Wednesday 20th June – Pre-festival.
I arrived down with a few other volunteers from Galway, Juley-Ann Collins who kindly gave me a lift from the city to the festival site and possibly saving me to have to get two or three buses. My other companions on the journey was Amanda from Scotland and another fellah who looked like a seasoned festival goer and volunteer, his name I cannot remember for the moment.
Made loads of friends at the crew camp site and managed to get my tent up before the cloudburst set in. I was the only one with a wee boogie box so set about playing my festival ipod mix and socialising with my new neighbours.
Thursday 21st June.
I got up around the same time as Juley-Ann and Amanda as they were working for the Thursday, so I tried to get some work so that I could save myself from working the full weekend of the festival, but unfortunately I was already slotted into the schedule, so I set out to explore the woodland of Ballinlough Castle. The majority of people working on forest installations and wicker work exhibitions were heads and colourful hippy types, free spirited folk proud of their hedonistic culture with a love for the crafts and shared experiences. No doubt influenced by other festivals of similar ilk, such as the after hours area and stone circle area of Glastonbury, the ambient forests of Bestival and Connect festival in Scotland, not forgetting that other pagan inspired Scottish festival, Wickerman. I went back to the tent for some food, my selection for sounds was the Aphex Twin concert from last years Forbidden Fruit festival in Dublin. About twenty minutes into the set Aphex ups the tempo to a faster bpm, mixing Dublin IDM musicians Lakker with a mid 1990s Autechre track called Vletrmx21. About five minutes later Niall, one of my neighbours asks me if that is Aphex Twin live, to which I reply that its the Forbidden Fruit. It turns out that he was also at the same gig and that he remembered that moment, again a joint shared experience that we both had making it a very festival occasion. Niall, Jeff, Sharon, Patricia and Emenne were all working on an installation using a large plasma screen with the projection coming from behind, all sorts of mandalas and wooden pieces hung from the trees, creating a natural audio visual living room amongst the trees.
Friday 22nd June.
Got up about 9.30 am as I wanted to be clear headed for the volunteer meeting and the discussion of shifts at 12 pm. I got a pleasant surprise to find that Deirdre Mullins and Benard McGlinchey were also volunteering for the weekend, good friends of Gavins and stalwarts of festival volunteering and festivals in general, like me they thought is was a fun way most of the time to work for the festival ticket.
When we all turned up for the meeting, it was put off till 2.30 pm as some of the volunteers had not arrived yet, so the office was trying to establish who was exactly on site. So with more time to kill, I set off with Deirdre and Benard to the car park to give them a hand with setting up. Finally the meeting, no orientation happened but the volunteers were split into three groups, A, B and C. I opted for C as both these shifts were day shifts, I would be working at the car park on Saturday morning from 8 am to 2 pm and Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm. As a requisite for our wristbands we were required to put in 12 hours work. Deirdre and Benard chose group A (I think) which had a shift starting tonight from 6 pm to midnight and at 2pm till 8 the following day. I mostly hung about with them until it was time for them to go to the office to sign in.
After a bite to eat and a bit of chill in the tent, I found out that Gavin would be arriving at 8 pm, having phoned him to order some beer in as my own supply had dwindled from being here since Wednesday. I also wanted to actually find out where the car park actually was as Juley had drove straight into the crew camp and I wanted to get my bearings for tomorrow. As luck had it, Deirdre and Benard were working at the entrance, so they would be actually directing Gavin to his parking spot. It was nice to be there to give him a hand as it was a bit of a trek from the car park to the main camp site. On the way through the entrance we looked at Ballinlough Castle, one of Gavin’s friends remarked that it looked like paper mache. Further on we passed a stage with a live theatre show, yep, this was the starting of the creative madness that is Body & Soul.
Once Gavin had settled in and we were suitably refreshed we went for a saunter through the woods, security steps in front of us, “You cannot exit through here, this is only an entrance.” He said. So as we found the exit and I was told by another security guard to bin my beer, godammit! I just opened that one too, ah well, I am not a mad beer person anyway. When the forest was lit up at night time it took on an appearance of an exciting wonderland where hippies, gnomes, otters, white goddesses, Siouxsie Sioux’s, Two Tone Rude Boys, freaks and geeks and families would converge. That sounds odd doesn’t it, but it wasn’t really.
The Body & Soul pushes its message about being at one with nature, but also in the face of straight society its weekend party also incorporates the counter culture that we grew up with in the sixties and it still makes relevant today with the electro noughties. Along with this counter culture clash is its druggy nature too, it happens and more so at festivals, but most festival goers with a bit of common sense will do their mind altering sensibly, or at least as an enhancement towards the activeness of dance or of relaxing and chilling.
Certainly there was all sorts of music abound in the wood, there was a dance stage with House music booming whilst at the other side a delicate bit of twine formed into an otherworldly lattice of webs with floodlights illuminating it and the leaves of the trees.
The festival covered many different types of music, blues, traditional, world music, ambient sound scape music, tacky 1980s disco, dance music, funk and reggae. On Saturday and Sunday the choices expanded to electro, dubstep, drum and bass and indie electro rock. The reggae area was called Port Royal, a Jamaican style village much like its Electric Picnic cousin Trenchtown. It was the same people running it, but it seems that Trenchtown is copyrighted to the Electric Picnic, so they had to change the name. Because of this one way system from the main camp site, it threw me and Gavin, as we remembered that Port Royal was near the camp site entrance but the exit was in the other direction, hence why I am leading Gavin astray when we were looking for some reggae in this video clip.
There was a nice mix of styles in the Port Royal tent, the main thing being there was always a solid base of roots reggae in the music, but at times it would spur off into ragga, dubstep and drum and bass or completely experimental, such as taking popular hits and putting a reggae slant on them like with what 2ManyDJs does with the Jackson’s Shake Your Body Down (To the ground).
After a while at the reggae tent, I stole half an hour to take some photos of floodlit trees before retiring to my tent for the night.
Saturday 23rd June.
I awoke at 7 am as I wanted to get my head together for my shift which was starting in an hour. Me and a few other folk gathered at the volunteers office was told by Jelena Derk, the volunteers coordinator to go to Gate A the main car park entrance. Things were very quiet for the first hour or two, only the odd car coming in, we basically had to point the cars towards security who would direct them into parking spaces, we had to advice them not to accelerate too much especially in more water logged areas (It had rained the last three nights) as we would be forever pushing them out again.
We were moved to entrance B as entrance A had become too packed or else because of the rain some of the land had become unusable. Maybe I got too much into my job as I kept directing all cars towards security, at one point they shouted to me to hold them up as some cars waiting in the queue were getting stuck on a steep rise in the path. It was about 11.30 when things started to really hot up, the flow of cars being endless. Some drivers were being complete idiots and ignoring my direction, deciding that they were parking where they liked. Two hot girls in a sports car did this, I just told them security would be moving them shortly.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the festival was actually selling out of tickets. The box office van at entrance B was creating a problem for the traffic flow as many people who were buying tickets there had their vehicles parked up on the gravelly entrance blocking others. Now we all know that festivals do need hot headed security sometimes to keep things moving, enter Robbie, one of the heads of production security, who quickly barked at the blocking traffic to clear to which a lot did. Robbie is probably an extremely pleasant bloke, but if it wasn’t for him and car park volunteer supervisor Skinny, the car park would have descended into complete chaos. I learnt some valuable lessons in organising festival car parks, both Robbie and Skinny were at different ends, cutting swathes into the meadows and creating car parks. Anyway, because we were so busy, my shift had flown in, so back to the crew camp to sign back out and enjoy some food and sounds, I met Benard on the way to his shift, he looked worse for wear after drinking rum and various other things the night before, I was glad I was not him.
Reid – Upstage Tent 4 pm – 5pm.
After wandering through the Walled garden and getting my steak burger, I set about exploring the area, Club Havana had Latino techno blasting out which is not my cup of tea really, I was in search of something bassy and electronic. This I found at the Upstage tent with Cork DJ and electronic musician Reid. Reid was playing a nice ambient IDM beat, that was lively enough not to be considered as chill out and I have to say, the Upstage had one of the best sound systems at the festival. Reid’s style used backward loops which formed the bass of the track giving off a trancey mesmeric feel. I have heard this technique over recent years used by both the more edgier Bloody Beetroots and Fake Blood and Aphex Twin last year at Forbidden Fruit festival. you will understand what I mean when you hear this video clip of Reid’s track Forrest.
It was off to the Port Royal for a while to drink a few tins of beer and to boogie about to some reggae with Gavin, Niall, Caroline and John.
The Herbaliser – Main Stage 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm.
There was some confusion at first as some people reckoned the Herbaliser was going to be in the Upstage tent, so some time was wasted waiting around for them to show up, of course we should have known better, the Herbaliser was billed for the main stage. Eventually myself, Gavin and a few folk managed to catch a bit of their set during a steady drizzle of rain. As per usual the Herbaliser excel in their brand of jazz, hip hop, scratch and funk. I also forgot that some of their repertoire featured a bit of roots reggae too. There was a nice turn out for their set despite the rain.
Back to the reggae tent for some more sociable banter, a few tunes and a bite to eat, the chicken jerky wrap should get a special mention at a pricey seven euros it was a meal and a half, so worth every cent. Now to find a loo, one of the weak points of the festival, the portaloos were scarce and most in the arena area had serious queues all the time. I eventually gave up in the end and decided to walk to the crew camp site loos with no queue whatsoever. At some point I wandered into the Upstage and caught a bit of Def Disko’s set, a bass heavy techno and dubstep sound, alternating between this and the reggae tent.
By this time of the night it became quite apparent that many people were off their bins, 2CI being the drug of choice for most, a combination of MDMA and LSD, many people were tripping and the smell of skunk weed came from every nook and cranny. Most of the time the forest area was very mild, chimes, singing bowls, funk, electro and laughing voices and shrieks filled the air, but this could sometimes turn downright creepy when, say, the Upstage or main stage areas emptied and people in fancy dress, people dressed normally, grinning mad people and children spilled into the forest. At times it resembled a large Halloween celebration in the woods, the creatures of the night are here to repossess your soul. Well this is the impression it probably made to someone who was on acid anyway. Who was the most confused I don’t know, the drugged out festival goers or the Garda, if they were going to arrest people for drug abuse they would have to arrest three quarters of the attendees.
It has to be said, some parents didn’t seem to really care that their kids had been watching them take copious amounts of drugs or drinking their silly heads off. As you know I am not knocking all parents at the festival, there was many responsible parents there to who took turns at looking after their kids. One parent would sacrifice their Saturday to bring the kids to Soul Kids area, while the other would take a turn on the Sunday.
Django Django – Main Stage 8.30 pm – 9.30 pm.
The Scottish group had the audience in the palm of their hand, their music an infectious intoxication of 1960s psychedelia, electronica, rockabilly and good pop hooks. The arena was absolutely rammed for their performance despite the on and off showers that came occasionally. Django Django have that similar energy to bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs, but even more innovative in the way XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel tore up the New Wave charts. I managed to catch a short clip of the bands track WOR which I should have recorded in its entirety, but was worried of using all my memory in the camera. But this particular track I captured reminds me of that echoey 1950s rockabilly music you sometimes hear on the Sopranos soundtrack, or even harks back to those 1980s bands like the Cramps and the Stray Cats. This is certainly a band I want to catch again, so hopefully at the Picnic.
Around about 10 pm I remember being in the reggae tent and being blown away by two DJs D-Snipe followed by a female DJ called DJ Kali (Kelly Embleton), the way the roots reggae was effortlessly blended with DnB and dubstep made for a high octane evening of exhilarating dance. This is what its all about, discovering new artists and music. https://www.facebook.com/kelley.embleton
Unknown Stage – Unknown Band (Forest) Tin style Barn Stage 11 pm.
While wandering through the forest I came across this group who were silhouetted by their stage lights quickly gathering an audience with their sound, I can only describe them as having a similar energy to the likes of the John Butler Trio, but they were one of my highlights of the weekend. Maybe someone reading this will be able to identify said group and stage. In fact this was another weak spot about the festival, all their info concentrated on the main stages but hardly any info about the smaller stages such as Port Royal and the one I am talking about.
The last few hours was spent mainly in Port Royal with the lads soaking up the reggae vibes, I headed off to bed at 1.30 am as I was up early next morning to complete my last shift at the car park.
Sunday 24th June.
Sunday was a lot more easier shift wise, as there was only expected to be two hundred cars today arriving at the car park. Security would go off ahead to check for possible spaces for cars, we would then just point the cars in the direction of security guys. Time flew in quick enough, it was busy enough but not too stressful, which Saturday was a bit. had good banter with Phelim and Fez and other volunteers, Kevin the security guy and Skinny. Finally at 3 pm my shift was over and I was free to enjoy the rest of the festival. yippee.
I relaxed for about an hour in the crew camp eating some fruit and nuts and cracking open a few cans, my sounds for then was one of the Life festival RTE Pulse FM podcasts, which had some nice dub reggae/dubstep crossover and some Synkro and then some nutty Bloody Beetroots tracks. It was off the the Walled Garden, the lower end to get me a steak burger, this particular stall also done nice Frankfurter sausages too. There was some nice dance sounds coming out of the Upstage tent, courtesy of the fine Donal Dineen, he was laying out some filthy house, by coincidence all my mates were hanging about and dancing outside the tent.
St Vincent – Main Stage 6.45 pm – 7.45 pm.
St Vincent tore up the floor of the main stage arena with her set to a packed audience, she played some fine gnarly guitar and played some nice selections from her third album Strange Mercy. It only dawned on me halfway through the set that I had saw her before, the RTE 2 series Under Ether had featured one of her videos last year which I liked, so it was just coincidence that I caught this particular show. Her music brand a kind of blistering indie rock with a punkish energy, although there was some slower numbers in there too. Having not caught the full set I missed her stage dive into the audience, but since, someone has upped it onto Youtube.
One of the things about festivals if I do not have a particular plan is to just float between the stages and soak in the new sounds, as my mate (Sorla) John Dolan says, “Just follow your heart with the music.”
At some point I hit upon an idea at crew camp where I would ask a few people what they thought of the Body & Soul festival and what it meant to them, I only managed to get three people to participate in this, Juley-Ann Collins, Eddy and another fellah called Rob.
Little Dragon – Main Stage 8.15 pm – 9.15 pm.
Caught a bit of Swedish electro rock act Little Dragon who pulled a sensational crowd and pummelled us with electro dubstep rock, singer Yukimi Nagano is like another Bjork, with that same mad energy careering about the stage. They were the perfect late evening act to keep the energy flowing in the crowd, with a great electronic sound. Over the last few years the amount of great electronic music to come from Scandinavia has been phenomenal with the likes Fever Ray/The Knife, Lykke Li, Royksopp and of course the exceptional Little Dragon, who I will now be investigating. Hopefully the Picnic will snap them up too.
I went back to the reggae area to relax for a while as I did want to catch a bit of M83s set, but did not want to be crammed into the main stage area all of the time. While I was there I met some randomers from Kilkenny and one of the lads was from Leitrim, my home area in Ireland.
I also had a few tins with Gavin, Benard, John, Caroline and Niall and listened to some funky reggae music, the reggae tent being half empty now because of the weather being nice and sunny.
M83 – Main Stage 9.45 pm – 10.45 pm.
There was a fine crowd gathered for this French group who seems to be wowing audiences around the world at various festivals such as Coachella and Primavera. I did not know much of their material but had been looking at the Youtube clips of their shows which impressed me. How do I describe their music, a sorta indie rock sound with interesting electronics, waves of synthesiser sound backed by a solid, uptempo rock groove. There was two singers, a female who played the keyboards and shook her mane and a male singer. One of the final numbers I recognised from the radio, Midnight City was well received, the audience joining in with the mimicry of the synthesiser squeal, this is another band I am going to do some research on, no doubt they will be playing at the Picnic too.
The last hour or two was spent traipsing around the forest making sure there was not stuff that I missed and using up the available memory in my camera to record some installations and goings on.
When I went to the reggae tent every one I knew had disappeared, perhaps the weekend proved too much for some of them and they had an early night, this was the case with Gavin and Caroline anyway. Eventually I grew a bit tired myself, some of the ground had never fully recovered from the rain in the last few days so it could be still tough to walk in or perhaps I was just getting old with not as much energy as the 24 hour dancers around me.
Monday 25th June.
Another festival over for the year, I set the alarm for 9 am as I wanted time to wake up for a bit before I disassembled my tent. At 10 I went to the volunteers office to get back my deposit and say my cheerios to the volunteer staff and off to the main camp site to meet up with Gav, Caroline and co as they were giving me a lift back to Galway. John was in a merry state having had some whiskey and vodka, so I decided to bring out my boogie box and play some rips from Life festival the month before, so for John the festival was still on and myself too, I never really wanted it to end in first place. Till next year dudes, have a good one.