The County Clare town of Lisdoonvarna, following its succession of music festivals in the late seventies and early eighties, has long since been immortalised in song thanks to Newbridge bard Christy Moore. Now it seems only a matter of time before the Cathedral town of Thurles is destined to be the subject of a similar paean, due to the unqualified success of the second annual Feile held last weekend at Semple Stadium.
The youth (they'll tell you that you can't beat it) converged on Durlas Eile from the four corners of Ireland, and in some cases beyond, for this musical celebration.
The weekend's line-up offered a curious mix of rock, rap and ribaldry. Highly-rated British acts like Happy Mondays, Elvis Costello and The Rude 5, The Farm and Transvision Vamp took top billing on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Yet it was left to a relatively novice band, The Saw Doctors from Tuam, to be the acknowledged show-stealers of the weekend. Maybe, being a local, I'm a mite sensitive about these things but I felt they got off on the wrong foot altogether by playing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary."
They quickly repaired the damage with "Presentation Boarder" and "I Useta Lover" and the whole Stadium, in total uproar, shook to its very foundations. Somehow, and they deserve every credit for this, they had the entire Stadium and its 35,000 plus attendance united in song and dance.
They were joined by Waterboy Mike Scott for a very special version of "And A Bang On The Ear" and finished their set in explosive fashion with "That's What She Said Last Night" and "N. 17."
What could Transvision Vamp and Elvis Costello possibly do to match that? Transvision Vamp had the considerable trump card of what would be considered to be a voluptuous, sensuous blonde female in the form of Wendy James to present their case.
The band rose to Wendy's clarion call and joined her for searing versions of "I Want Your Love," "I Just Wanna Be With You" and "Baby I Don't Care." Trashy, but unquestionably poppy.
Though it pains me to say it, Elvis Costello was neither totally suited to the occasion nor appreciated by a considerable bulk of the spectators. Still Elvis and his Rude 5 carried on regardless and the likes of "The Other Side Of Summer," "Accidents Will Happen," "Veronica," "Watching The Detectives" and "Oliver's Army" went down a treat.
The Rude 5 are top-class session men like Jerry Scheff (who once played with The Doors and the other Elvis), keyboardist Larry Knechtel (who performed with Simon and Garfunkel) and it clearly showed.
Marc Cohn, something of an unknown quantity, aside from his mega radio-hit "Walking In Memphis," did absolutely nothing for me with his wimpy approach. Was it relief or delight that the crowds became intoxicated on good humour, Mexican waves and sing songs when he left the stage?
Paul Brady, on the other hand, played one of the most clever sets of the festival, blending the old with the new in the shape of songs like "Crazy Dreams," "Blue World," "Trick Or Treat," "The Homes of Donegal," "The Island," "Steel Claw" and "Nobody Knows."
Rap act De La Soul proved an entirely different kettle of fish and live their sound held none of the polish of songs from their albums 3 Feet High And Rising and De La Soul Is Dead, although "Ring, Ring, Ring" and "Me, Myself And I" did stand out.
The Fat Lady Sings, offering material from their album Twist, ensured that the early pace never slackened and before that the Big-Nosed Boy from Barking, Billy Bragg, provided what was one of the highlights of the weekend.
Billy eats, drinks and sleeps socialism and this, combined with a razor sharp wit, stamps him apart from so many others involved in this business. He was joined by an old friend, Kirsty MacColl, for "New England" his song which she took into the charts and his latest single "Sexuality" ("I had an uncle who once played / for Red Star Belgrade").
His new album could be a cracker, if tracks like "Cindy Of A Thousand Lives" are anything to go by. He also threw in a few oldies like "Levi Stubbs' Tears" and showed a keen geographical sense by referring to blue and yellow and the (All-Ireland) semi final. An all round diamond geezer.
On Friday a chill wind blew through the Stadium, but it never cooled the collective enthusiasm of all and sundry. When I arrived Power of Dreams were letting rip with songs like "Stay" and "Never Been To Texas." Although well received, I still think that this lot could do with a little less perspiration and a bit more inspiration.
The loud, swirling sound of indie cult band Ride won them many new admirers and a surge of people from the second half of the pitch up towards the front was indicative of That Petrol Emotion's drawing power. Fronted by flamboyant American Steve Mack, they delivered the goods for the second year in succession with songs like "Big Decision" and "Sensitise."
Then just before The Farm were scheduled to appear a small man in dark clothing appears on stage with an electric guitar. Lo and behold, it's Black Francis, lead singer with The Pixies, unscheduled, and Rumour Number One of the weekend has been confirmed.
It's an unexpected treat, as he blasts out solo versions of his band's standards, such as "Alison," "Tame," "Gouge Away" and "Mr. Grieves." And now, looking at the goal where Aidan Ryan and Pat Fox won the Munster hurling final for Tipperary shored up by a food stand, and listening to Black Francis mouth the deranged lyrics to "This Monkey's Gone To Heaven," I realise that Semple Stadium can never be quite the same again.
In a sense this performance was one big tease, as you were just waiting for his Boston buddies Kim Deal, Joe Santiago and Dave Lovering to walk on stage and complete the foursome.
Even though their lead vocalist, Peter Hooton, moped around the stage like some 15 year old who had been dragged out to dance by his aunt at his sister's wedding, The Farm upped the pace with songs like "Groovy Train," "Sweet Inspiration," "How Long," "Very Emotional" and the anthemic "All Together Now." But the question is can they be forgiven for a brief snatch of "Molly Malone" (in Tipp of all places) and whipping the crowd up into an "Ole, Ole" chant.
Another highpoint of the weekend was the appearance of self-confessed degenerates, Happy Mondays. Onstage you had singer, Shaun Ryder, walking around with his hand in his pocket and dragging on a cigarette, oh so cool; dancer Bez, twisting himself to a dangerous degree and pulling all manners of stupid expressions; and a female backing vocalist who toured the stage teasing the boys in a risque fashion. Musically, however, the Mancunian messers proved they were equal to the task with memorable performances of "Kinky Afro," "Hallelujah," "Step On" and "Loose Fit."
Thurles was a divided town on Sunday. Inside the stadium the bands played, the fans raved, and the Gardai were happy with the co-operation of the huge audience on the final day of Feile '91, writes Anne Marie O'Brien.
Outside was a different world. The accumulation of three days litter transformed Liberty Square into an at least unpleasant sight. That didn't bother the fans though.
Toilets were a source of complaint for many people attending the three-day event. Half-hour queues at the stadium drove many people to ask at nearby houses, where one woman complained that if she had a pound for everyone who asked and to prove her point, the doorbell rang again.
The toilet situation was "disgusting and disgraceful," she said, though she emphasised that the festival was a great economic boost for the town and generated a good atmosphere.
Two young Bray visitors enjoying a cup of tea agreed about the atmosphere, but said that many tents had been broken into and that the facilities at the site were disappointing.
Highlights of the day on stage included the centre of attraction Van Morrison whose very strong performance included such favourites as "Moondance" and "Did You Get Healed" as well as "Send In The Clowns" and "The Star Of The Co. Down."
Nanci Griffith had an uphill battle against a crowd more interested in their own acrobatics, and earlier in the evening The Stunning's rendition of old faithful's like "Romeo's On Fire" and "Half Past Two."
Steve Earle was at his best in the final set when he joined The Pogues, where he did most of the work on "Johnny Come Lately" for Shane MacGowan, definitely the worse for wear. Kirsty MacColl did the same on "Fairytale Of New York."