Lisdoonvarna 2003, RDS, Dublin

David Kitt, Mundy, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Declan Synnott, Luka Bloom.

It may be a long, long way from Clare to here, but for one day and night there was a little bit of Dublin 4 that seemed magically transported to a mossy hillock somewhere between the Burren and Kilfenora. It wasn’t exactly a case of flutes and fiddles everywhere, mind, but it wasn’t your normal Dublin outdoor festival either. For one thing, the toilets were actually solid structures made from porcelain instead of plastic portaloos. Hurray!

The crowd was noticeably more, ahem, mature than, say, Witnness, with no sk8r bois or grunge girls in spitting distance. Not that it was a case of zimmerframes-a-gogo, either, particularly for the two loved-up punters who seemed to think that Josh Ritter’s folk tales were the perfect accompaniment to a spot of manic skanking.

In the main, the pint of plain was the narcotic of choice, although the length of the queues for the bar did put many a thirsty punter off their beverage. That aside, the atmosphere was the most relaxed and genuinely celebratory of any festival I have ever attended.

But days like this are all about the music, and the mixture of old favourites and new blood seemed to work a treat. At times, it was like being a guest at the best family wedding ever, with various artists joining each other for brief cameo appearances on stage.

A suitably overwhelmed Mark Geary enjoyed an absolutely amazing reaction and was, for this writer, the highlight of the day. Mundy was his usual loveable self, blasting out a greatest hits set in the afternoon sun. Kittser proved the perfect chill-out tonic in the unlikely event that anyone was feeling stressed.

The nicest man in music, Josh Ritter was wearing the biggest grin in the world after a superb set. The Frames were at their usual, magical best, and the new songs bode well for their highly anticipated fifth studio album, with new single ‘Fake’ being greeted like an old favourite.

And then there was Christy Moore [above by Roger Woolman], with Donal Lunny and Declan Synnott in support, rounding off the evening with a uniquely Irish take on pop music. For what else are ‘Ride On’, ‘Joxer Goes To Stuttgart’ and ‘Lisdoonvarna’ – to name but three – except great Irish pop songs that have become part of the national psychic gene pool.

There was a playful ride into the set too, with Christy getting skittery with the mouth music in the great Irish tradition. But it was the purity and the strength of his vocals, underlining again what a wonderful singer he is, that gave the songs their emotional charge. This was music that went to the still heart’s core of things – an ordinary man doing extraordinary things with the people’s music. And they loved it.

The funniest moment of the whole day belonged to Luka Bloom, though, who treated a packed tent to a wonderful reworking of the brother’s ‘Lisdoonvarna’, tarted-up and transported to ‘Dublin 4’ in the back of a Hiace: “Everybody needs a frappucino/A pint of Bud, roight, and a glass of Vino”. Anyone for the last few G&Ts there?

 

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