I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard the phrase “Doolin Folk Festival.” On the one hand, it’s a festival, filled with music. On the other hand, it was Folk, which can provide some really great music when it wants to (Hello, Eddie from Ohio) but I’ve never been to a festival that dedicated it’s entire lineup to Folk. But, as I’m in Doolin, which is a pretty big music capital (There’s live music here every night) I decided what the hell, and I purchased the tickets back in May when I first learned about this event.
Then I sorta forgot about it until we got to Doolin. Then it was impossible not to know more about the folk festival, because there are signs for it everywhere. It’s a pretty big event.
I got my first preview of the event on Friday evening. As it turns out we can hear most of the bands from our lodge, down the road from the infamous Doolin Donkey. I imagine he gets to enjoy all the free music he wants all the time, but mostly doesn’t care because he’s a donkey who’s happy with his patch of grass in which to chew. The first band I heard was called “Moxie” and I was told it was pretty good. It was. I heard most of the set without having to leave the comfort of my own couch. Well, the rented couch I can get to if I get into the common room early enough.
However Saturday, I had my proper ticket, and I made my way into the Doolin Hotel and the little courtyard in the back that didn’t seem big enough to hold all those people and bands until I actually walked through the doors. Turns out the place is pretty huge.
Firstly there’s the smell… so delicious. There was a place set up that sold food, not unlike American festivals in that it had burgers and hot dogs, but also a giant pot cooking curry and had just finished with their jumbalaya. It was amazing, and I wanted to go devour everything right away, but I managed to hold myself back since I was going to a music festival, and I figured I should probably listen to some “music.”
The festival grounds themselves were pretty cool, too. There were the bales of hay all of the place for people to sit and relax. Near them were these huge drums filled with wood so when it got cold, people could start fires and warm themselves. And the tent! The tent was fit for a king. It was huge, with a little section off to the side filled with couches and chairs and lights. It honestly looked like a wedding reception tent more than anything else. There was even a little electric fireplace to bring in the homy atmosphere.
The bands were pretty good. Mostly it was traditional Irish music with some real folk music thrown in for good measure. To be honest, I didn’t listen to the bands too closely when I first showed up, mostly just walked around, watching people. There were all ages there, from the young to the old, everyone just enjoying the music and having a good time. The festival started out small, but as the day wore on it got bigger and bigger.
One of the cooler parts was the second stage called the “White Horse Sessions” that was more like a typical bar experience with a stage and people sitting down, drinking. (And there was plenty of drinking, but it was expensive. After a while I had to decide between beer and food, and that’s not a choice anyone should ever have to make. the beer was delicious, though.)
In the White Horse Sessions I sat through two bands: Goldfish Syndrome and A Band Called Wanda. Which basically means I sat through two fish based bands, both played folk music of their own writing. They were both really cool, mind you. The best part was that A Band Called Wanda had these brass instruments they kept playing, so halfway through the song the singer would bust out a trombone and start playing it, which sounded good with their drummer who just sat on a box to lay down his beat, and the guitar that sounded fantastic. All in all, a great experience
Sadly, I’m still getting over this death plague so I didn’t get to stay for very long following the bands. Which is a shame, because the festival itself was going on until 1 a.m., for almost 12 continuous hours of sheer fun.
And, of course, on our way back we did wave to the Doolin Donkey. Who was still in his field, chilling, listening to some music.