Six years had passed since I was last at a festival. Knockanstockan 2009. How could I have done that to myself?! I had to go somewhere; but where? Forbidden Fruit? Nah, no camping fun. Body & Soul? Didn’t appeal to me for some reason. The behemoth that is Electric Picnic? I still can’t justify spending that amount of money when ye can get more value for money and bog roll at Pukkelpop. So in the end, retrospect, convenience and a good price (€90 camping and bus ticket). After a few incantations of “F**k it!” in front of the laptop I was now heading off to Knockanstockan 2015!
I was going on my own If no one else could join me, but I did have a backup plan, the dog. However in the end my Sister, Brother and his girlfriend came along with me. This turned out a bit better in the end ’cause the dog doesn’t really drink and puts herself to bed at half nine every night (Still love you Lizzy). It is with great pleasure that I now write this report with a dried out husk of a hangover, exhaustion and hypothermia.
I set off on Friday afternoon with my Sister and Brother. I was in the unique position of going to a festival already hungover, having attended a book launch the night before. Who knew they could be so lethal? Damn you, Jim Lacey. We boarded the 39A merrily to Dublin City Centre, forgetting not only our cares and woes for a weekend, but also a chair, rain jacket, smokes, emergency alcohol and Lucozade. I had created a monster rucksack with roughly the dimensions of an Easter Island head on my back and I could see it peering around the corner of the stairs behind me as I shakily struggled my way up to the top deck of the bus.
Our comrade (and fellow top hack on Pure M) Anita Byrne had trekked into Dublin from Arklow and was loitering outside Tara Street Station waiting for us. In the short time we ordered a Subway, the one hipster that had been waiting at the same time had soon multiplied into dozens. Judging by the glittery hula hoops and clouds of smoke, we soon figured we were definitely at the right place for the Knockanstockan Express.
I wanted a go on the “Mega Decker” but we boarded Ma ( the N was missing off the MAN badge on the coach’s grill) and soon we were on our merry way, saying goodbye to Dublin as we whizzed down the quays, beer in hand. Living the dream. I had scabbed a Galahad (just call me Scabahad) off my Brother and it exploded like a grenade, splashing everyone on Ma within a substantial radius. I buried my head in the seat. The stunned silence was destroyed with Anita’s hysterical laugh and the guy behind us shrieking “WAS THAT YOU?!” No sure look, it was Galahad, acting the lad. (I was too embarrassed to even apologise to those I drowned so if you’re reading this…sorry).
A vehicle on the M50 nearly killed us all driving at 2 km in front and the bus nearly rear-ended the car, but we survived. A girl’s Pot Noodle rolled under my seat. She told me it was her dinner for the weekend. I gave it back to her. After traversing tiny windy Wicklow roads and a creepy looking bridge across the Blessington Lakes, Ma disgorged us and all our gear on site. We made it!!
Interestingly only the lads were searched on the way in. Us ladies were just warned that if we had glass “We’ll come and find you”. Alright. Sure I was grand with the Piss Jug, aka 2l milk bottle full of Tesco’s finest prosecco. (If ye saw me schlepping around the festival, I wasn’t drinking my own urine. It was pissecco.) I was given a bracelet which proclaimed “Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light” Aw. Makes me feel better for being cracked anyway!
My Sister popped up the shopping bag, or as Dunnes Stores liked to call it, the “Two Man Tent”. I took out a camping chair and started on the prosecco. My Brother and Anita threw up their tent and ran off to see The Witch Trials. We headed up shortly after, stopping at My Lovely Horse Rescue, meeting Cathy Davey’s rescue horse Charles. Lovely chap. Big shout out to My Lovely Horse, they truly are amazing and deserve all the help they can get.
We all reconvened at the Faerie Field, where we discovered Wood Burning Savages. We sat on the grass, drinking, enjoying the band; and passing around jellies. Everyone else was passing around joints.
The rain came so my Sister and I went for a dance to some 70s disco classics at The Caravan Club. I managed to trade a Bounty chocolate bar for a cigarette here, having foolishly thought I could buy them on site. Two people told us they’d heard of a mystical caravan near the car park that was selling cigarettes. They were never seen or heard from again.
After sitting through a few different sound checks, and sets that were not actually our cup of tea, Sister and I caught the end of Bitch Falcon; upon whom we both agreed were cool. I had planned to stay for O Emperor, but wasn’t feeling it and so succumbed to get some sleep. Back in the shopping bag (Tent), my can of dry shampoo was pierced and was spraying everywhere. We couldn’t open the zip of the tent and we nearly suffocated and died in what would have been the lamest death ever at a festival.
There were some sessions going on all over. Some guy in the tent behind us had a guitar and was great but ruined it by urinating beside our tent very close to our heads. The fabric coffin we had sealed ourselves in for the night was so bloody airtight that I woke up gasping, with a racing heart. I imagined going to the first aid and them asking me what I took and me replying sheepishly ” A lie down”.
The morning was punctuated with a bugle of farts from Ray in the tent next door, but it was grand ’cause he gave us a Curly Wurly chocolate bar for breakfast. We were all convinced that it was 12 o’clock in the day, but then we heard some guy saying “BREAKFAST, WOO” and “IT’S TWENNY TA’ NINE IN THE MO’NIN Y’ALL”. I sent my Brother and Anita (Bronita?) for tea and we had the craic on the camp chairs for a while.
By now the Faerie Field had become our favourite venue, so we stopped off there first and enjoyed Bunk, who bizarrely had lost two members of their band but still managed to put on a savage jazzy set. I had a pint of Clonmel and enjoyed the sun. Onwards then to the Dimebag Stage to see Pretty Beast who was absolutely brilliant for getting our corpses going at three in the afternoon. I’m definitely watching out for these lads next time they play. Singer Donal was swinging out of the ceiling by the end of the set. They had us leaping around so much that I required a lie down in the field afterwards.
After a quick turbo nap in the bag, I had my dinner, a corn dog, garlic mayo cheese and chips with a Clonmel on an erratic rock. You don’t get many erratic rocks at festivals. If there was one surprise act to follow from Knockanstockan 2015, it was the corn dog guy. I mean, these things tasted unreal and quickly gained a cult following. People would watch you eating them, and you likewise. I saw one guy being outed for eating five in a row. We felt like American kids coming of age chewing on ours. One to watch.
I’d heard loads about Gavin Glass but when I went to see him I wasn’t sure. We heard some whopper beats coming from the Faerie Field so headed over there instead where the Rusangano Family was giving it socks. I’ve never seen anything like these lads and can’t wait to find out more. Rap from the streets of Ennis via Africa. Lyrics sounded very thought provoking. Acts like these seemed to do better as the sun was coming down. I don’t understand why a sleepy acoustic set like Twin Headed Wolf was on so much later than say, Pretty Beast. I was really keen to see Twin Headed Wolf, but they were plagued by sound problems. Not their fault, but after seeing them start, and restart a song featuring them blowing into teapots I’d had enough and left. If they were playing somewhere small and intimate, say The Sugar Club or something I would check them out, as I feel I did miss out on something interesting – they said one of their songs was inspired by a two thousand-year-old song.
The last show we saw was The Eskies at The Burrow. They wouldn’t be my thing, but they certainly got this half dead corpse moving! They talked to the entire audience as if we were all at a house party. The banter between the band themselves, the audience and even the sound desk was just fantastic. These lads really brought the big festival vibe, and with the big crowd dancing on the hill it felt a little bit like Slane. I did feel a bit sorry for the sound guy as the whole audience told him to “f**k off” under instruction, but we did say “Sorry, hope ye have a great weekend” (again under banter instruction).
Sis and I upped the ante of being lame-o oul ones and actually bought a hot water bottle for the tent, where we repositioned ourselves like bog bodies and waited for the night winter. As I lay shivering I heard a funny joke:
Ya know the way Tayto park has the biggest wooden rollercoaster in Europe? It went on fire. Burned to a crisp.
Around six in the morning I heard the following conversation:
Ray? Have Ye any room in there? Me tent’s blown away like
Yeah but f**k that like
Can I come in?
Yeah but f**k that like
Yeah but f**k that like
If only I could have summoned the energy to tell yer man, that yes, Ray did actually have space for him. The guilt will stay with me for the rest of me life.
A few hours later we unzipped ourselves to a glimpse of how camping in the future will look, tents hovering and whizzing overhead. The Bear Grylls in me had mentally noted and tut-tutted at the lack of stakes in a lot of tents over the weekend. I think they had only been anchored on the Friday and Saturday by whoever was passed out inside or by trays of beer. Curiously, when I hauled myself out of ours like a walrus that morning it nearly flew away with my Sister still inside. She was annoying me asking me for face wipes anyway. There was one section of fencing where all the tents had gathered, a Valhalla for tents as it were.
Ducking for camping flying objects, we trekked up to the bus for Dublin, a majestic ex Dublin Bus double-decker specimen. Packed to the rafters with tents and rucksacks with no luggage space, we were like camping commuters racing towards home. Someone up the front appointed themselves DJ and played good tunes the whole way. The “upper saloon” as it were, fell quiet for a few seconds. Savouring this, and taking in the passing vista of Jobstown, I thought about my gentle re-introduction to festivals: why the hell did I sleep so much; why didn’t I bring more alcohol; why was there more name dropping from people about what drugs they’d taken that day rather than what bands they’d seen; but most of all…how am I going to live without corn dogs?
Thanks, Knockanstockan, keep on rockin’.