Everything started off so smoothly on Sunday 18th May, someone had got in touch with me through Boards.ie the life festival thread about a lift to Mullingar from Galway, I cannot remember their name at the moment but thank you for saving me using the crummy Irish public transport. Got to Belevedere House by 8.30 pm, met Gavin who brought me to the volunteer section of the campsite, set up my tent next to the only other arrival that day, Donegal man Senan McCann only to find I didn’t have the tent poles nor the pegs, Senan immediately broke the ice by offering me a space in his much bigger tent and the party started on from there, excited talk about music, playing music in the beat box, drinking beers and getting to know the man who would save my weekend big time.
Over the next few days tent city emerged in a gentle calamitous way, volunteers arriving on Monday and Tuesday, winding their way across the country from the four corners, firewood was found, a small campfire built, more excited talk about music and about the madness that lay ahead, I learned about an electronic musician called Daniel Avery while I turned on others to a psy trance artist called The Peace Maker from Israel and you know, festivals are all about discoveries. During the days we worked with a variety of people, fences popped up out of nowhere with Fionn and Shane, posts were laid along with rope to mark out the campsites and road tracks for festival traffic to the car park. We were looked after well by Life festival and the Belvedere Courtyard restaurant staff fed us some amazing food. Come Thursday with the arrival of weekend volunteers the campsite resembled a small festival in its own right, everyone gathered around the campfire playing beat boxes or banging drums and bodhrans, I done the occasional mouth music lilt of reels and jigs, we were truly celebrating as our work was done and we were now free to roam the festival with our wristband earned. The lead up to the festival for me was as good as the actual festival itself thanks to everyone present, too numerous to name but you know who you are. Got to meet Lorna Murphy the volunteer coordinator and some of the staff within, one of them who kindly gave me his copy of the festival timetable.
Friday 23rd May.
The first two campsites filled up fairly quickly while the stages within the arena teased us with music while we waited patiently to get in, this always happens on day one of all festivals, people mad to get into the arena to be blasted to pieces by sound systems.
The first live music of the day for me was provided by a very hard working Irish rock band called the Hot Sprockets who must have played every single Irish festival last year, they were the third opening act for the main stage and they gave off a nice uppy energy from their set. A bit of rock n roll will do Life no harm.
Chris who runs the Apache clothes stall in the main campsite would regale me with many funny stories about previous festivals and Life’s too throughout the weekend, a very interesting character from Northern Ireland, in fact he implored me to check out some of the festivals up there, especially the one in Rathlin Island.
I wanted to hear some mad electronica so I headed for the Liquid Tent and caught a bit of Richard Entropy’s set, his set had sonic drum n bass with a sub bass that almost cut my recording mike in half and a sizable enough lively crowd in the tent escaping the heavy drizzle building up outside. I took a wee blast of the Liquid tent and the main arena to give a sense of slowly moving through the area with an assortment of sounds coming from different areas.
My memory of Friday is quite hazy, I think I made numerous trips up to the campsite as the craic was always good up there, Senan’s tent was at times like a busy bar and numerous conversations with all sorts of mad folk or the pallet seating area beside the now defunct campfire that was a strict no no during the actual festival, security would be up with the fire extinguisher like a shot. I also had a Friday dinner at the Charcoal Grill, the large steak burger which I rave about in every review. Most of the time I just kept on the move soaking up the various stages. I quickly found my favourite chill out area, the tree stumps between the Twisted Pepper Tent and the Bear Trap Stage leading to the lakeside area, I would meet some wonderful people over the weekend here and have the zaniest of conversations, a randomers haven one would say. I filmed a small clip to give an idea of what this was like.
Nina Kraviz – Red Bull Main Arena 12 am – 1.10 am
Caught most of Nina Kravis’s set, heavy pulsating techno that just got intenser and intenser, I meant to be a mere bystander and to just take in ten minutes of it or so, but it was that bloody good that I stayed for the whole show. Hats of to Red Bull, they created a spacious tent with many openings where you could easily slip in and get up close to watch the DJ in action with an astonishing sound system and astonishing visuals. Kravis had an infectious groove, her music reminding me of the Life 2012 main stage closers Ben Klock and Marcel Dettman, scintillating electronica and techno with an infectious pulse.
Groove Armada – Main Stage 00.5o am – 2.40 am
Caught a bit of the Groove Armada set, they had a nice crowd gathered lapping up the main stage lasers and some of their famous hits, but something was missing, yep, the live group that made their name legendary, yep, I know it was billed as a DJ set but it felt more like actual disc jockeys playing Groove Armada’s greatest hits, so for me it seemed like they phoned in their performance, they should have, at the very least brought along one of their famous MCs doing some of the lines from the albums.
I had a fairly early night on Friday, maybe I’m getting too old for this lark but Friday night was the coldest of the festival, I cannot remember if I lay down to sleep in Senan’s tent or Samantha’s but sleep I did.
Saturday 24th May
Having missed the first three opening reggae acts on the main stage, Ri Ra and Cian Finn and the Dirty Dubsters but still appreciating them from the campsite, I thought it was an ace up Life festival’s sleeve to have roots reggae, ragga, drum n bass and jungle on in the early afternoons to energise the festival punters and somehow made up for a lack of a tent or area hosted by the likes of the Rootical Sound System. So I made sure to catch a bit of the next act, 2Nice, basically some DJs and a singer/MC who would toast and ragga rap over the music, nothing to get you more bouncing than a bit of reggae and jungle.
Edit: Apologies to the Dirty Dubsters, I mixed you up due to the messy timetable and not really knowing who was on when.
Got a bite and a coffee in the campsite from the O’Briens stall, a nice tuna wrap with melted cheese and up to the campsite to mingle with assorted hungover folk and some who never went to sleep at all, still going hard at it. This time I brought the tripod and wanted to get a nice shot and video clip of the Neutronyx Stage, but couldn’t get the hang of it, the camera kept going at a slant.
Tawp – Neutronyx Stage 4pm -4.30 pm.
Tawp was playing a high energy psy trance with a nice group of followers galloping all over the place, twas like a zombie meltdown, a combination of gurners and people casting spells with their hands to the music, the pulse bearing them wilder.
Edit: I initially thought this was Lah Narrad on stage, I was in contact with him through Facebook and he has since confirmed that it wasn’t him but Tawp who was playing at this time. He had swapped dates with Tawp, Lah Narrad was playing at 5pm on Sunday instead.
I went up to say hello to the guy with the chocolate strawberry stall, I’ve known him since Sea Sessions festival at 2010 where I thought his idea of melted chocolate over a bunch of fresh strawberries with cocktail sticks was the best thing ever, I bought three of them I think one night, but ever since we meet a festivals he gives me a discount on the bottle of water, a vital component in the need for hydration with leaping about at one stage and then another.
I went off to the Liquid Tent in search of a bassier sound, maybe drum n bass or maybe dub step, sometimes a combination of both or just really cool bassy electronica.
Mode 7 – Liquid Tent 6pm – 7 pm
Caught a bit of the act Mode 7, the reason I say Mode 7 is because the guys in the video don’t photo match anyone else in the Life info on their website, they appear to be the only ones without a photo but just a logo, so I assume its these guys, they were making a nice kind of dub steppy space music, nice warbly bass bits that oozed over an urgent bpm beat that verged into drum n bass, so very interesting bass music, its hard to describe in some ways but really good to listen to.
The Rap Scallions – Bear Trap Stage 6pm – 6.30pm
I took a trip towards the lakeside wanting to check out some of the stages down there, on my way I heard an interesting rap act playing on the Bear Trap stage, Galway band the Rap Scallions who were tearing through their song What you on about to a nice wee crowd gathered and who gave a refreshing variety to the music on offer throughout the weekend. I liked the Bear Trap stage too it reminded me of the Salty Dog stage from Electric Picnic with its quirky mad bands.
It was just after I filmed the Rap Scallions that my 4gigabyte memory card in my Nikon J1 camera became full, so no more HD footage, luckily I also brought my small Sony camera, so back to the campsite to get that, of course, there is mighty craic happening there, I get handed a can of Guinness among various other things and everyone in great form. The one thing, a permanent drizzle at times didn’t get us down really but sometimes we did yearn for the sun, we did get a sunset but it was too little too late, ah what the hell, its Ireland, you can’t have perfect for every Life festival.
Kormacs Big Band – Main Stage 7pm – 9.15 pm
In some cases the timetable was a bit messy because of the late start to the afternoons with entry into the main arena, the artists reviewed above were due to start their sets during Kormac’s set, but Kormac appears to be on later. Anyway Kormac and his band put on a lively show with a sizable audience pulled in with its lively music of barber shop quartet, ska, techno and downbeat stuff, they also premiered tracks from their new album which had more trippier ambient moments to it. Kormacs big Band a reliable crowd pleaser who delivers the goods. I took a clip from the top of the hill that suitably takes in a bit of the mist and drizzle in the atmosphere.
Back on track I head over to the lakeside area to see who is on the Bedlam Stage, one of the Dublin nightclubs hosting a stage, I have actually no idea who is playing on this stage, but its nice pumping House music that has a good crowd dancing it up. After much asking around on Facebook and the like, Lane 8 has confirmed that its not him playing so the DJ on stage in the clip is TCTS.
Jamie XX – RBMA 9pm – 9.40 pm
Jamie XX was one of the acts I wanted to check out having seen the XX at Electric Picnic 2012, I liked his cool electronics and beats behind the band, so I found myself gravitating towards the Red Bull stage without realising it was actually him, nice cool edgy techno that you could imagine jamming with bass and guitar too. Last year in comparison the music in the Red Bull arena was super cheesy and they didn’t have a great sound system, but this year they have excelled with a spot on sound system and edgier left of the field electronic acts. Each act with a different VJ video screen production of amazing colourful visuals. What more could you ask for, a spacious airy dry tent with mind melting visuals, amazing electronic artists and a chance to see them close up glitching, toing and froing between Kaoss pads and mixers and a great big heaving mass bopping up and down to the rhythm.
Nathan Fake – RBMA 10pm – 11pm
Nathan Fake also provided a nice lashing of beats and techno, some nice ice cool jazz electronic moments with snares and hi hat type sounds intricately dancing over the bass throb and another act that had me spellbound with the visuals.
One minute there is a guy setting up next to Nathan Fake and within the next minute a huge LFO comes up in the screen.
LFO – RBMA 11pm – 12am
LFO were a mad crazy sound, old school bleeps and blops hardcore techno, an old Warp label act that sent the Red Bull tent into overdrive, they were insane but hypnotic and their visuals were intense, but they had me by their grasp for a good forty five minutes. They dropped a melody at some point which I recognised from a few Aphex Twin sets in 2008 from bootlegs at Oxegen and Coachella, I suppose they are on the same label so all the same mad stuff, anyways LFO have a new convert.
At this point I headed up to the campsite for a wee rest as my sensory overload had taking a belting after the LFO set, so it was nice to go back and chill with some of my fellow campers plus I wanted to bring in a few cans of Guinness and my EP 2007 eco cup into the main arena, same rule as EP, you can bring cans in after the bars shut at 11 pm so I was in a fine mood to guzzle some stout. I also made it a point to go to the chill out spot between the Twisted Pepper and the Bear Trap where I met a wonderful couple who were in the same state as me and thought of the same spot to come to. Myself and another volunteer also spotted a fellow camper who was wandering about in a daze, he explained to us that he had been wandering about the main arena for at least four hours and couldn’t work out how to get back to the campsite, so myself and the other volunteer (from Mayo) helped him back to his tent.
The couple I was with couldn’t really make up their mind about where they wanted to go, so on a whim we all decided to go down to the Neutronyx Stage to get a bit of mad whizzing psy trance. When we arrived at the stage they decided to head back to the campsite as the music was a bit mental, I decided to stay at that point as I hadn’t seen any live music for an hour or two.
Parasense – Neutronyx Stage – 2.30 am – 3 am (Closing act for Saturday)
Parasense were wickedly wild, a Russian act from Moscow, it was kind of hard to describe their sound but it was truly psychedelic, think of an airplane crash mashed in that frenetic psy trance gallop with all class of stops and mutes in the sound, thats about as accurate as I can get about about Parasense and the audience this time really did look like a zombie invasion of freaks mutating to the sound, a cool closing end to the Saturday night madness.
For me I had seen more than enough to be fairly content for the night, but I couldn’t help noticing that the lakeside area closed up early enough at 11pm Friday night, 12pm Saturday but it was probably for health and safety reasons as you never know, some joker might still try to go in for a dip to the lake and with it getting a lot colder at night could have serious repercussions. I overhead others wanting to go to the lakeside to chill, when I told them it was closed off by security they were a little shocked.
I suppose it must have been about 5.3o am or thereabouts that I decided I wanted to lie down, not a chance at Senan’s tent, the party was still going strong there with at least twelve occupants squeezed into all the spaces of the tent. I’m amazed at the energy of these folks and how they can keep on going through the night although Senan did warn me that he wouldn’t be sleeping for the weekend. Thankfully Samantha was one of the occupants of Seanan’s tent who said I could use her tent, so I managed to get a bit of a kip amidst all the madness around me.
Sunday 25th May.
On Sunday I woke up about 10.30 am so about five hours sleep which is not bad for Life festival, things perked up a bit with an Americano coffee that I managed to get for a reduced price as by Sunday was counting the pennies really, down to about twelve or thirteen Euros now to get me through Sunday. The one gripe with Life festival was that us pre-advanced or build volunteers were the great unwashed, there was no shower facilities available until Friday, we had been on site since last Sunday and on Friday there was a fiver charge to use the shower, shower facilities should be free but in the light of the upcoming water charge our government is introducing, this will be a thing of the past, the free shower. Still I had some Lynx deodorant so liberal doses of that and baby wipes seemed to do the job and some fresh t shirts, underpants and socks. Also noticeable was that I had no voice, the damp I suppose caught up and was giving me a chill, I noticed quite a few in the same predicament.
Again there was a delay in the afternoon for the main arena opening, understandable in the case of some hefty rain showers during the night, I could see one of the festival bosses walking about the main arena with Phelim, one of the on-site festival maintenance guys and a great dude to party on down with when he has the time off. His job was to spread hay and wood chip over the worst bits of muck as H&S require that some of the festival site be at least walkable for the majority of festival punters. And so the main stage teased us with some roots reggae, I wasn’t even too sure if there were performances that went ahead while the audience were still in the campsite, so this messed up info to an extent for folk with timetables.
Mr Williams – Main Stage 3 pm – 3.30 pm
This was the first music I managed to catch, Mr Williams like the Dirty Dubsters gave a combination of roots reggae, ragga, jungle and break beats, great music to wash hangovers and disorientation’s away. The Irish Moss Record label ran the reggae and ragga stuff in the early afternoon for the main stage, I hope they return to Life next year.
Next, time to try a different food stall and to become selective on my spending, the lakeside had some nice eateries and I was interested to see what was up in the Bedlam stage and how it was going down there.
Low Steppa – Bedlam Stage 5.15pm – 6.15pm.
I’m not too sure who was playing on the stage here, all I know is that its a red haired lad that look about 19 or 20 years old, he has a nice crowd gathered and is lashing out some infectious funky beats, one thing I’ve been doing is asking bystanders at a particular stage what type of dance genre we were listening to as its still a learning process to identify the different music types which are so numerous, some would just answer “I dunno I just like it, man.” But someone described the guy on the stage as playing Deep House, which seemed like a soft ambient techno to me, funky with good beats but palatable without turning you into an Aphex Twin gurner. I also got a nice poke of chips with mayonnaise and cheese from the Get Stuffed food stall. I was gulping away at the chips when I realised I hadn’t paid your man. So I ran back and paid up, I realise they have to make a living too, so he gave me a two Euro reduction for my honesty. I also got to meet two nice ladies in the eating area who were sampling Life for the second time and who had went to numerous psy trance festivals around Europe over the last few years. I have since deduced that the DJ in question is actually Low Steppa playing the Bedlam stage in both clips from Sunday, confirmed by one or two people in the Boards.ie Life Festival thread.
Zeamoon (Live) – Neutronyx Stage 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm
My next stage invasion was a b one straight for the Neutronyx Stage, I wanted to catch some daylight footage close up and zoom in on one of the DJs. The artist in question is Zeamoon, he seems a bit monged in the close up but his electricity is switched on, Zeamoon is getting noises that Hawkwind and Gong have used, manipulating and mixing them into a dub step zoom which complements the psy trance motif of galloping rhythm, my god what did I just say.
Another trip back to the campsite chilling at the pallet area, drizzle on and off but not annoying yet to be too wet, drinking a few cans and having banter with the volunteers and their friends who came down for the weekend, I presumed the next trip into the arena would be my last for this year, two particular artists I’ve either missed as I didn’t really know about them at the time or they clashed with something else, this happened with Four Tet when he played the Picnic in 2011 in a b2b set with Caribou, I think they clashed with Underworld on the main stage. And Joy O aka Joy Orbison who seemingly has played a lot of gigs in Dublin and Belfast but I don’t think he has played an Irish festival yet and he’s a staple for UK and European electronic festivals.
Joy Orbison – RBMA 9 pm – 10.30 pm
This was my first time catching Joy Orbison, he had a thumping good beat going and visuals to melt your eyes, described in the Life website as bringing his own,”Brand of garage-house that mixes elements of house, two-step, jungle, techno and dub step.” I don’t even know what that means but I enjoyed Joy Orbison’s show, just good good electronica to bop about too.
Four Tet – RBMA 10.30pm -12 am
This was the first time seeing Four Tet too and the atmosphere was incredible at the Red Bull stage, Four Tet is another crazy electronic artist who plays around with a lot of different styles, having seen a few of his Boiler Room sets I was really looking forward to this gig. He kicked off with the closing track Your Body Feels from his most recent album, Beautiful Rewind, a gentle downtempo number with interesting beats that calmed the whole bpm ‘hard at it’ thing down beautifully.
His set in the main had beautiful blissful moments of ambient techno, glitched chimes and esoteric bells, mesmeric and atmospheric coupled with swirling visuals but when he laid down the beats he could be as monster as the rest of them. I recognised another number from the new album, Ba Teaches Yoga, a mesmeric morse code like drone that loops and loops with the intermingling loops in the screen, this leads into the keyboard motif for Jupiters and ushers in a thundering pulse of a beat.
At one point I look out to the entrance and stare in disbelief at the water fall cascading down the side of the tent entrance, its going to be mucky. Most of the time I didn’t even dance just stood at the barrier staring up in wonder at Four Tet, with his crazy hair and mad eyes, an unbelievable electronic musician. At one point he is doing a mad Jon Hopkins glitching type thing with kaoss pads and doing wonderful things with the rhythm. Will no doubt catch Four Tet again.
Well that was the end of the entertainment in the main arena and the state of the place outside resembled slurry as the mud seeped into my boots in a gooey mess, but I finally made it up to the campsite when Senan told me the tent had flooded so sat out in the pallets for a while and then in James or Conor’s tent in a chair. I was just exhausted really so I wasn’t that sociable at the time, dozing away I was. One of the reasons was having no rolling tobacco and no skins. If I had a full pouch with a few packs of skins and a lighter I would have stayed up and socialised more, but didn’t want to be bugging anyone for cigarettes and just wanted to sleep. Samantha came to the rescue again and let me crash in her tent, thank you Samantha.
The aftermath: Monday Blues
Woke up about 10 pm fairly well rested and had 2.50 in Euros left so off to spend it on an Americano I really needed that coffee, I had my bank card so I knew as long as I got to Mullingar I could use an atm there, grab a bite and do a bit of hitching to somewhere that commutes to Galway. Checked in with Senan, the damage wasn’t that bad most of the tent had dried up and everything seemed to be alright, some folk were still partying away determined to stay on for another day or two to help with the festival break down. Thought I had a lift to Galway and realised that the guy I spoke to had disappeared. So I said my goodbyes to everyone, grabbed my rucksack with half a tent and rolling mats and walked to the top of the car park, the sun was cracking the stones, where the hell were you ya little bugger over the weekend, I had to stop at two different volunteers and beg a drink of water from their ration. Met Lorna and her assistants on the way out and said our good byes. Hitched with another fellah from the campsite where we got a lift from someone working at the festival to the outskirts of Mullingar and a service station with an atm and deli, perfect. Got a coffee, sandwich and rolling tobacco and papers, sorted. Got a taxi to the outskirts of Mullingar heading out to Athlone, got a lift twenty minutes later to Athlone and jumped on the train to Galway, making it in time to have a quick dinner, a hot shower aaaaah god, that was good and off to have a pint and a tune at Tigh Cholis with my bodhran.
Life festival I bid you adieu until 2015 Love and Peace.