I had never been to Castlepalooza before. It always fell on the same weekend as the electronic-focused Mantua festival which I always had a brilliant, if slightly debauched time at. So what did I think? Some good, some bad. Here goes..
- There were some proper musical highlights – David Kitt’s main stage closing set on Saturday (‘Into the Breeze’ is an Irish classic or deserves to be by this stage), The Ambience Affair, The Holy Roman Army (swelled to five people onstage at points), Channel One, a superb as always R.S.A.G. in a jammed tent and DJ Tu-Ki who closed out the festival in the tent with tunes from Major Lazer and the Justice remix of MGMT’s ‘Electric Feel’.
- By far the best band I saw all weekend were Le Galaxie. Holy Jesus! To be honest, I was very disappointed with their recent Transworld EP. It felt poorly recorded and not wholly pleasant to listen to but live, these guys were incendiary. Beset by sound problems at the start, it slowly turned into a properly banging festival set (a far cry from the supposedly disastrous Indiependence set the band alluded to – any ideas what happened?). The tunes were big, all-encompassing live electro with guitars that pumped some vitality into proceedings. It was clear from the band’s onstage demeanour that they were loving it so when bassist David asked everyone to point at the guy waving the glowstick sword, everyone obliged. The band’s lyrics and samples are a bit cheesy at times but it mattered little when they gave out a sign into the crowd with “TUNE” written on it or when the bassist swapped his instrument for wavey glowstick guy’s glowstick. Brilliant. Now the negatives..
- Largely, the lineup was pretty stagnant. Too many generic sounds on both stages in general. I seemed to spend a lot of time waiting around for music to happen. After getting up at 9am on Sunday thanks to my body clock, I had to wait until 2pm for live music and 5pm for a band I really wanted to see so there was a lot of waiting around. This wasn’t helped by a couple of unfortunately disappointing sets from bands I was looking forward to like 202s and Patrick Kelleher.
- Charleville Castle is a lovely setting for a festival but I felt the whole event lacked space. The entire back of the castle was occupied by the campsite which was nice yet the rest of the festival was quite small and occupied by food stalls, shops and a main stage.
- Alcohol: So most people were aware you couldn’t bring alcohol on site (not that it stopped many) but the prices advertised on the website were reasonable enough. However, when we got there they were charging €5 for a can (not €3 as advertised) and €80 for a slab of beer (not €60). Draught was €5 (not €4.50). You can call this nitpicking if you like but it all adds up and you shouldn’t expect your customers to be happy with things like this when you’ve been advertising cheaper prices the week before. I was told by someone else that cigarettes cost €10 at one stand as well.
- No water onsite for a period on Sunday wasn’t exactly a highlight for people to wake up to. It was rectified shortly after to the pleasure of many a foul gob.
- Generally – great security, friendly staff and a good atmosphere from the 2000 or so punters. Perhaps much more “arts” as it is supposedly a “music and arts festival”. If they diversified the lineup a bit (At one stage I was dying for some techno or some form of repetitive beats) and had some extra space, it would make for a better festival. If it really does want to be a mini- Electric Picnic, it’ll need these things next year.
Photos by Sara Devine.