Surviving the elements at an Irish music festival

The Irish music festival is a different beast from the Coachellas and Primaveras of hotter climates - sometimes, muck-encrusted wellies and a reliable mac are all you need, writes Louise Bruton

“I guess the heatwave that we’ve been expecting just… isn’t coming this year.”

Setting up shop on Sherkin Island for the Open Ear Festival and looking out to sea, the waves are foaming at the mouth, the rain is almost entirely sideways and the wind whips violently around our faces but the craic, well, the craic was mighty. Living in some sort of permanent denial that the heatwave we experienced last year was how Irish summers will be forevermore, we’ve been strongly reminded that the Irish summer is a wet one and if you attend Irish music festivals, you must be prepared.

Festival fashion has come a long way since Kate Moss more or less invented the concept at Glastonbury in 2003. Her statement look usually included wellies, short shorts or a short boho skirt paired with a tiny belt and a whisper of a gilet, whereas when we were rocking out at Oxegen or Slane, it was a pair of manky O’Neills tracksuit bottoms tucked into a pair of mucker boots with our secondary school PE hoodie topping off the ensemble. Somewhere between the two outfits lies the success in surviving the wet.


Related: 21 functional but fashionable boots to shop in time for festival season

On your average festival weekend, we experience cold and drenching fronts out in the wild and then we boil over dancing up a storm in the thick of the crowd. In this case,  layers are more than a fashion statement; they’re necessary. You can still wear your whisper of a gilet but it has to go underneath the hoodie, the fashion jacket, the warm jacket, the scarf and the very, very essential Gore-Tex raincoat-and-trouser combo. In the age of sustainable fashion, it’s about time that you stopped buying the cheapo raincoats from Penneys that you  throw out mid-July because it turns out that they weren’t actually waterproof at all. The year is 2019 - you’ve been living in Ireland for quite some time now and a visit to an outdoors shop is in order. Not to sound like your mam, but as you progress in life there are three things that you should always spend a little more money on for a happier life: a good mattress, three-ply toilet paper and a decent raincoat.

Wonderful wet gear

The wonderful thing about wet gear is that you can wear whatever the hell you want underneath. If the heavens decide to shut down for a few minutes, you can pull a Drag Race reveal going from Gore-tex glamour to glitter queen in one reveal. But due to the rain, the sweat and the delicate state you’re in, your skin will be extra sensitive to any sun exposure so lash on that SPF 30 before you emerge from your tent each morning. You can’t be wet, red and raw all at once. I simply won’t have it. There’s also a strong argument for shorts in wet weather because the rain has nothing to cling to but if you choose jeans, your legs turn into two soggy tea towels, schlopping around a field all day. The choice is yours... 

As is the way with fashion, it isn’t what you wear but how you wear it and when you’re rocking the waterproofs, you’ve got to give it sass. You’ve got to just get over the fact that it’s lashing down and embrace this new outdoorsy way of life.  As Pocahontas once sang, “The rainstorm and the river are my brothers, the heron and the otter are my friends”, so don your wet gear, give it all you’ve got, and paint with all the colours of the wind. Or, you know, you could arrange it so that every band or act that you see is indoors or covered by a tent.

Muck-encrusted runners

The people of Open Ear were prepared. As we danced in the shelter to amazing sets by Cáit, Lolz and Club Comfort, the crowd was made up of weather-worn but craic-driven people wearing shorts and reliable raincoats. Instead of flimsy wellies, everyone wore hard-hitting hiking boots or muck encrusted runners that have lived fuller lives than most humans. Instead of moving around like drenched rats, the rain just slipped off our bodies and back into the ground where it belongs. Kate Moss could learn a thing or do about festival fashion here.


So if the forecast is a shower of misery, throw the dainty dresses out of your backpack and replace them with the heavy duty coats, socks and boots.   In between regular intakes of water, ingest something fiery like whiskey, Buckfast or tequila so that the warmth comes from within. But, most importantly, you have to assess what you can handle. If you’re going to complain about  being wet or cold all the time, maybe you should have just stayed at home or gone to Primavera instead. The Irish music festival is a changeable beast and the last thing anyone needs is a under-prepared moan who’s intent on wrecking not just their own buzz but everyone else’s around them.

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