I eased into position behind the battlements of the old castle. A mile away, the target strutted across a stage, wheeling and swaggering as only such a swine is capable of.
Damn you, I muttered, you’ll soon be no more than a memory. And after you, there’s Christy Moore and Glenn Campbell.
Slowly, carefully, I lined up the Dragunov Romak-3 PSL and set the cross-hairs on my target’s chest.
Soon, you prancing little coxcomb, I growled. So very soon, my pretty, you shall taste my wrath.
As he danced sideways across the stage I slowly began to squeeze the trigger. My hands shook from the prodigious amounts of alcohol I had to consume over the past two days to maintain my cover. I squeezed a little more, a little more, a little . . .
My phone rang at the same instant that Krraaaakkk! the Dragunov spat high-velocity death at the man on the stage. I saw him crumple. I saw the crowds recoil. My phone went on ringing. It was Wrinkly Joe.
What the fuck are you doing? he screamed.
Shooting the Waterboys, I replied. Like we said we would.
You just shot Steve Earle, he roared.
Impossible. It’s half past five.
They swapped, Wrinkly Joe said. You’ve just killed Steve Earle.
Shit, I said. I was looking forward to hearing him.
The weekend started out so well. Not much rain. A relaxed Friday afternoon. The big diesel throbbing, hardly feeling the weight of the huge trailer hitched on behind. Good music on the player.
I hammer the steering wheel. Ma won’t shave me, Jesus can’t save me. Dog-Faced Boy!! Dog-faced Boy!!
The phone rings. It’s Joe.
Where the fuck are you?
I don’t know. Hold on – I’ll ask the Sat-Nav. Wait, we’re somewhere outside Tullamore. ——Ma won’t shave me, Jesus can’t save me, Dog-Faced Boy!! Dog-faced Boy!!
What the fuck is that?
When will you be here?
Sat-Nav says about half an hour.
Right. I’m at a pub near Tyrrelspass. You can’t miss it. Wallaces. It has a car park so you can pull in with the trailer and everything.
Did you remember the Dragunov?
Yes!! —– Bad to the bone. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bad !!!
I cruise along, the old truck hardly noticing the gigantic caravan swaying behind me, the big old diesel engine humming. ——I got ten forward gears and a sweet Georgia overdrive. . .
I listen to a little Tom Waits. A little Talking Heads. A little Perfect Circle. The phone rings. What the fuck are you doing?
Meeting you. You just steamed past me at eighty miles an hour.
It’s hard to do a handbrake turn with a jeep and very large trailer, but I manage it with little enough damage, all things considered. Dog-Faced Boy!! Dog-faced Boy!!
The trailer park at Belvedere Castle turns out to be the car park. There’s no electricity. There’s nothing. There isn’t even a steward who knows where the fuck we should park, so we drive over a couple of the gormless assistants and park wherever we want. You could order electricity in advance if you needed to, but, in true festival style, it would cost you €100 for the three nights.
Fuck that. We park. We break out the beer. We go looking and before you can say Jack Daniel’s, we meet the neighbours who turn out to be dead-on and more than happy to talk shit with us. They’re also very fond of their spliffs, which is fine by me, though I personally smoke nothing these days. We’ll visit these boys later, but right now, as there’s no music till tomorrow, the Irishman’s first instinct kicks in: we’ll go to the pub! And we do, but not before I have to draw something to Wrinkly Joe’s attention.
Joe, I murmur discreetly.
Yeah? Are you aware that your scalp is covered in blood and that you have, at the top of your bald noggin, an ugly running sore?
Yes. I banged my head off a shelf in the fuckin caravan.
And so it goes. We call a taxi and go to Mullingar, which turns out to be just fine – so fine that we consider returning on Sunday to watch the hurling. After all, though we will miss a couple of the acts, it’s Limerick playing Clare in Croke Park, so fuck it. Let’s mix and match. We go through our plans. Who are the must-sees, who are the don’t-give-a-shits, who are the absolutely-nots, who are the must-kills?
OK. Tomorrow, we have to see Tom Russell, Richard Thompson, Alison Moorer, Steve Earle, and also Anjani because the word is that Lenny Cohen might show up. Probably see Kristofferson too, considering we’re here and all that.
Anyone we have to kill tomorrow? Yes. The Waterboys, though I’d also consider whacking Mundy and Ricky Skaggs.
Who to miss? Well, Mundy and Christy Moore have to be left out. Don’t know Jim Lauderdale. We fall back to the camp-site, fall into bad company with our neighbours, fall upon the beef vindaloo and chapatis previously and cunningly cooked by me at home, fall around laughing, and eventually, after songs and further drunkenness, fall into bed. Which beats the living shit out of camping, let me tell you.
Fuck off dawn.
Fuck off noon.
Fuck, groans Joe.
Sssshhh! I reply.
Oh fuck, Joe groans. You should get up. I got bacon.
I should get up? What about you?
I got up. I went into town. Here’s a newspaper. I’ll fry the rashers.
I can’t understand these people.
Well, ya bastards! Tom Russell has this special rapport with his public.
Sing the chicken song, shouts one lout.
No, ya bastard, replies Tom. The lout is referring to El gallo del cielo, a fine Russell song, but not one he intends playing today. Nevertheless, despite having to warm up a hungover crowd at two in the afternoon, Tom works some sort of magic and before you know it, all the drunks are singing along and dancing. What the fuck? I go for a beer, and when I get back, Joe’s talking to some guy.
This is Larry. He’s from Nashville.
Hi Larry. I’m Bock.
Turns out, Larry knows the fiddle player with Ricky Skaggs, which would normally be sufficient grounds for one of us to kill him, but the blinding hangover remains and my reflexes aren’t what they should be, so I content myself with small-talk.
I hear Leonard Cohen might be playing with Anjani later.
Larry looks at me blankly. I don’t know him.
Of course you wouldn’t. He lives in Montreal.
No. I mean I never heard of him.
I look at Joe. Joe looks at me. We look at Larry.
Leonard Cohen, y’know? THE Leonard Cohen? Yeah? Coolest man on the face of the planet?
He shakes his head. Sorry.
Suzanne? Larry shakes.
So Long Marianne? Larry shakes.
The Sisters of Mercy? He shakes again.
Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-on? Larry blinks.
Ah, right, we reassure him. Forget that one. Phil Spector produced it.
Joe hands me a hip-flask, which I take gratefully. And it’s not even three o’clock yet, he says.