This year Kevin had a campervan so we set off for Ballinlough on Tuesday 14th June, I had to do two twelve hour shifts on Wednesday and Thursday and then I would be free for the rest of the event. I was stationed at Gate F this year which was the crew car park, campervans and temporary car park areas (for people registering their vehicles and getting festival accreditation). Things not to do when you are working the pre-event or weekend for that matter, don’t forget your wellies or your rain jacket, I done both this year but thankfully one of my fellow volunteers lent me a mac as it was raining on and off during Wednesday and Thursday.
Now I won’t go into too much detail about my work but some people arriving for accreditation had the neck to park up in the area I was working in, Charlene my supervisor said no one by any means unless they were accreditation staff or someone delivering a generator could park there. I explained it to these people which is all I can do that they can’t park there, if they didn’t heed me I left them to the wrath of Charlene or occasional security who would come up and check now and again. The work was fairly easy but because of the rain many seemed to be holding off arriving onsite till the last minute. This meant that Thursday, my last shift dragged on quite a bit as it would be a busy flurry and then quiet for certain lengths of time.
Another small niggly problem on the job was people misunderstanding me or the other volunteers I was working with, the scenario was I directed cars and vehicles to the temporary part of the car park, whilst the other volunteers handled the long-term car park bit. What would happen is some people would abandon their cars at the temporary spot mistaking it for long-term and before you knew it the spaces would be filling up for people just seeking accreditation forcing me to run down to people emptying their cars of camping gear and redirecting them to the long-term parking area, man, I was glad when that Thursday shift ended.
Thursday 16th June.
I have to admit, staying in a campervan was a completely different experience to camping in a tent, a fecking proper bed, you cannot beat that and Kevin brought his proper stereo and bass woofer so bassy dubby goodness.
For my carryout I had a crate of Guinness, some French Enigma absinthe and some Spanish absinthe I had left over from my holidays in Spain at Xmas, a few litres of spring water to louche the absinthe with and a few small plastic bottles to decant into for our walks about the festival site. We hooked up with Simon Outram, a good buddy of mine that I made at previous Body & Souls and who was working with the Earth Guardians this year and went on a ramble to look at the site. Not many major changes from last year but I was impressed with the new Woodlands stage, which I suspect used the roof of the old Body & Soul main stage and the placement of the Reckless in Love stage into its very own meadow.
It was chilly enough on Thursday night so we made for the enclosed woods of the Port Royal who had some nice Jamaican sounds going. We took a look at the main arena, the Absolut bar was moved to the spot that the Chai Wallahs brown tent was last year and the Midnight Circus had a new bigger marquee this year too. Onto the next field there was a new main stage, much bigger than the previous stage and the usual exquisite Body & Soul decorations. The wind picked up a little and the drizzle came back so we repaired to the Port Royal enclosure again to keep that little more warm, Simon also had his own home made absinthe which gave a nice lasting heat, it has to be said. We took a wee detour to the Walled Garden area and into one of these cool stone shelters near the Soul Kids area. We met a sound bunch from Donegal who were volunteering for the weekend, I had my bodhran handy so I whipped it out and gave a lash with a bodhran solo and a song which everyone seemed to enjoy anyway. There was one memorable girl there who kept winding people up who were passing outside pretending she was a dog and would give them a jump barking.
Friday 17th June.
Hungover, I hear a knock on the camper door at about eight in the morning, it turns out its Simon, he turned up for his shift at eight but was told it was put forward to ten so he called up to us, we muttered to call back later, 8 am in the morning when you are not working and hungover is too early. Most of the morning was spent talking to our neighbours, Dolly who was working at Port Royal, Hugh who was helping with work on one of the stages and Debra and Sharon who were Earth Guardians like Simon and various other folk.
I had no wild music agenda this year, the line up didn’t grab me like previous years so my own take on this is to follow this music with your heart, whatever grabs you, go to it. Friday was cloudy but mainly dry apart from occasional drizzle but it was cool enough in the evening time. The first music I recall seeing was the Bitch Falcon set at the Midnight Circus on Friday evening.
Bitch Falcon – Midnight Circus Tent 7 – 7.30 pm.
Its hard to forget a group like Bitch Falcon, at Electric Picnic last year my friends group, GIRO (Which I guested with on tambourine) had just finished their set on the Body & Soul main stage and on came Bitch Falcon who blasted the cobwebs of anyone’s hangover away with blitzkrieg riffs, indie hardcore metal. Body & Soul is bizarre that way, firstly a group playing vaudeville and gypsy folk music and then a group playing a molten indie metal with a pile driving sound. Their performance this year in the tent had a more restrained elegance, their sound crispier and polished but still with lots of balls to make you nod your head to the beat. Body & Soul are faultless with their sound systems and Bitch Falcon gave a nice wallop for the second opening act in the main tent for Friday, an energy akin to Iggy Pop’s Stooges.
Of course, I paid my usual visit to the Charcoal Grill in the Walled Garden for my favourite, a big juicy steak burger, I bumped into Fran Hogan, the Life festival volunteer coordinator who was helping to run the Wanderlust Stage. I traipsed about the woods for a while taking in various art and wandered back up to the camper where Kevin was to put my feet up for a bit. I had brought the tent but had still not put it up in the crew camp yet so it was a wee bit of an extra walk.
We went back into the main arena just after ten to get a place at the main stage to catch the Gloaming set, I was intrigued to see what they would be like being a bit of a trad head myself.
The Gloaming – Body & Soul Main Stage 10.30 – 11.30 pm.
Now I am a big fan of Iarla O Lionaird’s singing, but why did the Gloaming decide to start their set with a slow Sean Nos number, beautiful as it was it was just away too slow a start for a main headliner set, I thought a lively set of reels would’ve a more appropriate introduction, but maybe its just me. There was nothing wrong with the music, there was some lovely sets of jigs played in that sublime slow Clare style and you can not fault the musicians, each of them a master at their own instrument. Caoimhin O Raghallaigh is another fiddler and musician I much admire and I recommend anyone to check out his album Where the One Eyed Man is King (2007) for a true trad experimentation album. Iarla sang some more exquisite songs and a few more sets of slowly building jigs were proffered to the audience. As much as I loved the set and I know they were pushing that second album recently released The Gloaming II, there seemed to be a lack of faster numbers such as lively reels, polkas or marches. When it comes to fiddlers I still prefer the Kevin Burke crunch over Martin Hayes’s playing, similar when they do for example Bobby Casey’s hornpipes, Burke’s has more balls, Hayes’s playing for me can be too overtly soft for my liking but it depends I suppose what you get from fiddling yourself. That is not to criticise Hayes’s playing, he is the master of his craft but I prefer riffier fiddling if that is even a term to use. I think there was a set of slow reels at one point during the set but the final closing set was a set of reels which did advance in speed, I took my bodhran out and started playing along in the audience, one or two folk egged me on, Kevin included. An enjoyable enough gig though from the Gloaming, I think the Afro Celt Soundsystem would have been a better choice for that time also because they have Iarla as their singer too. The Gloaming are a very talented act but I think their set would be more appreciated in a more intimate indoor setting.
We headed off for the lively Port Royal for a while, I should have checked more acts out during the drier weather but there was no hurry to see anyone really, we did catch the crazy screams and electronica of Ninos Du Brazil as we stood outside the Midnight Circus tent for a while, they were finishing up their set.
The Port Royal area was now fairly busy, all the crazy dreaders, hippies and all sorts of colourful characters and randomers bouncing about to ska, dub, calypso and reggae. We stayed there for the rest of the night till 4 am when they had to cut the music. I could still hear a bass somewhere, so we went in search of that sound. Up through the main arena and up into the Absolut stage who we thought might be Donal Dineen but it was a bunch of lads called Lumo DJs who were keeping the remaining revellers entertained until 5 am and alas the weather broke again with the onslaught of heavy drizzle ushering in the dawn.
Saturday 18th June.
Finally got it together today to bring my tent up to the crew camp, Kevin cooked himself a fry in his camper and then we set off to the campsite. Simon was there and it was the first time we had seen him since Thursday, while lazing at the crew camp the sun came out and the heat was fairly welcomed as there wasn’t much of it over the last few days. This was short lived after about an hour as the clouds closed over and a steady rain started coming down. I heard from Kevin that Wok n’ Roll were doing volunteer discounts so I headed into the main arena and got a meal which normally costs 9 Euros for a fiver, I got a vegetarian Thai rice meal which was absolutely scrumptious and set me up for the day.
The first music I remember encountering was Saint Sister on the Woodlands stage at about 7 pm, I’m such a lazy fecker having missed half the music of the day, but it is more about the event rather than the music bill, distractions and seeing old friends annually aside, Body & Soul is all about being carefree and one thing I increasingly noticed, people watching, especially in a place like Port Royal, the festival basically comes to you as the there are two pathways through Port Royal and a constant flow of people escaping the rain.
Saint Sister – Woodlands Stage 7 – 7.30 pm.
I was enchanted by the sound of the Irish electro-folk band Saint Sister who had a lovely crowd gathered at the Woodlands Stage, for me they had elements of Cocteau Twins (Victorialand era) and elements of early Clannad with a beautiful electronic ambient sheen over the sound. The perfect act for the gorgeous Woodlands Stage, we were merely passing through bound for somewhere else but their dreamy sound rooted us on the spot. Their music as described on their website draws from early Celtic harp traditions, 60’s folk and electronic pop to create ‘atmosfolk’ – a mix of soulful vocal harmonies, dreamy synth and electro-acoustic harp. A perfect Body & Soul choice I’d say, met David Curran there a fellow volunteer, his job to stand around the Woodlands stage area and give festival punters helpful advice, that was a nice number you landed there David in one of the most delightful parts of the festival.
Borrowed from the BBC Glastonbury coverage as I have no clip of Saint Sister.
Many trips were taken back to the Port Royal area as the rain was intermittent and we just wanted to stay dry, I also realise I love reggae music its just so easy to dance to and Toots and the Maytals was getting played a lot of the time which for us Picnic heads we canna wait for, Toots is playing the Sunday afternoon reggae set, so why not stay in an area with the music you love, good friends and delightful nutcases. So we basically listened to selections from Port Royal DJs such as Nigel Woods, Miss Scotty, Jay Sharp and finally some of the mighty Mikey Joyride Soro (Worries Outernational) set which went on to about 12 am.
I went out looking for cigarettes in the main arena and walled garden areas but discovered to my horror that there was no cigarette kiosks open anymore but Kevin, Debra and Sharon stepped in and saved the day giving me a bit of tobacco each which kept me going till Sunday. Whilst wandering through the arena I took in a bit of Hudson Mohawke’s set, at that particular moment I was looking at the main stage he was doing some drum n bass workout that sounded fairly decent. I bumped into Kevin again outside the Midnight Circus where he was soaking up some of the sounds of Cassy in the tent, I hung around, filmed a short clip outside the tent and went in for a look myself, it wasn’t too rammed and there was plenty of space to throw yourself about to the beat. I don’t know how to describe Cassy’s music, there was a bit of house vibes and a bit of techno too so maybe it was tech house but interesting enough to arrest my attention.
At some point I met up with Debra and Sharon again and we went for a gawk at the Reckless in Love stage, the Mother DJs had a nice packed crowd dancing to the sounds, which was Underworld’s Two Months Off, I couldn’t help thinking deja vu here, it felt like I was looking at the Electric Picnic main stage on Friday night during Underworld’s set.
Myself, Kevin, Debra and Sharon ended up back in Port Royal again to dance away to the selections of Tom Beary and Slick Normal & Reggae Richie till the 4 am close again and then off to catch the final hour I think at the Absolut stage with DJ Deece and the This Greedy Pig DJs. It started drizzling heavy again so we made tracks back to the crew camper site and sat in Sharon’s camper drinking a few cans and watching the daylight come in.
Sunday 19th June.
Sunday was a proper lie in till at least 2 or 3 pm as we stayed up so late Saturday night/Sunday morning plus it was bucketing down so no rush to leave the camper as yet. Simon called up at some point and we all headed into the woods area in the early evening, I had still not moved into my tent as yet. Today I needed funds so it meant I had to make the trawl to the atm to get money, while waiting in the queue at the bank some group was sound checking on the main stage, it was only then I realised the time as I thought it was the main stage opening act till Simon reminded me it was about 7 pm.
Batida – Body & Soul Main Stage 6.15 – 7.15 pm.
It seems Batida was supposed to start at 6.15 pm but there seemed to be technical problems with their backdrop video screen so they didn’t really get started till about 7. Batida were a fairly exhilarating listen, part political part electronica and part world music. They reminded me of the Kudoro music of Alo Wala and Baraka Som Sistema, Batida is the brainchild of Pedro Coquenao, a radio, video and music producer born in Huambo, Angola but raised in Lisbon, Portugal. His 2009 album is described on the Body & Soul website ‘as one of the most relevant records done in Angola and Portugal by Antonio Pires, a referential Portuguese music journalist.’ The music was fantastic and was a nice diversion to the otherwise chore of queuing in the muck to get some money from the bank at the time I didn’t have a camera with me so I never took photos or video clips of this act, but do check them out if you get a chance.
The rain kicked in big time with heavy showers so that put an end to my exploring the main stage and main arena areas as it had become a mucky quagmire and I was ill equipped with proper rain wear or wellies to take on the muck so myself, Simon and Kevin headed for Port Royal and the cafe in there for some Marley coffee and a lovely bite to eat, some gorgeous Jamaican chicken pasties which was basically my food for the day. We were sitting at the very back of the cafe so the outside was like a cinema film running about the weird and wonderful characters that frequented Port Royal and all to an intoxicating Jamaican soundtrack provided by Nigel Woods, Chonkie and Iarla, Sibh Conway, Sherron St Clair and the Port Royal mash up with Will Softly, Slick Normal, Rub A Dub Crew & Special right up to 2 am and the close of the festival. So I missed Santigold and I heard earlier that she almost missed Body & Soul, a friend of mine who I work with at the Picnic advance works in passport control at Dublin airport in her normal job, she met Santigold and part of her crew. It seems she just made the gig as half her equipment and crew were stranded at Barcelona airport, in fact another friend texted me this as well. I did partly catch the David August gig from the Port Royal, the bass echo came in strong from the Midnight Circus behind me so i basically was enjoying two gigs at once. Back to Kevin’s camper to drain our booze and hit the hay for the night.
Monday 20th June.
So the end to the Body & Soul 2016 edition if a little wet and mucky and not as bad as Glastonbury patrons had to endure the following weekend. Kevin had to work the Soul Kids break down for the Monday so I nipped out earlier to bring down my tent which sat unused for two days, just got back in time for Kevin heading off to his shift so sat in the camper for most of the day having the blether with Dolly and Danyl who were milling about the crew camper site. My thanks to the coordinators Catherine Kehoe, Karolina and supervisor Charlene Cristopher and all my buddies at Body & Soul, no doubt I will see some of you at Townlands Carnival and Electric Picnic in September.
Love and peace Y’all.