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flag Ireland - Full Moon 48 - 09/13/00

Witnness Festival
Fairyhouse Racecourse, Dublin, 05.08.2000

Astronomical prices, vomiting teenagers, violent security guards and very high quality acts. It's quite amazing how long it's been since a festival of this scale graced our green shores. But considering the fall downs of this festival maybe it's not such a surprise. More of that later however. Time for some music.

Your writer and friend carefully pieced together his itinerary to catch some local talent early on in the day before the more major bands take the stage. Unfortunately the proposed 22 minute run to the festival site from the centre of Dublin cited by the bus company (who charged 10 for a trip that normally costs 2.20) turned into one hour and 22 minutes so I only manage to catch the start of Mouse on Mars, who turn out to be the highlight of my day. My sour frown, however, is soon turned into a shining grin as the band take the stage. Their most recent album, the brilliant Niun Nunning is not as much in evidence in their live set as one might have expected. They still manage to shine through with their own eclectic concoction of experimental dance electronica. A return visit in a more intimate venue would be most welcome though.

I have just enough time (13 minutes) to leave the venue and queue up for an over-priced, pre-pulled pint of low quality cider before Badly Drawn Boy emerges. And how he takes the stage. The band kicks off before he emerges, running onto the stage and leaping over the monitors in his now trademark hat. He runs through songs from his recent Hour of the Bewilderbeast album, but finding himself stopping songs perturbed by sound problems. As big an admirer of the album as I am, BDB needs more songs for this setting as some of the gentler tunes on the album don't quite sound as good as they could.

The sight of Doves before me fills me with a doubt that I just can't explain. This years debut Lost Souls, formed from the ashes of early nineties act Sub Sub, is so full-sounding it's hard to imagine how so few people could cut it live. But they do. As they churn out singles Here it Comes, Catch the Sun and The Cedar Room, it quickly emerges that this is not new ground for them. It is possible that this band could be huge. Their sound is such that they could fill arenas or your living room and still achieve intimacy.

The sight of your writer running to the dance tent to catch Death in Vegas is not a pretty sight. The 200 metres that I have had to run leaves me breathless but still happy considering the news that DIV have only just walked onstage before I arrived. Since the release of their second long player they have been darlings of the press. Tonight I saw nothing to make me want to contest this view. DIV of course have been pigeonholed as a dance act. It is strange that only seven of the nine songs on the album contain beats. They seem to encompass much more than that. They have managed to incorporate punk (with contributions from Jim Reid and Iggy Pop), funk and soul into their own style. Were it not for the pure freshness of Mouse on Mars, DIV could well have stolen the evenings highlight award.

With time to kill, I meander towards the main stage hoping to catch something interesting. Ocean Colour Scene are entertaining the masses with the hits. Plenty of singing along a nd good festival spirit. I sit down to catch a few songs while I eat my burger and, what was listed as a portion of chips - price 6.50. I wearily shake my head as I look around at all of the people eating my warm chips and frozen burger.

I suddenly realise it's time for Super Furry Animals. I tear myself away from OCS and await the arrival of SFA. The now customary lads are here all waiting to celebrate and sing along with Gruff until they discover that the start of the show consists of tracks from their Mwng album sung in their native Welsh tongue. It is, as always, fabulously represented by the band but there is and air amongst the lads that this is getting boring so they are treated to what they came for a few singles and the legendary closer The Man Don't Give A Fuck before the band are replaced on stage by five furry animals dressed in blue t-shirts carrying the Mwng logo upon it. It is bizarre and fun. This band can't put a foot wrong.

Unlike The Happy Mondays who have taken upon themselves to have a fight on the ferry on the way over causing backing vocalist Rowetta and the miscellaneous, Bez to leave the band. We are left with a very drunk and slurry Shaun Ryder and a group of session musicians. It sounds great of course - that's what session musicians do. But for a band who once proclaimed "all we want to do is play music and smoke lots of ganja", the prospect of seeing such an important landmark band look like this is too hard to swallow. Let's face it they're touring a 10-year old corpse around with few great songs and no new ones. It's time to call it a day. By bringing two naked girls onstage Ryder is not making up for once was something that music industry wigs could not touch. He tells us "This is the last Mondays show ever". Let's hope he's telling the truth.

Winding down the night are local band Sack. Most of the crowd has dispersed to watch Leftfield but I have stayed back with a few hundred others to witness (no pun intended) what also to turn out to be a high point. Their set is based around the brilliant and under- rated LP Butterfly Effect and their upcoming mini album slated for release later this month. Frontman Martin McCann tonight shows all the vocal power and stage presence that shook Morrissey into inviting them on a number of dates of his tours last year. Go see, if you haven't already.

I can't finish however without mentioning the prevailing memories that encapsulated the Witnness festival organised by Guinness, however, without a word about the security in the "More" tent. There are times when security personnel at gigs exert unnecessary force. I personally saw two incidents where a teenage boy was dragged out of the tent by the neck for sitting on his friends shoulders. Antoher incident was when another teenager was pulled out by the hair when has was deemed to have thrown a paper cup with beer in it - I can say it wasn't' him. I can accept that organisers don't want unruly behaviour but Guinness must accept full responsibility that if in a future event if security staff are going to behave like this that it's going to work against them. Can we cast our minds back to events in America last summer when similar events sparked off a riot. Guinness must think before they organise. Not fair.

Copyright © 2000 Colm Downes e-mail address

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