With my wounded finger, I was uncertain whether I would be in attendance or not. Having checked the website for bus transportation on the Friday, it appeared like all travel tickets were sold out. Seemingly the decision had been made for me. I would spend the Sunday recuperating, before my triumphant return to the Wastelands the following day. A quick Google search on Saturday night showed that bus tickets directly to the destination were on sale again. Departure at 11am in the morning. Like a hot snot, I was all over that ticket. Ladies and gentlemen (and others), I was on my way to Knockanstockan 2018.
Knockanstockan is a music and arts festival held over a weekend in July every year. I was partaking of a Sunday day ticket. The location is by the banks of Blessington lake in county Wicklow.
The omens were ominous as I boarded the bus. Rain is a constituent element of life in Ireland. However whenever you gambol through nature in the Irish rain, like a sheep, then not only will you be wet – you’ll also be smeared from head to toe in mud. I shrugged it off. I was hard-core. I had lived for six months in a tent in a field when I was eighteen years old. When we reached the festival location I felt less amenable though. The surroundings were beautiful – lakes and mountains and greenery. However the squelching in my shoes from the mud was worrying. The rain – how it poured. Naturally I hadn’t packed an anorak.
My mood was murderous as I queued for a tub of poutine in the festival grounds. Poutine is a food of the gods. A Canadian dish of chips covered in gravy and cheese curd, it warms the cockles of heart. The vendor was an outfit called ‘LaLa Poutine’ – a company that takes their mobile van to festivals throughout the land. The food was delicious – although seven quid for fried potatoes with some sauce on them is quite the rip-off.
I consumed my curd covered chips outside the Big Blue bus as I waited for my friend. She had spent the previous night in a tent in the campsite adjoining the festival. The full-on experience.
When we met, we decided to go exploring. There were six performance areas, each with an array of bands or comedians. Out first port of call was the Wishbone area where a show was already underway. Onstage was a guy called Neil Farrell. He was resplendent in a black leather skirt, smeared lipstick and a guitar. His show was called ‘Queersplaining’. I’d have some of that.
However I was confused. He was proclaiming that he was ‘out and proud’. That’s always worth supporting. His statement that he was polyamorous (the state of being ‘ethically non-monogamous’ as he described it) was also worthy of a cheer. Whatever floats your boat. My confusion lay in the fact that he was in relationships with women. Now there’s nothing at all wrong with heterosexuality. Some of my best friends are straight. Live and let live is what I say (so long as they don’t flaunt it). It just seemed that having two female partners was sort of a funny thing for a man to be out and proud about. Perhaps there is great oppression and discrimination inherent in that situation, that I as a mere gay male (and former criminal for that reason) know nothing about.
He seemed very serious about it all. Then again identity politics is no laughing matter. It is bloodcurdlingly serious. As Mr. Farrell seemed to be in his twenties I guessed that his age group regard themselves as warriors for change (as twenty somethings always have seen themelves). My friend suggested that maybe he was out and proud about being in drag. I don’t think he was trans. Maybe he was? He told amusing tales of having worms and fleas, and after his show asked the crowd for a group hug. I declined. A fairly entertaining gig.
Afterwards we wandered over to the Dimestore Tent where we watched a talented band called Point Break, attired in rubber masks of US presidents – as per the film.
After this show we headed back to my friend’s tent where we lunched on her pre-packed festival sandwiches, washed down with cans of Bulmers’ cider.
Back to the festival. I stopped. I could hear a voice I recognsied. From the stage. Why if it wasn’t Irish comedian (and fellow theatre group member) Christina McMahon, performing a stand-up comedy show on the Wishbone stage. Very talented performer.
After the show it was pelting with rain so we went to the Carlsberg indoor tent, where my eyes were mesmerised by the most breathtakingly beautiful man I had seen in years. It was most distracting. I couldn’t help but staring at his beauty. Surrounding us was the youthful crowd, displaying their loveliness in their uniform of tattoos; dreadlocks; tie-dyed, floating garments and B.O. Rebellion shall wear a uniform, and rarely shower.
We meandered back to the Faerie Fields, stopping on the way at the Sharon Shannon Garden of Vegan stand for a burger, where we spent a pleasant afternoon listening to the Galway Street Club, and JyellowL.
As it was getting dark we took a final stroll around the grounds, with the lights sparkling all around us. After a final trip to the Dimestore tent, where metal band Thumper soothed my nerves before I made my way to the bus for the 11pm bus back to Dublin.
It finally departed at 11.50pm. I was tucked up in bed an hour later – fully refreshed for the return to the wastelands the next day.