Live Review: Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival, Bundoran Beach, Bundoran 17.06.2020-19.06.2022

The picturesque seaside town of Bundoran, Donegal, is the homestead of long running surf and music festival, Sea Sessions. Every year, the festival sees up to 10,000 people make their way across the country to see some of the best music Ireland has to offer. As it is one of the first festivals of the year, and one of the first back post-covid, there was an extra element of excitement both from the acts as the audience in attendance. The festival was divided into three stages, The Main Stage, The Vuse Stage and The Astoria Stage where a series of DJ’s played over the weekend. 

The lineup featured a predominantly Irish demographic with the exception of two headliners; Basement Jaxx who played on the Sunday night and Tinie Tempah who headlined the first night. For many, the headliners were a bonus for attending the festival, people were spoiled with choice of upcoming Irish acts on the cusp of becoming some of the most iconic in Ireland. Rachel Mae Hannon opened the weekend as the first act on the main stage and her attention drawing performance cemented her place in the Irish music scene as one to watch this year. The rest of Friday saw highlights from Pa Sheehy, 49th & Main and All Tvvins on the Vuse Stage. While Irish hip-hop acts Chasing Abbey and Kneecap were amazing on the Main Stage, bringing absolutely magnificent energy to the stage. 

As the night continued, the Main Stage began to fill up all waiting to see Tinie Tempah. Any skepticism in regards to seeing Tinie Tempah live were instantly diminished as the hype man had the entire crowd in his hands. A virtuous performance took place and it seemed to be the perfect remedy for a festival hungry crowd who hung on his every word. Written In The Stars was the crowd favourite but the crowd loved every second of his performance singing back to him and dancing during the entire set. 

The next day saw a turn away from rap and hip-hop with more of a focus on indie and heavy rock. N.O.A.H and Kehli opened the day on Main Stage and Vuse Stage respectively. Thumper played a rowdy set early in the day but the time did not worry the seasoned rockers as they managed to create an impressive mosh pit, all before 5pm. Kynsy played later in the day and for anyone new to this emo rocker, she has to be the most exciting act to see in person in 2022. Two more stand out acts on the Vuse Stage on Saturday were Dublin artists Gemma Dunleavy and Malaki who played phenomenally to a crowd who enjoyed every minute. The Main Stage also saw Lyra and True Tides who were both phenomenal.

Kodaline were the main act for the evening and it is not surprising that the entire main stage tent was packed out just to see the indie pop stars in their element. The undeniable trait about Kodaline is their ability to play high quality pop songs in a very professional way. As an outfit, Kodaline never put a foot wrong and it really is a sensation to see them live. Following Kodaline, The Scratch played a set of heavy trad rock that turned the crowd from pop lovers to ballad bashers with mosh pits and beer throwing all the range. As far as the weekend goes, the award for most entertaining group has to go to The Scratch. 

As the Sunday crept up, it was difficult to see how musicians would be able to pull the audience from the hangover briars. However, it seemed as if Sea Sessions had accounted for this in booking the lineup as acts like Big Sleep opening the final day who played some really sweet indie gems serenaded with perfect trumpet performance. Once the cobwebs were shaken, it was over to Bobbi Arlo to wake everyone back up and prepare for the final day of Sea Sessions on the Vuse Stage. What started off as being a relatively small sized crowd, Arlo drew in a crowd of close to 100 people who were all on their feet and grooving. The Dublin born and raised pop singer has an ability to play, dance and interact with the crowd that must be admired and furthermore, must be seen. Fia Moon then brought some soft soulful pop goodness to Main Stage which was lovely to warm the crowd back up.

Anna Mularkey took to the Vuse Stage to supply a set of spacey style vibes through a style of musicianship unmatched over the entire weekend. Mularkey’s style is best described as alternative but to thoroughly understand the brilliance of what she does, it’s best to just hit play. Lea Heart was next on the Main Stage and this was definitely the turning point for Sunday as she seemed to ignite the crowd who were full of energy after the performance. More Irish talent in Pastiche, Aby Coulibaly and Shiv killed it on the Vuse Stage, while Liverpoolian singer-songwriter Jamie Webster brought his charm and fantastic songwriting skills to Main Stage which the crowd seemed to enjoy thoroughly.

Mullingar rockers The Academic were next on Main Stage making the crowd go wild from the very first song to the last. Lead singer Craig was definitely up for the festival with his fantastic dance moves and crowd interaction. The Academic played phenomenally, bringing fantastic professionalism to the stage. Closing out what was a full weekend of music, was Dundalk poet, musician and songwriter, David Keenan. Keenan has an inexplicably tender way of drawing a beautiful crowd. Collectively, people engaged and encouraged Keenan knowing this would be the final hurrah for Sea Sessions.

Sea Sessions proved to be the best way to begin the festival season and if you have never had the pleasure of attending the surf and music festival, keep an eye out for tickets soon for 2023.

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