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Open Ear 2024 at Sherkin Island

“Lads, do you know anywhere I could hear some progressive techno? I could go some music I can’t fucken understand. Tell you wha, fer the price of the ticket, I’ll buy a cement mixer, a big bag of ket, and play for ye all fucken weekend.”

– The dose of Tralee. 

It was around a nine-hour drive, stopping off at every Circle K en route from Belfast to Sherkin and Open Ear Festival. Meant we missed Gnod, but with four in a car you can’t ensure everyone has been doing their Kegels. I had stolen one of those wee blue trolleys from Lidl to stick the cans in, so it was a direct slide from Baltimore to the ferry to the island. An adult Trunki, at last.

Gnod R&D

Princess doesn’t camp, so we were staying in a big Bell job with blow-up mattresses and bedding that Yippee tents sorted. Would recommend. The last time I camped at a festival we forgot the cover sheet and became campsite landmark of ‘the Tetley teabag’, as the mosquito net absorbed rainwater and got browner and browner.

I’d never been to Open Ear before, my taste bends to the experimental end of the pretentious, and a lot of the weirdo musicians I rate had said I should go. So I went. 

Experimental Music on an Island Bingo

Bird Song ✔️ Ambient Orbit were joined by Gareth Quinn Redmond on nobs, Dan Walsh on wind and Méabh McKenna on harp (what a bass face!). Not to be all ‘Florals for Spring. Groundbreaking’. But aye, field recordings on an island are gonna include a lot of bird. I can deep listen with the best of the borebags, when this got its groove it had dimension and weight and beaky beats, only losing the crowd with second-verse-same-as-the-first in the last third. 

Ambient Orbit

Tape loops ✔️ Caskré was my pick of the festival. Sat on the floor jiggery pokering with a Tascam reel to reel, they were able to emit the sort of noise that hits you somewhere between the genitalia and the navel. Sunn O))) but make it boogie. Punishing, primal and perfect. I worry for her knees. 

Screaming ✔️ Harragas is a term referring to migrants burning their ID papers to seek asylum in Europe. Harrga’s Dali Saint Paul, gave the festival’s most visceral, bitter and enraged performance on a secret beach. You gotta laud the endeavour of The Rise-Up Soundsystem lads hauling those lovely speakers to that beach. The sort you want to smell like the inside of a book, or rub your face on the varnished corners. Sand isn’t the best conduit for bass, although to be fair I watched most of it with my feet in the sea looking at fellas sneak onto the island in a rubber dingy, and refusing a haircut by lads with a Dube.


Summer goths ✔️ Debbie Googe/da Googie, best known for playing bass in My Bloody Valentine had probably the worst turnout for her set which was entirely criminal. I watched her from a hammock as I had self-medicated too heavily the night before to take it face on, but it was everything it should be. She said, “I’ll be playing all my hits so sing along”. Debbie Googe is a geg.

Wicker Man ✔️ Nina Fitzgerald Graham donned a mummer’s mask, a true blue (maybe pipe) bass drum and scaled a cliff edge. The visual was particularly belter when two lads with the Budweiser on the cliff above could be seen to mouth “Fucken Hippies”. 

Other highlights were safe-hands Brian Not Brian, Elaine Howley and The Cyclist’s trippy Open Aux collab and a great set from JWY, who genuinely made me happy. 

Open Ear is VG. Yanno, maybe not as out there as I wanted it to be but certainly out there enough to not just be a festival of 8-12 people. 

You should go. You’ll enjoy it. Toilets were pretty clean and there are showers. I counted only one juggler. Dawn Richardson

Photos by Thom McDermott

Renaissance Woman. Fat. White. Staring at you blankly.