Friday, 9 August 2013

Festival de Carballeira, Zas....

The poster was brilliantly designed, the location perfect. The musical line up promised a magical night of Celtic music. I missed it in 2012. I missed the folk festival of Ortiguera too. But the Carballeira was on my doorstep and I had looked forward to it all year. I was even more excited when I found that one of my favourite folk groups, Berrogüetto was to play along with three others including what I can only call the folk punk band Lurte from Aragon.
I had two pilgrims staying at The Little Fox House and having saturated them with Galician music for two days I knew they were ready for the excursion into the amazing world of music that is Festival Galicia in the summertime.
All started very well. We were lucky enough to find a bar called O Gaitero (the piper) in Zas and treated to an impromptu concert by a group of friends from Santiago. It was wonderful: "I´ve never heard anything like this!" said Patricia from New Zealand. Ten o´clock rolled around and we lined up at the entrance to the Festival. Bags were being searched for glass bottles and I saw a few (a very few) which had been confiscated. There was a small admission charge (which entitled us to a CD with two of the songs of each of the bands playing). We were duly hand-stamped and sent on our way.
The concerts began late, but this is Spain. Carballeira, true to its name (carballo is the Galego word for oak tree) is set in a sylvan paradise. We found a tree suitable for our backs and backsides and prepared for a great evening of folk music.
The first band were from the Basque country: some brilliant accordian playing. But by now, the "muy poquiño" number of people was growing by the minute.  Five men took a sizeable spot behind us and set up "camp". This included one very large plastic cooler and no less than five 5 litre plastic jugs of wine plus God knows what they had doctored into it. Within half an hour they were hollering into our ears.
Berrogüetto played. Beautifully.  But shouts from those behind of "maricon!" at the band made me want to strangle someone. By this time they were literally falling down the hill and into us. One woman who could barely stand stamped most forcefully on my sandalled foot and clearly didn´t even notice it. Patricia had had enough and excused herself to go and sleep in the car (by now it was one o´clock but by Spanish standards nothing had even really started yet!).
The remaining two of us moved, several times, away from young men who needed two of their buddies in order to be able to stand, young men who were throwing up around us, young women whose glassy eyes told the story of what they had done to poison themselves. Those five litre bottles were everywhere. Two partygoers had to be carried out on stretchers and the ambulances lit up the night.
The band Lurte was to play last. They are brilliant musicians one and all and I was really looking forward to hearing them, but their appearance is - well, let´s say more Sex Pistols meets Ozzy Osborne than Peter, Paul and Mary, and after they installed their drum and draped the skeleton around the amplifier the atmosphere took on  more and more of the sense of personal threat. Three men, clinging together in some bizarre form of dance came crashing into me and I had stationed myself close to the stage and the member of the Protección Civil guard in the hopes that some order might be found. The policeman didn´t bat an eyelid. I think he was as terrified as I was.
I never heard Lurte. I left before they came on, simply disgusted.
With whom?
I said to one pilgrim early on: "A lot of young people having fun, right?" She agreed. "Now try imagining that at last 40% of them have no work, never have had and have little hope of getting a job  in the near future".
But does that excuse the mass drunkenness I saw last Saturday?
There were concessions there. The drinks were a little more than could be purchased in the local bar, but not a lot. It was the sheer volume of alcohol per person which had been allowed into the Festival area which astounded me. The First Aid truck seemed not to lack customers.
"Buy our T-shirts", the president of the Carballeira organisation pleaded with the festival goers. "Help us to keep this great festival going another 30 years!" But the concessions didn´t seem to be doing a lot of business. Why bother when you have five litres of booze of your own, brought in with the total approval of the Guardia Civil of Galicia?
As I said, I didn´t stay. I had been very careful myself not to drink as I was the designated driver and had been stopped on the way home following a recent local festival. I knew that "Traffico" would be out in force.
I was wrong. I didn´t see a single spot check or police car.
No doubt Lurte stirred their totally wasted audience into a folk frenzy. No doubt the drinking continued until 7 in the morning.
And then they all drove home. Those that could still stand that is....
I have written to the organisers. I have written to the mayor of Zas (population - well not much). I doubt it will do any good and by doing it I feel a bit like "Outraged of Tunbridge Wells". I don´t think I objected because I am getting old. I know how to have fun and I can dance ´til dawn still if I have a mind to it (and did at the recent Asalto a O Castelo in Vimianzo where I saw none of this even without an admission check).  I think I did it because I am sad. Sad that the enjoyment of many who would have liked to enjoy the music was so ruined by the behaviour of so many drunks, some probably not yet 15 and who were poisoning themselves with the permission, even approval of the organisers of the Carballeira Festival.
We won´t even discuss the cost to an already overburdened medical system...
I doubt very much that I will ever go again. And two pilgrims will be taking a story back to their countries of a Spain that I would have preferred them (and I) not to see.
Signed: Disgusted of Carantoña.