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Stevie G: Summer festivals already underway

FESTIVAL season is exciting for music fans, but for promoters, the stress levels can be relentless.

The whole festival climate has changed greatly over the years and in Ireland, despite various festivals in the 1970s and ’80s, the era only really got going in the ’90s. Féile, Creamfields, Homelands and later Witness, gave way to Oxegen and Electric Picnic in the first decade of this century, and ever since, festivals have played a huge part in the musical fabric of Irish society.

Electric Picnic was the big game changer, and 15 years on, it’s bigger than ever. John Reynolds sadly passed away last year, but he was a maverick and visionary who helped instill a festival culture here that added more food and cultural offerings to a scene that had previously been mainly about packing as many people as possible into a huge field or stadium. The Electric Picnic, and other subsequent festivals changed this forever, and even before his death, John had got his latest festival off the ground.

All Together Now was one of the best festivals of 2018 and it returns to Waterford this summer, a few weeks before the Electric Picnic.

The Picnic itself is a much different beast these days, and it’s one of the biggest festivals in Europe. John and his Pod group had long since passed much of the control of it over to the corporate giants that are Festival Republic, and while it runs more efficiently than ever, it has obviously lost a little bit of that Boutique charm that encompassed his original vision. In fact, All Together Now is far closer to the Electric Picnic spirit than the new version of the Picnic. These are two huge festivals that Ireland is gearing up for in 2019, but there are many more.

Life Festival and It Takes a Village were the early starters, but this weekend things really kick into gear with Forbidden Fruit in Dublin. This is another Pod production and it’s a pretty much electronic based, with it’s city centre location in Kilmainham lending itself nicely to a number of big after parties in Dublins top inner city venues later too. Longitude is another Festival which is based upon getting things wrapped up nice and early but it’s a far cry from Forbidden Fruit, crowd wise, these days.

Over the years, it was more electronic and indie orientated but Longitude has re-positioned itself as Irelands foremost hip-hop festival in the last number of years. Big hitters such as Kendrick Lamar, Migos, Post Malone, Skepta, Solange and Sza have all played there in recent years and this years line-up is amazing as usual. A very young and enthusiastic crowd will flock to Marlay Park to see the likes of Future, Cardi B, A$AP Rocky, Brockhampton, Denzel Curry, Slowthai, Rae Sremmurd, Gunna, Vince Staples, Chance the Rapper and many, many more. It’s a line-up that is hard to match anywhere, particularly if you are a fan of hip-hop.

Elsewhere there are more new festivals on this summer. Kaleidoscope kicks off with a family friendly festival in Blessington this june, while nearby KnockanStockan continues to showcase many of Irelands finest acts at their festival. Sea Sessions, Beatyard, Another Love Story and Body and Soul all continue too, while Love Sensation is another new addition to the roster, with an exciting disco and dance line-up run by Mother and aimed at the LGBT community and their allies.

Closer to home, Open Ear on Sherkin Island continues to attract some of the finest electronic talent in Ireland, while on a completely different tip, Soul in the City continues in Cork city’s Victorian Quarter. Indiependence, probably Cork’s biggest festival, will pack out Mitchelstown on the August weekend, while Live at the Marquee, The Midsummer Festival, Seafest, and the Independent Park shows will also help contribute to the good vibes in Cork this summer.

Townlands is no longer running, which is a shame, but they gave it their best shot. Last weekend Rod Stewart again showed how vibrant Cork can be when we get bigger shows and the city was jumping all weekend.

Club-wise, things continue this weekend and I’m looking forward to hosting our own old school party in Cyprus Avenue. This is a hip-hop and r&b party with classics from the ’90s and ’00s and even now, and I’ll be joined on stage by Andrea Williams and her Hot Sauce dance crew this Saturday night.