Now in its third year Sea Sessions continues to grow as a festival that offers top class surf during the day and eclectic musical acts as the sun sets in the evening. The last few years has seen a steady growth in surf festivals, a concept that began in 2007 with Kilkee’s Cois Farraige. This year, with that event on a one year hiatus the mantle was passed to Bundoran to host Ireland’s only Surf Music festival in 2010.
Sea Sessions offers an alternative to the more commercial festivals in Ireland. You can enjoy 3 days of music and camping (in the local GAA field) for a little over €100. Each year the festival boasts an impressive line up and this year was no exception. Paul Weller is the main musical draw and his headline slot is testament that the stature of the festival is improving year on year. First, though we come to Friday night headliners Fun Lovin Criminals. The atmosphere in the tent was only lukewarm but an obvious highlight was -Scooby Snacks’, which also featured a crowd surfing Scooby much to the crowd’s amusement.
Bundoran is transformed for the three days. Strolling through the town on the sunny Saturday morning, a definite festival spirit was apparent, with the streets and bars full of revellers drinking and singing and others making their way to the various beaches for a day of surfing. Our group ended up in Rossknowlagh beach for a few hours of surfing, or at least attempting to. If nothing else the surfing aspect of the festival serves as an excellent means of getting rid of a hangover and setting you up for another evening’s festivities.
The festival really kicked off on Saturday evening with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who surpassed expectation in warming up the main stage for Mr Weller. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are a nine-piece brass band but aren’t your average instrumentalists. Over a live hip-hop beat, the group’s trumpets and trombones played a roaring set of songs with a sound that is completely unique, encompassing hip-hop, jazz and rock. The atmosphere onstage spread contagiously to the crowd until by the end of the set the crowd were energetically engaging in the call and response antics.
Next up was the main event of the weekend, Paul Weller. From The Jam to The Style Council to his solo records, Weller has kept up a consistency that so many musicians of his era have failed to achieve. Tonight, Weller is in top form, tearing through songs new and old with the early set weighing heavily from his recent solo album Wake up the Nation. There were a few technical difficulties that threatened to dampen the set but each time Weller returned unperturbed and as the tent continued to fill, the set grew in momentum. The undoubted highlight came with a riotously received combo of -That’s Entertainment’ and -Town Called Malice’ to end the set. As the cheers petered out there was a dash to the Bavaria beer tent before it closed up and then back to the main tent for a few songs from David Holmes’s D.J. set before joining the majority of punters by rounding off the night in one of the town’s nightclubs.
Sunday morning was again spent floundering around on a surf board before I returned to the festival site in the afternoon to catch Cathy Davy mid set just as it began to rain. The tent was almost at capacity which Cathy owed to people ‘sheltering from the storm’ but she was being modest as there were mass sing-along’s to -Rueben’, recent single -Little Red’ and a rousing cover of Jackson 5’s -I Want You Back’.
All in all Sea Sessions surpassed expectations, the combination of surfing in Bundoran’s wonderful beaches during the day and taking in some excellent music acts at night makes for a weekend to remember. With a brilliant atmosphere and plenty to see and do, Sea Sessions genuinely is one of the most unique festivals on offer in Ireland and one that will no doubt continue to grow in stature and reputation.