Barn Dance festival was dirty. And not the preemptive kind of dirty you expect at most festivals that force you to harness your inner ‘cuclhie’ and shamelessly wear a pair of bright, ornate welly boots. Nor is it even the kind of contained dirty wherein you calmly make peace with the fact that every item of clothing you wear will be rendered useless come Monday. No, BD was a raw, inconsolable cesspool of perhaps the most putrid, yet oddly beautiful elements of any good ‘piss up’. It was disgusting, sporadic, clustered, haphazard, sloppy and probably the most fun we’ve had in ages. In an almost weirdly poetic sense, it stands to be the perfect ‘Irish’ festival. It heavily incorporates the one thing that makes Ireland so great, that despite all its flaws you can’t help but fall in love with what you encounter.
After what easily felt like thirty minutes waiting outside in the biting cold (they needed to go get more wristbands) we were finally granted access to a barn. Of course, there were other elements and stages (and barns) that accompanied the festival, but the important thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the day consisted of standing around in an actual barn, and honestly the novelty never wore off. BD is a completely different beast entirely and something that can’t be replicated. AE Mak were finishing off their set on the live stage, riding on high soaring vocals, clad in white jumpsuits and performing to a mostly non-existent crowd. A relaxed and exceedingly confident Jafarais swaggered up next and gave easily what must have been the best performance of his life. Soft soothing jazz-infused vocals filled the literal barn, as a sea of drunken patrons shamelessly engaged in glorious PDAs. I suppose the guy knows how to set the mood.
The Market is one of the more regular areas of BD. People hung around packed food stalls as a nameless DJ was unfortunately ignored in back because no one really wants to munch on a burger whilst raving to techno (that’s not to say that no one tried, just that no one tried for all that long). The funfair that presided behind the market was overall kind of unimpressive. The dance barn was a glitter drenched sweaty mass of gyrating bodies that never seemed to halt or even slow down. The energy was physically palpable and their commitment to the ‘sesh’ was impressive, to say the least. The Forest Stage was easily the highlight of the whole event, tucked behind a small hill dotted with vibrant, eccentrically dressed patrons. Colin Devine conducted vocally infused robotic screams that drove the audience into a flurry of movement.
The night continued pretty much as one would expect, amazing acts like Eve, TooFools and Rocstrong were the foundations to which the evening was built upon, but it wasn’t until Smash Hits began their set on the packed-out live stage that things came full circle. They masterfully performed songs that every Irish person loved growing up and perfectly captured the integral spirit of the festival.
BD isn’t about spectacle, over the top flare or the heavily, meticulously cultivated experience that most festivals these days have been whittled down to. Rather BD exists as the very opposite, its raw intangible spirit isn’t something that has been manufactured and unfortunately for us isn’t something that can easily be characterised. BD is an ineffable, dirty, formless sesh entity that you have to personally experience to truly understand…which is really just a fancy way of saying that it was the most fun that we’ve had in ages.
Barn Dance photographed by Michael Nolan