Ballinlough Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath, Ireland June 22nd – 24th.
Thursday 21st June.
Its only just a week ago but man, what a weekend. Maireroisin picked me up from the Nox Hotel in Galway not far from my college and two other girls, Sandra and Doireann, excitement was abound and I couldn’t have had better travelling companions, well that’s a lie, Kevin Keehan among others have been perfect hosts too, but the girls were so excited and we all had a story to tell of previous festivals and shenanigans. Maireroisin and one of the other girls were working in an area called The Sanctuary and two of us were going to be working with Clare O’Connor for the weekend. This was a bit of a departure for me from doing the usual pre-event work like coming down the Monday or Sunday before the festival, this time I couldn’t do this as I was on a full time education course with the ETB and would’ve been too costly to do the week set up so I was doing weekend volunteering for the first time since 2012.
We all got registered in and I got my rota for the weekend which had been changed around a small bit due to some volunteers not showing up for the weekend so the festival had to spread out the volunteers who had shown up to a different schedule.
That night I went exploring the woods which I hadn’t done for a year with my little boogie box in tow, saw a few familiar faces and exchanged greetings and happily supped a few tins of lager. I didn’t have to start till 12 PM the following day but instead of working the main campsite like in the original roster it was switched to wristbanding at the main entrance. Did I mention the weather, the weather was absolutely fantastic, the sun cracking the stones but, man, it was baltic at night and I’m glad I brought my hoodie and leather jacket. In fact I emptied most of my rucksack over myself onto the sleeping bag to keep warm.
Friday 22nd June.
I rose early enough about 9.30 as would have to report to volunteer HQ for 11.30, waking up in a zipped tent can be a ghastly experience sometimes and requires a quick unzipping for that instant relief of a rush of air. At the HQ there was about twelve of us who were taken in to vans to the wristbanding area, when we saw the crowd waiting it was a daunting looking task. I was handed a scanner to scan the printouts and tickets but it turned out to be a faulty one and was never given another one so I became a wristbander. I wish I had a Gopro camera strapped to my head filming the wristbanding process, wrists of all shapes and sizes, hairy men ones and the long manicured fingernails of the ladies. It would make an interesting video of the wristbanding process.
It was so busy that the time had flown in real fast. One of the star attractions for me at the festival was all the classy beautiful girls adorned in amazing psychedelic colourful clothing that complimented the heatwave. When the shift finished I got a text from Kevin about 6.30 PM to say he had arrived and was needing a hand to set up. Well I had been on my feet for the last six hours and he would just have to wait as I needed a sit down for a while and a good shower to refresh before i took that 1 or 2 kilometre trek to the main entrance.
My apologies to Kevin, I took longer than I thought by the time I reached him at about 8.30, all he had to do now was trundle back to his car and pick up the booze, as the Body&Soul rules state that you can only bring the booze in the first time round when you get wristbanded, so I helped him with the camping gear. Well now it was Kevin’s turn to take his time, basically he couldn’t remember where he had parked the car. After numerous texts to him saying ‘Sake where the hell are ya.’ He finally showed up with the booze about over an hour later. I went with him to sort out a pitch in the main campsite and then we headed for the crew camp, security not even looking at Kevin’s Us and You wristband. I stocked up with beers and cameras and tried to by the time salvage the start of the Fever Ray set on the main stage.
Fever Ray – Main Stage 11.00 PM – 12 .15 AM.
I looked like we had missed the first few numbers of the set and we eventually found somewhere about 6 or seven rows back from the main stage, the area was absolutely thronged and Karin and the girls were giving it serious stick on stage.
Kudos to the sound crew, they had a top notch sound which was crystal clear where I was, oddly enough I never seen any Vikings or Handmaids for that matter in the audience but everyone seemed to be enjoying the gig. Old tracks like When I Grow Up and Concrete Walls got a new drum N Bass work over, which suited the tempo of the current album Plunge, equally tracks like To the Moon and Back set a really exciting tone to the gig with the ‘Pussy’ lyric getting a roar from the lads in the audience.
The old spellbinding Fever Ray came back with Red Trails which was too strong for my camera mic and Keep the Streets Empty which was anything but, with the wild throng around me but still a masterpiece although I wish Karin had retained some of the guitar parts and the high pitched beat that segmented the whole track from the original, still I loved it, I love her actually. One of the most interesting individual female artists to emerge since Kate Bush and Bjork, for me anyway. When the sonorous bass drone of the Vikings TV intro kicked off, there was the loudest roar from the audience and an intense euphoria . Please forgive my terrible singing when I sang along a little bit with If I had a Heart I couldn’t help it. The band finally finished with what I think might be an Echoes (Yes, Floyd’s Echoes) sounding key in Plunge’s closing number Mama’s Hand, just the intro like as it picks up pace to a more upbeat number. A very excellent gig by a gorgeous looking band in visual splendour and sound.
We sat about the main arena for a while up at some tables and chairs whilst Olof Dreijer kicked off his DJ set, it sounded promising, lots of conga drum samples, Knifey type sounds, pretty good visuals on the backdrop too, but then he mixes in the most dreadful auto tune chart hit and that was just a No! I got Kevin to look at the timetable, our quest to move to the Midnight Arena and possibly the Reckless in Love Stage, was trying to remember if Neil Flynn was at that stage, which Kevin confirmed, so we set off there.
Neil Flynn – Reckless in Love Stage. 12.30 – 2.00 AM.
Having caught Neil Flynn before at the Earthship Stage, Body&Soul Village at Electric Picnic 2015, right after Blur if I remember. Our sole intention (Me and Kevin) was to see Donal Dineen who was on after, but Flynn just blew us away, seriously sparkly techno. We managed to catch him again tonight and he still makes some serious sounds, beautiful and dreamy but with a lovely crunch, he gathered a nice crowd tonight who seemed to be cruising just nicely to the beats. In the second clip it sounds like he’s sampled a tom tom or maybe a bodhran solo and mixed into a nice techno thump. A lovely gig.
Went for a wander to have a look at the Walled Garden and ended up at Natasha’s Kitchen where Kevin was talking to some of his friends who had been working at the Soul Kid’s this year, there was a sense of sadness amongst the joviality and that everyone loved Gavin Pedersen and missed him badly, he died tragically last November. Condolences to Sandra and family.
We stopped at the Woodlands Stage and watched a bit of the SHIPS set, they were making a lively sound and very upbeat, ambient wandering synthesizers, soundscapes behind a steady beat.
I called it a day in the end as I wanted to try and get some sleep as I would have to be at volunteer HQ at 9.30 the following morning to find out what post I would be doing.
Saturday 23rd June.
Thankfully Kev’s Kitchen was open this morning so managed to procure one of their lovely cups of coffee which I needed before heading into the HQ, today my shift was changed from 10 AM to 4 PM to 6 PM to midnight and that I would be doing stop and go with three other girls. Stop and go is two way radio duty where your job is to prevent collisions with festival and production traffic.
So here I had seven hours to kill and it was just too bloody warm to actually move and explore the place, it was a matter of finding where is the best shade. First thing first, get to the ATM and withdraw funds as I only had seven Euros in my pocket. I joined the queue at the Midnight arena which didn’t seem too big, but we didn’t seem to move. I think I said this last year too, the queue builds up before you because sly devious feckers spot their mates in the queue and join them there. This is not fair and should be regulated, security should be there to tell people to queue properly. Anyways two hours was at least waited in that bloody queue and one of the machines breaking down didn’t help. Eventually when I got my funds, next thing on my list was to get something to eat some soakage for the few tins of beer I had drunk. I have a rule that I’m allowed a few tins of beer before a shift but the stopping point is at least two hours before, and maybe a strong coffee or two and a meal. Whilst in the queue I enjoyed the sounds coming from the Absolut Bar, lovely obscure reggae and some amazing soul, blues and bebop courtesy of either Jack Thompson or Calvin James.
Whilst looking through the food stalls I immediately recognised one from Scrobarnach festival two years ago, Home Fries. chips with a difference, real potato with a luscious garlic sauce, a nice portion for five Euros which sorted me for the afternoon.
I mainly went into the wood as it was the most shaded of all areas and listened to some of the talks going on courtesy of the Irish Times at the Woodlands Stage. Interesting in particular here was Delete Your Account hosted by Patrick Freyne, Gavin Sheridan and Alison Spittle about how we’ve turned into a zombie generation constantly looking at our smart phones and social media. I met Kevin here and we went wandering through the Walled Garden to Natasha’s and eventually to the Wonderlust Stage where there was another talk going on, an interview with Louise O’Neill which we didn’t stay too long at as time was pressing for me by then. On my way back to the crew camp we stopped briefly at the Arbutus Yarns area, there was an open mic session going on and we caught an impromptu performance by I think a man called Gerry Grainey who gave some lovely folk ballads to a nice applause. I headed off to get a shower at 4 and refresh myself for the upcoming shift, but alas there was a water shortage and only two shower cubicles going with a very large queue of crew waiting, so made do with a wet wipe wash instead and a fresh tee shirt.
At 6 PM I was stationed with another girl on the narrow road strip that leads to the top of the Walled Garden and the Midnight and Main arenas coming directly from the farmhouse and boneyard. It was busy enough to keep us going with an abundance of music floating from various stages, I thought I could hear the Abandoman set from the Bulmers Stage amongst other things, but the two way radio stop and go was easy enough work and lively enough.
Finally back to HQ to sign out for the night meeting Kevin on the way, we headed to the crew area where I stocked up on booze and necessary shenanigans and eventually made it to Jon Hopkins main stage set.
Jon Hopkins – Main Stage 00.45 – 1.45 AM.
This is my fourth time seeing this amazing artist and he just keeps getting better and better, cinema widescreen soundscape ambient techno with a beautiful scrunch and glitches, Singularity is an amazing album and he played a lot of it on this set. Gorgeous tunes such as Neon Pattern Drum and Everything Connected bringing me into another sphere, the backdrop visuals were stunning and his dancers with the lighting sticks were absolutely brilliant in their choreography of light. Although I find the track Emerald Rush to be a bit mixed up. it doesn’t seem to know what exactly it is but the audience seemed to love it.
The old Immunity classics, the thundering motorised melody of Open Eye Signal with new graphics added of skateboard guy sends a pounding through the ground, you could actually feel the whole place vibrate from all the dancing going on. And then on to my favourite, of panted breath, Collider which seems to have a reworking, the bpm speed has been increased slightly and Hopkins has crafted it to end in the mouth sound you hear uttered at the starting of the studio version, very subtle stuff utterly amazing.
He plays another from Singularity, the amazing Luminous Beings, one of the constants being played on my ipod recently, this track has such a lovely luscious bass line, its so, so good.
For closing this set he played Lorde featuring Disclosure – Magnets and an extra encore of Two Dancers – Wild Beasts – Jon Hopkins Remix which he doesn’t seemed to have done on previous setlists this year, so this makes this a very special Body & Soul set and what a dissbuster to go out on, a magnificent set.
And here I have to commend Kevin, he made the inspired choice, maybe we should go to the Living Lab Tent at the main campsite as there might be reggae, at first I thought it would be too messy with loads of pissed folks but that was quickly diminished when I realised Cian Finn was doing a DJ set of some really cool reggae which was a joy to hear and which I missed last year apart from the Songhoy Blues replacement of The Beat and Will Softly at Natasha’s. The Living Lab Tent had the same kind of vibe as the Riddim Shack at Townlands Carnival in Macroom Cork. Mikey Joyride Soro from Worries Outernational took over and kept the reggae vibes going strong for the night and a great closer for our nights entertainment. I was talking to Mikey afterwards and he said that this stage has a potential for next years edition, so hopefully maybe a new Port Royal area.
Sunday 24th June.
Woke up and headed to the HQ after a wet wipe wash and had a few cups of coffee, today I was doing the 10 AM to 4 PM shift and working at Castle Camping, this is the area where the production crew stay for the duration of the festival, its a lovely part of the site, you have the Ballinlough Castle, the lake and the camping/campervan area. My job to guard entrances into the area and make sure no scruff got in. Half way through the shift I could feel my scalp practically melting it was that hot. I had my ipod and boogie box playing sounds, which some appreciated and some didn’t, well, the late risers anyway. One of the lads with a cool old school Volkswagen Camper in purple and white came through with a chilled can of coke for me and a camping chair, to which I replied ‘Your are a god amongst men.’ This is where I got the picture of the buggy adorned with flowers, I thought it was a lovely touch. I was working at the point where artists playing the festival were accredited there, so these buggies would be sent there to pick up the artist if they were walking on foot or the buggies would lead the artists vehicle to the designated stage area.
The shift went in fairly quickly and I received a text from Dagmara Zolty, the girl I have been doing work experience with recently saying that Jimmy Penguin and Mati of Community Skratch Music who host scratching workshops at 1984 Miracles in Galway were playing a set in the Garden Stage of the Walled Garden from 5 PM onwards. But as a matter of urgency first I wanted to get that all important shower, of which was ice cold, perfect.
Community Skratch Music – Garden Stage at Walled Garden 5 – 6.30 PM.
By the time I got up there the lads had finished their set, but they turned on the system for a while again and Jimmy done a solo set of scratching to some of his own music, it was faster than techno and was a good buzzing sound, Jimmy is brilliant on these decks as is Mati, I was so glad to capture a bit of their sound.
I went for a wander and decided to see what Natasha’s was like and to my delight I heard a lovely trad session. There was Eoghan O’Ceannabhain on concertina and sometimes banjo, Patrick Cummins on banjo and John Flynn on guitar, the lads normally play in groups around Dublin called OTWAK and Skipper’s Alley who I caught at one of the Electric Picnics at the Other Voices stage a few years back. Anyway this was a delightful session and a pleasure to play in. When I first heard the music I went up to the lads and asked how long they were playing for, Eoghan said about an hour so I said I would be back asap with my bodhran from the crew camp. In all my six years attending Body & Soul I have brought my bodhran to every edition of the festival and I think I had a tune with Gerry Harrington at the 2013 festival so was delighted to be able to do my part time profession and join my second session at the festival. Natasha gave us all gorgeous chocolate cakes afterwards which went down a treat.
Myself and Kevin went back to the crew camp to chill for a while, I also caught up with Maireroisin and said hello, she was chilling in her cool camper, the weather being incredible now for most of the festival, there was some serious sunburn cases.
We trekked into the main stage arena to check out a bit of WhoMadeWho’s set, WhoMadeWho are from Copenhagen in Denmark and could’ve possibly been one of Karin Dreijer’s choices when she chose some of the lineup, anyway they made a cool Kraftwerky style pop music and their energetic front man was leaping from speaker stacks, they had a sizeable audience gathered and I’m glad they got to play Ireland in the end, seeing their gig at Bare in the Woods was cancelled last year. Anyway they gave a suitable warm up for the Chronixx gig and hope to see them back in Ireland soon.
We basically hung about the main stage area and watched as some hardcore Chronixx rastafarian fans ran about the front of the stage waving a huge Jamaican flag about and beckoning the main stage audience to come forward for Chronixx.
Cian Finn and Will Softly opened a short set for Chronixx which went down a treat, Cian is a brilliant musician like his dad, Alec Finn, possibly one of the best if not the best traditional Irish bouzouki accompanists in Irish music today. Cian does the same thing for the Irish reggae music and is a brilliant singer, toaster and fine selector of the tunes.
Chronixx – Main Stage 10.45 – 11.45 PM.
I was blown away by Chronixx’s set, Chronixx is a damn fine singer with bags of energy and a very tight backing band. I didn’t know too much about him apart from the fact that Kevin would play a few of his tracks on his phone which seemed pretty good. Its nice to see some young blood come out of Jamaica, along with Cian, Chronixx and the likes of Protoje, as the truth being told, most of the reggae artists I would be into would be in their sixties, seventies and eighties. But what can I say, Chronixx delivered an impeccable set and in the perfect night weather you could ever wish for. Now you hurry back again to Ireland, Chronixx, would like to see another few gigs by your good self. A perfect close for the main stage proceedings.
We sat about for about half an hour in front of the main stage as the arena cleared, was glad to meet Craig Peggs and Robert Nesbitt where we had a great chat, security eventually came up and cleared us away, so myself, Robert, Kevin and Craig headed for the woods.
Bon Voyage – Woodlands Stage 12.30 – 2.00 AM.
This is the moment where I followed the music with my heart, the sound emitting from the Woodlands stage was incredible, classic 1990s rave, sometimes with the Madchester sound and other stuff like SNAP, there was a man toasting or rapping along with the sound and I knew this would be my final blowout for the night. The rapper from Brooklyn, Shamon Cassette was brilliant and kept us sweaty masses pumping with his brilliant DJs, two young DJs from Finglas in Dublin, The Supreme and Gucci Cortez who specialises in 1990s hip hop and house music. An amazing end to an amazing festival for me.
Well decided to go back to Kevin’s tent in the main campsite but it was just too warm in there plus the tent next to us was having a screaming contest, reminiscent to that Father Ted episode where they are trapped in the caves and Graham Norton’s character decides who can scream the loudest, this went on for about an hour and a half till I said I had enough. I got out of the tent and made for the peace and solitude of the crew camp.
Monday 25th June.
After finally getting my phone charged and asking around the crew camp for possible lifts to Galway, Kevin got in touch to say he would give me a lift to Loughrea in County Galway and that I could get a connection there. I just had the daunting task of carrying my camping equipment and rucksuck through the arid heat to the yellow car park. Thankfully Benj who I met earlier at the festival gave me a much needed hand to the carpark area. I also bumped into Robert Murray who was also looking for a lift to Galway and Kevin obliged so he was sorted in the end.
Many thanks to all the people I met and looked after me including Kevin, Clare O’Connor, Rob, Ross , the beautiful blonde girl and the English girl from the volunteer HQ team, Maireroisin and many, many others.
And now some suggestions for Avril to book next year for Body&Soul, how about Natasha Khan’s Bat for Lashes (Perfect B&S fodder), AIR, Aphex Twin (Of course), Max Cooper (An up and coming Jon Hopkins type producer from Belfast), Hawkwind for all the old trippers out there, Robin Williamson (Storyteller, harper and one of the former leaders of the Incredible String Band), The Afro Celt Soundsystem and Edith Frost (Who I think is fantastic). But they are just mere suggestions really, I’m sure there is a heap more stocked in my brain somewhere. Anyway dudes Bon Voyage and I’ll see ya all at the next festival of the summer, here’s hoping the weather stays the same. Love Niall xxxxxxx