Friday, August 19, 2016


Everybody needs a break,
Climb a mountain or jump in a lake.
Sean Doherty goes to the Rose of Tralee,
Oliver J. Flanagan goes swimming in the Holy Sea.
But I like the music and the open air,
So every Summer I go to Clare.
Coz Woodstock, Knock nor the Feast of Cana,
Can hold a match to Lisdoonvarna.

Well this couldn't be timed any the better, being that time of year when I bundle my kit into the car and head off into the sunshine, hopefully the sunshine, in search of the outdoor muse. I commented here, just a couple of years ago about my intent to revisit my youth and to start attending music festivals once more, after a decade or so of good behaviour. It was Cambridge Folk Festival that broke my fast, a venerable warhorse of such events, now in its 52nd  consecutive year. Folk is a multi-faceted definition these days: this year featured such finger in the ear trad. arr. stalwarts as Wilko Johnson and Charles Bradley! But amongst the Satchmo all-inclusiveness was the fellow I praise today, Mr Christy Moore. The featured song is one he wrote about an Irish festival, sadly no longer in existence, but, judging by the lyric, would have been right up my street.

Lisdoonvarna is a small town in the west of Ireland. The video above gives a good grasp of the place. Small as in very small, less than 1000 inhabitants. But between 1978 and 1983 it was home to the festival that bore its name, described here as:"Lisdoon, of course, was the Irish Woodstock. First held in 1978, it was conceptualised as the Irish equivalent of the Glastonbury Festival in England: part-scout jamboree, part-Bacchanal frenzy, part-hippy-dippy roots-embracing finger-in-the-ear jig-'n'-reel extravaganza...If all those who now claim to have been at Lisdoon 1978 were actually there, Co Clare would have tipped up and slipped off the Cliffs of Moher."--Irish Independent

 Does that not sound wonderful? Sadly the combination of several "revellers" drowning off the coast, and the unhelpful presence of the ubiquitous Hell's Angels finished it off, the local council vetoing any further such endeavour. (Why do the media always refer to festival attendees as revellers, a seemingly compulsory journalistic term I abhor, even writing to the august British Medical Journal in 1994 to lambast them for this lazy verbiage. Sorry, no link, they didn't publish!) However, should you need still to get to Lisdoonvarna and happen to be single, there is still this, the worlds largest dating festival.......

So what about Christy Moore? A bastion of probably more folk festivals than nearly anyone, he has been a fixture on the circuit for an astonishing 4 decades, retiring more than once. A founder member of both Planxty and Moving Hearts, each of whom propelled traditional irish music out of pub back rooms and  into global recognition, first of all acoustically and then with the full electric band dynamic. Each, in my humble, never bettered. Thereafter he retreated to his roots and his battered guitar, often alone, or with longterm trusty sidekick, Declan Sinnot, mesmerising audiences with his combination of political commentary, eirocentric whimsy and unexpected covers. His voice a gentle fire, with an unusual power and a soft beauty, often as much a sound as a medium for the lyrical content, though you would be foolish to miss that aspect. And, having been forced off the road in the 80s through alcoholism and heart disease, both now seemingly in abeyance, his schedule as busy as ever. Here he is, playing at Cambridge barely a month ago. And here is an example of his latest and recommended release:

I must rush; next weekend sees me in Shrewsbury for another 4 days of, um, revelling....... (Indeed, the curious interested in seeing this scribe in action at last years event might stop the promo video at 1.13, catching the handsome fella with a goatee, enraptured by whomsoever was playing at that time. I appreciate it would be even more curious if you did.)

Buy the song, but do yourself a favour, check out the back catalogue, including his Planxty and Moving Hearts releases.