Mullingar, July 14th & 15 2000
Each year up until now the highlight of the Mullingar festival has been the Batchelor Festival, which basically involves a bunch of single boyos competing to become the top batchelor and hoping against hope that they may win the affection of the 'Queen of the Festival'. Alongside the bachelor competition, there is a tug of war championship, ceilis, an over 30s disco and much general beer swilling.
This year however, the organisers of the festival resolved to make an effort to appeal to the youth of mullingar. This is a move which, judging by the content of the festival up until now, was long overdue. As part of this effort the festival dome was cautiously entrusted for a weekend to some members of the younger generation, and so Focus:Mullingar was born. The creators of Focus are one and the same as the people responsible for the 'Stables' venue in town, which I have raved about previously on Cluas. The festival which ensued promised the same spirit of quality music and good vibes that is present in the Stables. The line-up which was booked for the festival was almost totally Irish - Friday night was 'to be' band night and Saturday would host the dance music. It sounded good. It was.
Apologies in advance for the slightly hazy review which will doubtlessly follow. I have failed to mention that the one thing Focus:Mullingar shared with its big brother the Mullingar festival was the beer swilling. Also, unlike most festivals, the beer was not watered down pish. Neither was the whiskey. As a result of these facts some of the the more intricate details of the festival are proving a little difficult to recall.
I do remember the music though... admirable stuff it was too. On the Friday night I managed to miss the first act, Pete Courtney, so the first band i saw was Bell x1. I hadn't seen these guys since they were Juniper but the woeful single they recently released 'Pinball Machine' was enough to make me want to hate them. Surprisingly enough though, they weren't bad. In fact they were quite good. Paul, who was originally the drummer, then the singer, is now both the drummer and the singer. A great job he does too. While their music isn't earth moving, it's terribly inoffensive.
Next up was Mullingar's own Innate. This young band are regulars in the Stables and are apparently terribly popular round these parts, which may have something to do with the fact that their singer Frank Byrne is cute as cherry pie. Their music is rocky stuff, with catchy choruses and very solid songs. Their style reminds me a little too much of Pearl Jam, but in the spirit of the festival we'll forgive them for that. Blink were next on stage and they played a nifty little set. Their songs are really poppy, in a nice way, not a spit-on-me-Britney way.
My memory seems to dim a little from around the time Watercress took to the stage. What I do recall of them was that they were as brilliant and full of energy as they always are. Crazy, zany, raggle-taggle pop. Oh what fun. The headline act tonight was Kila, who also seem filled with energy. Kila are celtic through and through, with a couple of strange beats thrown in for good measure. Overall this was a brilliant night of Irish music. the only downside is that the crowd wasn't as big as it should have been.
Night two and the Red-bulls are out in force. The advent of 'horse-racing' in town caused me to miss the first couple of acts on this, the night of the 'rave' (local gossip). Said horse-racing involved not living animals but horse shaped pieces of cardboard attached to strings. I will spare you the details. Anyway when I made it to the dome it was time for Rohan and MC Wuzza. This was very cool stuff. Apparently it was Ragga music, but I cannot confirm this with any great authority as my knowledge of dance music is not what it should be. It was very funky stuff though, and Wuzza is an excellent MC. Unfortunately the dome was half-empty at this early stage in the evening. Glen Brady and the Third Eye Surfers also performed in front of a less than substantial crowd. They too played a blinder . Hip-hop vibes and nice beats abounded.
Next up was Redsettaz, but as they failed to grab me in any way I scooted next door to the funfair. On my return 808 State were in full throttle and the techno was coming pretty hard and fast. It was a little interesting at times, but as techno is one type of music I have never and will never understand, I will comment no further. Last on the bill, Gedge and Warren k really put the cream on the techno cheesecake. this was full on thumping techno, complete with an mc, who I later found out was Dickie Rock's son (more spitting), shouting 'in da house' every two minutes. This sort of business is particular nightmare of mine and so it is hardly surprising that I felt the need to do a bit of stargazing in the field outside. A nice end to an interesting evening and while a complete bill reversal would have suited my taste down to the ground, the crowd in the packed festival dome appeared to love every minute.
Overall this was lovely little festival, with fun vibes all round and a varied line-up. I could have done without the cheesy techno, but otherwise, the music was great. The way festivals should be.