'There’s the Picnic, Oxegen, the Trips to Tipp...but there’s just something special about Slane'
(Piece first appeared in the 'Slane at 40' anniversary supplement produced by Meath Chronicle in August 2021)
From the shanks mare to a pink hummer Slane has been the scene and the theme of many of the most bizarre and enjoyable gigs I've attended in my (cough, splutter, ahem) decades on this ever-entertaining earth.
Even before I took over the 'marking' to cover the Slane concerts a year after I joined the Meath Chronicle in 1997 I had been to a couple of gigs in Lord Henry's back garden.
In those early days the perks of the job weren't available to me, so walking home from Slane to Trim was a thing, as was sleeping in a ditch, thumbing a lift, flagging down buses and general chaos.
Of the 25 concerts held in Slane since the first shows in 1981, I have been fortunate enough to have attended 16 of them.
Obviously the early days were a bit too early and I missed out on the legendary shows performed by Thin Lizzy, Bruce Springsteen and Queen.
As a punter, my first Slane show was to see Pearl Jam in 1993. Neil Young was the headline act, but the Seattle rockers were my main course and what a gig it was.
As a 'veteran' of a few Trips to Tipp for Feile and many other gigs at various venues around the country, the Pearl Jam gig in Slane was something different - and that remains the case.
Over the years I've loved Witnness, Oxegen, loved Electric Picnic, loved Marley Park, loved the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, loved Thurles and loved all the indoor venues across the country I've had the pleasure to attend - but there's something special about Slane.
That love certainly doesn't stem from the nightmare of trying to get home after a gig there, or the possibility of getting sucked into a mud fight (although they too were fun, once upon a time) - it's the uniqueness of the venue, the atmosphere of the shows, the quality of the headliners.
As well as playing host to euphoric musical highs, unfortunately it has also been the scene of tragedy.
My second trip to the Castle will be forever tinged with the news that two young lads died while trying to swim the Boyne and gain access to the back of the stage.
That disaster prompted many changes as to how the event is policed and after two silent years by the banks of the river the Slane concerts returned in 1998 with The Verve headlining, but with Robbie Williams stealing the show.
That 1998 show was my first 'working' gig. The novelty of getting a free ticket, entry into the 'VIP' area (I use that term lightly) and a seat to watch the show was something very different, not bad - just different.
That luxury was something I have become more accustomed too.
My remit was simple. Write a colour piece on the music and the atmosphere and submit a second report on celebs in the VIP area!
One was always easier than the other.
The music was divisive. Some acts were great, others were awful. Some I wouldn't watch in my own back garden, never mind Lord Henry's.
The celeb-spotting was the toughest of the lot. Apart from the usual suspects of actors from Fair City (another term I use lightly), Irish TV wannabes and the odd sportsman here and there, the guests of Henry Mount Charles (below) didn't mix in the VIP area, they must have had their own VVIP zone.
Getting the press pass for the Slane concerts wasn't always straightforward either.
There used to be a time when Henry's people used to organise a few passes for the local media. On another occasion I remember having to go to the office to collect my ticket the day before the Bryan Adams gig in 2000.
Henry was up to his proverbials and wasn't too happy to see me coming with my hand out, a quick dismissive wave sent me packing for a couple of hours.
I wandered down into the concert site and was the only one in the whole field for pretty much the entire Bryan Adams sound check - that worked out nicely.
Now the press passes are arranged by MCD. Sorting those tickets can often be a quite tedious process, but in fairness Rory Murphy (and Colm) always look after the local lads and have been very good to us.
Each of the Slane concerts brings back their own unique memory, many of which are probably not suitable for these pages, but all good.
I only went to one of the U2 double-headers in 2001, for obvious reasons (the other clashed with Meath taking on Kerry in the All-Ireland SFC) and in 2013 I didn't take in Bon Jovi, opting to go to Eminem instead, that was a major error on my part, Eminem was awful.
Another who failed to sparkle in the mecca for Rock n' Roll was Madonna. She pissed everyone off before she even came on stage by being so late and them produced a poor display in awful weather.
The last three concerts have been a return to form with rock acts the central theme.
The Foo Fighters, Guns N' Roses and Metallica were all outstanding shows and proved what a wonderful venue Slane is for that type of gig - lets leave the pink hummer story for another day.