Beyond The Pale’s a varied, intoxicating smash

by James Hendicott
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Beyond the Pale

Spread beneath a canopy clutching a vibrant-green, ceremonially made matcha latte, we lie on roll mats listening to a visual lecture that sits somewhere between astronomy and metaphysical ruminations, basking in the summer heat. A few hundred metres away, a vibrant DJ lights up a massive main stage beneath a wooded Wicklow hill, while kids take penalties against players from Bohs.

Beyond The Pale is still in its relative infancy, but in blending a carefully curated line up (just about mainstream enough to attract the crowds, but brave and quirky in its depths), together with a glorious setting and a heap of extras away from the music, it’s starting to feel a lot like the summer’s highlight.

The experiences at Glendalough House just keep coming. We watch an American jazz-rock band serve up a quirky cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, then a group of lightly-worse-for-wear food critics compare and contrast various types of alcohol and food combos. Toddlers jump joyfully amidst smoke-filled bubbles, giggling with joy at the little puffs of smoke that are set free, while painfully cool festival goers await DJs that include Belgian superstars 2 Many DJs in a smoke-filled field. Supersized 90s cover act Attention Bébé turn a small tent into the best 90s dance floor since… well, the 90s.

There is no such thing as a flawless festival, of course. Critics of Beyond The Pale might point to the relative lack of ‘superstar’ names. Yes, there’s the likes of Orbital, Jessie Ware and 2 Many DJs, but local star Daithi – who goes down an absolute storm – is still on the light side for a main stage headliner. But for those who aren’t specifically searching for the ‘biggest’ line up at an event, Beyond The Pale feels incomparable in that key element: atmosphere.

What does happen here certainly feels more like incredibly careful curation: a set of acts that are designed not to make the poster look as impressive as it possibly could, but to reward those looking for variety, and prepared to engage with something less well known once it’s presented, at high-quality, to be lapped up. The inclusion of the likes of beatbox superstar Marc Rebillet, Canadian techno legend Richie Hawtin, and famously subversive and unpredictable experimentalist LA Priest show that when Beyond the Pale ship acts in, they’ll be ones primed to add real colour.

Between acts we screen print postcards and do calligraphy, then snack on healthy-looking poke bowls or stroll amid the disco-lit trees in the side area known as The Space Between, home to its own sweat lodge and late night dance action for when the arena has closed off. Seemingly at random, we uncover belly dancers, lycra clad dancers, and a DJ tricycle firing off bubbles to a small crowd.

There are heaps of ‘characters’ here: a festival angel in the form of a guy greeting all the kids with stickers whilst checking on the slightly worse for wear. Others in full (if at least semi-modest) bondage gear; and there’s a member of Irish comic-sketch icons Foil Arms and Hog – who aren’t even playing the event – trying to reconnect with his lost friends.

And for the kids, nothing but treats: high fives from all comers, oat milk hot chocolates and ice creams coated in marshmallows, as well as crowds just about sparse enough to stand close to the action at the main stage without fear.

It’s not worth focusing on any individual set, though many of them were excellent. Instead, key into Beyond The Pale’s atmosphere as a whole: carefree, casual, welcoming and relentlessly positive. In short, Beyond The Pale is the kind of event that, once you discover it, you almost want to keep it to yourself, exactly as it is.

Do yourself a favour and pencil it in for next summer.

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