of the churches in town during a mass and taking a few cool photos although flash photography was prohibited.

A class crib scene in a church in Seville.
Class art in a Seville church.
A church in Seville

Brendan spotted something in the Seville map that he thought would be of interest, the Metropol Parasol, a piece of art and architecture created by a German architect ‎Jürgen, H. Mayer.

The Metropol Parasol, Seville.
The Metropol Parasol, Seville.
Some cool art displayed on a balcony in Seville.

Places were getting harder to find but there was always places still open, you just had to cock your ear and listen hard, normally chatter coming from a side street.  We found a busy wee bar down a side street and managed to get a few bottles of beer each.  Another amble and we found a small tapas place blasting out classic seventies rock.  We got a lovely sandwich and chips splattered with streaks of red sauce and streaks of mayonnaise which seemed to be a typical way we discovered throughout South of Spain.  We also had a few nice glasses of red wine and Marguerite used her amazing charm to wring a deal with the barman as it was really, really packed out and we were very lucky to fit into the place.

By now it was getting late enough so we repaired back to the hotel where we were able to buy some wine from the bar there.  Marguerite brought some home made cordial cognac with her and we headed out again to the Plaza Square to ring in the New Year and drink a shot of the cognac.  There was some crowd gathered there and the atmosphere was fantastic. Although the fireworks show never happened or else it was taking place a few blocks back and the authorities didn’t tell anyone.  It seems the state just thought that the local populace would just do the fireworks themselves, which they did.  it was quite freaky you couldn’t see fireworks but you could hear them going off right beside you, even the parents were handing their children fireworks which I thought to be a bit crazy really.

Back to the hotel for the night to put a New Year message onto Facebook, send a few texts and to have a glass of wine before we retired for the night, we put on the TV and watched the Flamenco channel for the last hour, a nice way to end the night.

We went to look at the Metropol Parasol on Friday afternoon but it still wasn’t open to the public, I can imagine some of the views you would get at the top of the cityscape.

The Metropol Parasol during daylight on New Years day, Seville.

Today was a pretty laid back day, we just took it handy strolling along at our own pace, it was decided to we would hire a horse and cart today to see Seville from a different angle to the bus tour.

A cool pottery and ceramics shop in Seville.

January 2nd Seville / Cordoba.

I think we had to catch a train at eleven or twelve pm to Cordoba so we had a bit of time to wander about for the last time in Seville, find a tapas bar and write out a few postcards or something like that.  We came to a nice place with an outdoor area called Alvaro Peregil, a tapas bar with excellent service and amazing food, the area was delightful with orange trees everywhere.

Alvaro Peregil Tapas Bar, Seville.
Brendan, Oisin and Marguerite relaxing outside Alvaro Peregil Tapas Bar in Seville.

Just as we were about to get ready to leave the Alvaro Peregil place some spontaneous folk music started up in the adjoining bar which we discovered was still part of the place we were at.  First we heard verses of song and hand claps and then a tin whistle joined too.  I could barely contain myself, I whisked out my small camera and caught a bit of the action. We were also treated to some of their unique Seville Sangria, an orange flavoured wine which was gorgeous if not a bit too sweet.


It was off after that to catch our train to Cordoba, so back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and into a taxi to Seville train station.  A thing I noticed about the Spanish train stations, there was always extra armed security around and you had to put your backpacks through a scanning machine.  The Spanish aren’t taking any chances after the 2004 Madrid terrorist attacks, so that extra security is needed.

Brendan relaxed for the train journey to Cordoba.
The lovely modern and comfortable trains of Renfe (Spanish Rail)


Cordoba was fairly effortless, the train journey and the taxi straight to the hotel, the only thing that wasted time was the hotel receptionist taking a particularly long time in registering us into the hotel, but once we were official he gave a little smile and everything was cool.  I wish I had taken a photo of the place as it was a class wee hotel.  My room looked out into the cityscape that was Cordoba with fantastic views of some of the tall spires and churches in the area.

Exploring sunny Cordoba 2nd January.
A ceramic tiled arch in Cordoba.
Cordoba gets a healthy tourist season all year round, like an never ending summer.

We had the munchies so it was an onward march to find the nearest tapas bar and get eating and drinking merry.  We sat down at an outdoor eating area that had different tables each side for different restaurants, we had waiters in red shirts whilst the tapas bar at the other side had pale blue shirts.  While we were waiting about fifteen minutes for someone to take an order, two musicians started up in the middle to make some money.  Eventually someone in a red tee shirt came and abruptly told us they were closed which was kind of annoying after waiting that time with mounting hunger.

I think that diversion came to some good as we must have came to the finest eating house in Spain so far, the food and drink was incredible, the name of the restaurant was called Bodegas Mezquita.

The finest restaurant in Cordoba

The waiters, chef and everyone was really friendly, they had a particular brand of beer unique to Seville called Cruzcampo, a lovely crisp lager that was highly recommended.

Cruzcampo Lager unique to Seville.
Salmorejo blanquiverde en homar al Cordoba CF – White and Green almond and basil based- cream or soup.
The much loved Manchego Cheese platter served with mandarin marmalade and some brie.
Bacalao frito con ensalada de primientos del piquillo – Deep fried cod with ‘Piquillo’ pepper salad.
Biscuit, chocolate and cream cake with vanilla coulis and a touch of caramel.  The sherry was a unique Cordoba one that the waiter gave us a free glass of with our desert.

To say at the very least, we were pretty stuffed after that but at the same time, I have never seen food disappear so fast it was that delectable.


Cordoba has a lovely vibe about it, cool hippy type pubs, lovely cafeterias and restaurants and some cute gift shops tucked into its streets and its architecture was second to none, beautiful churches, amazing cathedral and castles all over the place.  I noticed that there was extra police officers around Cordoba and warnings occasionally, to be on the look out for pick pockets.

We visited a bar for a snappy beer, it had cool funky rock music blasting out of it and fairly young clientèle, Oisin asked for an orange juice as they had an amazing looking juicer machine.  He got an amazing looking drink, I must have been half cut at the time as I couldn’t get a decent photo of his drink.

Oisin’s class orange juice, Cordoba.

We came across a curious wine, sherry and chocolate shop called La Casa Del Pedro Ximenez that specialised in Cordoba sherries and wines, extremely nice ideas for gifts and some scrumptious dark chocolates.  And a beautiful dark haired young señorita with excellent English who helped charm us to part with some cash for gifts, a lovely little shop worth a visit.


The hustle and bustle of Cordoba night life, this could be a street in Kinsale or Clonakilty.

There were other weird liqueur, spirits and gift shops around Cordoba where I picked up various gifts and postcards and I couldn’t resist it after reading about it in a book Marguerite gave me called The Devil’s Picnic by Taras Grescoe, a miniature of 160 % alcohol proof Absinthe, one of the small ones which you usually buy in a pack of five, of Le Diable Jaune Absinthe.  Grescoe’s chapter Absinthe Suisse is worth a read, he is trying to seek out the true original elixir that apparently still exists in parts of France and Switzerland, the stuff that pre-dates the prohibition law passed by both countries in the early twentieth century.  The original stuff went underground so still existed but was unlabelled, so kinda like Ireland’s Poitin, you can still apparently buy the bootleg absinthe in parts of Switzerland from absinthe devotees.  Personally the Diable Jaune stuff was mainly just pure alcohol and after reading the review later it was just a Spanish imitation that wasn’t distilled and not the real thing really, Diable Jaune’s speciality mainly being great wine makers.  There are some nice authentic Spanish ones too and it should be noted that Spain, Ireland and the UK never did outlaw absinthe, so distilleries have flourished in Spain, whilst the other two countries, it never has been a serious market compared to whiskey, vodka, brandy and gin.

Le Diable Jaune miniature bottle of 160 % proof Absinthe.

After another bit of walking about it was time to get a supper, we stopped at another tapas place called the Casa Rubio Bar.  I opted for a square meal this time rather than tapas, I think I went for the Bacalao frito con vizcaína – Spicy biscay style cod in tempura and was served with the chip style we seen in that tapas bar on new years eve, with streaks of mayonnaise and red sauce.  I have to say that this was incredibly delicious and Marguerite’s and Brendan’s tapas looked lovely too.  Casa Rubio Bar is worth a visit with friendly staff and nice cuisine.

Casa Rubio Bar, Cordoba.
Casa Rubio Bar, Cordoba.


I think we went back to the hotel after that and settled down for the night, I started messaging Jerry through Facebook about my travels so far and that I was taking a few sips of my first absinthe and staring out into the night scape from the back room window.

January 3rd Cordoba / Guadix. 

We popped out for a bit as you didn’t have sign out too early but I think there was a schedule, we had to catch a train and then a bus to Granada.  We went to check out the cathedral which was very convenient as it was just across the road from the hotel.

The grounds of the cathedral, Cordoba.
My fellow travelling companions in the grounds of the cathedral, Cordoba.
The beautiful sunlit windows of Cordoba cathedral.
Amazing calligraphy on display at Cordoba cathedral.
Beautiful marble arches and floors that adorn Cordoba cathedral.
A gorgeous gilded room in Cordoba cathedral.

Firstly the train journey was incredibly fast, about less than thirty minutes, I can’t remember where the bus pick up was but we had to get a taxi I think in between to the bus terminus and then just over an hour and twenty minutes to Granada.  I think we had to get a taxi to the next bus station or something as it was in the other side of town and got on a bus to Guadix.  When we got to Guadix bus station a taxi was hailed to bring us to the Hotel Palacio de Onate.   The taxi dropped us at the wrong address so we had to find the hotel ourselves.

Palacio de Onate Hotel, Guadix.
Oisin and Brendan,myself enjoying the first drink at Hotel Palacio de Onate, Guadix.
Our lovely hotel room in Guadix.
The family in Guadix.
The auld lad and me.

Guadix is probably the smallest town in our itinerary with only a handful of pubs and restaurants, hotels and not as touristy as previous places, so all the more interesting, off the beaten track.  We found there was a lively outdoor Christmas market with some cool sounds blasting out, we seen a few of these markets in other towns but nearly three quarters of the Malaga and Seville markets were selling leather handbags.  The one in Guadix was quite special and their scope of craft impressive.  There was one stall that appeared obsessed with old compasses, sea maps and old style compass maps.  There was a crepe stall blasting out a hip hop/reggae/South American hybrid music, nice stuff.  A Swiss guy with stall of replica ceramic Swiss house models and Norwegian models, strange pipes, gnomes and strange little tinkly bells.  Some delicious tapas stalls that served a nice bottle of wine too.

Outdoor Christmas Market, Guadix January 3rd.
Delicious tapas served up at a stall in the outdoor market, Guadix.

We headed back to the hotel for the night and I think I had a few pints in the hotel bar before heading to bed, stayed up for an hour to upload photos into the computer from the previous day.

January 4th Guadix.

We had a bit of a lie in today and headed into town to check out some of the shops and the general area, there was a bit more local feel to the place a kind of working class feel, very earthy and there were parts of the town that were completely empty, so maybe recession strapped too.  Oisin got the munchies and was craving churros, so we stopped at a cafeteria/bar called Versalles for our breakfast, who served up some nice food and possibly the biggest serving of the churros doughnut I ever saw.

‘Corr! Would you ever look at that!’ Churros at Versalles in Guadix.


We took a walk up to the tourist information office in the square, we wanted to find info about how to maybe visit the cave houses or for some sort of tour guide, even maybe hiring a car.  There was a small tour train but that was closed at the moment but we found out about Alfredo through the tourist office, I think he was Guadix’s only horse and cart man so we arranged to meet Alfredo in the square.  His business was known as Alfredo: Ruta a las Cuevas – Route to the Caves and he had two horses and a really cool looking carriage.

Alfredo’s horses and cart, Guadix.
Alfredo, Guadix.
Oisin sitting out front and given the reins, Guadix.

Alfredo took us out into the outskirts of Guadix which is basically a mountain range transformed into a community, people carving their homes out of stone, the caves of Guadix, home to many people for the last twenty years or more.  It was a bit chillier up here on top of the range, there was a wind blowing and it was quite cold, but the sights were amazing.

Guadix caves area.
Guadix caves area.
Guadix caves area.
Guadix caves area.

We stopped off at another bar and cafeteria, all of the places in Guadix gave you free snacks if you had a beer in their place.  One thing stood out about this bar, it had pictures of flooding disasters that occurred in Guadix in 1973, quite morbid stuff to have up in the wall.

Bar Cervantes, Guadix.

We went for another walkabout and came to a tiny bar called Bar Cervantes run by a man called Miguel, the space was tiny enough for maybe fifteen or twenty people comfortably or thirty five people would be uncomfortably packed.  But this was the most chilled bar I’ve ever walked into and Miguel, the barman and owner is one of the nicest people I have ever met.  He was playing a radio station on the telly called Radio Clasica, that wasn’t just classical music, there was folk and Flamenco and seriously old stuff from the gramophone era, vaudeville Flamenco from the 1920s and 1930s by the sounds of it.  It reminded me of Reels to Ragas hosted by PJ Curtis on Lyric FM.  It was just wonderful to hear something like this in a small pub.  We got some beers and Miguel gave us these delicious chicken bits and bread for free, this was fantastic, you get your dinner and beer together for the price of the beer, a bit like paradise really and I think Miguel really liked our company too.   It was Miguel who introduced us to that almighty and strong beer, Alhambra Reserva 1925.  My curiosity had got the better of me, I asked Miguel about the green unlabelled bottles on the counter behind him.  It turns out the glass is labelled or stencilled in itself, but a very, very strong beer.

Bar Cervantes, Guadix.


The crew at Bar Cervantes, Guadix.
The amazing Miguel, barman, chef and owner of Bar Cervantes, Guadix.
Newspaper article on Miguel and the Bar Cervantes.
Alhambra Reserva 1925.

Later in the hotel bar after a few pints with the family, I headed off on my own for a while to suss out a few other pubs in Guadix.  La Bodeguilla was a narrow enough pub that had a fair crowd in it, you got free nut snacks with your glasses of beer and it seemed amiable enough but not the same without the others.

La Bodeguilla Bar, Guadix.
La Bodeguilla Bar, Guadix.

I went into a second bar called Bodegas Calatrava, just around the corner before the hotel and had another glass of beer there, they also gave free snacks with the drinks.  It seemed a cheerful enough place.

Bodegas Calatrava Bar, Guadix.
Bodegas Calatrava Bar, Guadix.

I had a final pint in the hotel bar and headed off to bed, Oisin was in the other room.  I foolishly took another sip or two of absinthe, would regret this in the morning.


January 5th Guadix – Granada – Alhambra and Granada again and Guadix.

The schedule today was to catch a bus to Granada, taxiing to the great Muslim palace, the Alhambra from Granada bus station.  The cab ride to the Alhambra was entertaining as the cab driver was Swiss and had excellent English, he gave an interesting history of Granada and was glad that we chose to come here as he felt the people in the region to be some of the warmest friendliest people in Spain.  He relayed the funny story about the wee tourist train here, that it doesn’t have suspension, so when it goes over the cobblestone everyone hits their heads of the roof of the carriage.

There was a small queue for the Alhambra, well a bunch of queues, one for people who had booked in on line already and the other for people just buying tickets there and then.  We apparently came at the best time, had we turned up on speck to buy a ticket say, in June or July, you wouldn’t get in, everyone in the summer books on line, you would be waiting all day to buy a ticket.  We were also told that the entire length of the Alhambra and its estate is about 5 Kilometres long which is a lot of walking and was a lot of walking.  While we were in the structure, we were told a few times to carry our backpacks in front of us due to a high rate of pick pocketing and stealing.

The Alhambra was an incredible place, incredible calligraphy, art, amazing arches and ceilings, beautiful fountains and waterways, orchards and gardens.  The tourism there still seemed to be busy enough for them never to have to shut it down for the winter, which means it operates the whole year round and why not, the climate is very much the same if just a little cooler than Malaga or Seville.

Cool hedge way leading towards the Alhambra, Granada.
The Alhambra, Granada.
The Alhambra, Granada.
The Alhambra, Granada.
Beautiful etchings and archways in the Alhambra, Granada.
The intricate artwork of the Alhambra, Granada.
Incredible detail  went into this work at the Alhambra, Granada.
A cool silhouette carved out of the window ledge it sprang, Alhambra, Granada.

We hailed another taxi to bring us to a tapas bar in the city centre looking at a few shops on the way, I fancied a tee shirt for myself, I think I recognised the calligraphy from one of the walls at the Alhambra.  We eventually settled into this small tapas bar called La Antigualla  that was subtly lit like a nightclub and had some pop music playing out of the television.  We ordered three pints of lager and the barman presented us with delicious burgers free to eat with the drink, a nice touch.  We got talking about music and then folk music.  The man’s name is Luthier Ahmad Al Haj Ibrahim and he was originally from Syria but settled in Granada for about fifteen years, he is a traditional musician who plays and makes the stringed instrument called the Oud.  His bar was a nice stop off point and when we ordered a second round of beers more lovely burgers appeared.  I ended up going back to that gift shop and buying the tee shirt, I wanted to buy a memento to do with the area of Granada, Oisin got a cool hoodie too with Granada and some lovely knot work on it.



La Antigualla tapas bar, Granada.

As we tried to make our way towards a taxicab to go to the station, the crowd suddenly swelled. unbeknown to us, a crowd was gathering for the Granada 3 Kings Christmas Parade so it was quite freaky not been able to escape the crowd for ages.  We eventually managed to make it up a side street and into the back streets till we could flag down a cab, it was the busiest I have ever seen in a town in Spain.  But the cab managed to get us to the bus station where we still had an hour to mill.  Granada at this time had a huge cloudburst of rain, never seen rain quite like that for a while but you could hear it walloping of the bus station roof.  We got more beers in the station bar and because it was Three Kings day they were giving out free food, so I was completely stuffed by the time we had to board the bus plus we were drinking the Alhambra Reserva 1925.

We walked a short bit into the town centre and straight into Bar Cervantes which was pretty full this time round and Miguel the perfect host.  The rest of us wanted another drink but I asked for a cafe con leche as I was still full up from drinking earlier, the coffee was delicious and revived me, perhaps a little too much.  They enticed me to have a glass of red wine in the second round in which I relented, we watched  a Spanish news channel that was showing all the different parades that had happened around Spain over the evening, it was an interesting watch.

I think it was an early rise tomorrow as the 10 or 11 am bus was booked from Guadix to Granada, so we all headed for bed to get an early night.

6th January  Gaudix – Granada – Malaga.

The journey through the Granada mountains through to the Malaga  mountains was stunning and I was starting to get excited again, it was getting hotter and sunnier.

When we finally got to Malaga we got a taxi as far as it would go, the street leading to Petit Palace was too narrow, but not a bother, registration was fairly quick, they were a professional lot and fairly friendly.  Into the elevator to the fourth floor and room 401.    We got a plush spacious room, me and Oisin got the bunk beds and Marguerite and Brendan got decent sized single beds and loads of power points to charge stuff.  We immediately unpacked a few things, started charging up a few things and got out in search of the tapas experience again.

We stopped at a restaurant called Taberna el Mentidero for a few tapas and some beer, there was a nice selection of food there, the fried dog fish was absolutely delicious, fried in a sort of batter, it looked like nuggets but was much much nicer.  It was nice to be back in Malaga.

The Taberna El Mentidero Tapas Bar, Malaga.

Taberna El Mentidero

I think we just milled about slowly around the town centre up near the Alkazaba structure and the cafes around there.  We stopped at Cafe de L’abuela which was a nice outdoor location looking over the space towards the Alcazaba, there was a juggler who was rather good and caught my attention for a bit.  Some drunk guy turned up then and started to holler some mad sounding Flamenco acapella to a bemused drinking and eating public. Cafe de L’abuela was expensive enough I suppose considering its location, Marguerite wanted to buy wine advertised at 14 Euro, but it turns out it was a glass of and not a bottle of wine.  We just had beers and some short snappy tapas.  It was a great place though to mill about in and write some postcards.

Cafe de L’abueula
Oisin taking a break from tapping his ball around. Malaga 6th January
An establishment we may have or may have not visited, it certainly made for a photogenic bar entrance, Malaga.

There was some great music creating a nice atmosphere in the street.  We stopped at another tapas bar in one of the main streets, wider marble streets, the ambience here was amazing, helped by the Flamenco inspired folk rock of Johan Hagstrom, originally from Sweden who played Flamenco guitar and Chiara Bolignari originally from Italy who played accordion, playing this amazing music.



Me and Oisin get to share this awesome cake, yum!  Malaga.

We had a few beers here, some nice tapas, can’t really remember what, but no complaints twas lovely and of course, the chocolate cake I got to share with Oisin.  I had a few more drinks with the family and decided to split for a while and team up with Johan and Chiara and go on a bit of a ramble.

Chiara and Johan in Malaga 6th January.

Johan and Chiara have been in Malaga for about three months busking and playing gigs about the city, they also done the Canary Islands over the summer and South of Spain in general.  We had a few drinks and went off to a kebab place for a meal deal of a chicken burger and a can of Sam Miguel.  I got back to the hotel at 1 am and hit the sack for the night.

7th January Malaga / Marbella.

Got up, into the lift and out for a walk around the square, the sun was cracking the stones, bought a coffee to go and wandered about the place for a while.  Went back had a shower and we all packed up the cases, handed the pass keys back to the reception and asked if they would look after our luggage for a few hours.

It was such a fun and lovely day, we went exploring the Alcazaba. We stopped at a tapas bar called Ispana on Thursday morning, they do a lovely breakfast deal, a sandwich with manchego cheese and crisp Iberian ham, a fresh orange juice and a cafe con leche for 3.50 Euro, which is great value and delicious.

Ispana Resturante, Plaza de le Merced 16, Malaga

The Alcazaba is a gorgeous looking fortess with gardens, archways and paths leading high above the cityscape, built in the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century and considered to be the best preserved citadel in Spain.  there is also the remnants of a Roman theatre dating from the 1st century next to the entrance to the Alcazaba.  Most of the info here is taken from the Wikipedia article on the Alcazaba.

Brendan at the Alcazaba in Malaga.
The Alcazaba, Malaga.
The Alcazaba, Malaga.
The Alcazaba, Malaga.
The Malaga cityscape from high above in the Alcazaba.
The Alcazaba, Malaga.

We stopped at a cafeteria that was doing ice cream and I bought everyone a cone, nice to have an ice cream on a sun splashed day.  We went for a trip down to the dockside area and on to one of Europe’s biggest Ferris Wheels, the Mirador Princess.

The Mirador Princess Ferris Wheel, Malaga.
A view of the Malaga cityscape from the Ferris Wheel.
Myself and Oisin on the ferris wheel.
On the ferris wheel.

We got the bus from Malaga to Marbella and met Donna Callaghan, an old friend of Marguerite’s from Glasgow at a cafeteria, on the journey down it was mostly coastal and we saw the most incredible sunset.  Donna welcomed us into her home, put out some food and drink, we talked and got merry.

Sunset in Marbella.

8th, 9th, 10th January Marbella.

Over the next three days Donna took us on a tour of Marbella and San Pedro, exploring some of the best tapas bars and cafeterias, some of Donna’s favourites.  We explored a nice chunk of San Pedro and the weather was exotic and gorgeous.  Considered to be like spring over here this would compare to my Irish summer in 1995, lovely and warm with a very mild breeze.  On Saturday we visited a seaside restaurant and a tapas bar that looked like it could have been in the Caribbean coast and met some of Donna’s friends later on that day.  Also on Saturday we just walked slowly around an area of San Pedro that seemed to be full of exercise equipment, children’s playgrounds and cool walkways.  There was a skating rink and a nice wee cheerful bar playing chill out sounds and cheap beer for a Euro a cup, a great vibe.

BAR INAKI, San Pedro.     Brendan, Marguerite, Donna and Oisin.
A gorgeous house in San Pedro, Marbella.
Cafeteria Heladeria, a particularly good cafe restaurant in San Pedro.
Cool water fountain in San Pedro.
Scrumptious chocolate cake, myself and Oisin had one each from a cafeteria in San Pedro.
Cafe Con Leche from that same cafeteria, San Pedro.
A restaurant on the beach, San Pedro.
Oisin on the beach at San Pedro.
A cool sculpture in San Pedro.
Oisin exploring the play park in San Pedro.

On the Saturday Donna suggested we visit the supermarket as it would be closed on our final day on Sunday.  So I got my tobacco, coffee and various other things some for presents and some for myself and a twelve can pack of Sam Miguel at only 6 Euro.

Donna’s villa is a gorgeous house with marble floors, a lovely front garden and driveway and the most picturesque back garden view, looking off over to the mountains and a golf course at the back.

Donna’s villa, Marbella.
The view from the back of Donna’s villa, Marbella.

On the final day Sunday Donna drove us about twenty kilometres from Marbella to a mountainous village called Ojen, all the houses were in dazzling white and sprinkled all over the side of the mountain, referred to as white pueblos houses.  It was a wonderful looking place, cool narrow streets that went uphill around corners, chilled tapas bars and cafeterias, happy families and lots of dogs.

Ojen Village, 20 km from Marbella, in the district of Malaga.
Ojen Village.
Ojen Village.
A cool chilled cafeteria and bar in Ojen Village. 
Sierra Gourmet tapas bar, some lovely food there.  Ojen Village
Mussels served up in Sierra Gourmet, Ojen Village.
Ojen Village.

On the final night Donna gave us each a Christmas present, laid out a feast of food and uncorked a few bottles of red wine.  We all took turns to sing some songs and talked into the small hours.  She was the perfect host and a perfect end to our Andalucia trek.

11th January Marbella – Malaga – Dublin. 

Donna drove us to Marbella bus station and waved us off as we headed to Malaga bus station and then the airport.  When we got through security I bought a bottle of Mari Mayan’s Absinthe for 20.90 Euros, rated as one of the more authentic ones, I learned how you take it proper, dilute to taste with ice cold water and watch it louche, it turns paler or opaque, kind of like the way Guinness settles from the cream.

Stepping off the plane at Dublin airport we immediately start to shiver, welcome back to wintry Ireland, now we have two and a half months to wait to get anything barely resembling Malaga’s or Marbella’s winter time.  What a fantastic break and worth checking out, Andalucia is the place to go for your late December break.

Marguerite,Brendan, Oisin, Donna and Amanda. San Pedro 8th January.
One of the bottles of wine consumed on 8th January.
A church in sun splashed San Pedro.
Cute little bar and ice rink in San Pedro.  Saturday 9th January.
A church in the village square, Ojen Village.
Miguel and Myself, Bar Cervantes, Guadix.
A beautiful embellished doorway, Cordoba.
The Alhambra, Granada.
One of the gardens of the Alhambra, Granada.
Oisin in the swimming pool that Donna shares with her neighbour, Marbella.
Posing for a photo at the Guadix Caves.
Lemon tree, Ojen Village.