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She’s been a regular festival goer since she first attended Féile at the age of 14. Gemma Hayes waxes lyrical on the joys of those sprawling, big days out
Tanya Sweeney, 09 Jul 2003
“Everyone is saying, ‘you’re going to break America on this trip’ but that’s not the plan right now… this is just me basically saying hello to the country, playing nice, small venues…”
Speaking to Hot Press on the phone from Seattle, Gemma Hayes is not so much making a splash as a delicate yet perfectly formed wave over in the States.
“I was into the Seattle scene in a big way… Pearl Jam’s Ten was all I listened to when I was in boarding school. I was also a huge Nirvana fan, and I’m walking these streets now, thinking maybe Kurt walked down here at some point. I’m in two minds about going to see the house he died in… that might be kind of weird!”
Touring around the States seems to be whetting her appetite for the festival circuit, of which she is already almost a veteran. Having played various European festivals such as Hulsford in Sweden, V2002 in the UK and Rock Am Ring in Germany, this summer she is set to play Glastonbury, and is of course Witnness bound. Not bad for a girl who admits she was ‘shitting herself’ when she turned up at Féile for the first time, aged 14.
“I felt so lost and out of my depth, there were so many cooler, older people there. It was kind of overwhelming, so I did what any normal person would do in that situation, and spent the entire festival getting drunk.”
As well as catching sets from Moby, Nick Cave and… er, Terence Trent D’Arby, Gemma also recounts a less savoury event from her trips to Tipp.
“At Féile our tent got broken into, and everything got nicked. The next night, we were sleeping in the tent and someone threw in a jar of pickled onions on top of us. Plus, there were no washing facilities, so you can imagine the state of us!”
Bizarre incidents with foodstuffs aside, Gemma is still a huge fan of the festival experience, and is looking forward to finally playing to a home crowd, after forces of nature put the skids on her scheduled Witnness performance in 2002. Last year, the stage she was meant to perform on started to sink into the Fairyhouse ground.
“We had driven 18 hours, and for most of that we were stuck in traffic outside the site. I was gearing up for the show and we were then told it wasn’t going to happen. Right after that, we had to drive to France. I was like a kid, having a major tantrum! So this year, I was asked what stage I wanted to be on. I think with the rising stage, there’s a real sense of intimacy, it feels more like a venue, as opposed to being out in the open.”
You’ll also see her down the front of some other Witnness performances.
“I really want to see The Flaming Lips, plus Mogwai, and maybe The Sugababes. Of course there’s The Frames too… I’ve never seen a bad gig from them. They’re ‘A-list’ performers.”
How about the best festival gig you’ve ever seen?
“While I was driving to Rock Am Ring, I was watching Neil Young performing ‘Helpless Helpless’ on the DVD of The Last Waltz on the tour bus. We were arriving really late and I’d figured I’d missed his performance. We got there at midnight and he was still playing. I remember all of us running to the front of the stage, which took ages. As soon as I got up the front, he started playing ‘Helpless Helpless’. It was perfect.”
After her run on the festival circuit, what’s up next?
“I’ve been working so hard for the last year, I want to be a fan of music again for a while. I’m doing some writing, and a little thinking about which producers I’d like to work with. Maybe I should be calling the Neptunes – and I’d love to work with Missy Elliot!”
True to form, it would appear that Gemma plans to keep things interesting.