Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

Slane 2009 was great, but I might not go again

with 16 comments

First of all, let none of what I say take away from the fact that Oasis were simply awesome, and are still effortlessly brilliant at the top of their game. So musically, Slane was fine.

I had never been to Slane before, a shameful fact for a concert-going Meathman, and despite having had tickets to see Oasis at four various intervals before – Lansdowne Roads, Witnnesses, etc – and only making it to one of those gigs, an epic at The Point in December 2005, when the tickets came up this time I simply had to go. An open air gig with 80,000 other people, seeing perhaps my favourite band of all time… what could go wrong?

Organisationally, Slane 2009 was an absolute shambles.


That’s what I said at 3am, and I don’t feel much better now, even after getting about 10 hours of sleep.

If you’ve ever been to open-air gigs in Marlay Park or the Phoenix Park, or (as I’m told) at Oxegen, you’ll be familiar with the general modus operandi of Dublin Bus. They park all their vehicles in one field, which is clearly signposted and displayed on the way out of the venue. If you want one of said buses, you walk into the field, buy a ticket if you need to, and go to the nearest available bus. Once this bus is full, it drives away, and thus the volume of bus traffic on the roads is economised as much as possible.

Now Slane, I should concede, isn’t in the middle of a larger urban area, and so it doesn’t have a vast array of public transport that you can take there anyway. It’s a rural setting, with rural roads prepared only for everyday rural traffic. Country roads aren’t meant to carry 80,000 people but that’s not Slane’s fault and they shouldn’t be blamed for it.

Where Slane and MCD need to take blame, though, is for not making the best of the bad hand the setting deals them. Instead of the tried-and-tested Dublin Bus formula mentioned above – which, incidentally, are all venues or festivals operated by MCD, so they can’t claim not to have any organisational experience or capability – what happens in Slane is sheer amateurism. Buses dropping people mid-road on the way down is acceptable; with the human traffic and the width of the roads it is simply impractical to do any better. But on the way out, instead of the usual formula, buses – and I don’t blame Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann here, I blame MCD and the Gardaí – are simply parked on the sides of the same narrow road, and set off on the road back to Dublin when full.

The problem here, of course, and the problem Ciara and I fell into, is that because we made a point of walking quickly as soon as the gig finished, and getting into one of the first Bus Éireann vehicles – a bus we were shepherded into by the staff on duty, we ended up trapped behind other parked buses further, hemmed in by human traffic, and sardined in with nowhere to go. Instead of sending us further down the road so as to keep the road as empty as possible, the organisers made a bad situation worse. Why not rent a road and have all the buses sitting in it, keeping the road as empty as possible? It wouldn’t be difficult, expensive or resource-heavy. Send the Bus Éireann travellers one way, the Dublin Bus users in another, and keep the road empty of all traffic except for the filled-up buses. Don’t put us all in one direction and then handicap those of us who get out early by making us the last ones to hit the open road. The music finished just before 11; after the long walk (again, not the venue’s fault) back to the bus, we boarded our vehicle at 11.40pm and the engine revved up only five minutes later. Great, we thought, we might be back in Dublin before 1.

Sadly, inevitably, we ended up moving about 500m within the first two hours, another 2km in the following, and only hit the M2 back to Dublin at about 3. We arrived on Bachelor’s Walk at 4.05pm, nearly four and a half hours after we boarded, on a bus largely desperate to find a toilet and universally hungry, pissed off that they now couldn’t get a taxi or Nitelink home (4am is taxi blackout territory; it’s when everyone’s getting home from nightclubs), and wondering if they’d ever bother going to Slane again. Walking home, we made it in the door at 4.50am, six hours after the music had finished. This would be acceptable if we’d lived somewhere rural and had to accept a long trudge home, but not when we live in Dublin City Centre with the best public transport coverage anywhere in the country.

Just in case you think I managed to get particularly unlucky, or am turning crackpot at my Bus Éireann cabin fever, do a Twitter Search for “Slane bus”.


And another thing – I understand that without limits, people – and especially Irish people – go a little mad with their alcohol. But when you’re dealing with 80,000 people and you only have three bars, going beyond the usual four-pints-per-person rule and only giving each person two drinks at a time, and causing such a backlog that people end up queueing to get into a queue for drinks, is bad management.

Overall, Slane isn’t a bad musical venue. It’s not a brilliant one, but it’s forged itself a tradition and set a new standard for open-air concerts in Ireland in the 25 years since its first gig. There’s only been three gigs there in the last six summers, though, and one has to wonder whether it’s either that Slane have gotten out of practice, or whether Ireland has just gotten used to better treatment at its concerts. I can’t help thinking, though, that Slane would be a much better gig if there were 20,000 fewer people at it. Causing people to double up in queues for drinks, hindering the flow of human traffic pretty much everywhere in the venue, is simply bad practice. Not having any system organised for buses, though, is just plain stupidity.

Oasis were brilliant, but if another gig comes up at Slane and I can’t be sure that I’ll get home before it turns bright again, or if I have to spend four and a half hours on a bus with no toilet and no food, and end up on Twitter in bed at 5am like I did below, I might vote with my feet and spend €85 on a ticket for something else. And it might just be me, but with online petitions springing up today complaining about the length of queues and everything else, I might not be the only one.


Written by Gav

June 21st, 2009 at 5:28 pm

16 Responses to 'Slane 2009 was great, but I might not go again'

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  1. Absolute joke. The amount of people sleeping in hedges, ditches, fields or just on concrete due to pure exhaustion was unbelievable. Such a shame that that will be the lasting memory of Slane 2009, instead of the great musical performances…


    21 Jun 09 at 7:26 pm

  2. […] Gav his take on the night here and has ongoing discussion […]

  3. Yes, oasis and all the other acts were brilliant and i agree, the organisation of transport was an utter disgrace.

    However, I must say, you had it easy sitting in a bus for a couple of hours. My group and I were very close to the top and by the time we walked to where the buses were parked, all the dublin buses, that we had tickets, for were full. The concert ended at 10.30, we didn’t reach dublin till 3.45. “Keep walking, keep walking” was the catch phrase of the night.


    21 Jun 09 at 9:59 pm

  4. Kathryn – I won’t get into a one-up-manship battle with you about who had it worse but like yourself, I didn’t make it to Bachelor’s Walk until about 4am either. The one thing I might suggest – as an academic point – is that it might have been better to have been in open air for a bit, with the chance of buying some water and the chance to relieve oneself (however crudely) instead of being cooked up on a bus being let off for neither.

    Still though, don’t envy you either. Either way it’s a shocking organisational exhibit from the people in charge.


    21 Jun 09 at 10:02 pm

  5. Oh, and just in case anyone’s about to hop on and ask me what I’m going to do about it, or says that mindless bitching won’t achieve anything, and that things never change, I totally agree. That’s why, as a Meathman, I’m going to appeal their planning permission next time so that their shambolic bus organisation doesn’t happen again. It wasn’t Bus Eireann or Dublin Bus’s fault, it was that of MCD.

    Also, if anyone from MCD would like to get in touch, all of my details are on the Contact page. Go on, surprise me.


    21 Jun 09 at 10:48 pm

  6. Thanks for the posts Gav.

    My main concerns about last Saturday were more less with the public transport after the gig but actually on that 2km walk from the entrance to Slane Castle Grounds to the field. We got there at about 4.30pm and it took us 90minutes to get inside, at which point there was no ticket or security check. The path was totally overcrowded and such was the volume that often we were stopped and not moving at all. There was very littler security along the way. People were getting impatient and worried they would miss The Prodigy and started breaking the metalfences to walk through the forest area and bypassing the queue. Others just tried to push their way trough the crowd resulting in me seeing two messy punch-ups. As there was little security anywhere people were still drinking alcohol and were easily able to get it inside.

    When we did get into the field, the 3rd bar area was closed down and the stewards in that area were hoestin admitting they simply could not control the situation – hence closing up. But this also meant that one of the toilet areas was also closed-off.

    Afterwards we left the gig as Don’t Look Back in Anger sarted as we knew at that point that getting home was going to be a nightmare for those leaving the venue en masse at the end. Fortunately we were able to get on a bus quickly and were back in town for midnight. But there was no checking of bus tickets getting on any of the buses we queued for.

    I have been to Slane before many times. This was the most badly organised ever and it did appear as if MCD were cutting corners this year which unfortunately resulted in a lot of people not being able to enjoy the day fully.

    I wonder if this is not being reported as much as it deserves as most of the journalists at the gig were off in the VIP area, unaware of what was happening elsewhere?


    22 Jun 09 at 9:54 am

  7. Thanks for mentioning my tweet 😉
    MCD haven’t replied to it,and I doubt they will. Should send an e-mail.Think this might be the incentive for me to finally set up a blog….

    Ian Healy

    22 Jun 09 at 12:18 pm

  8. Ian – direct your ire towards I gave them about 400 words at 10am, not expecting a reply back, ever, but that way they can’t say I didn’t actively contact them.


    22 Jun 09 at 12:21 pm

  9. The trick to surviving Slane and have a good time is to rent/borrow a van with some friends. Load it up with nice mattresses, duvets, pillows and anything else you might need. Drive to Slane at 6/7am on Saturday morning when there is hardly any traffic, and sleep in the back of the van until its time to get up. Drink and eat while still parked, and when ready, go to the venue.

    Enjoy the gig and when it’s time to go, just go back to the parking spot and sleep it off until the next morning, usually the first person to wake up and can drive, takes the van back to Dublin without hardly any traffic in the way.

    We did that for RHCP/U2 back in 2001 I think, and it was an enjoyable experience but in the recent years there wasn’t much attraction to go back again due to MCD being really bad event organizers.


    22 Jun 09 at 2:24 pm

  10. Adnan – I’d be similarly tempted next time if there was act I really wanted to see. At the very least I’d arrange accommodation in Navan as it seems the lower volumes going in that direction left the crowd far more manageable. Either way, I’d have to think very long and hard about daytripping from Dublin again.


    22 Jun 09 at 2:28 pm

  11. I was at Slane too. I’d been twice before but had always come from the West (private bus from Athlone) and so never experienced the nightmare of the Dublin Bus arrangements. We always used to have a bit of a walk back to the bus but it was never more than 2-3 km. I’d be keen to hear from people who’d previously used Dublin Bus at sellout Slane gigs to see if this is a new thing.

    However Saturday night was fairly ludicrous. I was right at the front barrier (not pit but front of the rest) so was slow leaving the venue. In saying that myself and my mates didn’t hang about and moved fairly briskly right up to the exit where we didn’t move for quite a while due to the human traffic. It was probably 11 or so at that time. Have just checked my phone for a text I sent and it was a full 90 minutes of solid walking (brisk pace so 7-8 km I reckon) before we reached an empty bus. From what I hear from you it seems we were blessed to have ended up on a bus so near the front as we were back in Dublin about 2.

    Back to Slane, most of the walking we did was in pitch black conditions. There was an occasional ultra bright light shining on the road but these only served to kill our night vision and leave us such that we couldn’t see 10 feet ahead. Once we reached buses there was just km after km of buses and cars and people all crawling along trying to share the same stretch of road. I’m shocked nobody was seriously injured.

    As for the queues for the bars, no sense was applied at all. Fewer people pouring and more serving customers would have helped a LOT as well as your simple point of letting people take 4 beers (perhaps with lids and trays as in the O2).

    The stewarding of the queues was very hit and miss with ignorant morons using brute force and intimidation to skip ahead of everybody else. I saw Gardaí drag two guys away after a punch up in a queue beside mine. As I also saw a guy being tightly restrained on the bridge over the Boyne while walking to the Gig at 3pm I was shocked that the total arrests figure was only 10. I think there must have been a policy of containment rather than arrests given it’s highly unlikely that 1 guy would witness 30% of the arrests that took place.

    If that was the policing strategy it was wholly inappropriate for a gig like that. In a situation where crowds are so large, isolated incidents of anti-social behaviour are likely to go undetected. As a result any incidents that are detected should be dealt with very harshly i.e. liberal use of batons and arraignment before a special sitting of Louth District court that night.

    Perhaps my intolerance in the last couple of paragraphs is enhanced by the late hour. We’ll see in the morning!

    John Butler

    23 Jun 09 at 12:26 am

  12. hi, we parked our own car in one of the car parks provided, we got to our hotel in Drogheda at about midnight, which by the sounds of it is very very good, in saying that we did leave the concert one song into the encore. the walk back to our car was so long and mostly uphill.

    the concert was great, had a really good time, we were right up the back of the feild. this may sound really really naive but the amount of drugs i saw some people taking was shocking, there was a guy lying on the ground unconcious for hours. his mates handing around drugs like they had a 10 year supply of the stuff. I thought people usually hide the fact they are taking drugs. these people had 13-14 year old kids with them and it did not bother them taking drugs in front of their kids. the first time i saw the police inside the grounds was shortly after Oasis started. someone mentioned earlier that there were 3 bars, i only saw 2, havent a clue where the 3rd one was, one at the entrance and one to the right hand side right by the castle, where was the other?


    23 Jun 09 at 8:52 am

  13. We left the concert at 10.15, and were lucky to get into Dublin at 12.45, Jumped on one of the first buses. There seem to have been miles and miles of buses parked on both sides of the road. Pitty those who had to walk that far. And as for the Bars, que for a minimal of 30 mins and only to get two point at 6 euro each, and lucky to get back through the que’s with full points in tack.


    23 Jun 09 at 9:43 am

  14. What a bunch of criers, typical that it’s mostly Dubs as well. I had to trek from Donegal both ways, lost both my Slane ticket and bus ticket so had to pay for both twice but I still managed to have one of the best days I’ve had since Witnness 01. People are too soft these days. Boo freakin hoo that you had to walk a bit or wait around for a bit, the real world doesn’t care so just get on with it and I suppose if you don’t ever go back then all the better for the rest of us!!

    Kevin Gibson

    23 Jun 09 at 12:27 pm

  15. Aah. Surprised it took 14 comments for someone to waltz in and tell us to grow up.

    Kevin – Who said it was mostly Dubs? Just because most of us travelled from Dublin it doesn’t mean we’re some sort of southside Tiger Cub club.

    Having your own fun day is your own prerogative. Check the title of the post: I said the gig was great. I just don’t particularly enjoy not being able to go to the toilet for five hours because MCD haven’t arranged fields for the empty buses to be parked in. You came from Donegal, a four-hour trip was par for your course. You were prepared for it and knew what to expect. There’s a huge difference in willingly volunteering four hours of your life and having it unexpectedly taken from you because of organisational incompetence. Many of the people travelling back to Dublin were intending to travel onward to the South and South-East – what are they supposed to do when their bus gets them in over three hours late? Hope that Bus Éireann decide to arbitrarily run Early Bird services to Enniscorthy and Bray and the likes?

    Show me one of the above comments that actively complains about the distance walked. All they do is mention it as a passing detail in their bigger problems.

    And as for making it better for the rest of you – eh, how? Were you put out by the people sleeping in the ditches because they couldn’t get home? Nobody got in your way or disturbed you by calling Liveline or commenting on a blog post. Boo freaking hoo yourself.


    23 Jun 09 at 12:35 pm

  16. Good post. I wasn’t there this year – so can only chip in with my two cents about the one I WAS at (Chili Peppers in ’03 – I had to look that up, christ it didn’t seem that long ago!)

    Yep I agree with the beer queues – we actually didn’t even bother with any more pints after our first trip to the bar – just not worth it.

    Sounds like you got very unlucky with the bus going back, and being shepherded into it. I remember spotting that happening when I left, and made a point of walking all the way up to one of the first buses – it was on the move about 4 minutes after we got on – which was something at least. Traffic was still horrible though – I suppose to be expected on the small roads, like you said yourself.

    I’ve been sticking to The Marquee in Cork this year – all within walking distance for me! 🙂


    23 Jun 09 at 1:38 pm

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