My journey began from Galway on Saturday 15th June, Brian and Reka kindly came to my rescue and drove me from the city to Ballinlough Castle, Gate E where I only had to walk two meadows till I found the crew camp, I was the first volunteer to arrive on site, the only other activity going on in the woods was a lighting/sound/trapeze group who were working on their installation near the crew camp. I started my first shift on Sunday 11 am, my job to take note of each vehicle that entered Gate C, the production entrance, I would get their name, phone number and registration, I also filled out stickers with the same info which they applied to their windscreen or their dashboard. The purpose of the info was so that Megan Best, one of the production managers could contact them in case their vehicle was blocking an important route.
I signed in the first security, traders and other festival workers that Sunday plus I was given my first two way radio to use, some more of volunteer stewards also arrived on Sunday evening, Jo McGrath and a bunch of her friends from Galway set up at the crew camp, Jo was originally going to give me a lift on Sunday evening but then I discovered I had to be onsite for Sunday morning.
Through Monday and Tuesday I worked with two volunteers called Andy and Kevin, our main job was communicating by two way radio at different parts of a very narrow road, Road 2 the Walled Garden route. Basically the system is one way at a time, if vehicles approached and indicated that they wanted to go up that road, I would radio the lads and find out if the road ahead was clear, I would then ask traffic to proceed and the same applied to me, I had to make sure no traffic was blocking my side . If no one was posted there, it would be a major inconvenience, just imagine a huge circus truck or the double decker pizza bus going up that road and then finding another vehicle coming the opposite way, that is a heck of a lot of reversing and would be very time consuming.
So two and a half shifts later I am free to enjoy the rest of the festival, so I plan the day to hitch into town and get supplies, food, drink, tobacco and skins. Through Tuesday and Wednesday I got to know quite a few of the workers and discovered some cool areas near production such as Kev’s Kitchen, where there would be cool electronic sounds blasting out and some amazing coffee and cool folk. I also received some fantastic news from my good friend Anders, his wife Mayo gave birth to a baby girl they named Hannah, so something else to celebrate too.
Another area near production was the tool shed in the stables area, where you went for the buggies, ladders and all sorts of equipment for putting together the stages and installations, the two way radios were also controlled here, it was a nice place to call around to at night to sup a beer or two with nice sounds blasting out and to have a chat. The Decor barn was another cool area where folk were preparing the art to add to installations in the woods.
By Thursday I learned to just hitch from the production gate as it was busier than Gate E, the first van to come out was a bunch of lads working for Bulmers who gave me a lift to Athboy and back to the site again, I was to meet them again through the weekend. Most of Thursday was spent taking photos of workers putting the finishing touches to the stages and installations.
Friday 20th June
Thursday was a late night so I possibly got about five hours sleep until the blazing sun started cooking me in my tent, it was an absolute scorcher of a day. It was about 11.30 am so about three and a half hours until the arena stalls opened up, I really needed a coffee. So off to the Body & Soul catering place where they gave me a brunch on the house, having paid for the meal the previous night I thought this was a very nice thing they done and a great start to my festivities with a few helpings of coffee too. The sound systems were blasting away testing the sound, the festival was imminent. By now some of the weekend stewards were settling into the campsite, some of the lads that worked the Life festival and previous B&S’s, Conor Dunne, Charlie Smith and James Fahy, some of the lads I done the fencing with, Fionn, Shane, Phelim and Mikey jumping about in his jeep blasting out reggae sounds. Sarah Richardson, the volunteers coordinator was also there sorting out arrivals and shifts, in fact there was five Sarah’s supervising the same team.
I went around and took a few video clips of some of the Body & Soul special effects laid on for the festival, the cool entrance into the woods from the main arena and one of the installations in the woods, the Glowhole.
I walked into the woods in the early evening to My House, the My House DJs were blasting out some nice vintage reggae and ska interspersed with some soul classics, from Toots to Smokey Robinson.
The Reckless in Love stage was not too far as you could hear its bass from My House, so I went over there to investigate and caught a bit of Eoin Ryan’s thumping set, some pulsating house music, techno, funk and soul.
The first stage in the main arena that attracted me was the Pagoda Stage, it reminded me a bit of the bandstand in Salthill park in Galway.
Tracey Bruen – Pagoda Stage 7.15 – 8 pm
Galway singer Tracey Bruen and her band were making a delightful sound on the Pagoda stage, described in Breaking Tunes as playing a mixture of indie folk with a hint of blues, her music also has touch of theatrical essence as she also works with the Fregoli Theatre Company. Her voice was in fine fettle today with a bunch of multi-talented musicians making a glorious harmonious racket behind her to kick the festival off. The band is due to release an EP which they are working on in the studio currently.
110th Street – Midnight Circus 7.30 – 10 pm
Galway DJs Cian O’ Ciobhain and Cyril Briscoe were making a nice pumping techno sound in the second biggest stage, having built up a solid base in Galway through numerous clubs in the city, they brought their brand of techno, house and funk to the confines of the Midnight Circus with a sizable amount of revellers joining in, in the fun.
At one point I went to my favourite diner, the Charcoal Grill for an 8 ounce steak burger just to make sure I was set up for the night, the nearest one at hand was just before the Wanderlust Stage in the Walled Garden.
Rubio – Reckless in Love Stage 7.45 – 8.45 pm
Caught a little bit of Rubio’s set, the Mexican played an infectious blend of deep house and techno that blasted out superbly in the Reckless in Love sound system. The party was only getting started when I arrived, but the stage filled up quickly with revellers celebrating the first sun soaked day of the festival.
It was around this time that I received a text from Kevin Keehan, my flatmate who I have worked the festivals with over the last three years, he initially was trying to sell his ticket but decided on a whim to come down from Galway, so off I went to Gate A, the car park entrance to help him unpack his car and to get set up onsite.
Shane Linehan – Midnight Circus 12 – 2 am.
Shane Linehan was playing some pumping house music with a hefty crowd lapping up the sounds, the Cork man has amongst his supporters DJs such as Keri Chandler, Jamie Jones and Rob Mello.
Darkside – B&S Main Stage 12.30 – 1.45 am
At one point we decided to leave the Midnight Circus tent and make for the main stage to catch the last forty minutes of Nicolas Jaar’s project, Darkside. This was my third time catching Nicolas Jaar and the sound that Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington makes is a very atmospheric bluesy electronica, Harrington employing a lot of Gilmourish histrionics on his guitar adding that depth of Floyd to the electronica. Jaar has a unique singing voice, he immediately strikes me as similar to the sound of Edwyn Collins voice, kinda of dark and brooding but very unique. Some of the music would be fairly downbeat but sometimes developed into frantic techno such as the clip I filmed.
Gypsy Rebel Rabble – Natasha’s Kitchen (Unsure of the time, early hours anyway)
While walking back through the woods briefly our attention was caught by some amazing hybrid of Irish trad and bouncing gypsy music, this group had Natasha’s Kitchen packed solid, their energy palpable with that of the bopping audience, the double bass sounding like a turbo bodhran, with fiddles, strings splaying the audience with their sound, I hope to catch this troupe again. They were certainly very popular as they cropped up all over the B&S timetable playing at various venues over the weekend.
We hung about the arena for the next few hours, it seemed to be a bit more spacious than the tight confines of the woods sometimes when the stages emptied into the forest and the narrow paths became packed, especially when 8,000 people arrived this evening making it the busiest Friday at Body & Soul on record. The music from the Pagoda stage caught my attention again.
Generic People: Plug N’ Play – Pagoda Stage 2 – 4 am
I have no idea of who the actual musicians on stage involved were but they were making a very unusual electronica, the best way I could describe this was as progressive rock techno, rather than progressive house or progressive techno. I don’t know if a mellotron keyboard was used but there was definitely some sort of hammond organ sound coming out but with a techno beat added, but it blended perfectly with the quirkiness of the festival.
This year the vibe was more relaxed, no security ushering us to the campsite at 4 am like last year, you could come and go as you pleased, plus there was a new alcohol free flow policy initiated this year, where once you were wristbanded and had brought your booze in from outside there was no more searches bringing booze in from the main campsite to the arena and the bars still seemed to do a healthy trade. A few of my old festival buddies from Galway showed up, Sorla, Gavin and Caroline and Nidge, the last time I seen them was at Body & Soul and Life Festival 2012 and at their own festival last year, Sundown Gathering. So it was great to be reunited at one of the best ones, we stayed at the main arena area till the sun came up smoking a few doobies and drinking a few cans. I didn’t reach my tent till about 6 in the morning where I caught some shut eye before the sun would start cooking me in my tent again.
Saturday 21st June.
I awoke at 11.30 am to the blazing heat again where you have that initial panic fumbling for the tent zip to let the air in, first thing was to make the trip to the arena and procure a cup of coffee. I took a few photos of the installations near my campsite, Jeff O’Riordan’s Mandala Nature where he and his girlfriend was displaying some nice mandala art.
We sauntered into the Walled Garden as another steak burger beckoned from the Charcoal Grill and then checked out the Wonderlust Stage, Siobhan Kane was interviewing John Grant about his record collection and tastes in music, the topic being discussed at the time was about Kate Bush’s 1985 record Hounds of Love, an interesting and chilled variation to typical pumping gigs or what not.
Tom Vek – B & S Main Stage 5 – 5.45 pm
I caught a bit of Tom Vek’s show in the early evening, the Londoner played his brand of beat rock to a sizable audience who also wanted to celebrate the sunshine as well as Vek’s music. His music was a lively indie pop sound that complemented the early evening ambiance perfectly and set up the audiences mood for the day.
John Grant – B & S Main Stage 7.45 – 8.45 pm
I also caught a little bit of John Grant’s set, so many people have recommended this artist to me and he apparently went down a treat at last years Picnic as well as getting decent exposure on RTE’s Other Voices. His brand of folk, alternative and indie rock was just what was needed to set the mood for the day, the track I caught a clip of Pale Blue Ghosts had some twisted electronica through it, he has strong powerful commanding voice and a bunch of versatile tight musicians who were guaranteed to keep you rocking.
Myself and Kevin just hung about the main arena as I wanted to get up to the barrier to catch the Gary Numan set. Ever since 1980 I always liked Gary Numan the Tubeway Army sound, when I was fifteen I wanted to go and see him in Glasgow when he was touring the Pleasure Principle but I was forbade by my parents, he then played Electric Picnic 2006, one of the few Picnics I never attended so now I had the chance to see him after 34 years. Numan seems to have embraced a heavy metal sound to his electronica which suits his style, reworked versions of Cars and Are Friends Electric were enthusiastically received as well a some new material from his recent album Splinter released last year, he also had a front row of girls swooning over his good looks in fact Gary Numan looks a lot younger now than he did back in the 1980s.
Kevin and myself headed into the woods for a while to take in the madness going on there, there was all sorts of substance abuse going on with the partying patrons, from what I heard some were flying about on acid whilst a vast amount of people were on strong crystal MDMA and the smell of a wide variety of weed permeated the atmosphere, especially from the Port Royal Jamaican Village along with copious amounts of alcohol. The music was as suitably nutty with scintillating techno blasting from the Reckless in Love stage, gypsy and frantic folk music from Natasha’s Kitchen and electronic madness and Romanian gypsy ska music blasting out of My House, courtesy of Prints of Wales Band.
Jon Hopkins – Midnight Circus 1 – 2 am
Its amazing the difference a year can make for an electronic artist such as Jon Hopkins, last year he played the Midnight Circus to a half full but contented audience, this year the tent was absolutely wedged, his album Immunity released last year in June must be one of the most popular electronic albums in the circuit at the moment as I could hardly get into the tent because of the crush. Security should have been posted at the entrances like the way they are at the Little Big Tent in Electric Picnic when the huge electronic artists play the venue, a one in, one out policy, mind you, I probably wouldn’t have got to see the gig if this was in place, they should have opened up the tent more as there was only three narrow entrances. This was done for the Beastie Boys gig at EP 2007 and at Daft Punk’s gig at the Clash Arena at Rockness festival 2007 in Scotland.
This time Hopkins had a huge backdrop screen displaying his videos for the singles and a pretty decent lighting rig, the audience lapping up sonic crunchers like Open Eye Signal and Collider. His set was fairly similar to last years with a nice smattering of tracks from Immunity and Insides, three quarters of the way into his set he unleashed a few new sonic crunchers that were not from Immunity but similar to tracks like We Disappear, so he is working on new material which I am looking forward to hearing when it gets released. I hope he plays a standalone show some day in one of the city venues in the country, I can imagine it would sell out in no time.
The rest of the time was spent lounging about the woods sitting on seats at small stages and throwing ourselves around a bit to the music, then going to other stages and doing the same again. Bouncing between the Reckless in love and My House stages, My House had Andrew Kearny playing a nice selection of funky tunes whilst the Mother DJs were kicking up a storm with some stomping techno at the Reckless stage. We needed to go somewhere a little more chilled but with good bass groove, yes you guessed it, Port Royal the perfect venue to end the night in. I didn’t take any clips of Port Royal this year but I did take some photos of the venue which unfortunately never came out, so my apologies for this year. The Dirty Dubsters played the soundtrack for the end of the night, a mixture of ice cool roots reggae, ragga and jungle that had a fair crowd skanking away to the sounds. I can’t really remember what time I got back to my tent at but it was probably somewhere around the 4.30 – 5 am mark, a fairly action packed day and all.
Sunday 22nd June.
Awoke about 10.30 am so off to the main arena for my coffee fix and a bite, met Kevin on the way who needed to charge his phone, so I took him to the Vodafone tent in the arena, the only place seemingly with recharge facilities. This time I opted for something different to the normal steak burger, after hearing Kevin rave about his kebab last night I thought I’d give the Falafel and Kebab stall a try today, I opted for a chicken kebab which was fecking delicious, but boy do they pile on that red hot chilli sauce, I had to down a can of Guinness straight afterwards to quench the thirst.
I couldn’t help noticing the Good Times Lounge at the top of the Walled Garden, even though at no time did I visit it, but it was always pumping out funky music and inspired choices, the one track that made me stop and dance was the Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, it mirrored perfectly that glitzy summer afternoon.
Seeing that we were in the main arena it was a natural progression to walk towards the main stage to catch some of the uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan’s set.
Paddy Keenan, Steve Cooney & Dermot Byrne – B & S Main Stage 3.30 – 4.15 pm.
This was my second time catching the former Bothy Band legendary piper Paddy Keenan, the first time being in Galway at the Roisin Dubh with guitarist Tommy O’Sullivan. Keenan had a nice selection of tunes, tearful slow airs played on the low whistle, cool marches like the March of King Laois and liberal amounts of jigs and reels, proving without doubt that he is still one of the best uilleann pipers in the country and backed by the mighty guitar and didgeridoo of Australian Steve Cooney and Altan accordion player Dermot Byrne. A mad hippy in the audience started playing along with the band during a set of reels with a set of calf bones and he had a very nice rhythm too which you can hear on the clip.
Today was a fairly relaxed day and luckily Kevin was driving into Athboy so I went along with him and got some rolling tobacco as the festival did not sell it onsite, just filter cigarettes, I also topped up my Guinness supply to keep me going through the evening. There wasn’t as many acts to rush about and see today so it was just a case of floating from stage to stage and following your heart with the sounds. It was also a cooler day with more clouds but when the sun came out it could be still incredibly hot.
In the woods we mostly hung about the My House area and I sometimes had a lie down at the crew camp, there was lots of walking through the weekend and it was taking its toll today, I think everyone was feeling the blisters, especially when you walk from level grassy ground to the stoney paths, some of the rocks there would break your feet. Anyway My House was playing classic reggae first, courtesy of DJ Mikey Joyride Sorro 6.15 – 7.45 pm (one of the festival production supervisors) and later on some 196os and 1970s classic hits courtesy of DJ Toby Hatchett 7.45 – 10 pm.
Max Romeo – B & S Main Stage 7.45 – 8.45 pm
Caught most of Max’s set, this was my second time catching him live, he played at Life festival 2008 previously and I missed his gig at EP but caught the Lee Scratch Perry bit in 2012. Max played plenty of the classics from his 1976 album War Inna Babylon as well as airing tracks from his new album released this year called Fathers and Sons, he made the point that his sons were playing with him on stage. Max Romeo must be in his late 60s but he still has the mad energy and voice of a young man and his backing band, two female vocalists, bass, drums and cool picking guitarist, keyboard and a brass section of trumpet and saxophone which rocked the foundations of the main stage with their sound. He reeled out classics such as One step forward two steps backward, War inna Babylon, Uptown babies don’t cry and closed with his most famous classic popularised by the Prodigy, Chase the devil, what a gig, I’m hoping Body & Soul book Toots for next year it just seems right. The clips that myself and Kevin recorded didn’t come out great, picture quality is pretty neat but the bass was too strong for our camera mics, which is not a bad complaint considering we witnessed one of Jamaica’s classics.
Stopped at the kebab place again and got a lamb kebab, forgot to tell them to go easy on the chilli sauce, so another can of Guinness was had to quench the burning thirst although a damn fine tasty kebab. It was then back to the campsite to get my remaining cans of Guinness to polish of for the festivals end, I also lay down for half an hour to rest up my feet, how other people can continue to dance all day is just beyond me although there was some dehydrated casualties throughout the weekend that kept the medical orderlies busy.
Alle Farben – Midnight Circus 9 pm – 12 am
I was looking forward to the madness of James Holden, myself and Kevin wandered in about 9.10 pm, the music was good, nice and chunky with just about the right amount of phasey distortion, but sometimes Farben would play some cheesy vocal samples which I thought didn’t seem kinda like the stuff Holden would do, its only when I glanced at my watch and saw the time being 10.15 I realised the DJs hadn’t switched over, so now I was aware that this wasn’t James Holden. Giving Farben his dues he had a packed floor which never really emptied so he must have been doing something right, it was just a pity about Holden cancelling, what I heard the following day was that the airline Holden was travelling with had lost his synthesizer forcing him to cancel.
Farben played many different styles. tech house, trance, deep house and electro house amongst other genres and he paid ode to other DJs of his ilk dropping tracks such as Laurent Garnier’s Man with a red face and a few other notable ditties, his set done exactly what it said in the tin, it would keep you dancing until the close of stage. At some pont after 11 pm we nearly forgot about going to see Caribou so set off to the main stage.
Caribou – B&S Main Stage 10.45 pm – 12 am.
As we were making our way to the main stage I could recognise the sound effects from the Caribou single Odessa so it meant we were catching that last quarter hour of his set, Odessa is usually played three quarters of the way through his set. There was no chance of getting to the front as it was absolutely wedged so we were a considerable distance from the stage. I was lucky as I had caught his full set before at the Aphex Twin Forbidden Fruit day in 2011, but this was the first time Kevin had seen the Canadian. He played a few more numbers with his trade mark psychedelic electronica, Caribou always has a tight band with good drums, guitars and cool atmospheric keyboards, he also has a decent soft kind of voice that fits the music perfectly. He finished with the track that brought the sun out at Forbidden Fruit called Sun which is a nice way to round it off as the sun never really left for the weekend. Unfortunately this was the last video clip I took which is unmercifully short as my camera ran out of memory space.
We didn’t have much energy after this, we made our way back to the wood and hung about My House for a while, but it just seemed to lively for our tired out selves, so we made a decision to go to Port Royal to listen to some chill roots and maybe some jungle too. I met a few randomers from Dublin here who were incredibly friendly but unfortunately we had turned into zombies caught in a trance. The music was great all the same, The OI OI Sound System was blasting out some wicked roots and then the great Cian Finn took over at 1 am, so a chilled night of roots it was. But both me and Kevin made a decision to hit the hay, the long weekend had taken its toll and I went out like a light bulb as soon as I lay down in my tent. Seemingly I heard a few days later that everything shut down at 2 am, even though some stages was advertised as closing at 4 am, so I don’t know what that was about.
Monday 23rd June.
Woke up about 8.30 as the sun was cracking the stones and I was slowly getting microwaved in my tent, so I set about gathering everything up and packing it away. I was thinking to myself what a glorious festival that was and that you couldn’t have wished for better weather. Finally with everything packed up, I gave Kevin a call to say meet me at Gate E, I said my goodbyes to everyone in camp, picked up my stuff and hung about Gate E waiting for Kevin, a lift sorted to take me back to Galway.
Body & Soul I bid you a goodbye and will see you about 100 km up the road in August for the annual bash at Stradbally for the Electric Picnic, please book Jon Hopkins for the EP end of B&S. Love and Peace your loving music reporter Niall McQuaid signing off.