I set off myself on the Citylink commuter bus from Galway to Kinnegad, Kevin couldn’t drive me in the camper this year as he wasn’t due on site till the following day. When I got to Kinnegad I asked some people for directions on the correct road to hitch on to get me to Ballinlough Castle, I was advised to take the Trim Road and then the Athboy Road from Trim. The first lift came after twenty to thirty minutes and as luck would have it, one of the people I asked at Kinnegad spotted me on the road hitching, so he took me directly to the festival site. The pre-festival shenanigans begin.
Setting up my tent in the crew camp and grabbing a coffee from Kev’s Kitchen, I spotted another volunteer who I worked with at Gate F last year, Barry from Dublin, so a few tins were had and a catch up in blether, also caught up with Danyl Hartshorn and a few others.
Tuesday 20th June.
I was more or less working in the same area as last year, but this time with Jennie rather than Charlene. It was a fairly quiet day with staff arriving in trickles onsite, my job to point staff traffic to the next volunteer in the staff car park area. It was fairly hot today and I reckon I got a little sunburn on my nose, face and neck. This year advance stewards got a choice of a lunch or dinner, the details of your dietary requirements was contained in the chip in the temporary wristband which was simply scanned at the staff cafeteria.
It meant after your feed you returned to the 12 hour shift with a renewed vigour. Things were so quiet at the Gate F area that Jennie sent some of us to other areas to help out other gaffers. I was sent to the Walled Garden to help out some of the lads there, they were putting cabling into the ground, called ‘Trenching’. Electrical points were established to help light some of the installations, so from the nearest power point, a straight line was dug into the ground (using shovels) leading up to the installation and cable then tucked in under the ground and the sod trod over so that you would hardly notice the cut line.
I phoned Kevin to find out when he was arriving, he was still on the road and wouldn’t get in till about 9.30 – 10 pm, I was subsequently told by someone that he would have trouble driving his vehicle into the area after 8 pm as the accreditation staff finished and closed their office at 8. He arrived at the site and security wouldn’t let him in Gate F or Gate E, so I suggested that he ring one of his bosses. Eventually he got it sorted out and Natasha came to meet him at the Production Gate and led him on a buggy through the festival site into the crew camper van camp site. Met up with my other great buddy Simon Outram (who was starting Thursday) where we caught up with the events of the year.
Wednesday 21st June.
It was a bit busier today at Gate F but could still be quiet and dull at times, that is why I come prepared with my speaker and ipod, blasting out the sounds and hopefully creating the vibe for arriving staff too. The choice of sounds was the audio of Aphex Twin’s concert from the streamed Field Day show, which I couldn’t stop listening to. Jennie made us swap places at the car park just to keep the job interesting and man, it was really hot at times, I’m glad I put on sunblock today. I opted to take the dinner today rather than lunch, lunch was about an hour between 12 and 2 pm alternating with another volunteer and dinner was at 6 pm. So come 6 pm I had the hunger in me and enjoyed a slap up meal of green Thai chicken curry which was wolfed down. My shift finally completed, I was free to roam the festival until the following Monday, yippee!
Thursday 21st June.
Had a wee lie in today and resolved to take as much photos of some of the stages and installations dotting the landscape. Took out the Sony camera first and took one photo of the Woodlands stage and my battery ran out, damn. It turns out that because I couldn’t find the case, I had packed it in tightly into the rucksack and inadvertently flipped open the slip case which turned the camera on, by the time I got around to use it, the battery died. Ah well, off back to the tent to get my Nikon camera.
Friday 23rd June.
First thing today, get that weekend wristband, usually they are issued on either Wednesday or Thursday night, but because of all the weekend volunteers arriving it can be pretty busy. So decided to just pop down to the volunteer headquarters to get the new wristband plus I would need this to get back onsite again as I planned to do a beer run with another bunch of volunteers as we still had to get our drink allocation for the weekend. These were all lads working in Soul Kids with Kevin, so off to Athboy Centra to stock up.
The music and arts didn’t kick off properly till 5.00 pm, so off I queue to the Midnight Circus tent for the start of Kelly-Anne Byrne’s set.
Kelly put on an excellent set as per usual, having only discovered her last year and her Today FM show The Beat Goes On on Saturdays and Sundays, her music is an exuberant mix of happy house, funk and soul, the perfect beat and never too cheesy, more ambient and atmospheric. Her live show would be more reflected on her Saturday playlists whilst her Sunday radio show would deal with more rock and pop classics. She is one of the biggest Electric Picnic enthusiasts and of festivals in general and she explores the line ups of all the events and highlights artists that you may otherwise be not aware of. More power to her and I will avidly boogie to some of her Electric Picnic shows too, godwilling I make it there this year.
The next few hours were spent milling about various stages and occasionally up to the ring of fire in the Walled Garden which became a great focal point for randomness and banter. I worked out that all the mad electronica shit usually came from the Midnight Circus tent, where you could hear earth booms and buzzing bass dubsteppery drones at times.
Katie Laffan – Woodlands Stage 9.30 – 10.10 pm.
At the wonderful Woodlands stage (The original Body & Soul main stage), Dublin lass Katie Laffan had a sizeable audience wooed by her infectious blend of rock, blues, funk and pop sounds and she has a damn fine crooning voice too. Described on her Breaking Tunes page as being influenced by Bob Marley, Chic, Destiny’s Child, Joss Stone and Kool and the Gang, you can’t get as eclectic as that, check her out.
I sat on the hillside for a while overlooking the main stage, I think Anna Meredith was playing who had a fair crowd and was playing some nice melancholic ambient music. This was one of my favourite spots throughout the weekend, not too far from the main stage and you have a seat overlooking all the visuals and lights.
The Bug Featuring Miss Red – Midnight Circus 9.30 – 10.15 pm.
Caught the last three songs by this act and wished I’d caught it all, they were absolutely magnificent, electrifying noise dubstep and rap, Miss Red reminding me of the singer from Alo Wala a few years back but the music being a much grimier heavier sound and they had a packed tent full of people who couldn’t believe their eyes and ears. One of the highlights of the festival and that was just the last twenty minutes of the gig, will be looking out for them in the future.
I wandered over to the Absolut Stage and found some nice seating that overlooked the ribbon umbrella yoke and the stage area that housed the DJs. Loosysmokes is a troop of dancers dressed in white dresses with white umbrellas, they are also very good at acrobatics too and would often put on shows under the umbrella to the sounds of the DJ, it seems they preferred the funky house sound to the pumping techno beat. They were one of the many lots going around adding colour and vibrancy to the festival.
I wandered back to that same spot on the hillside to watch the Metronomy set at the main stage but by now it was getting cold and it was quite exposed there out on the open. This was my first time catching this group, they seemed to have an interesting quirky electronic indie energy, they had bits of Talking Heads and bit of Devo in their sound, so a lively enough festival sounding band. I realised to the left of the main stage there was a vantage you could enter to get up real close to the action if you pleased, much like the same work out for the Electric Picnic main stage.
I retired about 12.30 am as I was tired and a bit cold, I wanted to keep the energy for a fuller Saturday, so wrapped up in the quilt, I sipped a few beers and listened to some sounds and dozed off.
Saturday 24th June.
Got up about 11 pm and went up with Simon to the crew camper van area to see if Kevin was up, we gave the door a knock but no answer. We decided to check out the security catering area where your man was doing breakfast baps for five euros which sounded pretty appealing although his coffee machine was broke and he had run out of bacon, go on sausage and eggs will do and it hit the spot, nicely priced I must say for a festival.
Quite a lot of time was spent milling about the the fire area, although unlit, it was a great meeting point or a place to just sit and chill in the sunshine.
Occasionally there would be a quick visit to Natasha’s Kitchen to see if there was being any reggae blasted, a quick hello to Louise Borre who was working there and Simon raving about the cinnamon cakes which I tried a few times and have to agree, they tasted delicious.
Lambchop – Main Stage 6.30 – 7.30 pm.
I felt sorry for Lambchop as they had a good mellow chilled sound and they were quite hyped on the headline poster bill, but the group were lucky if they had about a hundred people at the front of the main stage, there was probably another two hundred scattered about the general area, some sitting on the hillside who were appreciating it overlooking the stage and others milling in different directions. Lambchop’s sound could be described as alternative country, a kinda bluesy Americana, if you like. It seems like the festival installations and chill areas won over on the band this time.
Various stages we passed and peeked at occasionally had some mad sounds, Weval from Amsterdam was making a beautiful psychedelic racket in the Midnight Circus, whilst La Femme from France made a great punky pop sound on the main stage, well we couldn’t get Air (Fairplay to the Beatyard and I may just do that) but we got a whole bunch of French and Dutch excellence this weekend in these two bands, didn’t have the camera for video clips at the time.
Some of Simon’s friends from his area was visiting the festival for the first time and they had their two year old daughter who was lapping up the festival. We sat on the hill and watched a bit of the Sleaford Mods, an enjoyable English punk beat poetry crowd who had that raw energy of the early Jam, The Ruts and a kinda of cursing John Cooper Clarke style. Was quite surprised at all the cursing, ha ha, with it being a family festival like, the Sleaford Mods were quite free and easy about using the curse word in their Nottingham brogue, found it pretty amusing myself but then I suppose we were after the watershed hour. 🙂
Went wandering about with Simon and his friends for a while taking in bits of the woods, needless to say we were getting our Dub Reggae fix with some serious IRIE emitting from the Woodlands Stage. I never mentioned it till now, I seriously miss the Port Royal area especially when it was cold in the night, it was one of the truly enclosed areas of the festival that oozed that Jamaican warmth. I reckon it might have been Cian Finn’s set at the Woodlands stage or maybe another reggae guy in the adjoining stage, but that dub bass hit home how much I love my reggae. I decided to split after a while as I didn’t want to miss the Bonobo set, so we said our good byes for the night.
Bonobo – Main Stage 11.15 – 12.15 pm.
Was quite surprised that we were only getting an hours set from Bonobo but I suppose Vitalic is the headliner so he gets the longer one, nope I’m wrong, timetable says he played an hour set too. Anyway back to Bonobo, they had a fantastic sound, mix a bit of Massive Attack with the bell like sounds Four Tet uses, mix in a dash of Sun Ra Arkestra, a bit of the Orb, some soul and some funk, oh, and some Sub Saharan music too and you have the fantastic, uplifting and ambient beats of Bonobo. Highlights were Bambro Koyo Ganda (feat. Innov Gnawa), Cirrus, No Reason with Szjerdene on vocals I much prefer her to the studio version featuring Nick Murphy from their more recent album Migration from last year. Kong was another from 2010’s Black Sands album that got the feet moving, such a great act I wished they could have played longer though.
I just sat on the same spot on the hillside and waited it out, Vitalic took a while but he eventually appeared, it was getting cold up there though on the brow of the hill so I needed beats to keep me preoccupied. What can I say about the Vitalic intro, twas fecking nuts, electro frapps, surges, gobbledeegook voices and a thundering pulsing beat, he’s as mental as the crazy Modeselektor, demented inter-glacial electronica mind phuck! And another slice of French techno/electroclash/electro house madness unfurled by Body & Soul, quite a cool way to blow out the early hours of Saturday morning don’t ya think.
After a bit of Vitalic I wandered back into the woods, couldn’t find Simon, couldn’t find Kevin and wherever I was sitting or walking about, I didn’t really know anyone, so it was weird, the randomness of conversation had disappeared, perhaps it was a couples night I don’t know, but I thought, go back to the tent, might as well get warm again and wrap thy own self in thee quilt and went out like a light, time possibly approximately about 2 am or thereabouts.
Sunday 25th June.
Was feeling a bit rougher today and the feeling was made worse when I heard about the tragic death that occurred at the festival, my condolences to the family and sorry for your loss, it seems is the first case ever at Body & Soul festival, let’s hope its the last one.
Trying to think of something healthy, aah, Natasha’s Kitchen, lovely smoothies and cakes, a beautiful soya lemon cheesecake I think and a gooseberry smoothie does the trick for a while, I’m hanging about with Simon and he is off to the only ATM onsite which has a fairly big queue and the good bones of over an hours wait.
I troupe off to film the dancing ladies and lads of Loosysmokes during a nice sunny spell around the Absolut stage.
Was back at the tent for a while when I heard this powerful traditional music booming out of the Woodlands stage, just around the same time I see a missed called from my mate Anders, so I call him back and he tells me that his friend, box player Charlie Harris is playing with the Tulla Ceili Band. I quickly deduct that, this is exactly who I’m hearing so I ran to the Woodlands stage to capture some of their last set.
I think Simon wanted somewhere to sit down and eat, so we went into the Arbutus Yarns area where some nice old time mountain banjo music was playing, courtesy off Ryan McAuley, Eamonn Travers on piano, Sean Conway on guitar and Darragh Brannigan on drums. Someone commented on youtube that they are a mixture of two now defunct bands, Hatchlings and Tashka. It was a pity as they built up a nice amount of listeners with their gig and some drumming troupe beside the venue completely drowned out their sound.
And speaking of which, another video has surfaced of said drummers, David Gerulis upped this lovely eight minute clip of floating into the woods from the main arena and walking towards the drumming party, they create an amazing buzz and a nice dancing crowd. They are called The Hit Machine Drummers and this was their very first festival outing.
Quite a lot of time was spent around the Walled Garden area, one of the best places to be in the sunshine, I was with Kevin, Simon and his friends, Barbara and daughter Abbie Nolan and Janice Topley.
There was quite a few cancellations over the weekend, Parcels the main stage closer for Friday night, A Tribe Called Red who cancelled due to one of the members getting an ear infection, Songhoy Blues who were replaced by The Beat and Birdy Nam Nam who was replaced by the Midnight Circus closer Mykki Blanco. I heard later from a friend, Kate Bandia, that some of the cancellations were due to a bomb scare at some airport in Europe, so nothing the festival can do about that, how the festival managed to whirl up The Beat out of the blue has to be commended.
The Beat – Main Stage 7.45 – 8.30 pm.
It was a surprise to see The Beat as I had no idea they were in the line up, I realise they were a last minute replacement for Songhoy Blues, but I was delighted as I missed them at Electric Picnic in 2013 when they opened up the main stage. It was great to hear the classics such as Ranking Full Stop and Mirror in the Bathroom, perfect Ska music to usher in the sunset at Ballinlough Castle and for Sunday night in general.
So with the way things were going and the amount of cancellations I was in no rush to go back into the main arena or main stage area so stuck around the fire area of the Walled Garden as it was getting chillier with the gathering shade and down to Natasha’s Kitchen for a spot of reggae sounds courtesy of William Softly.
Simon split for the night retiring at midnight, so me and Kev hung about the tent for a while and decided to go in for the last hour into the woods. The last act we were to catch was Ships on the Woodlands stage.
Ships – Woodlands Stage 11.15 – 2.00 am.
Ships had a ambient folk rock thing going with sensuous singing, glissando guitars and atmospherics, they were a perfect closer for such as stage, gloriously bathed in blue and purple lights reflected on the small square glass frames dotting the top and sides of the stage. Sorcha McGrath and Simon Cullen from Dublin weaved a magical spell with their sound, I hope to see them crop up again at Body & Soul at the Picnic.
I headed back with Kevin to the camper as it was colder tonight than previous nights, stayed up and had a few tins and the banter before we crashed out, last thing that could be heard was a bongo player in the distance playing for life, fair play to him.
Monday 26th June.
Twas nice having a proper bed last night and a bit of a fry this morning, my job now to disassemble my tent and pack everything into a few bags and say my goodbyes to people at the campsite. I needed to get a lift from Ballinlough to Kinnegad to catch the 4.50 pm Citylink bus to Galway. The time about 2 – 2.30 pm so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, I managed to get a lift within an hour to Athboy and then eventually another to Trim. By the time I got to Longwood I was still about 30 km away from Kinnegad and it was about 4.20 pm, didn’t get a lift till about an hour later getting into Kinnegad for about 6pm. I managed the get the 6.50 pm Citylink where your man let me on when I explained the situation trying to get the 4.50 connection and finally got into Galway for 9.20 pm. just ten minutes spare to make it in time. Thanks to Simon, Kevin, Ger, Jennie, William Softly and everyone else who made my week and weekend magical at Body&Soul. Roll on Body&Soul Festival 2018 and Electric Picnic Body & Soul Village 2017. 🙂
Monday December 28th 2015 – Monday January 11th 2016.
So off we set, myself, Marguerite, Brendan and Oisin on our second sojourn, the first being in Istanbul in 2012, this time it was to Malaga in Southern Spain and an exploration of the Andalucia region. From the brisk and breezy climate of cold Dublin to the warm climate of orange trees, magnificent cathedrals, churches and castles. terraced balconied houses, incredible food and drink and the happy Spanish vibe. We couldn’t have set off at a better time, through the throes of mid winter near the end of December to what seemed like mid summer to us Irish folk.
December 28th, 29th 2015 Malaga.
Having just come out of Malaga airport it still hadn’t dawned on us how hot it actually was, it was just amazing to see bright sunshine and dry pavements. Our first encounter with Spanish public transport was a bit weird, all we had was an itinerary with a rudimentary address in Malaga, the bus driver had no English so we had to work out what he said. It was nearly a disaster when I hopped off the bus at one point thinking it was our stop, which it wasn’t. The doors closed again and the rest of us didn’t get off, so I had to hammer and hammer the doors to get back on again. God knows what would have happened if the bus sped off without me and myself with no notion where I was.
We eventually got off in the town centre with wide marble streets and set about trying to find Pepa’s place, our first landlady in Spain and our first Air B and B. It was a bit of a task, Por Favor was the most used phrase asked to strangers here to find our street. Luckily we bumped into Pepa I think outside the Ispana cafeteria and bar where she was having a coffee and we found our first little bit of paradise tucked in behind the tapa bars, castles and cathedral.
I have no real idea at this stage where we visited on that first Monday afternoon and evening, all I know was that Oisin was on a quest to taste churros, a doughnut type stick that you dipped into a cup or mug of hot chocolate. This is the cool kiddies breakfast in Spain but you have to be fast, most places stop serving them after noon.
We did eventually find a place just off the square in Malaga central somewhere, a bar and also a cafeteria like most other places in Spain. The adults settled for a cool glass of beer whilst Oisin got his desired churros. That is the thing with this part of Spain, everything is so pretty to look at that you cannot stop taking photos, right down to small details like the balconies on nearly every building and intricate details on ceramic tiles adorning halls, doorways and arches of buildings.
Another cool aspect about Spanish culture is the tapas thing, instead of getting one square meal, you choose a bunch of things in the menu, I will elaborate the more I get into this review. All the different portions come out in three or four plates and you just sample a bit from each dish. One of my favourites was Calamari rings fried in batter, deep fried pieces of Squid. Bread was customary with your tapas and normally you are given bottles of olive oil and vinegar to soak the bread in, simply delicious. Lovely plates of Manchego cheese and incredible red wines. Ah, this is the life. Washed down with a Cafe Con Leche, a Spanish latte made with half espresso and half scalded milk.
I think we checked out a few other places, in particular a restaurant called Taberna el Piyayo that was adorned in ceramic tiles where we had some lovely wine and I had a nice meal of Iberian ham and egg and a nice strong Americano coffee.
I didn’t sleep great, the Spanish love their fireworks and they were going off intermittently during the night, I probably didn’t help the situation by having a strong coffee so late last night. Anyway was first up and showered when I called Brendan. We both set off to find a place serving coffee to go and orange juice to bring back to the apartment for breakfast.
I caught a short clip of the ambience outside the TragaTapas bar/restaurant in Malaga.
We were walking about the area near the Alcazaba, a fortress dating from 700 but completed in the 11th century, It was also in the area outside the Alcazaba I spotted my first Flamenco guitarist busker, I threw in a few coins.
Oisin on the Slide at the Amusement Park in Malaga.
This was a real twilight place, it seemed the later it was the better it became. The additional Xmas lights came alive and Malaga lit up.
A busking jazz group who moved about the main cathedral square in Malaga.
We were hanging about around the cathedral square area, which had many outdoor bars and dining areas so this attracted wandering buskers such as the jazz band in the video above and an accordionist who was playing pleasant waltzes, a few beggars mingling in too. Wonderful drinking areas that insured we wouldn’t be cold in the night with neat little fire lamps blazing near the tables. I tried various beers, Sam Miguel lager I suppose works out like Spain’s answer to Tennent’s lager in Scotland but I still consider it a nice crisp beer, there was some nice local Malaga brands and Alhambra beer, Estrella Damm among others. Our final port of call for the day was the Mercado de la Merced bar and dining area, I never seen anywhere quite like it, groups of restaurants and bars like little stalls under one roof with a general seating area in the middle and an array of different Xmas cribs near the seating and the place was absolutely rammed.
December 30th Malaga / Seville.
I awoke first this morning again and woke up everyone else, we were meeting Pepa at the apartment at 11 pm so went for a walk in search of breakfast, we found the same cafeteria myself and Brendan got the carry out from yesterday. I settled for a Spanish fry up which was delicious, lovely thin sausages, real yolky fried eggs and lovely crisp Iberian ham. The orange juice made your eyes water it was that fresh and probably fell from a nearby tree that morning and of course, I have never turned down a cafe con leche, simply the business.
Today was the clearest and hottest day so far, we chanced upon this really cool second hand store which seemed to specialise in psychedelic clothes from the late sixties, I bought myself a psychedelic waist coat, Oisin spotted a bag that Marguerite might like and when she saw it she fell in love with it, so I bought it for her Christmas present and she got herself a lovely velvet hat and Brendan kitted himself out with a new pair of jeans.
So with taxi booked from the apartment, we met Pepa at eleven and handed back her keys and said our goodbyes, she took a photo of us on my camera. We would be back in Malaga for a night on the 6th January.
The trains were quite cheap and fast compared to Iarnod Eireann and buses even cheaper to travel, public transport being fairly affordable in Spain. I put on the last Harry Potter film for Oisin on the laptop, Deathly Hallows Pt 2, I timed it perfectly the film finished up fifteen minutes before the journey completed. Half the time I was looking at the film the other half of the time with my jaw dropped looking at the Spanish scenery, such as the mountain range we passed through coming out of Malaga.
Our next destination was the Hosteria Del Laurel in the heart of Seville, it took a bit of walking to find the place as the taxi can only drop you off at a certain part of the town, but once we found the place, we immediately set about exploring Seville.
Seville had a similar feel to Malaga, but seemed more local and with cool narrower alleys and streets that winded this way and that and some incredible musicians plonked in street corners earning their dinner for the night.
There was price differences in Seville, postcards and gifts seemed to be a bit cheaper and there was a concentration of more tapas bars and restaurants, although that is not to say Malaga had any less, its just I suppose some of the streets seemed narrower, so the eateries seemed closer and more in abundance.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you the first restaurants we stopped at on the first night in Seville, we were all walking around awestruck that sometimes you forget you have a camera on you. The first tapas bar we stopped at wasn’t too far from the hotel but all of the family voted that it was a bit expensive although it was nice food. There was a memorable harmonica busker who played a low down cowboy version of White Christmas which I liked and handed him a few coins but he got shooed away by bar staff. He started up at another place nearby playing the same tune, I wish he varied it, maybe played a little blues too.
We came to another children’s Christmas theme style park, that had a skating rink blasting out classic Christmas melodies, Oisin was in a wonderland. The Spanish really know how to look after the kids, lots of play parks, theme parks and amusements, perfect for family holidays.
Oisin having his first ice skate in Seville.
Walking about the streets we chanced upon an ice cream shop that was crammed with customers and I could see why, some of the loveliest ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my life. La Campana was the name of the shop, I treated the family to a cone each, the chocolate ice cream was a clear winner for the majority whilst Brendan went for a coffee flavoured ice cream I think.
The first night was tricky trying to find our hotel, we were accosting people with Por Favor and Perdon and showing them our hotel receipt with the address, Marguerite could speak the best broken Spanish of the lot of us. Most gave directions of go left and left again and possibly a right. I don’t know how we done it in the end but we just walked into the square and there we were at the hotel.
December 31st 2015, January 1st 2016, Seville.
I awoke early again, it must be something to do with the climate, no bundling bed clothes around me to keep warm, or maybe I was just pinching myself looking at orange trees in the sunlight whilst having my morning roll up.
I got talking to the receptionist at the Hosteria del Laurel, the hotel was run by two brothers and a sister, one brother is a Flamenco guitarist and the other brother is a Flamenco dancer and the sister too, so we were living in the centre of Spanish tradition. Now time for my morning shower, did I tell you about this shower. Its the weirdest contraption I have ever come across, apart from the usual shower head it had various shower heads lined up from the top to the bottom, if you didn’t know what you were doing it came across like being stuck in a sinking U Boat, with leaks springing everywhere, eventually I got it to come out the main nozzle. Oisin was apparently in stitches laughing at the sounds of me coming from the bathroom.
Yesterday Marguerite and Brendan worked out a two way deal with some guides for today, we got tickets to go on a open top double decker bus with accompanying headphones to relay the history of Seville to us and later on a Flamenco show with the complete works and a drink included. We discovered that the Spanish are quite protective about their traditions, they wouldn’t be doing free shows in the bars with their traditional music, it was usually a drinks or meal deal with a Flamenco show provided afterwards.
It started raining during the bus trip so we trooped down to the covered section although the impact and view was ruined, so we decided to hop off and head for a restaurant out of the rain taking in a few shops on the way. We stopped at a nice tapas bar called Boca A Boca, a nice cosy restaurant that had a very appealing Andalusia décor. I can’t remember specifically what we had in the menu but it was lovely food. It was a busy enough place so we were lucky to get seats at a table there.
After that we went back to the hotel for a refresh before we set off for the Flamenco show. Getting sort of lost again, we were trying to work out what entrance from the square to our street was, was it the illuminated cow area or the shop front with the seventies disco lights. One stranger we accosted to get directions, Marguerite guessed from his broken Spanish that he was Scottish, to which he was and from Glasgow too. He was the first Scot we met on our travels in Spain and he made the distinction as it was raining at the time that this was only the third time that it rained in Seville since September.
We eventually found the place for the Flamenco show, I’ll spare you the name of the place as there is just too much info to take in at this point. But the show was fantastic, two Flamenco guitarists, five or six Flamenco dancing Señoritas and singers in colourful costume and three dancing sharp dressed men. We were treated to some amazing singing in all its traditional Spanish glory, amazing footwork and steps stamped out in time and beautiful intricate guitar playing. I tried to take a video clip on the camera but an usher came up to me saying photos were prohibited so I can’t show you my own clip.
We took the opportunity to visit one of the churches in town during a mass and taking a few cool photos although flash photography was prohibited.
Brendan spotted something in the Seville map that he thought would be of interest, the Metropol Parasol, a piece of art and architecture created by a German architect Jürgen, H. Mayer.
Places were getting harder to find but there was always places still open, you just had to cock your ear and listen hard, normally chatter coming from a side street. We found a busy wee bar down a side street and managed to get a few bottles of beer each. Another amble and we found a small tapas place blasting out classic seventies rock. We got a lovely sandwich and chips splattered with streaks of red sauce and streaks of mayonnaise which seemed to be a typical way we discovered throughout South of Spain. We also had a few nice glasses of red wine and Marguerite used her amazing charm to wring a deal with the barman as it was really, really packed out and we were very lucky to fit into the place.
By now it was getting late enough so we repaired back to the hotel where we were able to buy some wine from the bar there. Marguerite brought some home made cordial cognac with her and we headed out again to the Plaza Square to ring in the New Year and drink a shot of the cognac. There was some crowd gathered there and the atmosphere was fantastic. Although the fireworks show never happened or else it was taking place a few blocks back and the authorities didn’t tell anyone. It seems the state just thought that the local populace would just do the fireworks themselves, which they did. it was quite freaky you couldn’t see fireworks but you could hear them going off right beside you, even the parents were handing their children fireworks which I thought to be a bit crazy really.
Back to the hotel for the night to put a New Year message onto Facebook, send a few texts and to have a glass of wine before we retired for the night, we put on the TV and watched the Flamenco channel for the last hour, a nice way to end the night.
We went to look at the Metropol Parasol on Friday afternoon but it still wasn’t open to the public, I can imagine some of the views you would get at the top of the cityscape.
Today was a pretty laid back day, we just took it handy strolling along at our own pace, it was decided to we would hire a horse and cart today to see Seville from a different angle to the bus tour.
January 2nd Seville / Cordoba.
I think we had to catch a train at eleven or twelve pm to Cordoba so we had a bit of time to wander about for the last time in Seville, find a tapas bar and write out a few postcards or something like that. We came to a nice place with an outdoor area called Alvaro Peregil, a tapas bar with excellent service and amazing food, the area was delightful with orange trees everywhere.
Just as we were about to get ready to leave the Alvaro Peregil place some spontaneous folk music started up in the adjoining bar which we discovered was still part of the place we were at. First we heard verses of song and hand claps and then a tin whistle joined too. I could barely contain myself, I whisked out my small camera and caught a bit of the action. We were also treated to some of their unique Seville Sangria, an orange flavoured wine which was gorgeous if not a bit too sweet.
It was off after that to catch our train to Cordoba, so back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and into a taxi to Seville train station. A thing I noticed about the Spanish train stations, there was always extra armed security around and you had to put your backpacks through a scanning machine. The Spanish aren’t taking any chances after the 2004 Madrid terrorist attacks, so that extra security is needed.
Cordoba was fairly effortless, the train journey and the taxi straight to the hotel, the only thing that wasted time was the hotel receptionist taking a particularly long time in registering us into the hotel, but once we were official he gave a little smile and everything was cool. I wish I had taken a photo of the place as it was a class wee hotel. My room looked out into the cityscape that was Cordoba with fantastic views of some of the tall spires and churches in the area.
We had the munchies so it was an onward march to find the nearest tapas bar and get eating and drinking merry. We sat down at an outdoor eating area that had different tables each side for different restaurants, we had waiters in red shirts whilst the tapas bar at the other side had pale blue shirts. While we were waiting about fifteen minutes for someone to take an order, two musicians started up in the middle to make some money. Eventually someone in a red tee shirt came and abruptly told us they were closed which was kind of annoying after waiting that time with mounting hunger.
I think that diversion came to some good as we must have came to the finest eating house in Spain so far, the food and drink was incredible, the name of the restaurant was called Bodegas Mezquita.
The waiters, chef and everyone was really friendly, they had a particular brand of beer unique to Seville called Cruzcampo, a lovely crisp lager that was highly recommended.
To say at the very least, we were pretty stuffed after that but at the same time, I have never seen food disappear so fast it was that delectable.
Cordoba has a lovely vibe about it, cool hippy type pubs, lovely cafeterias and restaurants and some cute gift shops tucked into its streets and its architecture was second to none, beautiful churches, amazing cathedral and castles all over the place. I noticed that there was extra police officers around Cordoba and warnings occasionally, to be on the look out for pick pockets.
We visited a bar for a snappy beer, it had cool funky rock music blasting out of it and fairly young clientèle, Oisin asked for an orange juice as they had an amazing looking juicer machine. He got an amazing looking drink, I must have been half cut at the time as I couldn’t get a decent photo of his drink.
We came across a curious wine, sherry and chocolate shop called La Casa Del Pedro Ximenez that specialised in Cordoba sherries and wines, extremely nice ideas for gifts and some scrumptious dark chocolates. And a beautiful dark haired young señorita with excellent English who helped charm us to part with some cash for gifts, a lovely little shop worth a visit.
There were other weird liqueur, spirits and gift shops around Cordoba where I picked up various gifts and postcards and I couldn’t resist it after reading about it in a book Marguerite gave me called The Devil’s Picnic by Taras Grescoe, a miniature of 160 % alcohol proof Absinthe, one of the small ones which you usually buy in a pack of five, of Le Diable Jaune Absinthe. Grescoe’s chapter Absinthe Suisse is worth a read, he is trying to seek out the true original elixir that apparently still exists in parts of France and Switzerland, the stuff that pre-dates the prohibition law passed by both countries in the early twentieth century. The original stuff went underground so still existed but was unlabelled, so kinda like Ireland’s Poitin, you can still apparently buy the bootleg absinthe in parts of Switzerland from absinthe devotees. Personally the Diable Jaune stuff was mainly just pure alcohol and after reading the review later it was just a Spanish imitation that wasn’t distilled and not the real thing really, Diable Jaune’s speciality mainly being great wine makers. There are some nice authentic Spanish ones too and it should be noted that Spain, Ireland and the UK never did outlaw absinthe, so distilleries have flourished in Spain, whilst the other two countries, it never has been a serious market compared to whiskey, vodka, brandy and gin.
After another bit of walking about it was time to get a supper, we stopped at another tapas place called the Casa Rubio Bar. I opted for a square meal this time rather than tapas, I think I went for the Bacalao frito con vizcaína – Spicy biscay style cod in tempura and was served with the chip style we seen in that tapas bar on new years eve, with streaks of mayonnaise and red sauce. I have to say that this was incredibly delicious and Marguerite’s and Brendan’s tapas looked lovely too. Casa Rubio Bar is worth a visit with friendly staff and nice cuisine.
I think we went back to the hotel after that and settled down for the night, I started messaging Jerry through Facebook about my travels so far and that I was taking a few sips of my first absinthe and staring out into the night scape from the back room window.
January 3rd Cordoba / Guadix.
We popped out for a bit as you didn’t have sign out too early but I think there was a schedule, we had to catch a train and then a bus to Granada. We went to check out the cathedral which was very convenient as it was just across the road from the hotel.
Firstly the train journey was incredibly fast, about less than thirty minutes, I can’t remember where the bus pick up was but we had to get a taxi I think in between to the bus terminus and then just over an hour and twenty minutes to Granada. I think we had to get a taxi to the next bus station or something as it was in the other side of town and got on a bus to Guadix. When we got to Guadix bus station a taxi was hailed to bring us to the Hotel Palacio de Onate. The taxi dropped us at the wrong address so we had to find the hotel ourselves.
Guadix is probably the smallest town in our itinerary with only a handful of pubs and restaurants, hotels and not as touristy as previous places, so all the more interesting, off the beaten track. We found there was a lively outdoor Christmas market with some cool sounds blasting out, we seen a few of these markets in other towns but nearly three quarters of the Malaga and Seville markets were selling leather handbags. The one in Guadix was quite special and their scope of craft impressive. There was one stall that appeared obsessed with old compasses, sea maps and old style compass maps. There was a crepe stall blasting out a hip hop/reggae/South American hybrid music, nice stuff. A Swiss guy with stall of replica ceramic Swiss house models and Norwegian models, strange pipes, gnomes and strange little tinkly bells. Some delicious tapas stalls that served a nice bottle of wine too.
We headed back to the hotel for the night and I think I had a few pints in the hotel bar before heading to bed, stayed up for an hour to upload photos into the computer from the previous day.
January 4th Guadix.
We had a bit of a lie in today and headed into town to check out some of the shops and the general area, there was a bit more local feel to the place a kind of working class feel, very earthy and there were parts of the town that were completely empty, so maybe recession strapped too. Oisin got the munchies and was craving churros, so we stopped at a cafeteria/bar called Versalles for our breakfast, who served up some nice food and possibly the biggest serving of the churros doughnut I ever saw.
We took a walk up to the tourist information office in the square, we wanted to find info about how to maybe visit the cave houses or for some sort of tour guide, even maybe hiring a car. There was a small tour train but that was closed at the moment but we found out about Alfredo through the tourist office, I think he was Guadix’s only horse and cart man so we arranged to meet Alfredo in the square. His business was known as Alfredo: Ruta a las Cuevas – Route to the Caves and he had two horses and a really cool looking carriage.
Alfredo took us out into the outskirts of Guadix which is basically a mountain range transformed into a community, people carving their homes out of stone, the caves of Guadix, home to many people for the last twenty years or more. It was a bit chillier up here on top of the range, there was a wind blowing and it was quite cold, but the sights were amazing.
We stopped off at another bar and cafeteria, all of the places in Guadix gave you free snacks if you had a beer in their place. One thing stood out about this bar, it had pictures of flooding disasters that occurred in Guadix in 1973, quite morbid stuff to have up in the wall.
We went for another walkabout and came to a tiny bar called Bar Cervantes run by a man called Miguel, the space was tiny enough for maybe fifteen or twenty people comfortably or thirty five people would be uncomfortably packed. But this was the most chilled bar I’ve ever walked into and Miguel, the barman and owner is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was playing a radio station on the telly called Radio Clasica, that wasn’t just classical music, there was folk and Flamenco and seriously old stuff from the gramophone era, vaudeville Flamenco from the 1920s and 1930s by the sounds of it. It reminded me of Reels to Ragas hosted by PJ Curtis on Lyric FM. It was just wonderful to hear something like this in a small pub. We got some beers and Miguel gave us these delicious chicken bits and bread for free, this was fantastic, you get your dinner and beer together for the price of the beer, a bit like paradise really and I think Miguel really liked our company too. It was Miguel who introduced us to that almighty and strong beer, Alhambra Reserva 1925. My curiosity had got the better of me, I asked Miguel about the green unlabelled bottles on the counter behind him. It turns out the glass is labelled or stencilled in itself, but a very, very strong beer.
Later in the hotel bar after a few pints with the family, I headed off on my own for a while to suss out a few other pubs in Guadix. La Bodeguilla was a narrow enough pub that had a fair crowd in it, you got free nut snacks with your glasses of beer and it seemed amiable enough but not the same without the others.
I went into a second bar called Bodegas Calatrava, just around the corner before the hotel and had another glass of beer there, they also gave free snacks with the drinks. It seemed a cheerful enough place.
I had a final pint in the hotel bar and headed off to bed, Oisin was in the other room. I foolishly took another sip or two of absinthe, would regret this in the morning.
January 5th Guadix – Granada – Alhambra and Granada again and Guadix.
The schedule today was to catch a bus to Granada, taxiing to the great Muslim palace, the Alhambra from Granada bus station. The cab ride to the Alhambra was entertaining as the cab driver was Swiss and had excellent English, he gave an interesting history of Granada and was glad that we chose to come here as he felt the people in the region to be some of the warmest friendliest people in Spain. He relayed the funny story about the wee tourist train here, that it doesn’t have suspension, so when it goes over the cobblestone everyone hits their heads of the roof of the carriage.
There was a small queue for the Alhambra, well a bunch of queues, one for people who had booked in on line already and the other for people just buying tickets there and then. We apparently came at the best time, had we turned up on speck to buy a ticket say, in June or July, you wouldn’t get in, everyone in the summer books on line, you would be waiting all day to buy a ticket. We were also told that the entire length of the Alhambra and its estate is about 5 Kilometres long which is a lot of walking and was a lot of walking. While we were in the structure, we were told a few times to carry our backpacks in front of us due to a high rate of pick pocketing and stealing.
The Alhambra was an incredible place, incredible calligraphy, art, amazing arches and ceilings, beautiful fountains and waterways, orchards and gardens. The tourism there still seemed to be busy enough for them never to have to shut it down for the winter, which means it operates the whole year round and why not, the climate is very much the same if just a little cooler than Malaga or Seville.
We hailed another taxi to bring us to a tapas bar in the city centre looking at a few shops on the way, I fancied a tee shirt for myself, I think I recognised the calligraphy from one of the walls at the Alhambra. We eventually settled into this small tapas bar called La Antigualla that was subtly lit like a nightclub and had some pop music playing out of the television. We ordered three pints of lager and the barman presented us with delicious burgers free to eat with the drink, a nice touch. We got talking about music and then folk music. The man’s name is Luthier Ahmad Al Haj Ibrahim and he was originally from Syria but settled in Granada for about fifteen years, he is a traditional musician who plays and makes the stringed instrument called the Oud. His bar was a nice stop off point and when we ordered a second round of beers more lovely burgers appeared. I ended up going back to that gift shop and buying the tee shirt, I wanted to buy a memento to do with the area of Granada, Oisin got a cool hoodie too with Granada and some lovely knot work on it.
As we tried to make our way towards a taxicab to go to the station, the crowd suddenly swelled. unbeknown to us, a crowd was gathering for the Granada 3 Kings Christmas Parade so it was quite freaky not been able to escape the crowd for ages. We eventually managed to make it up a side street and into the back streets till we could flag down a cab, it was the busiest I have ever seen in a town in Spain. But the cab managed to get us to the bus station where we still had an hour to mill. Granada at this time had a huge cloudburst of rain, never seen rain quite like that for a while but you could hear it walloping of the bus station roof. We got more beers in the station bar and because it was Three Kings day they were giving out free food, so I was completely stuffed by the time we had to board the bus plus we were drinking the Alhambra Reserva 1925.
We walked a short bit into the town centre and straight into Bar Cervantes which was pretty full this time round and Miguel the perfect host. The rest of us wanted another drink but I asked for a cafe con leche as I was still full up from drinking earlier, the coffee was delicious and revived me, perhaps a little too much. They enticed me to have a glass of red wine in the second round in which I relented, we watched a Spanish news channel that was showing all the different parades that had happened around Spain over the evening, it was an interesting watch.
I think it was an early rise tomorrow as the 10 or 11 am bus was booked from Guadix to Granada, so we all headed for bed to get an early night.
6th January Gaudix – Granada – Malaga.
The journey through the Granada mountains through to the Malaga mountains was stunning and I was starting to get excited again, it was getting hotter and sunnier.
When we finally got to Malaga we got a taxi as far as it would go, the street leading to Petit Palace was too narrow, but not a bother, registration was fairly quick, they were a professional lot and fairly friendly. Into the elevator to the fourth floor and room 401. We got a plush spacious room, me and Oisin got the bunk beds and Marguerite and Brendan got decent sized single beds and loads of power points to charge stuff. We immediately unpacked a few things, started charging up a few things and got out in search of the tapas experience again.
We stopped at a restaurant called Taberna el Mentidero for a few tapas and some beer, there was a nice selection of food there, the fried dog fish was absolutely delicious, fried in a sort of batter, it looked like nuggets but was much much nicer. It was nice to be back in Malaga.
I think we just milled about slowly around the town centre up near the Alkazaba structure and the cafes around there. We stopped at Cafe de L’abuela which was a nice outdoor location looking over the space towards the Alcazaba, there was a juggler who was rather good and caught my attention for a bit. Some drunk guy turned up then and started to holler some mad sounding Flamenco acapella to a bemused drinking and eating public. Cafe de L’abuela was expensive enough I suppose considering its location, Marguerite wanted to buy wine advertised at 14 Euro, but it turns out it was a glass of and not a bottle of wine. We just had beers and some short snappy tapas. It was a great place though to mill about in and write some postcards.
There was some great music creating a nice atmosphere in the street. We stopped at another tapas bar in one of the main streets, wider marble streets, the ambience here was amazing, helped by the Flamenco inspired folk rock of Johan Hagstrom, originally from Sweden who played Flamenco guitar and Chiara Bolignari originally from Italy who played accordion, playing this amazing music.
We had a few beers here, some nice tapas, can’t really remember what, but no complaints twas lovely and of course, the chocolate cake I got to share with Oisin. I had a few more drinks with the family and decided to split for a while and team up with Johan and Chiara and go on a bit of a ramble.
Johan and Chiara have been in Malaga for about three months busking and playing gigs about the city, they also done the Canary Islands over the summer and South of Spain in general. We had a few drinks and went off to a kebab place for a meal deal of a chicken burger and a can of Sam Miguel. I got back to the hotel at 1 am and hit the sack for the night.
7th January Malaga / Marbella.
Got up, into the lift and out for a walk around the square, the sun was cracking the stones, bought a coffee to go and wandered about the place for a while. Went back had a shower and we all packed up the cases, handed the pass keys back to the reception and asked if they would look after our luggage for a few hours.
It was such a fun and lovely day, we went exploring the Alcazaba. We stopped at a tapas bar called Ispana on Thursday morning, they do a lovely breakfast deal, a sandwich with manchego cheese and crisp Iberian ham, a fresh orange juice and a cafe con leche for 3.50 Euro, which is great value and delicious.
The Alcazaba is a gorgeous looking fortess with gardens, archways and paths leading high above the cityscape, built in the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century and considered to be the best preserved citadel in Spain. there is also the remnants of a Roman theatre dating from the 1st century next to the entrance to the Alcazaba. Most of the info here is taken from the Wikipedia article on the Alcazaba.
We stopped at a cafeteria that was doing ice cream and I bought everyone a cone, nice to have an ice cream on a sun splashed day. We went for a trip down to the dockside area and on to one of Europe’s biggest Ferris Wheels, the Mirador Princess.
We got the bus from Malaga to Marbella and met Donna Callaghan, an old friend of Marguerite’s from Glasgow at a cafeteria, on the journey down it was mostly coastal and we saw the most incredible sunset. Donna welcomed us into her home, put out some food and drink, we talked and got merry.
8th, 9th, 10th January Marbella.
Over the next three days Donna took us on a tour of Marbella and San Pedro, exploring some of the best tapas bars and cafeterias, some of Donna’s favourites. We explored a nice chunk of San Pedro and the weather was exotic and gorgeous. Considered to be like spring over here this would compare to my Irish summer in 1995, lovely and warm with a very mild breeze. On Saturday we visited a seaside restaurant and a tapas bar that looked like it could have been in the Caribbean coast and met some of Donna’s friends later on that day. Also on Saturday we just walked slowly around an area of San Pedro that seemed to be full of exercise equipment, children’s playgrounds and cool walkways. There was a skating rink and a nice wee cheerful bar playing chill out sounds and cheap beer for a Euro a cup, a great vibe.
On the Saturday Donna suggested we visit the supermarket as it would be closed on our final day on Sunday. So I got my tobacco, coffee and various other things some for presents and some for myself and a twelve can pack of Sam Miguel at only 6 Euro.
Donna’s villa is a gorgeous house with marble floors, a lovely front garden and driveway and the most picturesque back garden view, looking off over to the mountains and a golf course at the back.
On the final day Sunday Donna drove us about twenty kilometres from Marbella to a mountainous village called Ojen, all the houses were in dazzling white and sprinkled all over the side of the mountain, referred to as white pueblos houses. It was a wonderful looking place, cool narrow streets that went uphill around corners, chilled tapas bars and cafeterias, happy families and lots of dogs.
On the final night Donna gave us each a Christmas present, laid out a feast of food and uncorked a few bottles of red wine. We all took turns to sing some songs and talked into the small hours. She was the perfect host and a perfect end to our Andalucia trek.
11th January Marbella – Malaga – Dublin.
Donna drove us to Marbella bus station and waved us off as we headed to Malaga bus station and then the airport. When we got through security I bought a bottle of Mari Mayan’s Absinthe for 20.90 Euros, rated as one of the more authentic ones, I learned how you take it proper, dilute to taste with ice cold water and watch it louche, it turns paler or opaque, kind of like the way Guinness settles from the cream.
Stepping off the plane at Dublin airport we immediately start to shiver, welcome back to wintry Ireland, now we have two and a half months to wait to get anything barely resembling Malaga’s or Marbella’s winter time. What a fantastic break and worth checking out, Andalucia is the place to go for your late December break.
I travelled from Galway on the 24th catching the commuter Citylink bus to Dublin, where I got off at Kinnegad, this is where I met Lisa Lawless and Sean Sheil, Lisa was driving straight to Stradbally from there, we were all doing the advanced volunteering and after nine months of positively obsessing about Electric Picnic on Boards.ie, the Electric Picnic Forum and Facebook the time had finally come around again. Myself and Sean shared a similar taste in electronica so I set about playing him loads of mad sets that I had collected and put on the Ipod and putting my Angel Friendz speakers to the test.
Over the next four days I paired up with like-minded electronic fan, Jan Schneider to work four six hour shifts in and around the Body & Soul crew camp site and car park, playing wild electronic sounds to get us in the mood for festival time and although we wished it, Daniel Avery wouldn’t be playing this years Picnic. Two days were spent at the top of the road leading to the staff entrance, where we added a touch of pink to the dark green of the security guy, pink being the colour of anyone to do with Festival Republic, we had to prevent staff and people seeking B&S accreditation driving down to the car park exit and direct them to the correct road and the actual entrance. We also worked a day at the entrance part which was mainly spent listening to Beck’s Mellow Gold, our job to direct campervans and caravans onto the middle road and other traffic up left to the back of the camp site. The final day was spent working with a Scottish and English girl who were professionals at organising festival car parks at every festival in UK and Ireland over the summer, we had to prevent cars from parking where they felt like, which involved me having to go down the track and point the arriving vehicles to the parking attendants.
After each shift, Sean, Lisa, Dave and myself would meet up at the volunteer place and head from there through the production entrance to get a bite at the Roma or Chinese restaurant and take it over to Ramsbottoms pub where we would have a pint, the bar full of Festival Republic, Body&Soul and Trenchtown workers and various other festival areas.
Special mention to Dan the supervisor hailing from deepest Macroom in Cork and my neighbours, a crazy Cork bunch, Cian and the lads and lassies who seemed to have an unbelievable energy, partying hard till 7 am and managing to turn up for the shifts at 2 pm. Also a special mention to Catherine Kehoe, Susanne and everyone at the volunteer office, Larry, Ross, Dave and campervan John and his daughters and so many more.
Friday 29th August
Friday I was up by 10 am as I wanted to sell a ticket and figured that you have to get out there early enough, so onward to the main arena entrance and car park to catch arriving festival goers. Surprisingly everyone who had arrived so far already had a ticket, compared to last year where there was literally hundreds in the streets of Stradbally begging for a ticket, this year no one seemed to be looking and I attracted someone from Festival Republic security who told me to move on out of the arena and car park area. So back through the festival site and staff entrance to lie down for half an hour as that was a lot of walking involved there. I rested up at John’s campervan area, where he made us free coffee and tea and where we can charge our phones and ipods, John and one of his daughters was trying to find a buyer for the ticket for me. I figured the best bet was to go out evening time when the workers would be free from the cities and would arrive to the festival. Some people standing outside Supervalu in Stradbally with a sign for tickets for sale were moved on by the Gardai, so my plan of action was to go to one of the pubs for a pint and possibly sell the ticket there.
GIRO: Galway International Retro Orchestra – Earthship Stage, Body & Soul Village 4 – 4.30 pm
It just happens that about 3.30 pm I met Geoff Ward and Tom Cody wandering about the crew camp bundled with instruments, luggage and camping equipment trying to find the Body & Soul area so that they could set up for the gig. Having arrived an hour and a half earlier, but any time they asked security where to go they were given wrong directions, most security should have the EP staff handbook, but it seems these guys didn’t. So I gave a hand with the luggage and brought them up through the hole in the wall entrance, Geoff just making it in time for Giro’s gig.
Giro launched their first CD at the end of April this year which they had been touring a few gigs around Galway, then Anders Trabjerg and his wife Mayo Yanachi had their first child, daughter Hanna in 16th June so the gigs stopped. This Electric Picnic appearance is their first gig since the birth. Giro play a combination of vaudeville style jigs, reels and polkas influenced by recordings of the Flanagan Brothers, Klezmer music and Romanian gypsy music, all of the music similarly connected through emigration to the US and New York in particular in the 1930s and the melting pot of music that came from this. Their set was basically the first audience in the Body & Soul area for 2014, poor Leo and Anto preceding Giro had to play to an empty stage as the opening of the arena was delayed, the audience just filtering in when Giro started up.
We were treated to some rousing Romanian music and Klezmer music which started pulling in a small crowd, although there was the onslaught of heavy drizzle, Sean, Lisa and Dave showed up too, some spritely reels followed next where folk started leaping around to the music. So more Romanian or Hungarian music followed with Mayo doing some sweet stuff on the fiddle, Anders functioning as the rhythm on the large accordion, Canadian Kyle Borley (flute and fife) and New Zealand man Geoff Ward (saxophone, clarinet and banjolin) joining in intermittently in the arrangements. Borley is also a fine singer of the old Flanagan Brothers style type of songs and gave us a fine rendition of Goodbye Muirsheen Durkin bridged neatly into two polkas. Giro went down exceedingly well and I reckon they have made a few new converts from this gig, they will be playing a few gigs around Galway over the coming weeks.
I decided to go into Stradbally in the evening for a pint and to see if I could flog the ticket in the pubs there, at risk of missing the Blondie set although I did see a bit of them at the RockNess festival in Scotland in 2010. I settled for the Ramsbottom pub as that seemed the busiest of the bars plus it was nice to drink a pint of Guinness in a glass than watered down Heneiken in a plastic glass in the arena, I got talking to some of the people behind Trenchtown in there. There was a few lads hanging about outside the pub and I overheard conversation about not wanting to use Donedeal.ie, I asked if they wanted to buy a ticket, to which one fellow from Portlaoise ended up buying it. I was now free to enjoy the festival with a small bit of income, plus I made this guy happy as he more or less got it for the festival price.I bought a lanyard and programme when I got back into the arena and seeked out Charcoal Grill for my dinner.
Foals – Main Stage 9 – 10.15 pm
I caught a bit of the Foals on the main stage who were playing a fine energetic set and a fine amount of audience gathered too, there was plenty of tracks from of their new album Holy Fire played and they had a good solid rocky sound, a very nice addition to the Friday night entertainment. I don’t know much about the Foals, but I suppose they are a discovery for me and I would be most likely to watch them again if given the chance, but a very tight indie rock sound and strong vocals.
It has to be said this year the Friday night was scant and similar to last year with not much choices in the main arena, the Little Big Tent, Cosby Tent and Rankin Woods tent were closed for the night with only the Electric Arena open for two hours with James Murphy (Ex-LCD Sound System) performing and the main stage which was now left with the choice of the Pet Shop Boys. The Pet Shop Boys always had a superb production on their singles but I just found them to be incredibly dull. I was happy enough to just listen to a bit of the performance from the volunteer tent to the side of the main stage, they basically sounded like their CDs really, ah well, horses for courses and all that. If I was working this weekend as a volunteer I would have chosen Friday as my night shift.
At some point during the night I met Kevin Keehan in the main arena and we went for a wander into the Body & Soul Village, there was a very large crowd gathered around the amphitheatre main stage so I figure this would be tUnE-yArDs, there was no point in trying to squeeze in as it was absolutely rammed so we just wandered about the place eventually deciding to go to the Rave in the Woods about 2 am.
Sunil Sharpe – Red Bull Arena – Rave in the Woods 2 – 4 am.
Sunil had a bit of job in his hands, half the festival must have showed up here seeing that more than half the main arena was shut, but he managed with superb aplomb, playing nice dark brain dance techno, twisty electronic sounds, a resounding thud and an earth quaking bass. The Dublin based DJ had the entire crowd in a hypnotic trance with the music getting wilder and harder. He dropped Polygon Window the title track by Richard D. James aka Aphex Twin just over half the way into his set which added to that brain dance sound, a nice way to blow out the first night. The long clip I took sounds like he sampled Forward Strategy Group’s Phase Linear for the electronic drone in the track, the second clip comes in courtesy from Youtube user Kanal von EarwiggleDublin.
The trek back to the crew camp from Rave in the woods seemed like an eternity, already by Wednesday last week I was getting blisters on the balls of my feet from all the walking around Stradbally town, to and from work and during the work, so they were very tender indeed by the time the first rave in the woods party ended for Friday night. Went up to Kevin’s van where he had a mattress set up in the back for a few cans before hitting the hay myself.
Saturday 30th August
Woke up about 10 am to the blinding heat, I sit up quickly unzip the tent and lie down again when the cooler breeze enters, everyone around is the same, woke up by the smothering heat. Five hours kip, that’s not bad and the most typical of festival sleep patterns you will get, taking in the late night shenanigans. Took a nice shower and shave to freshen up for the day. A bunch of us decided to walk into Stradbally for a bite to eat and a coffee, possibly taking in a trip to the Supervalu too. We settle for a scrambled egg and toast and a coffee at the Sradbally Fayre cafe, its nice the odd time to come out of camping land into the concrete and watch the buzz around the small town. At 8.50 Euros though I call that a rip off for scrambled egg and toast with coffee, so I won’t be back to that cafe in a hurry.
After stocking up with more Guinness and pouches of tobacco and cigarette papers from Super Valu, I head back to the crew camp, where Kevin phones me and we arrange to meet up in the main arena. Its handy when you get to the cross roads leading to the arena, with the crew wristband you can just walk up to the metal gate left of the first Hendrix camp site entrance, flash your wristband and you are inside the arena without the searching or delays the festival punter has to go through. Met with Kevin and went for a wander around the arena, he had to go off and do something so I wandered up to the volunteer area and had a chat with a few volunteers there whilst Trinity Orchestra played out the Gorillaz album, some of it nice and some of it quite jarring. I took a wee trip into the Green Crafts Village to have a look, among all the crafts, pottery and recycling was this bodhran area also called Newgrange Willow Design, where there was bodhrans with wicker rims, the man also gave bodhran lessons for ten euro an hour, anyway I sauntered up and had a jam with him to his banjo CD. I wandered down to the main stage area after and found Lisa sauntering about the front waiting for Dave and others to show, they were getting set up for the Stranglers set due to start.
I decided to go and take a quick look at the Mindfield area before the gig, there was all sorts of spoken word stages, interview stages, Theatre of Food with its chefs, food stalls and an expensive eating house set up for charity with award winning chefs and a pricey meal for 120 Euro, I’ll stick to the Charcoal Grill for the moment. There was also the Science Gallery stage that had a few eye openers in it, in fact there is just too much to fit into three days really.
The Stranglers – Main Stage 2 – 3 pm.
For a band with only two original members left they brought back a lot of nostalgic memories for me, I was a bit of a closet Stranglers fan back in the early 1980s. Classics were reeled out such as Get a Grip on yourself, Nice and Sleazy (minus the nude models this time), Duchess, Peaches, No More Heroes and a gorgeous version of Golden Brown which brought a tear to my eye. They pulled a decent enough crowd for the time of the day too and still had a decent enough sound and verve regardless that the original vocalist Hugh Cornwell was no longer with them since 1990, Dave Greenfield and Jean-Jacques Burnel doing a decent enough job with the vocals.
Went back to the crew camp site for a while to chill, this was the first time that I never moved into the Hendrix camp site on the Thursday and it was so much more peaceful for it, there is a awful lot of drinking and boisterousness at the Hendrix, even more so now with the bar times being extended to 12 am on Friday and Sunday and 1 am on Saturday and can you blame anyone for drinking their silly heads of themselves at 6 Euros a pop for a pint in the arena.
Met with Kevin again and went for a wander with him into Stradbally, he wanted to get a bite and to stock up, so we headed for the corner chipper near the Stradbally Fayre cafe, I bought some chips myself which were delicious with a garlic dip. I noticed loads of young fellows hanging about the town about fourteen or fifteen years old, skanger looking types looking for ways to bunk into EP, they stopped a crustie fellow who actually advised them how to break in, well at least they wouldn’t be able to get through the security at the crew camp. What is the point anyway, you break into a festival and then you get lumbered at a campsite how do you get by wristband check to the main arena, its obvious they are not there for the music and are there to cause trouble or rob tents. Of course you meet the odd few who have bunked in but are genuine music fans too, you can still enjoy free music around the camping areas like Salty Dog stage, Rave in the Woods and Trenchtown if you can avoid the occasional ‘on the spot’ checks for wristbands that crop up now and again.
Chilled for a while with Lisa, Dave and some others at crew camp for a while, supping Guinness and having the odd smoke. There was not really anything on the stages at the moment to grab my interest, but that usually is always the case at large festivals like EP during the afternoon and early evening, there was a number of interesting acts playing, Sean was off to see Hozier, but I was reserving my energy at least till about 8ish where I wanted to catch a bit of Camille O’Sullivans set at the Jerry Fish tent, otherwise I would just exacerbate my blisters and have an even sorer back if I tried to watch everything.
The Frank and Walters – Jerry Fish’s Electric Sideshow 7.15 – 8 pm
Cork band The Frank and Walters were giving it socks at the Jerry Fish tent with a nice fan base packed into the tent, the group were all donned in orange shirts reminding me of Sweden’s The Hives, they played melodious rocky pop songs that reminded of the energy of the Undertones and the early Jam. The group’s vocalist and bassist Paul Linehan regaled the audience in his thick Cork brogue with many funny stories and innuendos of his experiences on tour with the group and it seems they cracked it today with a fairly rammed tent reeling out classics such as After All and Plenty Times amongst others.
Off for a wander now with Kevin to the Body&Soul Village, he always has a fondness for places like My House (at Body&Soul Festival) and the Radio Shack for continuous and timely funky hits which I don’t mind myself at all. I notice sometimes especially at festivals that some stages are a little too close to each other, to some people this is their idea of hell, but for me in some ways that adds to the mad chaos to hear two completely different amplified sounds within the one ear shot. The case in hand here being a traditional music concert in the Bandstand (Pagoda stage from B&S festival) clashing with cool cheesy disco funk of the Radio Shack.
Louis Scully Discotekken – Radio Shack, Body&Soul 7 – 9 pm.
I’ve no idea what music was playing in here but there was about eight or nine individuals giving it socks to the groove, I imagine it was probably stuff like The Tramp’s Disco Inferno, The Real Thing’s Can you feel the force and the like, timeless classic disco era funk. No doubt there was some Chic fans in there getting themselves into the mood.
Couldn’t help overhearing them from the Radio Shack so wandered over to catch a bit of their traditional magic and man, they had a fine crowd jumping about in front of the stage, some fine looking girls playing concertina, fiddles and accordions and two fellows, one with a timely bodhran and the other pumping the sound with the guitar. Reels and more reels and jigs with a bit of rock n roll and Bothy Band style thrown in for good measure.
Camille O’Sullivan – Jerry Fish’s Electric Sideshow 9 – 9.45 pm
My sister Marguerite and her husband Brendan are big fans of Camille O’Sullivan and have her CDs The Changeling, Live at the Olympia and the DVD too, so I was well accustomed to her sound and this was the first time I would see her in the flesh. Wikipedia describes her as alternative rock / baroque pop, I would also put a bit of burlesque in there too, perhaps the best description of her is likening her to a female version of Nick Cave. She is also an actress, artist/painter, lecturer and part of her act is very theatrical in style too. What better a venue to find her in than Jerry Fish’s quirky tent venue.
She kicked off with the marvellous Revelator that opens the album The Changeling, a brooding masterpiece built up from keyboards and guitar histrionics of the musicians on stage she belts out the lyrics with such intensity that she is spellbinding, the only snag being my camera deciding to cut off before the last minute of the song and too late for me to realise this. Camille comes across at times as a stand up comedian or maybe she just has the natural lilt of Irish laughter, but she charmed us no end. She does a very intense acappella piece, I don’t know if this is one of her own compositions or if it is a Nick Cave style track but it got an amazing reaction from the audience including myself. At one point she looses her balance on stage and falls over a large amplifier, I don’t know if this was staged or if it was a genuine accident, but like a pro she just carried on as if it never happened. I was very impressed with Camille’s performance. something completely different that just grabs you, yep, that’s what the Jerry Fish’s Electric Sideshow is all about.
It was off after that to find a coffee stall rather than to drink another Guinness and a bite to eat, Kevin wanted to catch the last part of the London Grammar performance at the Electric Arena, unfortunately as we were trying to work out where the Electric Arena was coming around the main stage area, the Paolo Nutini audience had just spilled out of the area and separated the two of us, I hopelessly lost Kevin in the throng with no way to figure where the hell he was. So I made my way up to the Electric Arena and used O’Briens Ice Cream van as a marker should Kevin phone to find out where I was.
London Grammar – Electric Arena 9.30 – 10.30 pm
I caught the last two songs of the act, not actually in the tent but at the ice cream van outside the venue, I have no idea of London Grammar’s music but it was soft rockish sound with some of the nicest vocals heard over the weekend along with Camille’s, of course. Nope still no sign of Kevin, it turns out there is another O’Briens ice cream van at the other side of the EA so Kevin was standing at the wrong van it seems. Not that we would’ve got into the EA anyway the tent was rimmed about three or four columns deep with people on the outside for this up and coming group. A minor irritation developed, Kevin kept phoning me to find out where I was no matter how much I tried to explain that I couldn’t hear him due to amplification and roars everywhere, but he kept phoning and phoning until I just ignored it or else laughed my silly head off as I didn’t know what he was saying nor him me. He was raging that he missed London Grammar because he couldn’t find the EA, its a simple rule, you go left of the main stage by the first set of stalls and the Bacardi bar until you hit the first yellow and blue stripe tent, at least that’s what I think it was.
That was the catch phrase though for the festival, everyone screaming into their phones, ‘Wha, what? I canna hear what your saying, its cracking up. WHAT! I canna bloody hear you, text me for god’s sake.’
It was nice to be able to watch a Bristol trip-hop act without gales and rain for a change, the last time being the Massive Attack slot in 2010 where I got soaked to the skin after the comfort of Fever Ray in the EA. Kicking off with the uptempo Silence from the album Third Portishead rocked us up with a visual and perfect sound feast, although for the first few numbers Beth Gibbons vocal level was a little low and it was hard to make her out, but this was straightened up by the bands third number. Watching Portishead live, they come across much heavier than in their albums, guitars soaring with amazing power. We were treated to many of the luscious tracks from the groups debut album Dummy including Glorybox, Mysterons and Sour Times. Perhaps the biggest roar came during Machine Gun when the propaganda shown on the backdrop screen showed the Palestine conflict, the Syrian crisis and the Irish debt crisis with images of AIB and the Bank of Ireland. Very similar it appears to the messages shown in the backdrop for Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy that I seen on a Youtube clip from their performance at Longitude festival this year.
The visuals especially on the likes of Mysterons was absolutely stunning to go with that wall of sound only Portishead can create and Beth Gibbon’s vocals are simply divine, it was a pleasure to witness them at the Picnic and another landmark group crossed of my list, although I wouldn’t hesitate to go and see them again.
It was time for a brief sit down and a can of Guinness or two at the Body&Soul area with Kevin until we made our way back to the main stage for a bit of Chic, I wasn’t too keen in catching the start anyway as I find the first two hits by Chic super cheesy and I know that they start with these two numbers, Dance, dance, dance being one of them. It was more the stuff from the second album I liked such as Good Times, Forbidden Lover, We’re Lost in Music and Le Freak.
Chic – Main Stage 12.30 – 1.45 am.
Chic were just ploughing into We’re Lost in Music when myself and Kevin arrived at the main stage and man! It was packed out, never had disco funk been so popular, everyone giving socks with the moves. I used to dismiss disco as a sort of disposable pop music when I was into my heavy metal stuff, but funk guitarists like Nile Rodgers can rock with the best of them when required, had Rodgers been ten years older he would have been playing with the likes of Parliament and Funkadelic or even Hot Chocolate. Chic has a very tight ship in sound with a smashing tight brass section, a cool and calculating bass and a delightful lead front of amazing soul singers in Kimberly Davis and Folami Ankoanda-Thompson who have the looks and stage clothes to match, Davis and Thompson look in particular as if they were whisked from a world renowned gospel choir, jeezo these girls sure can sing their soul.
Now lots of people have been complaining about Rodgers bigging himself up as having played with the big stars and producing their records, but after reading his biography Le Freak I have the greatest respect for the man and it was also a delight he announced that his cancer has cleared up.
On with the music, the group went through various classics, a Diana Ross melody section, David Bowie’s Lets Dance, Sister Sledge’s We are family and Madonna ‘s Like a Virgin which I don’t particularly like but let the man have his glory. For me it was more the hits that made Chic themselves, We’re Lost in Music, My Forbidden Lover, Good Times with obligatory nod to the Sugarhill Gang who originally nicked the melody for their hit Rappers Delight and the bona fide classic Le Freak which seriously got the whole arena dancing. A smashing gig and a great way to round up the Saturday nights entertainment on the main stage, the only other similar type Saturday night closer being George Clinton’s Pfunk at Electric Picnic 2008.
We were wondering where to go next, I realised I hadn’t been to the Little Big Tent since Richie Hawtin’s show on Friday Electric Picnic 2012 and looked at the lanyard to discover that Northern Irish DJs Bicep were playing at the LBT till 3 am so we headed up to catch the last hour there.
Bicep – Little Big Tent 1.30 – 3 am.
Hailing from Belfast, Bicep create a nice sound palate of house music, in the sweet confines of the LBT there is a nice crowd bopping away to the sound but there is still room to breathe unlike the packed Rave in the Woods at times. There is a nice visual backdrop that compliments the sounds and Bicep seem to have a grasp of rich electronic sounds that they expertly mix to the beats, having missed them at Life festival over the last year or two I was glad to be able to catch up with them at last, I think Kevin enjoyed this too. Funky electronica for the ravers it is and gets a thumbs up from me.
We decided to go for Rave in the woods for the final hour and catch the last bit of Joy Orbison’s set, so from scintillating house to more scintillating house, dubstep and garage music it was.
Joy Orbison -Rave in the Woods 2 – 4 am.
This was my second time catching Joy Orbison this year, the first time being at Life festival where he played under the moniker Joy O and apparently a different type of music as well although I enjoyed both his sets.
There was a massive crowd gathered at the rave in the woods again, this time with Orbison at the helm, providing tasteful beats, cool twisted electronica and beautiful female vocal samples that complimented the sound. Every time I film this stage my camera trails off to the lasers and as always I end up filming the galaxy of colour spots on the trees, I suppose it can’t be helped and I reckon every person with a camera does the same. The next time at EP I will make sure I get to the very front of the stage and film them from there. There is not much more I can say about the music apart from that its was extremely enjoyable and energising, you can only say so much about dance music, a bleep here and bleep there, a twisted snare here and a bass to flatten your house with. Lets just say tonight, Orbison was playing a pumping soulful groove that you did not want to stop and that you could listen to until sunrise, alas it stopped at 4 am of course, so now the trip back to crew camp, feck!.
Myself and Kevin ended up getting lost on the way back, we ended up a road where security were helping a big truck to reverse, we asked security if that was the road to the Hendrix camp site which it wasn’t. We eventually found the stalls and the Hendrix camp site about an hour later and when we hit the cross roads, we took a wrong turn and ended up at some farm house, why the hell does this keep happening to us, my blistering feet are laughing at me, it was probably down to us being too loaded or whatever. You’d think there would be some kind of Stargate wormhole by now to save all that bloody walking.
Anyway the final hour was spent in the company of Ross, Larry and Kevin drinking Morgans and Guinness and having an oul smoke till about 6 am, where we met a shivering and a just awoke Sean who was heading to one of the portaloos. It was then I realised how bloody cold it was and decided to hit the hay myself to keep warm.
Sunday 31st August.
Got up about 11ish today and met Sean, Lisa and Dave and decided to go for a breakfast in Stradbally, I can’t remember the pub we went to but it was just down from Ramsbottoms. They were cashing in on festival prices so the breakfast with a coffee worked out a 10 Euro which is just a tad expensive. Anyway we happily gulped down the breakfast and coffee and I asked someone where I was supposed to pay, but everyone turned around to me saying they already paid beforehand, so it was suggested by my friends that I leave quickly and quietly which I did, so got my breakfast free woo hoo.
Got back to crew camp with the others and met Kevin there, he wanted to go and see the Wailers, so we set off to the main arena through the steel gate armed with cans of beer. Last year we missed Black Uhuru because we were having a chilled time with Patrick Long, his brother Kevin and loads of buddies, the same happens everyone at some point I’d say the weekend over at the Picnic. Your chilling after a lot of walking and you completely miss someone you wanted to see.
The Wailers – Main Stage 2.30 – 3.30 pm.
There was a nice crowd gathered for the Wailers and the sun was out in all its glory, the perfect recipe for reggae music. Where we settled about five or six rows back, who should we land beside but my good friend Aminah Dastan and her boyfriend, so a nice reunion of buddies. The Wailers played a greatest hit catalogue of Bob Marley classics which got a steady bouncy skank going, Get up Stand Up, Could you be Loved, Is this Love, One Love and so on and so on, just a fun filled hour of classic Marley hits in the blazing sun you couldn’t ask for more in that traditional Sunday EP slot.
Aminah and her fellah had to go back to work at their coffee stall in Soul Kids area, so myself and Kevin rushed over to catch the last fifteen minutes of Jenny Lewis in the Rankin Woods tent.
Jenny Lewis – Rankin Woods Stage 3 – 3.45 pm.
Jenny Lewis is the lead singer for Rilo Kiley an alternative rock group from the US, she has three solo albums under her belt, the style of music she gave off today was an alternative country rock n roll vibe, a kinda of Americana music, this was my first time seeing her as I never seen Rilo Kiley at the 2007 Picnic either. Her music judging by the clip I took had a rootsy Southern bluesy vibe about it but with an indie edge, she also has a great rock n roll voice that is very powerful and she is a very cute sexy looking red head, I would definitely cross the road to see her again.
This was around the traditional time for me to pop down to the merchandise stall and buy a Picnic tee shirt, I settled for a nice blueish green one with what looks like the Eye of Isis design kind of like the 2012 a bit except nicer again. At some point during yesterday I spotted Kevin’s favourite diner food, the chicken wing stall, now for the love of me I was trying to remember where I did see it, we eventually found it in the second row of stalls but I think he was disappointed when they had actually run out of chicken wings, it sort of defeats the purpose of the name of their stall really.
Kevin went off for a wander and we decided to meet at the B&S entrance later, at one point I sat down not far from the Bacardi bar to listen to the sounds emitting from there, Decent Perks was playing a set of funky house there over the cacophony of Sinead O’Connor’s warblings from the main stage, another case of two sound stages clashing, a weird combination, funky house and the loathsome vocals of O’Connor. I had to get out of there fast, so met Kevin at the B&S entrance sooner than expected.
We basically sauntered about Body&Soul looking at stuff, some of the strange shelters or art near some of the stages, well the big green umbrella type shelter next to the Upstage tent where we had an old smoke. Kevin looked at my programme and discovered that Mikey Joyride Soro was going to be playing a one and a half hour reggae set at the Upstage at 5 pm. Mikey is one of the supervisors at Life, Body & Soul and no doubt, Electric Picnic too who looked after the site build workers and volunteers in all these festivals, he is known for his trademark green Jeep with a constant reggae soundtrack blasting out of it at all times.
Mikey threw a joyful reggae party and a nice reggae history lesson in music to keep our feet moving, the tent was empty at the starting but quickly filled up when the bass vibe rebounded out of the openings in the tent and seduced passer bys into the tent to loose it with the music. There was an incredible happiness from the music that Mikey played which is again what the Picnic is all about, its not just about headliners and massive stages, its a series of about 20 or maybe 25 different stages, some quite close to each other in the same areas.
The music covered all sorts of genres that have sprung from reggae too, drum n bass, dubstep, dancehall, dub, ska, uptown, ragga, jungle and of course, good old reggae itself. Classics such as Dawn Penn’s No, no, no, Bob Marley classics, Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock and the like, just a pleasant place to spend an hour or so when there was no plans on the agenda to rush off to the main stage or whatever.
When looking at the EP festival programme afterwards I realised one of my favourite Irish electronica artists played right after Mikey, Cork man, Reid but I only found this out hours later so I was a wee bit sickened, it happens though all the time at festivals.
I decided I wanted to get something to eat before going on the liquid diet of Captain Morgan cola cans and cans of Guinness so off to a coffee stall and then a food one. I had a good look around until I settled for a German style sandwich stall called Hans Frankenfurter – Authentic German Cooking that sold bratwurst and pulled pork rolls. I settled for a pulled pork roll for the affordable price of 6 Euro and it was absolutely delicious and filled me well, one of the nicest discoveries at the Picnic.
We briefly took a trip to the Hendrix camp site where Kevin wanted to get some cans from his tent, when we arrived I got a chance to meet Cork Dave who was in suitable spirits with a few beers in him, blasting his beat box and entertaining his neighbours who were suitably inebriated too. They spotted my bodhran so they begged me to do a bodhran solo, which I obliged them in the end and they gave me a cheer, this was the only time I managed to catch up with Dave, so I took a photo to catch that moment.
Seeing that we were in a bit of a reggae buzz today we decided to head down to Trenchtown for a while, it was odd where Kevin chose to sit, right in the middle of another sound stage clash, this time the Revelation Sound System were blasting dancehall dub in one corner while there was a live reggae rock band Synergy playing in a stage at another corner, you know something, festivals are the maddest of things, why do we subject ourselves to such volume from various sources, we are mad as hatters we are.
Synergy – Inna Live yard, Trenchtown 7.30 – 8.30 pm.
Went over to check out Synergy who hail from Youghal, County Cork and who play many different styles of reggae, folk, ska, trad, African and rock, they have been described as mix of reggae and sunshine music, Latin music and Irish music. When I was checking them out they were playing a bluesy heavy rock with a Jamaican drumming undercurrent, quite an interesting mix and why not, I ask, tis the Picnic after all, a melting pot of styles and hybrids. Will be checking them out if I get a chance soon again.
At about quarter past eight we figured that was the time to get a good spot in around the front of the main stage for Beck, so we hurried over to settle before the start of the gig.
Beck – Main Stage 8.30 – 9.45 pm.
Beck blasted off with Devil’s Haircut, what a way to go, the riff just ate through my brain, probably one of the best concert intros ever and the Electric Picnic audience went ballistic, Beck and his band tight as hell with beautiful psychedelic graphics playing out in the massive back screen backdrop. Beck looks as young as ever leaping about the stage like a kid and his voice in super form. Next its straight in the opening of Mellow Gold and Loser, this is just so, so good, everything replicated to a super live intensity and everyone in the audience in awe of such a band rocking out the main stage. He dropped other classics throughout the set such as E-Pro and Black Tambourine from his 2005 album Guero. His set mellowed in the middle with some tracks from his new album Morning Phase, like Blue Moon. I knew he had come to the end of the set by the opening keyboard motif for Where it’s at, that’s the number he has been closing with on his recent shows and where he introduces his band. It was a damn fine pleasure to get to see Beck live for the first time and I hope its not my last time.
I think I went for a coffee after this as the cans was running out and I had to use them sparingly, stupidly I left two cans at crew camp instead of taking them all with me. Sean was in touch by text, we arranged to meet at the left of the mixing desk for Outkast, for the whole festival I had not actually went to a gig with Sean as yet. So myself and Kevin dandered about Body & Soul for a bit. Both of us decided to buy a pint from Heneiken Atlas, the only pint I’ve bought for the whole weekend, I went into the bar and asked for a pint and she said, ‘sold out’ but she was only joking, I liked that.
I could have never anticipated the crowd that was going to gather for Outkast, it must have been the biggest crowd gathered for a EP main stage act ever, the crowd extending to the very back and right up to the sides of the stalls such as Oxegen.
Outkast – Main Stage 10.15 pm – 12 am.
To tell you the truth I knew nothing about Outkast, in fact I have always thought that rap never came across well live whenever I saw it on stage, but man, Outkast cracked it, they were totally an entertaining act. Both Andre 3000 and Big Boi came across a fairly articulate when rapping, meaning I could understand what they were saying, which is not usually the case with rap gigs for me and my god, they could rap incredibly fast and you could still understand. I was vaguely aware of the singles Ms Jackson and Hey Ya because of airplay in the radio. Some of the audience at this gig though bugged the hell out of me, groups of fellahs with their girlfriends on their shoulders, their girlfriends having conversations with each other blocking a fair section of the view for a lot of people in the back. Why were the people at the back so meek, I would be punching them down, ‘Get out of the bloody way’ I would be roaring. It was also a constant pushing and shoving to get to the front which was annoying enough. Plans to meet Sean at the mixing fell apart as soon as we seen the main stage crowd. Myself and Kevin had enough at one point and withdrew from the audience to find some space to breathe.
I can’t remember who we met first but we bumped into Kevin Long who then took us into the Hendrix where we met his brother Patrick too and a friend of his, we also met Sean I think. We decided to go into the Body&Soul for a sit down just out of the periphery of the B&S main stage area. I attempted to take some photos in the dark of the lads, I even attempted a selfie.
We then moved up near the Body&Soul fire for a while which is a lovely spot to hang around, I took a video clip which didn’t really pick out my friends in the dark, but takes in the fire and some of the lit up trees and Body&Soul decorations around.
Boddika – Rave in the Woods 2 – 4 am.
We made the collective decision to go for the last hour to the Rave in the woods and catch the last act for the festival, Boddika, I think it was on the way there that we bumped into Sean Sheil and a friend on the way there too. I had to coax Kevin as he wasn’t too sure about the further walk plus he had to work at the breakdown of the B&S part of the festival on Monday.
Boddika was playing some nice spacey techno that had a lot of folk wired to the sound, didn’t feel like going up to the front as I hadn’t really the energy left, but appreciated the fine electronica that was being played, a nice way to close proceedings for the Picnic and quite different again from the Boiler Room set, hope he comes back for another visit, maybe Life or Body&Soul festival next year.
It was great to meet up with all the lads and we found a nice spot at the back of rave in the woods to relax and sit while soaking up the sounds. Oddly enough Boddika dropped a familiar track near the end of his set, I realised it was a track Ben Klock played last year on the Friday night at Rave in the Woods, it sent a chill down my spine and at the same time saddened me a wee bit as this one was coming to an end.
We decided to head off just before the very end of Boddika’s set so as to beat the onrushing crowd coming out of the area, it also felt a bit like the festival was still on when we headed off. Myself and Kevin followed Patrick and his brother this time so we wouldn’t get lost like yesterday and we found the Hendrix no problem and we said our goodbyes to Kevin and Patrick Long vowing to meet up sometime in either Galway or Limerick where they were from. By the time I got to crew camp both myself and Kevin were world weary and decided to hit the hay. Sean wisely stayed up having a blether with Larry and Ross around the tents, god it was 5.30 in the morning and i had to get up in four hours.
Monday 1st September.
Hungover and tired I was awoke by Lisa, I slowly but surely packed up my stuff and tent and hopped into her car with Sean, Sean sleeping for most of the journey to Mullingar and finally for myself to Kinnegad to get the Galway bus, all to the soundtrack of AC/DC in Lisa’s car, we said our goodbyes and that was it really.
In hindsight having looked at the RTE footage of the festival, it seems like they were at one festival and us at another, they seem to forget why ‘Electric’ is in the title of the festival, because its a festival for all sorts, but the basis or originally the basis was an electronic undercurrent of bands and DJs comprising the festival as well as everything else. I didn’t think Eoghan McDermott was a great choice to present the Picnic but Jenny Greene was was OK as she is a DJ after all, but for a guy who presents The Voice it was a rubbish choice, perhaps it was because of his Gaelic knowledge as a requirement by the broadcaster to introduce the Irish music bit from Other Voices, although nice job from Cormac Begley and the lads and lassies flaking out the reels. I hope for next year such sludge as festival fashions, stupid questions like what type of cheese do you like and such rubbish will be omitted from the programme. Get someone like Leagues O’Toole, Dave Fanning, Michelle Doherty and Elton Mullally from Under Ether or even John Kelly, someone who has a modicum about the music and the music fans at EP. Some of the footage was great such as the Foals, Stranglers and Chic but there was not near enough and far too much waffling really.
Anyway, till next year love and peace and goodbye Electric Picnic and Body & Soul. Roll on the end of May for Life, Body &^ Soul and EP 2015.