For almost a decade now, metal fans have descended on Limerick twice annually for the hugely popular Siege of Limerick Metal Festival. The event takes place on each Easter Sunday and the October Bank Holiday Sunday, or the Samhain edition as the organisers title it.
The ‘Siege’ is run by Tall John Real and Ciaran Culhane, two well-known figures in the Limerick music scene. The duo promotes the festivals and other metal/rock shows in the city under the banner of Bad Reputation promotions, and Culhane is a sound engineer and musicians who plays in local prog instrumentalists Shardborne and punk knockabouts We Come in Pieces.
Culhane spoke to Limerick Life ahead of this weekend’s Siege, about what exactly goes down at the Siege. “It’s free entry and runs all day and its home is in Dolans. We have 30+ bands playing who are local, national and international- touring calibre acts.”
That means, this Sunday will see bands appearing on the Dolans Warehouse, Upstairs and Kasbah stages from 1pm onwards. With such a stacked bill, it is unsurprisingly difficult to single out potential highlights, but there are a few acts that Culhane is particularly looking forward to.
“Each Siege is special and has had its moments but for me the absolute highlight was having Primordial- the kings of Irish metal – play for our 10th edition. The main headliner [for this Samhain edition] is Orange Goblin, veterans of the stoner metal genre. They have been going since the 1995 and are the biggest act we’ve had yet, so I am expecting their set to eclipse anything else we’ve had before!”
The addition of British metallers Orange Goblin at what is a free event is a huge coup for the organisers. Ciaran also pinpoints the set of Tipperary prog sludge merchants Zhora as ones to watch. No strangers to the Siege, Zhora will be appearing as part of the launch tour for the much-anticipated album Ethos, Pathos, Logos.
“We also have Old Season, Irish heavy metal legends whose set I’m personally very much looking forward to!” adds Ciaran.
Furthermore, there is significant local interest with the likes of Zealot Cult, Xero and No Mans Land all on the bill.
As such, the organisation of the Siege of Limerick festivals is a year-round task. “We start laying plans roughly a year in advance- securing headliners and choosing the right bands to at each festival. We make sure we have a wide variety within the metal spectrum and try to have a healthy mix of local, national and foreign bands. On the day we have several volunteers who make it all work. They help with dealing with the bands, selling merch and doing stage work and without their help it wouldn’t be possible,” notes Culhane.
There is a real sense of community to these events, which partially explains why Bad Reputation have ran 18 editions of it over the past nine years. It also marks ten years since they started promoting shows in Limerick, at a time when there was a dearth of metal and hardcore shows in the city.
“We’ve been running events all year to it – we’ve had Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Napalm Death, and Diamond Head in November, and we’ve tried to make this the biggest and most exciting Siege yet. Our goal is always to go bigger and better and to learn from each event to make the next one even more fun for the crowd.”
As always, it is expected that buses, trains, and cars full of metallers will be making their way to Limerick this weekend, significantly boosting the local economy in the process. However, perhaps what is not well-known is that the festivals attract metal fans from much further afield.
“The Siege has been host to visitors from all corners of the world! We’ve had people travel from all over Europe, the USA and Canada but the most impressive is a fan from Japan who has travelled specifically to Ireland to come to the Siege!”
For Culhane, it is clear that the Siege has had an impact on the city’s cultural and social landscape. “While we don’t receive any funding, people recognise that it is attracting several hundred people to the city twice a year that wouldn’t be here otherwise! We get tremendous help from Dolans. I’d like to think that a lot of general folks are aware of its existence – if you walk around the city with a metal T shirt you always get someone asking if you’ve been to the Siege.
The Siege of Limerick takes place at Dolans on Sunday, 29 October, from 12.30pm to 2am. More info at siegeoflimerick.net