Witnness Festival : Dublin Fairyhouse Racecourse

Stereophonics, FLC, Starsailor and Teenage Fanclub are among those rocking Dublin...

In only its second year, the Guinness-sponsored Witnness Festival has certainly come into its own despite wreaking havoc on the nation’s word check facilities. For years the Irish had to venture across the Irish Sea to get their fix on the weekend festival extravaganzas, but now there’s something in their own back garden to call their own with more or less the same line-up gracing their UK neighbours marquees. All the prerequisites are in place to qualify Witnness a place in the premiership of Festivals; rain, plenty of mud, 8-mile long tailbacks, crap toilet facilities, overcrowded camping grounds, and over-priced food. Ahhh, bliss.

The relevance of mud-infested fields has become standard issue in this era of global warming funfests. Yes indeed, the rains certainly fall on cue, quite aptly during The Waterboys’ set. “You’re all Waterboys now”, muses a dry Mike Scott to the dripping crowd. Fiddler Steve Wickham has rejoined his water mates adding the spice needed to recapture the “big music” sound, which to many was the soundtrack to their crustier moments back in the raggle taggle 80’s. Equally as riveting is Teenage Fanclub. With all the bluster of a gentle breeze, Scotland’s finest reminds us what festivals are all about: jangly guitars, power pop hooks, and a rainbow appearing above the tent. Everyone is smiling.

Lee “Scratch” Perry celebrates his newfound popularity on the emerald island thanks to his sound and image spearheading the new Guinness TV ads. He warbles his way through his electrifying set in the Dance Tent with the gusto of a man possessed, which he probably is. The dub heavy set has the kids mesmerized as Perry croons, “bubblin’ in Dublin” over and over. Alabama 3, another beneficiary of TV culture thanks to the producers of The Sopranos, conveniently start their set with ‘Woke up This Morning’ to appease the more recent fans not familiar with the band’s pre-TV nod. Once out of the way the band has everyone within hearing distance displaying a dodgy J.R. Ewing accent.

A rather portly ex-Pixie Frank Black delivers a set that mixes classic songs from his legendary previous band and his current incarnation as a solo artist. Bizarrely, his cover of Ewan McColl’s ‘Dirty ‘Ol Town’ would have put a smile on even Shane McGowen’s face. Another highlight is Starsailor, who are currently dogged with the tag of being labelled media darlings. Thankfully, James Walsh and the boys certainly prove themselves worthy of the hype bestowed upon them.

The Stereophonics turn up with all the rock’n’roll bravado deserving of an outfit that’s certainly riding the crest of the muddy wave that’s keeping ‘Just Enough Education To Perform’ safely in the charts. Kelly Jones and cohorts certainly know how to work a crowd, especially one dominated by the female persuasion. Rain? What rain? How quickly the punters forget.

We certainly could have done without the Fun Lovin’ Criminalsrendition of ‘Danny Boy’ as well as the Elvis Presley tribute Texas forced upon us but then again, daft moments are certain to flourish within a weekend that crams 50 acts onto 5 stages. Perhaps it’s the Guinness?

Stevo Berube