Posted on September 27, 2022
Review: Fuinneamh Festival 2022
Words by Oisín Campbell/ Design by Michael Savage
As the Irish festival came to an unfortunate end after last weekend, it did so in some style at the freedom inspiring Fuinneamh festival. From its original local and in-the-know seasonal raves at the quaint Bellurgan Park some 10 years ago it has gone on to grow astronomically with this year's edition garnering particular heightened attention after a forced 3 year hiatus within the pandemic.
Be it for the all-star cast of acts, the iconic stages, the beautiful surroundings, the chance to catch friends, or the lust for escapism, there was more than one reason to flock to the Co. Louth festival over the weekend. It is all these different factors combined that make the final destination on the festival calendar one of the most lured by seasoned goers and newcomers alike.
(Pictured: Fuinneamh Campsite)
Running as a short but sweet two dayer rather than the typical 3-5 day slogging marathon, Fuinneamh opened its gates on the Saturday morning to a bathing sun and a giddy crowd filled with punters young and old. Immediately you are met at warmth by both the staff and the breathtaking backdrop of the forested hill.
It was clear upon descending on the campsite that the festival would be a close-knit affair with the majority of the site's amenities being held within the perimeter of the camp. There was a comforting feeling that the festival was catering to you upon arrival. Food vendors, yoga & art installations, firepits, and the stages all stood near your side. After a quick tent pitch and a brisk can, it was time to get straight into it!
Being met by the Ogham Alignment, Dark Matter and Cosmic Background stages right within the campsite, it was only natural to venture to these first. From here it was sets from the likes of Rowdiboi, Corralo, Rustal and Cailín that helped to bend the opening evening into shape. As night fell, the allure of the Keep Her Lit and Temple stages took hold with a mouth-watering schedule billed with DJ Assault, DJ Mell G, Hector Oaks, Sunil Sharpe & more all surfacing.
It was action from more local heroes that captured the evening's imagination however. R. Kitt's rolling hard house set around 9pm on the KHL really set the fire in the belly and gave the eager Saturday evening crowd a stiff workout. Moving around the stages from here, there were some uplifting and proper 'taps aff' performances from the likes of Taint and IMNOTYOURMATE on the techno fuelled Temple Stage hosted by Dublin's Research crew.
One of the great fears at any festival is the conflicting matter of the 'clash'. The kick in the stomach once stage times are revealed and your two favourite acts are playing at the same time, on stages seemingly kilometers apart. That fearful blow of colliding acts is subdued greatly at Fuinneamh due to the festival's convenient size. With no stage being more than a 5 minute walk from each other, it allowed revelers to drift in and out of the Saturday night highlights.
One of the evening (and weekend) standout sets came from Irish electro hero DeFeKt who inspired with a hard hitting live set venturing through his well respected flagship discography. Electro & ghetto tech took hold of the Keep Her Lit stage into the small hours of Saturday night with both DJ MELL G and the legendary DJ Assault whipping up iconic Detroit and European sounds. Over at the Temple it was Sunil Sharpe and Hector Oaks who took control of the night's final hours combining for an iconic back to back all wax closer that would stand long in the memory for any techno lover.
There was further magic taking place within the campsite stage areas with festival founder Lucas taking the early morning warriors through a cosmic journey of sounds on the breathtaking Ogham Alignment stage. Tucked away in the corners of the campsite were the psy-trance fuelled Cosmic Background, the jungle & drum 'n' bass kicking Dark Matter stage, as well as the wholesome wellness area and Lotus Tribe bandstand that combined live music, fire pits, yoga and performers helping to serve as a comforting cool down from the wild heat of the dance areas throughout the night and weekend.
After some brief but well needed rest bite post Saturday, Fuinneamh had rolled into Sunday (or rolled over into?? Can that be said at a festival?!). Once again the weather gods were on our sides as another lust filled sun hung over the festival arena. It was the final day of action but there was still so much more to come with another bill of incredible acts ready to close out the festival season in style.
After grabbing back our bearings and getting some well needed nourishment in (yes, breakfast burrito's. Big up's to the fun lovin' Bish Bosh kitchen), the feeling of anticipation quickly returned as the afternoon approached. The early starters were treated to acts like Maedbh O Connor, MAV666, Double Screen, Elouise, & more, who all blended neatly through atmospheric yet uprising dance trax easing the slightly battered crowds back into their giddy state.
It was around 4pm when the action really started to gain momentum once more with Offtrack's hypnotic techno cuts at the Temple, as well as one of the stand out sets (if not the stand out) of the weekend coming from EMA and Jio who combined to stir punters back into a frenzy with buzzing bass and funky rhythms. A samba dance version of 'If You're Happy and You Know It' tickled the crowd particularly and closing out a set with Overmono's 'Le Tigre' will just never be a bad idea. Well in EMA and Jio, well in.
Long Island Sound followed proceedings on the KHL with their typical dreamy breakbeat patterns, which soothed the crowd out once more before the final night chaos really began to unfold.
Moving around the site once more into the evening, there was a considerable buzz around the Lotus Tribe bandstand with the fastly rising Nixer dropping in (much to my pleasured surprise as I had somehow missed their name on the line-up). Their post-punk, synth-driven sound created an immense energy as they delved through their own hits and cut up a festival classic in Faithless' 'Insomnia'. Just prior to Nixer, celtic rockers Bog Bodies had set the template for what was to be a joyous evening with their spin on folk and trad creating a real carnival type atmosphere, just what was needed to set us all up for the closing eve.
It was only natural to head back in for the dance on the final night with another mouth-watering schedule ahead of us. It was hard to look past the flow of acts that were to close out Keep Her Lit and it was the crew behind Dublin's Midnight Disco that really set Sunday night's tone. A steady flow of bass line, hard house and familiar crowd pleasing hits all merged together to give a peak time feel to a well eager crowd. Cáit followed with a similarly rifling set that blitzed through old school tech numbers and wavy trance bangers.
Listed as one of the stand-out pairings of the festival, Tommy Holohan's combo punch with the Netherland's Stranger pushed through some rougher techno and breaks cuts to a packed out Temple. A particular remix of Dizzee Rascal's 'Stand Up Tall' really pushed the mood to another height. All the way throughout, a St. Brigid's cross glued to a stick and wrapped in fairy lights hovered above from the crowd almost poetically. If you were at Fuinneamh at all during the weekend you surely saw it waving through the sky in all its glory at one stage or another! More homage to St. Brigid at festivals from now please.
(Fuinneamh really comes alive at night)
Back at the KHL and it was the incredible Peach and Midland that took up the two closing slots. Peach's dreamy house touches oozed the crowd out before a thundering close to the iconic stage from Midland. Ripping through bombs like Prozak's 'Ruff Dub' and closing with SOPHIE's mesmeric 'Nothing More To Say' and Utah Saints driving 'Something Good' had smiles glued to people's faces as the famous wooden structure came to a close all spun up exquisitely by the Londoner.
With the end of the festival looming, the last of the sounds were to be heard from the spellbinding Ogham Alignment, just as it were on the Saturday night. It was Aeron XTC who was given the honour of closing out the sounds as he guided the still thirsty remaining crowd through a session of driving, atmospheric techno. There couldn't have been a sweeter place to end out proceedings than within those lit up standing stones in and amongst the weekend's final packed out crowd.
For my own personal self, it had been a first trip back to any sort of camping festival since before the pandemic. In many ways I don't feel I would have experienced the welcome back into that fray than the one I felt at Fuinneamh. The entire weekend felt like a massive hug. Nothing felt pressured. It all seemed to just fall into place. A field filled with strangers (for many people) seemed to combine in unity for two joyous days of music, art and wellbeing. There felt like a togetherness in the way people danced, in looking after each other, and most importantly in taking care of the grounds. Everyone respected the park and in fairness to the organizers they made it accessible to do so with bins never out of sight and simple yet impactful signs scattered around gently reminding each of us to do our bit to help out. It felt as though it had been ingrained in the crowd from the moment they entered the site to look after this place. Something as simple as handing out bin bags upon arrival to each and every person evidently can make such a huge difference. That care that goes in at an organisation level eventually is motivated to those in attendance. Come the end of the festivities, it is that care that stands out as most symbolic of the experience once you have left.
It was a pleasure to hear from the crew afterwards of how quickly they were able to clear the site (only a few hours!) and at the number of tents and litter left behind (only four tents). A festival like Fuinneamh can and should inspire those operating at a greater size in initiating that community feel within such an event. With a line-up filled with global DJs, some truly unique stages, as well as the stunning grounds, yet it was the experience as a whole that I left with thinking about the most. A relaxing and loved up weekend like no other. Probably the perfect send off to one of the most wonderful times of the year. May we see you all there next year once again!