What’s in store for summer 2014′s music festivals?

by Look Around Ireland on December 10, 2013

in Uncategorized

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For the last few weeks, a blog post entitled “summer 2014, what the hell is going on?” has been sitting in my drafts’ folder waiting to be finished. The lack of any sort of news, announcements or even conjecture in the weeks leading up to the end of the year made me wonder if promoters had held a meeting and decided to sit out 2014. Then, you get a day like yesterday and it’s all go.

In case you missed the news elsewhere, we’d a couple of chunky announcements in the shape of a brace of dates for Elbow (Cork’s Live at the Marquee on June 24 at €49.65 plus Ticketmaster fees per ticket and Dublin’s IMMA on June 25 for €49.50 plus TM fees – Cork is 15 cent dearer for some reason), Arcade Fire playing Marlay Park with support from Pixies (June 29, tickets €61.50 plus TM ducks’ fee) and the latter veterarns playing a headline show at Cork’s Live at the Marquee (June 30, tickets €44.05 plus TM fees). Then, there was this morning’s Robert Plant announcement (Cork’s Live at the Marquee on June 25). Boy, am I glad that I never pressed “publish” on that blog post.

There will be many other announcements and probably a few before Christmas too as promoters eye a share of the festive present splurge. Indeed, you can be sure that tickets for the old reliables like Christy Moore, Chris Richard and Dolly Parton already announced for Live at the Marquee will turn up under many trees in a fortnight’s time. People may be leaving it later and later to buy tickets, but buying tickets as presents is a well-established trend for many and promoters know that.

There will, though, be no early bird tickets under anyone’s tree for next year’s Electric Picnic. These tickets were supposed to go on sale on December 2 but a terse comment on the festival’s Facebook page (“Sorry folks, tickets will now be on sale next year. We’ll keep you updated”) nixed that one. This is probably linked to the ongoing court case between Electric Picnic’s estranged owners Festival Republic and POD’s John Reynolds. This is a case which has been dragging on for ages and, as all alternative resolution means have failed, it’s a date with Justice Peter Kelly in 2014 for both parties.

Dates have been announced for 2014′s Picnic (August 29 to 31) and there’s talk from Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn about increasing the capacity of the event, but all bets are probably off about the look and feel of any EP204 until that court case resolves the ongoing issues of ownership and administration. It would seem as if profits from 2013′s event are now being used to pay for legal bills, which is always great to see. That said, the case may well reveal many interesting aspects about the concert business in Ireland, the deals which have been done with third-parties and plenty of other fascinating details. Memo to self: make sure you’re free for that week in court.

Elsewhere on the concert landscape, it’s noteworthy that MCD/Live Nation have got access to the IMMA site in Dublin for the Elbow show. This has been POD’s domain since the venue was first opened up for live shows and they’ve promoted the likes of Leonard Cohen, Blur and the Forbidden Fruit festival at the Dublin 8 site. There are very few big fields in the city which are open to all promoters – MCD have a lock on Marlay Park, for instance, and Aikens are the only ones who have used the RDS in recent times – so it will be interesting to see what happens here with, say, Forbidden Fruit.

Staying in Dublin 8, what, if anything, will go into the Phoenix Park in 2014? While the site featured a couple of big shows last summer, the only one which really worked in terms of pulling a sell-out crowd was Mumford & Sons. By all accounts, The Killers would have had difficulty filling the O2 with the crowd they attracted. Our OPW sources indicate that there have been some talks in the last few months, but there are no names attached as of yet. In years gone by, the Park was also an equal opportunities venue for all the promoters in the city, but the OPW have only favoured MCD in recent years so perhaps this might change.

If anyone is talking about Oxegen 2014, they’re staying very quiet about it. That was without doubt the biggest loser when it came to festivals in 2013. Despite realligning the event along dance music lines, it failed to get traction or an audience. They initially looked for planning permission for 50k and had to make do with well less than half of that.

It’s hugely telling that Oxegen headliner Calvin Harris is back in Ireland for two dates with Tiesto this month and the shows at Dublin’s O2 and Belfast’s Odyssey are sold-out. That’s more tickets than were sold for Oxegen so there’s sure to be some headscratching at MCD Towers about that one. It really looks as if Oxegen is a victim of its past reputation and needs to be either put out of its misery or completely rebooted and rebranded. There’s certainly an audience for a big dance event but it doesn’t appear willing to gather under the Oxegen brand.

Then, there’s the huge cast of other events. Longitude was the big winner in 2013 and it’s definitely back for more in 2014 in mid-July. There are already early bird tickets on sale for such reliables as Indiependence (at the same price as 2013, though they do warn that prices will go up as they need the cash to “compete both in making offers for the level of band that we want and keeping the site in as good a condition as possible”), Body & Soul, Castlepalooza, Groove, Sea Sessions and Westport Festival. Events like Life and Drop Everything will also be returning next year as well and we know there are several newbies or refocused events planning to make a splash next summer as well.

Such a busy schedule is now the new reality. As we noted at the end of the ’13 season, there was no point in bothering with the festival census we’ve done in previous year because the huge number of outdoor events, big shows and festivals in the country was clear to everyone to see. Of course, the amazing summer weather helped everyone – well, bar Oxegen – and a repeat of that next year will be most welcome. For now, though, let’s prepare for another interesting festival season in those fields and parks.

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