Now that spring has sprung - allegedly - it's not too early to start planning what you're doing this summer... And rest assured, we'll keep updating this list until the summer ends. Or begins. Whichever happens first.
For Irish music fans, that means breaking out the red pen and furiously circling dates in the calendar – and this summer, you're positively spoiled for choice. Alongside the old reliables like Electric Picnic and the Iveagh Gardens gigs, 2018 sees numerous new additions to the live music calendar that'll inevitably drain your piggybank over the summer, but nevertheless leave you a very happy music-consuming bunny.
Below, we take a look at some of the festivals and gigs worth noting over the summer months – and what to expect from the new kids on the block. Our advice? Book early.
You know the mega-gigs: they're the ones that attract tens of thousands of music fans and casual daytrippers alike, usually held in a stadium, park or big field. Some of this year's contenders include Ed Sheeran's Irish tour in May, which takes in Cork's Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Galway's Pearse Stadium, Belfast's Boucher Road and Dublin's Phoenix Park.
Acts lined up for Croke Park include The Rolling Stones (May 17th), Taylor Swift (June 15th and 16th) and Michael Buble with support from Emeli Sande (July 7th), while Billy Joel will play the Aviva Stadium on June 23rd, Paul Simon plays the RDS on July 13th and Roger Waters plays the 3Arena on June 26th, Queen and Adam Lambert will play Marlay Park on July 8th (with support from The Boomtown Rats and The Darkness), followed by Bruno Mars on July 12th, while LCD Soundsystem (June 5th), Kodaline (June 8th), Gorillaz (June 9th), Liam Gallagher (June 15th) and Chic (June 16th) will headline Malahide Castle after its return to action as a venue last year. Meanwhile, if you're feeling nostalgic for 2004, The Killers will play the RDS with support from Franz Ferdinand on June 26th and '90s pop act Steps will play Limerick's Thomond Park Stadium on July 6th and Belfast's Stormont on July 8th.
Also in Limerick, King John's Castle will host several gigs this summer, including Hermitage Green (June 3rd), Walking on Cars (July 20th) and Gavin James (July 21st).
Festival season kicks off proper – albeit for a select group of music fans, mostly into their electronica – with Life Festival, which runs from May 25th - 27th at Ballinlough Castle in Westmeath. This year's entertainment includes Fatboy Slim, Armand Van Helden, Jeff Mills, Adam Beyer and more.
The name is in the title: this festival is the most campervan-friendly in Ireland, although it's not essential to have one to enjoy the craic. Now in its 9th year, Vantastival 2018 takes place in Beaulieu House, just outside Drogheda in Co. Louth from June 1st – 3rd. This year's extensive line-up includes some fine Irish acts indeed: Le Galaxie, The Stunning, Loah, RSAG, Marlene Enright, Marc O'Reilly, The Hot Sprockets, Engine Alley and many more.
On the banks of the River Lee, expect another eclectic flurry of bands and artists to pass through the Marquee during June and July. The 2018 programme includes everyone from Kodaline (June 7th) to A-Ha (June 12th) to Don McLean (June 14th), as well as Chic (June 17th), Picture This (June 19th and 20th), The Script (June 25th and 26th), James Bay (June 27th), Jack Johnson (July 2nd), Alanis Morissette (July 4th), Kraftwerk (July 11th) and Irish acts including Bell X1, Gavin James, Christy Moore and The Coronas.
For those unwilling to travel to the midlands for their electronic music fix, Forbidden Fruit has plenty to offer in the grounds of Dublin's Royal Hospital, Kilmainham from June 2nd – 4th. The Saturday and Sunday line-up sees the likes of Justice, Richie Hawtin, Bonobo and FourTet; Monday's programme takes a more indie/rock slant, with The War on Drugs, Grizzly Bear, Spoon and Warpaint on the bill. Two days later, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will play the same venue on June 6th, with support from Patti Smith.
Thursday thoughts on the eve of a long weekend:— Féile Classical (@FeileClassical) May 3, 2018
The Féile of old, can you remember a more innocent time?
Thanks to Tom Dunne and his hand-picked selection of Féile greats, we can relive those memories all over again.#FéileClassical pic.twitter.com/rVRKgqkBNf
Thought you'd seen the last of Feile? Think again. The 'Trip to Tipp' is being revived once again for two nights at Semple Stadium in Thurles under the 'Feile Classical' banner, and will see some of the acts who are stalwarts of the original '90s festivals – including The Stunning, The 4 of Us, The Frank and Walters, An Emotional Fish, Something Happens and The Hothouse Flowers - performing alongside the Irish Chamber Orchestra. It all takes place on Friday, September 21st and Saturday, September 22nd.
The home of Leinster Rugby is being commandeered by musos for six days this summer – during which four gigs will take place at the Dublin 4 stadium. The National roll into town on June 15th and 16th with a different supporting line-up for each day; the 15th will see them joined by Lisa Hannigan, John Grant, Preoccupations and Jay Som, while Villagers, Cate Le Bon and former Vampire Weekend member Rostam will open on the 16th. Future Islands will then headline their own show on June 17th, supported by the mighty Mercury Rev (revisiting their classic Deserter's Songs album) and the RTE Concert Orchestra with 2FM's Jenny Greene will reprise their hugely successful collaboration on June 21st.
Returning to the south Dublin racecourse this year are the popular nights of racing and music – or, if you'd prefer to leave the racing out of it, it's possible to just attend the gig part, too. Taking place on Thursdays throughout the summer months, this year's programme includes Hothouse Flowers (June 7th), Paddy Casey (June 14th), Hudson Taylor (June 21st), Paul Young (July 19th), Keywest (July 26th), Smokie (August 9th) and The Waterboys (August 16th).
BELSONIC/TENNANT'S VITAL/CUSTOM HOUSE SQUARE
There's plenty more outdoor gigs and festivals taking place in Belfast over the summer months, too. Belsonic returns to the city's Ormeau Park during June and will feature the likes of Nile Rodgers & Chic (June 15th), Liam Gallagher (June 16th), Picture This (June 17th), Timmy Trumpet (June 21st), Carl Cox (June 23rd), The Script (June 24th) and Eric Prydz presents Holo (June 30th).
Belfast's Vital festival runs at the Boucher Road Playing Fields on August 25th and will be headlined by Martin Garrix, with special guests Steve Angello, Zara Larsson and Loop, while there will be a number of standalone gigs at Custom House Square including George Ezra (August 10th), Sasha & John Digweed (August 18th), Kasabian (August 20th), Travis (August 22nd) and more.
The small-but-perfectly-formed Body and Soul will return to the grounds of Ballinlough Castle from June 22nd – 24th. This year's event will be headlined by Swedish electronic goddess Fever Ray, AKA The Knife's Karin Dreije, who'll also be curating the Friday night bill. Elsewhere, punters will enjoy the usual melange of offbeat Irish and international acts from the folk, indie and electronic scenes, including Jon Hopkins, Baxter Dury, Chronixx, Shamir, Saint Sister, Susanne Sundfør, Lankum, Paddy Hanna, Shame and many more.
With many old school Electric Picnickers complaining that the festival has become a) too big b) too young or c) too mainstream for their liking, they might want to point their radar towards ATN, a brand new three-day event being staged by POD, the founders of Electric Picnic. The inaugural festival has a tasty line-up in store, with Fleet Foxes, Roisin Murphy, Underworld, Chaka Khan, First Aid Kit, Nils Frahm, Mura Musa and many more heading to Curraghmore House in Portlaw, Co. Waterford from August 3rd – 5th. As well as the music, there'll also be a comedy, theatre and spoken word programme spread amongst the ten stages. This could be very, very good indeed.
Formerly known as B.A.R.E. In the Woods, Co. Carlow's Bare Festival's rebranding also comes with an eclectic line-up. Taking place on the grounds of Borris House on July 6th and 7th, everyone from rappers Obie Trice and members of D12 to Irish post-rockers God is an Astronaut will perform, as well as the likes of Kila, Natty Wailer, folk artist Seamus Fogarty and The Pale. Rather intriguingly, TV host and fashion guru Gok Wan will also be on hand for a DJ set.
After a successful inaugural outing last year, The Summer Series at Trinity College Dublin returns, kicking off on July 23rd with singer, songwriter, supermodel, producer, actress, Bond and all-round icon Grace Jones, supported by Next Big Things Wyvern Lingo. On July 24th, classical crossover stars Il Divo take to the stage, followed by Rag’n’Bone Man (July 25th), a greatest hits set from Roxy Music man Bryan Ferry (July 27th), and hometown heroes Gavin James (July 28th) and Imelda May (July 29th)
Music plays a prominent role in the annual Galway Arts Festival and this year's programme is no different. Acts lined up for the Festival Big Top on the banks of the Corrib include Kodaline (July 19th), Gavin James (July 20th), Walking on Cars (July 21st), The Stunning (July 22nd), The Flaming Lips (July 26th), Madness (July 27th), Caribou (July 28th) and the ever-popular 2FM Live – The RTE Concert Orchestra with Jenny Greene (July 29th).
The family-friendly Groove Festival returns to its home of Kilruddery Estate in Bray, Co. Wicklow this July 7th and 8th with a line-up that is sure to keep '90s pop and rock fans happy. Fun Lovin' Criminals and Heather Small - the voice of M People - have been announced as headliners; they'll top a bill that includes the likes of HamsandwicH, The Riptide Movement, Something Happens and Kila, with much more to be announced. There are also some new additions for 2018 including a Live Lounge, the Hardy Har Comedy Club and the Groove World of Magical Mystery, to keep all the young Groovers entertained. We like the sound of that.
One of the aforementioned new additions to the fray, Summer in the City is a two-day open air event held at the RDS in Dublin. On Saturday, June 23rd, high-flying Irish pop band Picture This headline, with support from Clean Bandit, JP Cooper and Walking on Cars. On Sunday, June 24th, EDM duo The Chainsmokers headline, with support from Rita Ora.
A festival that leans more towards the dance, reggae and soul genres, you'll nonetheless find something to love at this year's Townlands Carnival. Taking place at Rusheen Farm in Macroom, Co. Cork from Friday July 20th – Sunday July 22nd, it's likely to be one of the more unusual venues that disco legends Sister Sledge headline during their 2018 tour. Joining them will be Leftfield, King Kong Company, Stanton Warriors, JFB, Ghetto Funk Allstars, Altern-8, General Levy and more.
Celebrating its 10th birthday in 2018, Donegal's Sea Sessions promises to be a big weekend when the surf 'n' music event rolls into Bundoran from June 22nd – 24th. This year's headliners include grime pioneer Dizzee Rascal and Dingle's writers-of-anthemic-indie-songs Walking on Cars, alongside the likes of Rudimental, Roots Manuva and homegrown heroes Le Galaxie and Stomptown Brass.
The small-but-perfectly-formed Body and Soul will return to the grounds of Ballinlough Castle from June 22nd – 24th. This year's event will be headlined by Swedish electronic goddess Fever Ray, AKA The Knife's Karin Dreije, who'll also be curating the Friday night bill. Elsewhere, expect the usual melange of offbeat Irish and international acts from the folk, indie and electronic scenes – as well as some downright inspiring art installations dotted around the site.
Depending upon who you're chatting to - or, to be more specific, how old they are - this year's line-up for the Marley Park bash - running Friday July 13th to Sunday July 15th - is either (a) total genius or (b) a total head-scratcher. That said, if you're a fan of cutting edge hip-hop and r'n'b, it's the live event of the year, with a bill that includes Beyonce's baby sister Solange, Travis Scott, J. Cole and Diplo alongside the likes of Migos, Tyler, The Creator, Sampha and Anderson Paak. There are more than enough boys with guitars to be found elsewhere this summer - we like a festival that isn't afraid to take a punt, and mix it up a little.
If you still haven't made it to a gig at Dublin's Iveagh Gardens, make it your business to do so this year. The eclectic line-up will help on that front; don your flannel and docs for Alanis Morissette on July 5th or your fake beard and shades for Eels (July 6th). Other names confirmed so far include enigmatic post-punk heroes The The (July 7th), Mullingar's finest The Academic playing their biggest headline show to date (July 20th) and rock stalwarts Aslan celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut album Feel No Shame on July 13th and 21st, while their fellow Dub Damien Dempsey plays on July 14th.
With Glastonbury off the festival calendar this year, the BBC need to fill their music programming somehow – which is where 'Music's Biggest Weekend' comes in. The Irish leg of this multi-city festival (which runs from July 25th - 27th) will take place at Belfast's Titanic Slipways and features a stellar line-up including Beck, Orbital, Manic Street Preachers, Underworld, The Breeders, Franz Ferdinand and many more.
A marquee beside the pier in Dun Laoghaire is hardly the place you'd expect to see some genre-defining artists strut their stuff – but Beatyard has consistently come up trumps on that front over the last few years. This year's festival runs in the seaside town from August 4th and 5th, and will see The Jacksons (making their Irish debut), Orbital, Kamasi Washington, Little Dragon, Modeselektor, John Talabot, The Sugarhill Gang, The Skatalites and many more vying for your hard-earned shekels.
As always, there's almost too much choice on the August Bank Holiday weekend and 2018 is no different. Indiependence returns to Mitchelstown, Co. Cork from August 3rd - 5th with a line-up that includes Walking on Cars, Jake Bugg, Everything Everything, Sigala and more. Co. Offaly's Castlepalooza runs on the same dates and takes a more Irish slant, with All Tvvins, New Jackson and Super Extra Bonus Party (remember them?) joining US act !!! (AKA Chk Chk Chk) and Dutch duo Detroit Swindle, amongst others.
This one could prove to be very interesting indeed. With many old school Electric Picnickers complaining that the festival has become a) too big b) too young or c) too mainstream for their liking, they might want to point their radar towards ATN, a brand new three-day event being staged by POD, the founders of Electric Picnic. Nothing is known thus far, apart from the dates (August 3rd - 5th) and a location (Curraghmore House in Portlaw, Co. Waterford) – but it looks like a potentially very tasty alternative.
The Big One is returning for its 15th year from August 31st – September 2nd, although the line-up has yet to be announced. Who could be contenders? Expect a 'heritage act' or two thrown into the mix, along with a mainstream pop act (Lorde?) as Sunday headliners. Arctic Monkeys have just announced a glut of European festival dates, so don't rule them out – as has Bjork, who has played the festival several times before, while Snow Patrol are on the comeback trail and would be an ideal fit... but that's pure speculation, for now. The line-up is usually announced around the start/middle of March, so watch this space.