The Rory Gallagher festival has always been a bit special. When I try to explain its charm to people from far away who’ve never been I can never quite convey (or indeed remember) what exactly it is that makes it such ridiculous fun, I mean on paper a weekend of tribute acts playing various stages in a tiny Donegal town might not sound like a must experience. But then you arrive and you spend a few hours in the company of all the folks who make their way there every year and it comes back to you- because it’s not the music, or the blatant drinking on the streets, or the illegal off licence hours that make it fun-it’s the people: all the mad, hilarious, easy going, uncommonly friendly types going seem to be in Ballyshannon come the June bank holiday and it gives the weekend this really perfect atmosphere, like nothing can go wrong and all you can have is adventures. I’m aware that this talk is making me sound like the ‘cake of rainbows’ girl from Mean Girls but honestly this is what the festival delivers. And I mean to add to the paradisey feel of it all it’s on right before the Leaving Cert so the weather ALWAYS delivers.
All of this means that every year is fairly guaranteed to be a laugh but 2010 was particularly choice. It started on Wednesday, we arrived Thursday, planning to drink a few cans and proceed home on the bus before returning with our camping gear the following day. This was always going to be a bit of a fantasy plan. There was no way we were going to leave Thursday night. After a few hours of pleasant chat on the banks of the river and a bit of dancing to a tribute band we decided to spend the night in a friend’s car…in the car park of Bundoran beach. At about 4 in the morning I was the unwitting star of my best friend’s very first attempt at an arty photo shoot, her method mainly consisted of following me around the beach (I was bopping up and down while wrapped in a duvet) and taking sneaky snaps (to be uploaded some day I hope..).
After a quick trip home Friday morning we returned with a tent and the means to stay 2 nights. The absolute brilliance began in earnest at this stage. Putting up our tent in the dark and not having huge amounts of success we were rescued by Paul, a Dublin type and tent expert who knew before even getting a good look at all the bits and bobs how our tent should look and the exact steps we needed to follow to get it looking that way. Paul’s miraculous appearance was a perfect example of the fantasticosity of Ballyshannon, no sooner did we run into trouble with tent erection than we had a saviour! then it was off to town for sneaky cans and chats with people I hadn’t seen in years (and some I’d never seen before) before a return to the camp site and the commencement of my favourite festival activity- a wander and a gander. In other words a lap of the campsite in which myself and Paul (my willing tent erection assistant from earlier) targeted people we thought looked like a laugh and accosted them for chats/cigarettes/the exchange of cans. The wander and gander provided as always a merry few hours entertainment, ending with a very lighthearted discussion on the ethics of catch and release fishing.
Saturday we started early, by noon I was sipping Bulmers on the hill in Ballyshannon and dancing like mad to this lady
the Mirenda Rosenberg Jazz band, Miss Rosenberg herself, as you can see was fairly electric to watch. Fantastic voice and confidence even girls were finding pretty irresistible…After that it was back to the campsite for chats and bants til my Broney showed up again and we made our way to town for evening two, the highlights of which I can summarise thus:
1. Being assaulted with face paint by my sister and her very drunk friends
2.Running into an auld skiing acquaintance and talking to him in an overly excited, high pitched manner for twenty or so minutes
3.Going on the big mental upside down type fun fair ride
The camp site didn’t let us down in terms of eejiting either, the early hours of Sunday were passed with a large group of Monaghan fellows (and one Dublin type) who had that lovely bordertown sense of humour- cynical and insult based- and educated us on the finer points of a Brazilian jujitsu move known as ‘triangling’. Yep as their poor lightweight Dublin friend began to fade the lads implemented the triangle- a stranglehold where you cut off breathing in the neck with your knees(!)- in order to help him pass out. Needless to say this was an unexpected development but the Monaghan lads talked about it as if it were as run-of-the-mill an action as pouring a cup of tea…It added a lovely hint of the bizarre to dawn.
The final hours at Ballyshannon were spent recovering in our spacious 2 door tent. After telling the girls all about the amazing 5 euro pizzas you can get made up in Ballyshannon Centra (one of my favourite Centras ever and conveniently located at the stop for the camp site shuttle bus) and Bronagh and I ventured off at about ten to get one only to find the pizzza oven isn’t switched on til one, so instead it was chicken fillet rolls, Roy of the Rovers, apple juice and Caramellos (I know-ewww but Kate likes them!). Several golden quotes were uttered including ‘a ham-induced coma’ in reference to the expected ill effects of eating the packet ham we had left out in the sun, which now more closely resembled bacon, ‘phonely’-for when you have no texts and your phone is lonely and well…many more I cannot remember because I took too long about writing this all down.
We finished off the weekend with a trip to sunny Rossnowlagh beach and a 99. A postcard ending to a perfect weekend. I won’t be going next year- I’ll be far away unfortunately, but if you’re in the country at all there is no excuse, the Rory Gallagher festival is not to be missed-I defy you to go and not have fun there!