Review: Ava castle party

Art & Culture

The Easter licensing laws in Northern Ireland are really quite tragic. The Republic may have lifted their ninety year ban on the serving of alcohol, but things aren’t quite as contemporary in the North.

Those in charge of Northern Ireland seem hell bent on making all of us, tourists included, suffer because of their religious beliefs, so what can we do? AVA to the rescue.

The AVA Castle Party has now become something of a tradition. Once in danger of a very sober Easter weekend, the AVA crew now take bus loads of people from Newry and Belfast to Warrenpoint for a day party. Narrow Water Castle isn’t a normal destination for a rave. Its tower house displays traditional 14th Century Irish architecture and its story is one of rebellion, tragedy and ambush. 

It’s a truly beautiful setting. A massive tent has been pitched in the castles shadow, transforming the grounds into the temporary abode of today’s performers. There’s something satisfying about being able to detach yourself from the excitement of a DJ set to take in the calming spirit of the Mourne Mountains.

The first artist I catch is Marion Hawkes. I actually saw Marion performing no more than a week ago alongside GIRL associate and good friend Claire Hall. Once again she blows me away with her vast and obscure knowledge of dance music. A selector in every sense of the word.

I leave the euphoria of the outside tent and venture deep into the basement dungeon of the castle itself. Lasers and kick drums bounce of the medieval-esqe walls as I enter a long and narrow room. Clockwork’s Patrick Campbell is at the helm.

Narrow Water Castle actually first came to my attention as a rave destination through the Clockwork crew. I attended their second ever party, where Phil Kieran was playing, and was stunned at how such a historical building had been transformed into a techno frenzy for the evening. 

Patrick proceeds to bang out techno that would usually be unnecessary for a 17:30 set, but here, in the darkness of the basement, it moulds together wonderfully. Dublin’s Quinton Campbell, who conducted my favourite set of last year’s Castle Party, steps up next, showcasing the level of consistency that has become a part of the furniture in both his performances and productions. He even gives an unreleased track of his a test drive, much to the enjoyment of the crowd. 

There’s a family aura sown into the DNA of AVA. It reflects in the locality of the line up. Two DJ’s that I was quite surprised to see playing with one another was Mikey Johnston and Conor Hairding. The latter enjoys a disco tinged sound, whilst Mikey’s sets tend to sway towards a tougher aesthetic. Both meet in the middle here to produce one of the standout sets of the evening. 

As we wave goodbye to the sun, disappearing behind the hills above, we say hello to our two headliners. Say the name Bloody Mary three times in the mirror and ghost of her will appear behind you, so the story goes. We had a different kind of Bloody Mary here. This one loves acid techno, and so does, it seems, the animalistic crowd in front of her.

Panorama Bar favourite Prosumer sees out proceedings in the tent with an absolute masterclass of a set, floating seamlessly between eras as an energetic Dave Tester, in full costume, dances on stage.

The only disappointing aspect of this year’s Castle Party is that it had to end so early. Unfortunately, Easter licensing laws still apply once the sun goes down. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to reciprocate the antics of Prosumer’s Berlin mates and go for the full twenty four hours.

Here’s hoping. 

Photography courtesy of Luke Joyce.


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