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. 🙂
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.
My journey began from Galway on Saturday 15th June, Brian and Reka kindly came to my rescue and drove me from the city to Ballinlough Castle, Gate E where I only had to walk two meadows till I found the crew camp, I was the first volunteer to arrive on site, the only other activity going on in the woods was a lighting/sound/trapeze group who were working on their installation near the crew camp. I started my first shift on Sunday 11 am, my job to take note of each vehicle that entered Gate C, the production entrance, I would get their name, phone number and registration, I also filled out stickers with the same info which they applied to their windscreen or their dashboard. The purpose of the info was so that Megan Best, one of the production managers could contact them in case their vehicle was blocking an important route.
I signed in the first security, traders and other festival workers that Sunday plus I was given my first two way radio to use, some more of volunteer stewards also arrived on Sunday evening, Jo McGrath and a bunch of her friends from Galway set up at the crew camp, Jo was originally going to give me a lift on Sunday evening but then I discovered I had to be onsite for Sunday morning.
Through Monday and Tuesday I worked with two volunteers called Andy and Kevin, our main job was communicating by two way radio at different parts of a very narrow road, Road 2 the Walled Garden route. Basically the system is one way at a time, if vehicles approached and indicated that they wanted to go up that road, I would radio the lads and find out if the road ahead was clear, I would then ask traffic to proceed and the same applied to me, I had to make sure no traffic was blocking my side . If no one was posted there, it would be a major inconvenience, just imagine a huge circus truck or the double decker pizza bus going up that road and then finding another vehicle coming the opposite way, that is a heck of a lot of reversing and would be very time consuming.
So two and a half shifts later I am free to enjoy the rest of the festival, so I plan the day to hitch into town and get supplies, food, drink, tobacco and skins. Through Tuesday and Wednesday I got to know quite a few of the workers and discovered some cool areas near production such as Kev’s Kitchen, where there would be cool electronic sounds blasting out and some amazing coffee and cool folk. I also received some fantastic news from my good friend Anders, his wife Mayo gave birth to a baby girl they named Hannah, so something else to celebrate too.
Another area near production was the tool shed in the stables area, where you went for the buggies, ladders and all sorts of equipment for putting together the stages and installations, the two way radios were also controlled here, it was a nice place to call around to at night to sup a beer or two with nice sounds blasting out and to have a chat. The Decor barn was another cool area where folk were preparing the art to add to installations in the woods.
By Thursday I learned to just hitch from the production gate as it was busier than Gate E, the first van to come out was a bunch of lads working for Bulmers who gave me a lift to Athboy and back to the site again, I was to meet them again through the weekend. Most of Thursday was spent taking photos of workers putting the finishing touches to the stages and installations.
Friday 20th June
Thursday was a late night so I possibly got about five hours sleep until the blazing sun started cooking me in my tent, it was an absolute scorcher of a day. It was about 11.30 am so about three and a half hours until the arena stalls opened up, I really needed a coffee. So off to the Body & Soul catering place where they gave me a brunch on the house, having paid for the meal the previous night I thought this was a very nice thing they done and a great start to my festivities with a few helpings of coffee too. The sound systems were blasting away testing the sound, the festival was imminent. By now some of the weekend stewards were settling into the campsite, some of the lads that worked the Life festival and previous B&S’s, Conor Dunne, Charlie Smith and James Fahy, some of the lads I done the fencing with, Fionn, Shane, Phelim and Mikey jumping about in his jeep blasting out reggae sounds. Sarah Richardson, the volunteers coordinator was also there sorting out arrivals and shifts, in fact there was five Sarah’s supervising the same team.
I went around and took a few video clips of some of the Body & Soul special effects laid on for the festival, the cool entrance into the woods from the main arena and one of the installations in the woods, the Glowhole.
I walked into the woods in the early evening to My House, the My House DJs were blasting out some nice vintage reggae and ska interspersed with some soul classics, from Toots to Smokey Robinson.
The Reckless in Love stage was not too far as you could hear its bass from My House, so I went over there to investigate and caught a bit of Eoin Ryan’s thumping set, some pulsating house music, techno, funk and soul.
The first stage in the main arena that attracted me was the Pagoda Stage, it reminded me a bit of the bandstand in Salthill park in Galway.
Tracey Bruen – Pagoda Stage 7.15 – 8 pm
Galway singer Tracey Bruen and her band were making a delightful sound on the Pagoda stage, described in Breaking Tunes as playing a mixture of indie folk with a hint of blues, her music also has touch of theatrical essence as she also works with the Fregoli Theatre Company. Her voice was in fine fettle today with a bunch of multi-talented musicians making a glorious harmonious racket behind her to kick the festival off. The band is due to release an EP which they are working on in the studio currently.
Galway DJs Cian O’ Ciobhain and Cyril Briscoe were making a nice pumping techno sound in the second biggest stage, having built up a solid base in Galway through numerous clubs in the city, they brought their brand of techno, house and funk to the confines of the Midnight Circus with a sizable amount of revellers joining in, in the fun.
At one point I went to my favourite diner, the Charcoal Grill for an 8 ounce steak burger just to make sure I was set up for the night, the nearest one at hand was just before the Wanderlust Stage in the Walled Garden.
Rubio – Reckless in Love Stage 7.45 – 8.45 pm
Caught a little bit of Rubio’s set, the Mexican played an infectious blend of deep house and techno that blasted out superbly in the Reckless in Love sound system. The party was only getting started when I arrived, but the stage filled up quickly with revellers celebrating the first sun soaked day of the festival.
It was around this time that I received a text from Kevin Keehan, my flatmate who I have worked the festivals with over the last three years, he initially was trying to sell his ticket but decided on a whim to come down from Galway, so off I went to Gate A, the car park entrance to help him unpack his car and to get set up onsite.
Shane Linehan – Midnight Circus 12 – 2 am.
Shane Linehan was playing some pumping house music with a hefty crowd lapping up the sounds, the Cork man has amongst his supporters DJs such as Keri Chandler, Jamie Jones and Rob Mello.
At one point we decided to leave the Midnight Circus tent and make for the main stage to catch the last forty minutes of Nicolas Jaar’s project, Darkside. This was my third time catching Nicolas Jaar and the sound that Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington makes is a very atmospheric bluesy electronica, Harrington employing a lot of Gilmourish histrionics on his guitar adding that depth of Floyd to the electronica. Jaar has a unique singing voice, he immediately strikes me as similar to the sound of Edwyn Collins voice, kinda of dark and brooding but very unique. Some of the music would be fairly downbeat but sometimes developed into frantic techno such as the clip I filmed.
Gypsy Rebel Rabble – Natasha’s Kitchen (Unsure of the time, early hours anyway)
While walking back through the woods briefly our attention was caught by some amazing hybrid of Irish trad and bouncing gypsy music, this group had Natasha’s Kitchen packed solid, their energy palpable with that of the bopping audience, the double bass sounding like a turbo bodhran, with fiddles, strings splaying the audience with their sound, I hope to catch this troupe again. They were certainly very popular as they cropped up all over the B&S timetable playing at various venues over the weekend.
We hung about the arena for the next few hours, it seemed to be a bit more spacious than the tight confines of the woods sometimes when the stages emptied into the forest and the narrow paths became packed, especially when 8,000 people arrived this evening making it the busiest Friday at Body & Soul on record. The music from the Pagoda stage caught my attention again.
Generic People: Plug N’ Play – Pagoda Stage 2 – 4 am
I have no idea of who the actual musicians on stage involved were but they were making a very unusual electronica, the best way I could describe this was as progressive rock techno, rather than progressive house or progressive techno. I don’t know if a mellotron keyboard was used but there was definitely some sort of hammond organ sound coming out but with a techno beat added, but it blended perfectly with the quirkiness of the festival.
This year the vibe was more relaxed, no security ushering us to the campsite at 4 am like last year, you could come and go as you pleased, plus there was a new alcohol free flow policy initiated this year, where once you were wristbanded and had brought your booze in from outside there was no more searches bringing booze in from the main campsite to the arena and the bars still seemed to do a healthy trade. A few of my old festival buddies from Galway showed up, Sorla, Gavin and Caroline and Nidge, the last time I seen them was at Body & Soul and Life Festival 2012 and at their own festival last year, Sundown Gathering. So it was great to be reunited at one of the best ones, we stayed at the main arena area till the sun came up smoking a few doobies and drinking a few cans. I didn’t reach my tent till about 6 in the morning where I caught some shut eye before the sun would start cooking me in my tent again.
Saturday 21st June.
I awoke at 11.30 am to the blazing heat again where you have that initial panic fumbling for the tent zip to let the air in, first thing was to make the trip to the arena and procure a cup of coffee. I took a few photos of the installations near my campsite, Jeff O’Riordan’s Mandala Nature where he and his girlfriend was displaying some nice mandala art.
We sauntered into the Walled Garden as another steak burger beckoned from the Charcoal Grill and then checked out the Wonderlust Stage, Siobhan Kane was interviewing John Grant about his record collection and tastes in music, the topic being discussed at the time was about Kate Bush’s 1985 record Hounds of Love, an interesting and chilled variation to typical pumping gigs or what not.
Tom Vek – B & S Main Stage 5 – 5.45 pm
I caught a bit of Tom Vek’s show in the early evening, the Londoner played his brand of beat rock to a sizable audience who also wanted to celebrate the sunshine as well as Vek’s music. His music was a lively indie pop sound that complemented the early evening ambiance perfectly and set up the audiences mood for the day.
I also caught a little bit of John Grant’s set, so many people have recommended this artist to me and he apparently went down a treat at last years Picnic as well as getting decent exposure on RTE’s Other Voices. His brand of folk, alternative and indie rock was just what was needed to set the mood for the day, the track I caught a clip of Pale Blue Ghosts had some twisted electronica through it, he has strong powerful commanding voice and a bunch of versatile tight musicians who were guaranteed to keep you rocking.
Myself and Kevin just hung about the main arena as I wanted to get up to the barrier to catch the Gary Numan set. Ever since 1980 I always liked Gary Numan the Tubeway Army sound, when I was fifteen I wanted to go and see him in Glasgow when he was touring the Pleasure Principle but I was forbade by my parents, he then played Electric Picnic 2006, one of the few Picnics I never attended so now I had the chance to see him after 34 years. Numan seems to have embraced a heavy metal sound to his electronica which suits his style, reworked versions of Cars and Are Friends Electric were enthusiastically received as well a some new material from his recent album Splinter released last year, he also had a front row of girls swooning over his good looks in fact Gary Numan looks a lot younger now than he did back in the 1980s.
Kevin and myself headed into the woods for a while to take in the madness going on there, there was all sorts of substance abuse going on with the partying patrons, from what I heard some were flying about on acid whilst a vast amount of people were on strong crystal MDMA and the smell of a wide variety of weed permeated the atmosphere, especially from the Port Royal Jamaican Village along with copious amounts of alcohol. The music was as suitably nutty with scintillating techno blasting from the Reckless in Love stage, gypsy and frantic folk music from Natasha’s Kitchen and electronic madness and Romanian gypsy ska music blasting out of My House, courtesy of Prints of Wales Band.
Jon Hopkins – Midnight Circus 1 – 2 am
Its amazing the difference a year can make for an electronic artist such as Jon Hopkins, last year he played the Midnight Circus to a half full but contented audience, this year the tent was absolutely wedged, his album Immunity released last year in June must be one of the most popular electronic albums in the circuit at the moment as I could hardly get into the tent because of the crush. Security should have been posted at the entrances like the way they are at the Little Big Tent in Electric Picnic when the huge electronic artists play the venue, a one in, one out policy, mind you, I probably wouldn’t have got to see the gig if this was in place, they should have opened up the tent more as there was only three narrow entrances. This was done for the Beastie Boys gig at EP 2007 and at Daft Punk’s gig at the Clash Arena at Rockness festival 2007 in Scotland.
This time Hopkins had a huge backdrop screen displaying his videos for the singles and a pretty decent lighting rig, the audience lapping up sonic crunchers like Open Eye Signal and Collider. His set was fairly similar to last years with a nice smattering of tracks from Immunity and Insides, three quarters of the way into his set he unleashed a few new sonic crunchers that were not from Immunity but similar to tracks like We Disappear, so he is working on new material which I am looking forward to hearing when it gets released. I hope he plays a standalone show some day in one of the city venues in the country, I can imagine it would sell out in no time.
The rest of the time was spent lounging about the woods sitting on seats at small stages and throwing ourselves around a bit to the music, then going to other stages and doing the same again. Bouncing between the Reckless in love and My House stages, My House had Andrew Kearny playing a nice selection of funky tunes whilst the Mother DJs were kicking up a storm with some stomping techno at the Reckless stage. We needed to go somewhere a little more chilled but with good bass groove, yes you guessed it, Port Royal the perfect venue to end the night in. I didn’t take any clips of Port Royal this year but I did take some photos of the venue which unfortunately never came out, so my apologies for this year. The Dirty Dubsters played the soundtrack for the end of the night, a mixture of ice cool roots reggae, ragga and jungle that had a fair crowd skanking away to the sounds. I can’t really remember what time I got back to my tent at but it was probably somewhere around the 4.30 – 5 am mark, a fairly action packed day and all.
Sunday 22nd June.
Awoke about 10.30 am so off to the main arena for my coffee fix and a bite, met Kevin on the way who needed to charge his phone, so I took him to the Vodafone tent in the arena, the only place seemingly with recharge facilities. This time I opted for something different to the normal steak burger, after hearing Kevin rave about his kebab last night I thought I’d give the Falafel and Kebab stall a try today, I opted for a chicken kebab which was fecking delicious, but boy do they pile on that red hot chilli sauce, I had to down a can of Guinness straight afterwards to quench the thirst.
I couldn’t help noticing the Good Times Lounge at the top of the Walled Garden, even though at no time did I visit it, but it was always pumping out funky music and inspired choices, the one track that made me stop and dance was the Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, it mirrored perfectly that glitzy summer afternoon.
Seeing that we were in the main arena it was a natural progression to walk towards the main stage to catch some of the uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan’s set.
Paddy Keenan, Steve Cooney & Dermot Byrne – B & S Main Stage 3.30 – 4.15 pm.
This was my second time catching the former Bothy Band legendary piper Paddy Keenan, the first time being in Galway at the Roisin Dubh with guitarist Tommy O’Sullivan. Keenan had a nice selection of tunes, tearful slow airs played on the low whistle, cool marches like the March of King Laois and liberal amounts of jigs and reels, proving without doubt that he is still one of the best uilleann pipers in the country and backed by the mighty guitar and didgeridoo of Australian Steve Cooney and Altan accordion player Dermot Byrne. A mad hippy in the audience started playing along with the band during a set of reels with a set of calf bones and he had a very nice rhythm too which you can hear on the clip.
Today was a fairly relaxed day and luckily Kevin was driving into Athboy so I went along with him and got some rolling tobacco as the festival did not sell it onsite, just filter cigarettes, I also topped up my Guinness supply to keep me going through the evening. There wasn’t as many acts to rush about and see today so it was just a case of floating from stage to stage and following your heart with the sounds. It was also a cooler day with more clouds but when the sun came out it could be still incredibly hot.
In the woods we mostly hung about the My House area and I sometimes had a lie down at the crew camp, there was lots of walking through the weekend and it was taking its toll today, I think everyone was feeling the blisters, especially when you walk from level grassy ground to the stoney paths, some of the rocks there would break your feet. Anyway My House was playing classic reggae first, courtesy of DJ Mikey Joyride Sorro 6.15 – 7.45 pm (one of the festival production supervisors) and later on some 196os and 1970s classic hits courtesy of DJ Toby Hatchett 7.45 – 10 pm.
Max Romeo – B & S Main Stage 7.45 – 8.45 pm
Caught most of Max’s set, this was my second time catching him live, he played at Life festival 2008 previously and I missed his gig at EP but caught the Lee Scratch Perry bit in 2012. Max played plenty of the classics from his 1976 album War Inna Babylon as well as airing tracks from his new album released this year called Fathers and Sons, he made the point that his sons were playing with him on stage. Max Romeo must be in his late 60s but he still has the mad energy and voice of a young man and his backing band, two female vocalists, bass, drums and cool picking guitarist, keyboard and a brass section of trumpet and saxophone which rocked the foundations of the main stage with their sound. He reeled out classics such as One step forward two steps backward, War inna Babylon, Uptown babies don’t cry and closed with his most famous classic popularised by the Prodigy, Chase the devil, what a gig, I’m hoping Body & Soul book Toots for next year it just seems right. The clips that myself and Kevin recorded didn’t come out great, picture quality is pretty neat but the bass was too strong for our camera mics, which is not a bad complaint considering we witnessed one of Jamaica’s classics.
Stopped at the kebab place again and got a lamb kebab, forgot to tell them to go easy on the chilli sauce, so another can of Guinness was had to quench the burning thirst although a damn fine tasty kebab. It was then back to the campsite to get my remaining cans of Guinness to polish of for the festivals end, I also lay down for half an hour to rest up my feet, how other people can continue to dance all day is just beyond me although there was some dehydrated casualties throughout the weekend that kept the medical orderlies busy.
Alle Farben – Midnight Circus 9 pm – 12 am
I was looking forward to the madness of James Holden, myself and Kevin wandered in about 9.10 pm, the music was good, nice and chunky with just about the right amount of phasey distortion, but sometimes Farben would play some cheesy vocal samples which I thought didn’t seem kinda like the stuff Holden would do, its only when I glanced at my watch and saw the time being 10.15 I realised the DJs hadn’t switched over, so now I was aware that this wasn’t James Holden. Giving Farben his dues he had a packed floor which never really emptied so he must have been doing something right, it was just a pity about Holden cancelling, what I heard the following day was that the airline Holden was travelling with had lost his synthesizer forcing him to cancel.
Farben played many different styles. tech house, trance, deep house and electro house amongst other genres and he paid ode to other DJs of his ilk dropping tracks such as Laurent Garnier’s Man with a red face and a few other notable ditties, his set done exactly what it said in the tin, it would keep you dancing until the close of stage. At some pont after 11 pm we nearly forgot about going to see Caribou so set off to the main stage.
As we were making our way to the main stage I could recognise the sound effects from the Caribou single Odessa so it meant we were catching that last quarter hour of his set, Odessa is usually played three quarters of the way through his set. There was no chance of getting to the front as it was absolutely wedged so we were a considerable distance from the stage. I was lucky as I had caught his full set before at the Aphex Twin Forbidden Fruit day in 2011, but this was the first time Kevin had seen the Canadian. He played a few more numbers with his trade mark psychedelic electronica, Caribou always has a tight band with good drums, guitars and cool atmospheric keyboards, he also has a decent soft kind of voice that fits the music perfectly. He finished with the track that brought the sun out at Forbidden Fruit called Sun which is a nice way to round it off as the sun never really left for the weekend. Unfortunately this was the last video clip I took which is unmercifully short as my camera ran out of memory space.
We didn’t have much energy after this, we made our way back to the wood and hung about My House for a while, but it just seemed to lively for our tired out selves, so we made a decision to go to Port Royal to listen to some chill roots and maybe some jungle too. I met a few randomers from Dublin here who were incredibly friendly but unfortunately we had turned into zombies caught in a trance. The music was great all the same, The OI OI Sound System was blasting out some wicked roots and then the great Cian Finn took over at 1 am, so a chilled night of roots it was. But both me and Kevin made a decision to hit the hay, the long weekend had taken its toll and I went out like a light bulb as soon as I lay down in my tent. Seemingly I heard a few days later that everything shut down at 2 am, even though some stages was advertised as closing at 4 am, so I don’t know what that was about.
Monday 23rd June.
Woke up about 8.30 as the sun was cracking the stones and I was slowly getting microwaved in my tent, so I set about gathering everything up and packing it away. I was thinking to myself what a glorious festival that was and that you couldn’t have wished for better weather. Finally with everything packed up, I gave Kevin a call to say meet me at Gate E, I said my goodbyes to everyone in camp, picked up my stuff and hung about Gate E waiting for Kevin, a lift sorted to take me back to Galway.
Body & Soul I bid you a goodbye and will see you about 100 km up the road in August for the annual bash at Stradbally for the Electric Picnic, please book Jon Hopkins for the EP end of B&S. Love and Peace your loving music reporter Niall McQuaid signing off.
Like the psychedelic poet and musician Syd Barrett said, “How does it feel to be lost in the Woods…” At Body & Soul you just do not want to be found. And so begins another pre-fest journey for the summer watching the festival get pieced together, stages getting put up and the lights getting switched on and by Friday morning the sound systems booming up, for us pre-festers this was exciting as we had finished our work and had time to take it all in.
Monday 17th June
We arrived down for 9 am at the Bone Yard (Production Office Area) so that Kevin could register and sign in for his shifts, throughout the day I met Jelena, Megan and some of the pre-event volunteers. I met some charming girls who were working in the Decor team in the big barn and we talked about the excitement of the oncoming festival. I put up Kevin’s and my own tent to the pumping soundtrack of Jon Hopkins Boiler Room set from earlier this June, one of the sets of the weekend I was most looking forward to.
Tuesday 18th June
Met the volunteer team I was going to be working with over the next few days and they are some of the soundest dudes around, I mean you cannot go wrong with a music taste of Gong, Floyd and Aphex Twin, soul buddies we are. Matt, Taro and Sam, it’s actually very, very rare to find other people who love Gong the band as much as I do. To most straight folk, Gong (Daevid Allens Gong) would sound completely loopy and druggy, but to Gong fans they are one of the tightest craziest bands in existence who turned psychedelia into a comedic art form, but who also done incredible ambient pieces. I hung about with the lads in the adjoining crew camp site for the remainder of the day blasting them with my media library and my bodhran. The tasks for the day was that we were posted on the route leading to the Boneyard, we had to make sure the traffic knew where it was going. Me and Matt were put at the gate leading to the boneyard, it was easy enough work but with it being dry, it was very dusty with all the articulated lorries arriving.
After having not ate much the day before, I was determined to hitch to one of the nearby towns after my shift to get some food supplies as there was no way in the world I was going to pay the twelve euro asked for an evening meal at the crew restaurant. I mean come on, why do festivals think volunteers are here, it’s because they cannot afford to normally go to the festival, they might be on the dole or be a student with a very, very tight budget. I’m not asking for a breakfast and evening meal like most of the rest of the crew camp with the voucher system but maybe a sandwich per shift like at Life Festival. And I guarantee that, that incentive works wonders for a volunteers morale. It was quite dehumanising in some ways to be in that crew cafe when others were eating (not their fault) and myself with my silly pot noodle. Thankfully Brian, our site supervisor kept us hydrated with free bottles of water during our shifts.
I hot footed it to Athboy, all of the eight kilometres and bought bread, butter, ham and cheese and helped myself to a Donner kebab.
Wednesday 19th June
Today we got a bit of physical work instead of just directing traffic, Brian took myself and Matt up to the carpark area where we helped him map the lanes with traffic cones, later on we were given the job of erecting fencing around the golf flag areas, to prevent cars from driving up on the more delicately trimmed grass. My shift ended with a small job sitting by the roadside with Taro, making sure that traffic aimed for the Boneyard got to the Boneyard or that people due accredition were parked up on the grass verge.
When we went to get the wristbands I met Neil Dowling who I worked with at Liss Ard festival last year, he was doing the wristbands for Body & Soul too. It was a nice exhilarating feeling to be finished our shifts, I played Matt, Taro and Sam their first time hearing a proper live Gong album, the album in question was Gong Est Mort, Vive Gong, the last proper PHP show organised by the French fans of the group in Paris, 1977. The lads were suitably impressed. Kevin came to join us in the tent, he had just finished the third of his four shifts.
Thursday 20th June
Today was spent locating the crew showers and taking in some of the visual scenery that was starting to appear throughout the woods.
I met Andy in afternoon who I worked with during the pre-fest for Electric Picnic last year, he was also involved with this one.
I went with Matt and co to Clonmellon as this town was only three kilometres away from the festival site, so we took a leisurely walk to get more supplies, Taro for his breakfast roll and me for a decent Americano coffee and filled roll, the lads wanted to top up on tobacco too.
later on at night time we wandered aimlessly about the festival site, myself with the ipod dock blasting out Aphex Twin from the Forbidden Fruit festival 2011. Whilst passing the barn with the decor people, they were blasting out Syd Barrett’s second album, Barrett to my pleasant surprise.
I posed the question to the lads about what Body & Soul meant to them or what they hoped for and filmed it.
I also took the opportunity to interview the person behind the Gameltron installation, while he was setting it up.
Friday 21st June
Friday morning was spent stuffing my face with cheese and ham sandwiches and eating peanuts, as it was still a while away till the main food vendors opened up, the biggest gripe was coffee, still no espresso machine on site.
I had a blether with some of my camping neighbours, some of the weekend volunteers who were either doing shifts today or tomorrow. Charlie Smith with his didge, Aoiffe Rafferty, Simon Outram and James Fahy were in all good spirits and looking forward to the fun and festivities.
Wandering through the main arena, some of the tents started testing the sound systems and the festival hadn’t opened to the public yet , while I was marvelling at the size of the Midnight Circus tent, one of the sound engineers slipped on Windowlicker by Aphex Twin on the sound system, boy, I was in my element giving it serious moves. The only thing though was I was the only one freaking to the music, everyone else was working away. I went up to the Wonderlust Stage to talk to Toss, a friend of Kevin’s who worked at stage set ups for Electric Picnic/Body&Soul, the Wonderlust stage was formely known as the Bamboo Stage from last years Picnic. The lads were busy screwing parts of the roof and sides of the stage together.
Matt, Taro and Sam wanted to move into the main camp site as their significant others would not be permitted into the crew camp because of their wristbands so I set out to find them later on in the afternoon.
I waited with Matt at the main entrance for his Chinese/Irish girlfriend Aimée, so I took an opportunity to snap the wristbanders and security dealing with the arriving festival public.
There wasnt a hell of a lot on the agenda music wise, a few notable DJ sets, I was more keen for Donal Dineen in the Midnight Circus Tent, that is until I met Aminah and Salim Dastan and their friends, the music scope had just widened considerably, dub and blues mixed with some of the finest shimmering world and Arabic music. The Fusion tent was a paradise I would discover very soon.
I managed to direct Aminah and Salim to the Fusion tent so that they could set up later for the gig, I took a short film of the tent to the soundtrack of the Congos Fisherman.
It’s a gorgeous venue with coffees, teas and delicious vegetarian food on offer. I wondered if indeed it was the same tent that was used at Life festival for the Lectrosoul Chill out tent, a very characteristic white cottage looking tent.
Seeing that I was in a suitable reggae mood after my visit to the Fusion tent I thought I would check out the Port Royal Jamaican Village. This time I wanted to get a good chunk of the area on video rather than just the dancing area, the idea is to eventually to lead to the source of sound, so its like a little journey rather than just being there, I’m working as a pair of eyes just floating slowly between the stages.
My House and the Reckless in Love Stages in the woods had sizable portions of people going mad to the music. My House was like a classic hits thing or like the Vintage TV Channel, except that the DJ would put an extra fuzz tone on the sound making it heavier than normal. Whilst the Reckless in Love stage had live acts most of the time but also DJs too.
I caught a bit of Shane Mannion’s set, his set ranged from minimal techno to ambient techno, he had a nice pace going with a few throwing shapes on the floor. Its nice to see some Irish DJs in amongst the international calibre for weekend and giving it socks too.
Myself, Matt and Aimée went for a lark in the woods, to take some photos of the floodlit trees and strange items and installations dotted throughout.
At some point with Matt I stumbled across a cute hippy clothes stall called Inspired Earth in the Walled Garden area that had the most adorable teapot hats, I was going to save my funds for a Body & Soul t-shirt, but I was not impressed with the new ones after last years lovely design, so the teapot hat became my Body & Soul souvenir, plus they gave me a reduction because we were volunteers.
I also took it upon myself to pay tribute to the group Gong and their album from 1972 called Flying teapot by singing a verse of the PHP Song to the bewilderment and amusement of the stall holder with Matt providing a fake saxaphone solo.
James Murphy – Midnight Circus 10 pm – 12 am
Having seen the LCD Soundsystem three times at various Picnics and numerous clips of the James Murphy set, I was looking forward to his set. Oncoming heavy rain showers guaranteed a fairly wedged tent, it was fairly stifling in there. I thought the set would be cool ambient electronica techno like I had seen on previous clips of his Picnic set, but it was nothing spectacular I’m afraid, it was quite generic techno with a bit of funk and Madonna remixes, whats a punk doing playing Madonna, where is the hard ass stuff like Loosing my Edge. His set did not really do anything for me, although he was keeping the masses bopping but catering more for a girly crowd.
All Tribes vs Dubble Up – The Fusion Tent 12 am – 3 am
Now this was a lot more exciting this was Salim Dastan and friends doing a three-hour set. There was Arabica/World music mixed with the deadliest dub reggae and dubstep to help wash the memory of these Madonna remixes away in one of the most gorgeous tents of the festival. Salim loves his roots reggae and world music and he weaved his beautiful magic to an earth pounding bass, yes, this was more like the Body & Soul I love.
Donal Dineen is a true master of the electronica world, he makes beautifully blissful ambient techno but he can set you on fire in an instant with his drops, he is the perfect big tent closer and the lovely Aminah Dastan joined him on vocals for a few tracks. Dineen is a reliable Body & Soul favourite who will always have a huge fan base, where ever he plays he will have you stomping.
It was back to the Fusion tent with Kevin until it closed down at 3am as it was lashing down outside, we headed off to the wood to spend some time at My House and relax on the sofas there. On the way back to crew camp we spotted a lovely sitting and chill out area with a camp fire, this was called Earth Spirit and reminded me of what Glastonbury festival goers refer to as the Stone Circle area, a place to unwind and talk with complete randomers into the small hours. Of course security came and spoiled it by telling everyone to go home at 4 am but I suppose the Earth Spirit people wanted to get some shut eye, so what can you do. We retired ourselves, a day and night fully spent.
Saturday 22nd June
Got up about 11 am and with Kevin already awake we set off for some decent coffee and a bite, the weather was fairly iffy at times hot burning sunny spells, followed by lots of clouds and drizzly to heavy rain, add the occasional gust of wind and you get the picture. This didn’t bother us too much as you could find shelter in the woods or the Midnight Circus tent and of course, the Fusion tent the first venue for us today. Aminah was singing vocals with Salim’s dub reggae sounds, so effectively one half of the Madu band was present without the brass section. There was Aminah’s blues/soul vocals mixed with what sounded to be like an Eastern stringed instrument mixed with the dub, a bit like the Buddha Bar or the Thievery Corporation’s Mirror Conspiracy.
I went for a wander up to the holistic area, Green Crafts was there this year, last year they were opposite Mandala Nature near the crew camp. Anyway I wanted to take as many video clips as possible of different parts to the festival, here is one of Green Crafts, very much an eco friendly and recycling arts craft community.
Overhead, the Albatross – Body & Soul Stage 2.30 pm – 3.15 pm.
I don’t know if Overhead are Pink Floyd fans but you would certainly get that impression with the band’s name, which is the opening lyric to Floyd’s Echoes. But lets leave that comparison aside, Overhead make a nice indie rock sound with a serious rhythm section, in fact nothing like the Floyd but good catchy indie pop rock. This opening band for the B&S main stage pulled in a decent enough number despite the horrible downpours that occurred throughout the set.
I had my bodhran with me and I was hoping to have a tune with fiddler Gerry Harrington, he was one of the resident musicians hired to play at the intimate Mended Drum Stage which was next to the My House stage, although I think he ran the place with some other people and a charming Scottish girl. I found sometimes that there was a serious noise bleed from the My House stage. I got talking to the person running the venue on Thursday where he explained to me that the stage and venue itself was made mostly of recycled trampolines, absolutely fasinating stuff.
Anyway myself and Kevin went up to the Mended Drum to see if there was a session up there, but only a play on stage instead which was fairly interesting nonetheless, that I filmed a short piece.
RSAG – Midnight Circus 8 pm – 8.45 pm
This is my second time seeing Rarely Seen Above Ground, the first time I caught him was at Castle Palooza festival in 2008 and back then he was easily one of the highlights that year. Five years later he is even better and has a fine crowd transfixed with his show. RSAG is a multi-instrumentalist, he plays guitar, keyboards, bass and especially drums, wait! you say, so does he play them all at the same time, well, sort of. He records all the individual instruments in separate tracks, films videos close up of fingers playing strings and keys and incorporates them all into his software, videos beamed on a huge screen behind while he plays the drum kit like a man possessed and sings a mighty fine vocal. I really hope RSAG becomes huge as he is immensely talented and deserves to succeed. How would you describe the music, well, pretty rocky but with funky dance overtones, he is very entertaining to look at, he uses so much energy in his performance that you cannot fail to be impressed.
Caught a little bit of Charles Bradley’s set, Bradley has a fine set of lungs and can sing the blues and soul effortlessly and he had a fine backing band right up behind him. He also pulled a sizable crowd to the gig despite again the unpredictable weather situation.
I checked out one of the most talked about musicians playing all the Irish electronic festivals, Mmoths, this was the first time apparently that the producer/DJ had teamed up with a band. The music was like a swirly ambient shoe gaze sound, a kind of softer more ambient Death in Vegas sound. It didn’t seem to be Kevin’s type of music, so we went wandering after a few numbers.
I havent talked about food yet, but was feeling a little peckish for something to eat before we settled down to the main stage for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Kevin loved the chicken wings from the Chicken Wing stall just near the Midnight Circus tent, I thought they made the best chips I have ever tasted and for three euros you got a nice box of them which is extremely good value for a festival. A special mention too for the Steakhouse burger and hot dog stall in the bottom of the Walled Garden area, a great satisfying bite.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – B&S Stage 11.00 pm – 12.30 am
Nick Cave is an out and out entertainer with a voice that can seriously rock, this was my fourth time seeing him, he has come a long way since I saw him first back in 1983 with his first band the Birthday Party and a serious bunch of hench men backing him with a nasty gritty sound. He gave us generous selections from his recently released album Push the Sky Away as well as some classics spanning his career. Alice Glass from Crystal Castles should take note, Cave did not require to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels before climbing over the audience and security never cut his set short as he is a seasoned pro who has stage dived and crowd surfed over a thousand times or more and handles it with startling aplomb. Yep, Cave definitely earned that headline spot.
George Fitzgerald – Midnight Circus 12 am – 1.30 am
I caught the last 30 minutes of Fitzgerald’s set and, man, could he make the audience move, Fitzgerald was playin some tasty house and garage music with a nice understanding of dubstep and techno beats. The weather had improved since Cave’s set but the bulk of the crowd remained in the tent as the music was so good. I only discovered Fitzgerald today so will be looking out for stuff from this guy, he is worth checking out.
Like Fitzgerald I had no idea who Iron Curtis was but he played some electrifying dance music, he covered many ranges, minimal techno, house, ambient stuff and some bass heavy grooves to keep us on our toes, to tell you the truth though I was ready to flop down any minute and Kevin wasn’t too far behind me, but we managed to stay till the last note and then headed for the soft seats at My House.
We just sat there soaking up the sounds, Pump up the Volume by M.A.R.R.S was playing and a suitable crowd going loopy. It seemed nice to end the night again at the Earth Spirit fire, even a more chiller out space than the chill spaces we just come from. I was talking to Jeff O’ Riordan about his mandala installation and how I wanted to inteview him about his involvement with Body & Soul and other festivals he was workin with, so we arranged an interview for Sunday. This was another action packed day for the curious music journalist, myself and Kevin called it a day and hit the sack preparing for day 3.
Sunday 23rd June
Sunday morning or afternoon I can’t remember, but I remember playing Jon Hopkins Boiler Room set from earlier in June for about the twenty-fifth time along with Nicolas Jaar’s Sonar festival set from last year, two of the most anticipated artists to see in my list. I seeked out one of these black coffee espresso stalls for my caffeine fix and sat down to drink it at the main camp site with the lads, Taro, Sam & Matt with their girlfriends. I entertained them with a few songs on the bodhran, Erin Go Bragh and I think Johnny Jump up among others.
I met Kevin later and we took a stroll to the Earth Spirit area, finally I was there for the proper daylight so decided to take some pictures. The one with the spiral I’m especially pleased with as I got a glimmer of the sunlight in the middle.
I also heard a session in the area, I picked out wood wind instruments and tin whistles, of course, I didnt have my bodhran at the time but there was already a bodhran player there, so I snuck up beside them and filmed a bit then I withdrew from the area slowly to take in a bit of the seating area and fire.
Ryan Vail – Midnight Circus 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm
Ryan Vail had a pleasant sound, they are from Northern Ireland, Derry I think, the duo of Ryan Vail DJ / Producer & Katie Cosgrove on flutes and guitars. Their sound could be described as a pastoral ambient sound scape held together by a selection of electronic synths and break beats. It was an unusual combination but it worked, pastoral ambient techno music for the future. Hoping to catch this group again.
Went to the Fusion tent for a bite to eat, I wanted to set myself up proper before the Congo’s set on the B&S main stage. I went for the Japanese vegetable curry which was absolutely gorgeous, not too hot and spicy but not too weak either.
Fish Go Deep featuring Tracey K – Midnght Circus 6.30 pm – 9pm
Cork based DJs Fish Go Deep had a nice buzz going in the circus tent, I caught a bit with Kevin, they were playing some pounding house music and they had a fine crowd keeping up with them too. I wanted to catch the start of the Congo’s set, so Kevin remained with another buddy to watch the end of the Fish Go Deep set.
When I came down to the main stage some of the members of the Congo’s were sound checking and already there was a barmy army of Irish fans gathering in their finest Rastafari colours at the front of the stage. This was my second time seeing the Congo’s, the first time was at Electric Picnic where they were supposed to do an hour set, but for delays or whatever they only managed to play a 25 minute set.
When the set kicked off it was just the instrumental players, the cool Jamaican hatted guitarist, the younger bassist, drummer and keyboard player. The idea was that they warm up with the sound, they were joined by four vocalists of varying ages later, elder statesmen from the mid 1970s Jamaican music scene. Grey beards and grey dreadlocks, having seen Max Romeo and Lee Scratch Perry last year, all of the older reggae generation seem to be making a popular comeback and they all still have voices like velvet.
I only have the Congo’s Fisherman EP in my collection, so a lot of the material covered I had no idea off. What I do know was that the Congo’s were vastly entertaining with a very tight band backing. Sometimes there was false starts to their tracks but this was done like a comedy routine, signified by the main lead singer waving his arm in a Pete Townsend motion, this was the signal for the drummer to clash the drums and to restart the beat, this was evident in their final track Fisherman. What can I say about the Congo’s though, they put on a terrific show, their voices are still in glorious form despite their age and they were very funny and their music remains timeless. My only qualm was that they missed out in the Congoman Chant song which they ran through briefly in the sound check beforehand.
I took a trip back to the woods to relax at the Earth Spirit area and met Jeff O Riordan there, seeing that the daylight was fading slightly I decided to do the interview with Jeff because if I didn’t do it now I was never going to do it otherwise. The film is a little dark but Youtube helped make it more visible.
He explained that he and his collective liked to put their love for geometry into their chill out area. I posed the question to him about the Body & Soul festival, asking him what it was like to be working as part of this cool little festival. He explained that there was a lot of people involved, he put it simply that when you set up the installation its nice to say hello to your neighbour. That the atmosphere was so much better as everyone got on well with each other and often greeting each other with, “Hey whats the craic?” He added that there was a lot of effort put in that the regular festival punter does not see. Jeff was explaining that he was still working on the mandala designs whilst the festival was filling up on Friday so that people could see that it was still an on going process.
I asked him if he was working at other festivals for the summer. Jeff: “Knockanstockan, that’s basically part of the planning at the start, we are going to do a nice chill out spot in the main camp site area with live interesting alternative musics, it will go on to about 1.30 am and after that it will become a chill out spot and a place to relax. We will have some people over from England doing live AV sets, like DJ and live visuals at the same time.”
Jeff explained that the most important aspect of their mandala installation was, “The whole point about the mandala, the stones on the table is that nothing is permanent.” He explained that during the duration of the festival some of the installations will eventually get damaged, so his point was that they didn’t really care if people came and messed up their work as the point was that it wasn’t supposed to be permanent anyway.”
He talked about some of the reactions from people to their installation. “The reactions from some people are so different, some people go up and touch it and feel like they got zapped by electricity, some people walk up to it and say that’s a Satan symbol, whats that all about, some people just want to jump on it like it was a trampoline. He added lastly that some guy walking by the installation the previous day shouted over to him, “If you are jumping up and down on your bed eating pizza you are living the American dream.”
The Lucent Dossier Experience – Midnight Circus 11.15 – 11.45pm
I had lost Kevin for the moment so I decided to make for the big circus tent to get a good spot near the front of the stage for the Jon Hopkins set, in the process I managed to catch one of the half hour sets from the amazing circus art collective the Lucent Dossier Experience. What a show it was, they are sorely missed from the Picnic since they split a few years ago. There was death-defying gymnastics, tight rope walking and one of the most unbelievable displays of fire-breathing and juggling I have ever seen. They are quite different from a normal circus troupe, they are camp, punky, burlesque, very hedonistic in art and costume and very rock and roll to say the least. Well lets just say there was liberal doses of edgy dubstep in their soundtrack, this is an act not to be missed.
How do you describe the Jon Hopkins sound, you see there is a difference between DJing and being a producer, if you are a dance producer it means you have served your time as a DJ and you can put your hand at any type of dance music. Multi-tasking so to speak, the likes of Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Seth Troxler, Amon Tobin or Modeselektor can drop from house or techno straight into drum n bass, dubstep or to the softest shimmering ambient sound effortlessly, Jon Hopkins comes from this same school of thought, he is making proper emotional new dance music with the crisp understanding of rhythm and glitch.
From the opening notes into Breathe This Air from his new album Immunity there was a collective sigh of relief in the audience, here was the moment that we have all listened to on that Boiler Room set and having it transferred to the majesty of the Midnight Circus sound system, bombastic and delicious. Hopkins is a glitchtronic genius, simple sounds such as the opening of a lock, opening a safe door, changing the clutch in the car or even the sound your waterproofs make when you are walking. These sounds (or the sounds I am imagining anyway) were built up layer upon layer to make cool clanky rhythms. During the start of Collider you can hear this at first, what sounds like African rhythms using marakas. The clanky sound made me imagine a bunch of fellahs with a large bag of spanners each, all shaking them in precise time to the sound. Of course, when the bass boom kicks in it becomes a different animal, Hopkins builds up the reverberations and backward loops into a lovely chord sequence that always effortlessly bounces right back onto the main bass groove. And thats what dance music should be or should do, to be mysterious, unpredictable, surprising and ecstatic.
When he dropped Open Eye Signal it was like one collective volt of electricity going through the audience. That motor car synth changed the face of music since ZZ Top’s Eliminator came out in 1983 and Hopkins has turned this sound into a bass propellent for this track, the way he works through these three bass notes by the time he is about to hit the lowest note he twists the sound to make it sound more organic. I can imagine this track cropping up on the soundtrack of BBC’s Top Gear sometime.
That is also the thing with Hopkins, he does use a lot of technology but it by no means cold, he uses very warm ambient synths and piano textures to his music that reminds me of the Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol 1 and Brian Eno & Harold Budd. Take the opener Breathe This Air, the first part builds up frenetically and suddenly it changes to a treated tinkly piano until it builds up subtly to storm force again. Another thing about Hopkins was that he was no slouch bag sitting behind his laptop pressing play and talking to his mates on Facebook, he acted out to his glitches, at sound effects he would jump up and you could really tell that he enjoyed the performance looking like he was a busy robot jumping about the place.
I could spend all night talking about this gig, I will leave it short and tasteful, check this guy out if you get the chance, maybe he will do a few more festivals for the summer.
Kevin had located me at the Hopkins gig thanks to my teapot hat, so we made a beeline for the B&S stage to catch the last hour of Nicolas Jaar.
Nicolas Jaar – B&S Stage 1 am – 2 am
This was my second time catching him, he was with a guitarist and saxophonist last year at Liss Ard festival and he was doing much slower and ambient stuff. This time it was just himself and the beats were more uptempo, there was a massive crowd gathered and everyone seemed to be pulsing to the sound and, man, the sound system had a killer bass. Considering that we had just come from Hopkins, Jaar delivered in spades and kept the momentum going strong. Jaar still had some nice ambient phases in the set, but he was very tight on the drops, the bass absolutely pummeling us.
After that we went to the circus tent to watch a bit of the Michael Mayer set, but I was very much pummelled by then and so was Kevin. It would have been hard to top Hopkins or Jaars sets, but Mayer and Kompakt Cologne had a determined crowd wanting to keep the party going and they were delivering high octane dance music. I think we stayed till the end, but I must have looked like a zombie by that stage, I had a sore back anyway from all the standing and dancing.
Alas the night was drawing near to an end, myself and Kevin headed up to the favourite, My House, I kind of wished I had taken a photo of the area. Anyway, the sofa chairs were a little wet tonight but I was past caring and flopped down on one content to watch the world go by me whilst nodding my head to the cool sounds. It was on from there then that the last pit stop before bed was to go to the Earth Spirit campfire area to have some banter. I cant remember any conversations that transpired after that but I do remember Kevin saying that we should hit the sack and that was about ten minutes to 4 am, duly we did and that was the end of Body & Soul festival 2013.
Monday 24th June
We woke up and I headed to the volunteers office while Kevin went to the production office to get our bonds back, but unfortunately we were going to have to wait a week or two before we got them. Thankfully there was a coffee stall nearby as all the ones near crew camp and in the woods had their generators shut down. Once we were sorted with the caffeine fix it was offsky out of Ballinlough for another year.
Roll on 2014.
If there is someone good at windows movie maker maybe they can download the video below and possibly add a segment of Jon Hopkins Collider, I think that would be a fitting way to end the B&S 2013 review.
So my journey began with Kevin Keehan from Galway at four in the afternoon, we had to pick up two other volunteers in the city and our destination was Belvedere House, Mullingar for a briefing and to register and to pay the rest of our bond for working at Life festival that kicked off the following day.
With everyone arriving, Lorna, our coordinator gave a talk and then some of the security also gave a talk. Lorna took a bunch of us on a walk so that we could familiarise ourselves with the festival layout. This was my chance to get to know a few of the other volunteers, set the tent up and crack open a few cans. It’s a lovely feeling to be wandering about a festival before it kicks in, technicians running around putting the last touches to the sound systems and lights and others putting up the Psy stage art among the trees. Where my tent was positioned I looked down to the main stage from the top of the hill, most of the volunteers were camped to the right beside the trees and there was a grand singalong going on there with some fellahs and their guitars, there was an excitement in the air and this was my first festival of the summer. I wanted to take it easy enough on the first night so four cans was grand enough and I hit the hay about half two in the morning as I had a shift at 10 am.
Friday 24th May
Rising at 9 am I made sure I scoffed a few cereal bars and some mixed fruit and nuts before heading off to my volunteer check in at the office. There was a squad of about eight or nine of us dispatched to the car parking area of the festival, something that I done before at Life Festival 2011. We sat about for a little while until Tim our supervisor showed up and assigned us to posts. Two volunteers were at the entrance gate and they had to find out if the drivers had in fact, tickets otherwise they would be turned away or diverted to the drop point. I was positioned a little further down the track and my job was fairly simple, to point the driver to the next volunteer. Volunteers were positioned right along the track until the driver was directed into a parking space.
I was then moved to the entrance myself where I helped the other guy talking to the drivers, I directed taxis and parents down the drop off route and car parkers down the only other route. As I said the work was fairly easy but when your on your feet for a solid eight hours or more the last thing you want to do is dance when you finish, more like putting your feet up and sitting for an hour or two. I was eventually moved to the drop off point as the previous guy had communication problems and a back log of cars had gathered there as a result.
Most of the time it was fairly quiet but the drop offs came in bursts and that kept me busy, I started noticing other cars in the drop off area that weren’t there before and realised that some of them were driving in through the exit while I was dealing with drop offs and just completely abandoning them. Some security was asking me why the cars were there and all I could say was I have no idea why. Near the end of my shift someone at the entrance had started directing drivers destined for the car park to the drop off, so I had to tell the unfortunate drivers that they had to re-queue again as you have to be in this lane which I pointed to up the field, you ought to have seen the faces of some of them. Another problem was DJs and artists being sent to the drop off, there wasn’t really any space for them there, so there should have been a designated spot for artists and musicians to park. Shift over I hot footed it to the campsite to rest up for an hour and a half.
And now for the music, after getting that much needed rest I received a text from Kevin that he had started his shift in the arena, so I made my way to the drum n bass / dubstep stage, the Liquid tent. I was thinking to myself what a lucky sod to land a shift at one of the stages. The music was mighty, the selection of DJs playing over the next hour or two there were playing some rootsy dub reggae dubstep stuff, the pumping Hertz U sound system emitting jaw dropping bass that was like a magnet for those in search of deep bass. I caught a bit of Crewdson’s setand Ancient Alien..Mr Devitt followed playing some really amazing dub reggae with a touch of wub wub subtly applied. In fact one of the things I missed from last year was the Rootical Reggae tent, but I realised that most stages at some point will play some anyway, most of the music stages crossed into dubstep/reggae with their mixes at some point during the weekend.
Ben Pearce – Main Stage 11.30 pm
I caught a little bit of this set but I was more distracted by the sheer size of the main stage, the diamond shaped screens on either side and the massive screen backdrop. Ben was playing some nice hard techno and a massive crowd had gathered shaping the air with their moves. I could see the Red Bull Arena from where I was standing and it looked rammed to the gills, there was no way I was going to push into that madness, I preferred the ambience of the main stage and the sound Ben Pearce was blasting out.
I went for a quick trip to the Psy Stage as I wanted to get a night shot of the stage, Lah Narrad was cutting up the floor with his frenetic psy trance, while the listeners flailed about, jumped and waved their arms to the pulse of the beat, yes, the original synthesis of Life festival still seemed to be in tack. I also strolled into the Chill Out / Lectrosoul Tent for a little while, some laid back reggae sounds were blasting out of there with the most gorgeous lasers etching the beautiful tapestry of cloth on the inside of the tent, I had to take some photos.
Seth Troxler – Main Stage 1 am
Making my way back to the main stage, the side screens were all lit up and making random graphics to the pulse of the music. Troxler was playing a kind of minimal techno and looked to be having a real good time on stage. Its one thing to walk on stage and switch on your laptop and press play, some musicians and DJs looked bored out of their minds, but at Life they chose the DJs well. Troxler looked in top form and was always doing something or dancing to his sounds, pumping the mixer or whatever, but not once did I see the crowd diminish, he had them rooted to the spot dancing frantically. I took the time to shoot a video trying to take in the whole of the main stage which required me to walk a good distance back..
I headed back to camp after that as I wanted to settle down, have a few cans with Kevin before hitting the hay, I was starting my next shift at 8 am , so I wanted to be in decent shape.
Saturday 25th may
It was tough getting up at 7 but I had a tub of proargy with me, a multi vitamin health drink which set me up for the day, when I turned up at the office at 7.40 I was told that my shift had been put forward to 10 am, so I seized the opportunity to grab a coffee and breakfast roll and relax up at the campsite. When my shift started I managed to get a different one from the car park, I was sent with a squad of six volunteers and the supervisor Diarmuid Fleming to do campsite duty.
Me and Oisin were assigned to do the gates that pass through the entrance of the second campsite behind the main stage. Our job was to open the gates for oncoming traffic and block the gaps so that festival punters wouldn’t stray in front of vehicles, we had to keep the traffic flowing. It could get very busy sometimes, such as the tanker that needs to fuel the generators for the main stage or articulated trucks taking in stage equipment. In the case of Life Festival, like any dance festival, you are going to get the odd person that doesn’t know their limit and they will take far too many drugs and this is usually exacerbated by a stupid amount of drink too. Anyway, at least on two occasions we were required to ensure the swift movement of ambulances to pick up casualties.
There was one or two occasions too where young lads lost the head giving out about something, if this attitude is used unreasonably at security or volunteers, security are instructed to cut off their wristbands and eject them from the arena, One lad required five security to calm him down, seemingly it was a tiff over his girlfriend where he demolished three tents near him. I have to hand it to security, they done their job well, they used the least amount of restraint to subdue him until the van came to collect him. I not saying this was rampant, this was an isolated case. The vibe is mostly relaxed and lively with beats flooding from all directions urging you to dance and express yourself.
By the end of my shift. Cian who took over from Oisin and myself were a dusty mess, as for most of the day it was dry and vehicles passing to and fro would kick up some amount of dust, so when I finished, that can of Bavaria went down a fine treat back at the camp.
Booka Shade Main Stage – 8.30 pm
Now I did not actually go to this show, as I was still resting up at the campsite as my feet were burning up, but its not as if we had to venture far my tent practically overlooked the main stage anyway. At one point me and Kevin questioned if anyone was on the main stage, at first it sounded like one of the stages in the distance, a low thud with some synth keys. Then bang! The music became crystal clear on the main stage, Booka Shade just suddenly came into our consciousness, this has to be one of the coolest intros ever. Booka Shade is a pleasant ambient techno sound with some live drums too, I wanted to head into the arena to catch some of the set but Kevin wanted to finish his beer because of the security check into the arena, so while I was waiting I opened another can and so did Kevin, so by the time we made it to the arena the Leftfield DJ set was kicking off on the main stage.
Leftfield DJ Set – Main Stage 10 pm
Leftfield put on a fairly good set, they played mainly an industrial techno set of unknown tunes sprinkled with recognisable Leftfield sound effects. I was hoping for some of their familiar tracks or maybe Cheshire Cat toasting to some of their more chilled out reggae numbers. But the lads were relentless with their beats, pummelling us with their fast noisy techno, the only thing missing was earth growling bass. I thought the set could have done with louder bass, considering I saw them at both Rockness and Electric Picnic in 2010 with the band, they were always revered for their sound system. Still, they done a good job and finished with the only familiar track Phat Planet, the grand daddy of that frenetic Psy trance sound, what a great way to go.
Laurent Garnier – Main Stage 12 am
Laurent Garnier done a mammoth three hour set covering many phases of his career with a stunning light show, sound and a packed main stage arena. He looked to be in fine form enjoying his performance, the biggest reaction he got was when he dropped his most famous track The Man with a Red Face, he even done some scatting along with his music, clocking in a solid performance. I left half an hour before the end of his set as I was completely worn out.
The last hour was spent with Kevin and a few cans as being on your feet all day can be tiring stuff.
Sunday 26th May
I got up a little early to take a few daylight shots of the festival installations, art and some of the stages.
Much of the afternoon was spent lazing about the campsite catching up with the banter of our campsite neighbours, it was eventually the rumbling of my stomach that decided me to make the trip to the arena with Kevin in search of something to eat.
Went into the chill out tent for a while to sit at the back which was adorned with carpets and cushions, Dusty was playing some classic house which he mixed into Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue. This was a nice laid back tent and surprisingly the noise from the Psy Stage never spilled into the chill out tent even though it was only across the path.
I finally got a chicken sweet chilli wrap from a stall called Get Stuffed, after talking with the lads working there it turned out this was their first venture into working at the festivals, so best of luck to them and I hope to see them at other festivals as they make delicious sandwiches.
Kila – Human Stage – Lakeside – 4.30 pm
Kila took their time to get started, their sound check seemed to be going on forever, well, at least about half an hour into their supposed time slot. When they did get started it was a glorious cacophony of familiar Irish music, although there is no recognisable jigs or reels in Kila’s repertoire they make a harmonious hippy hybrid interpretation of it all. There was a lovely rhythmic bass from Ronan O Snodaigh’s bodran that kept everyone else together and there was a general hooley pandemonium going on around the front of the stage with everyone trying to do Riverdance steps.
Kevin had to get it together to check in for his night shift so I walked back with him to the volunteers office where originally he was going to be sent to work at the car park, but that was changed to working in the arena, which meant he could still see some of the headliners while still working his shift.
While Kevin went off working I relaxed a while in my tent, I couldn’t help noticing that a full on domestic row was starting in a tent beside me, it sounded like the guy was dumping his girlfriend, he had, had enough, apparently she disappeared for hours on end and so had the mans supplies. Festivals are strange things, love blossoms sometimes and sometimes love falls apart, staying together in a tent at a festival can be, I suppose very much a testing ground for couples.
1200 Micrograms – Psy Stage 8 pm.
Now I have not reviewed much Psy Trance artists who played that particular stage, so I used this opportunity to properly catch the buzz of a Psy trance blow out, I filmed a piece where the camera veers of the path and leads into the side of the Psy stage, I film the audience for about a minute and then zoom into the DJs 1200 Micrograms. Just as they drop the next set of beats I whipped the camera around to catch the frenzy of the audience, I worked my way through them until I am filming at the back of the crowd. The music was as frenetic as the psy trance can get, build ups, notes soaring and straight back into bass throbs and galloping rhythms. As I said before, my attention span for this sort of music is about fifteen minutes tops and then I’m off somewhere else again which is exactly what happened. What can I say though, 1200 Micrograms done a damn good job and they had a very packed stage extending the length and breadth of the meadow, plus they were having a ball, almost as mad as the audience themselves.
I also took a trip to the Liquid tent before settling for some of the main stage action, Greaney was doing a nice drum n bass and break beats set with a decent gathering getting down to the sounds.
The first main stage act for the day for me was White Collar Boy, two DJs and a female vocalist, they were playing a kind of ambient techno sound with the girl singing soulful vocals over the mix, they reminded me a wee bit of Donal Dineen’s Parish, soft funky soulful pop, although Parish have a more bluesier world music feel.
Amon Tobin – Main Stage 8.30 pm.
Amon Tobin kicked off full steam ahead with some in your face drum n bass, the energy was palpable all around the audience, this is exactly what they wanted, Tobin head banging up on stage to his own beats. Drum n bass wasn’t his only forte, he played some nice funky ambient techno too, although not too soft, rough enough to keep you moving. Tobin done a decent enough job warming the crowd up for the German nutters Modeselektor.
Modeselektor – Main Stage 10 pm.
There was a few late starts today, firstly Kila and now Modeselektor, they did not come on to the stage till 10.25, but perhaps they were using their own sound engineers and were perfectionists, so they wanted to get the sound right, plus they had brought along their own visuals. One largish screen behind them and a smaller screen to the side held together by what looked like poles criss crossing below the DJs. When they did get started, my god, they absolutely blew me away. I have looked at video clips of them before, but to hear them in the flesh it was astonishing. Its hard to actually describe their sound, there is definitely dubstep there but used in a completely different way, the dubstep has a grimy fuzz about it and the way they connect the synth keys to match the rhythm. They opened with Grillwalker from their Monkeytown album released two years ago, this has to be one of my favourite tracks of all time, its just completely loopy, I can only describe it as corclinkity bloinkity madness, but you can dance to it or even do an elephant walk to it. Another track that set the mood for the summer for me was Blue Clouds, the guitar like synth notes created this gorgeous melody that also reminded me of Modeselektor’s side project with Apparat, Moderat, who are releasing an new album in August. so hoping for Moderat for the Picnic.
There was many selections from Monkeytown and various other albums that I have to familiarise myself with. One of the tracks involved one of the DJs shaking up a bottle of Champagne and letting it flow over the first few rows of the audience, no doubt they were all there with their mouths gaping open to get some free alcohol. Sometimes the music would veer into drum n bass and sometimes techno and sometimes there was softer more melodic numbers such as Berlin featuring the lovely vocals of Miss Platinum. Their visuals were incredibly psychedelic, the backdrop would show scrambled graphics and then more precise graphics, the bars below the DJs lit up, it was a sort of tube lighting structure that could be intensified to function as lasers, making the whole thing an absolute visual feast. But as quickly as they came on they came to their final number, a Moderat track, A new error, I can’t help thinking that if they weren’t delayed we would have got at least another two tracks from the set. I was hoping they would drop Kill Bill Vol 4, but what a way to end, Modeselektor, the perfect main stage closer. Just as the group departed the stage it started to rain, so back to camp for me and Kevin.
I would have loved to explore more of the festival after hours but as it transpired the rain got heavier and heavier, so we just stayed in the tent for the night. There was times we were tempted to take a trip to the arena, but the thought of wading through the muck after thousands had passed through put me off the idea.
Well, that’s another Life festival over and although I missed some of my friends who attended previous ones I had an amazing time. Life is really a unique festival, its in a different league from the likes of Tomorrowland, the newly christened Oxegen dance festival, more in the vein of Glade festival specialising in electronic rather than just commercial dance music. It seems RTE Pulse is trying to present it as a commercial dance event, too much coverage I felt was given to the Red Bull stage. Now this stage done particularly well and was always wedged, but I felt it detracted from the other stages sometimes, more attention should have been given to the Psy stage and the Liquid Tent and the Main stage for that matter. Roll on next year.
Liss Ard festival is a small boutique festival with a capacity for three and a half thousand people, situated about three kilometres from Skibbereen, I thought it would be nice to sample a festival south of the country for a change and again I would be volunteering for POD who was running the festival this year. The actual arena is a fairly compact size, fairly similar to the Sea Sessions festival size although remarkably different from the Sea Sessions content on offer. Liss Ard offered an eclectic mix of reggae, disco & funk, indie rock, electronic, trad and contemporary folk rock music and a selection of poetry and book readings at the literary tent which I am ashamed to admit I hardly visited.
Saturday 4th August
The camp site was not too far from the main stage (a delightful marquee which came in handy for these sunny spells and scattered showers). Having made friends with Dave the metalhead, we set about making friends with all around us and creating a neighbourhood watch scheme to make sure no young raggamuffins came hopping over the fence to rob our tents. There was some incredibly heavy rain showers in between burning sunny spells. Music did not commence till 2 pm so I set about discovering the arena.
The first music I heard was a group called Tieranniesaur, who came across like a folky Cocteau Twins with a nice touch of electronica. I went into the main stage to catch their last number and was suitably impressed. Augmented by four guys on drums, bass, guitar and keys, three girls fronted the band on vocal with laptops and mixers. Will be checking them out at the Picnic, no doubt.
I never had the time for the following act the Heathers so I remained in the camp site with Dave where he proceeded to drown out their sound with some rock classics on the boogie box, that Northern Ireland tourist ad did not do the group any favours and is one of the main reasons I did not tune in.
Cork based group Interference took to the stage next, they had an unusual melancholic sound, mainly string driven with fiddles, cellos and integrated with a full rock band creating a hypnotic pulse of a sound. I caught a little bit of their set on video.
The next act the Bob Mould Band was going to be the last band I would catch before starting my shift as volunteer for the festival. Bob Mould was certainly lively enough with a great big crystal clear rock sound blasting out. He played the Copper Blue album in its entirety plus some Husker Du classics. As much as I enjoyed the energy from his performance, this music was not really for me, I found it a bit too abrasive and metallish for my liking, most of all I did not like the sound of his voice, although the tent was suitably packed with Mould fans who did appreciate the performance.
Around 7 pm I decided to look for something to eat before my shift kicked in, the Lebanese Kitchen stall had a great choice, I settled for a chicken shawarma, a sort of kebab wrap which was delicious and set me up for the night.
8pm – 2 am. Having checked in with Catherine Kehoe, the volunteer coordinator, I was given the job of looking after the disabled entrance to the hotel and the entrance to family camping which was directly behind the literary tent, so I could still tune into music and talks coming from there. I caught a little bit of Joe Dunthornes literary reading which pulled in a fairly hefty crowd to the tent and a little bit of Low Mountains set which also had a rammed tent, with people trying to get into the side entrance. Their set consisted of classic covers, contemporary folk numbers and a bit of blue grass with the audience giving resounding approval. Sadly I was snatched away by security to another post at the main entrance so I did not hear any more music till 2 am. My job here was to direct people to the shuttle buses which was taking them to the Skibbereen show grounds as the festival car park had become unusable due to the rain earlier on Saturday. I also encountered some hot headed security, I had to stop people leaving the festival site as they were counting how many should go on the bus, I had to let eight people through but ended up letting eleven through because I was basically splitting up some family. I mean what are you supposed to do there.
When I finished my shift I signed out and was surprised to be handed a food voucher from Catherine, an added bonus and got myself a steak burger and settled down to watch the final half hour of Nicolas Jaar on the main stage.
Nicolas played a kind of ambient techno which was refreshing and different from the usual bpm fodder, with his Mac and mixer he delivered incredibly weird vocals. Jaar was augmented by a guitarist who was doing a Dave Gilmour sort of blues soloing to the music and another guy who played a fine sax and occasionally a synthesizer. The light show should get a special mention too, beautiful back drop lights that gave off a shimmering glittery effect and spotlights that created hues of electric blue and gold in the backdrop.
The last hour or two was spent at the camp site with Dave and a few others, Dave put on a disco classics cd from the 1970s, seeing that most people had got to see the excellent Chic which I missed because of my shift, the last concious memory was of some of the lads singing backing vocals to the Tramps Disco Inferno and Chics Good Times.
Sunday 5th August
I arose at 10.30 am still quite shattered as the disco sing along must have went on at least to 5.30 am. The Sunday faired better weather wise with it being dryer and sunnier too. At the starting of my shift we were given the job of wrist banding day ticketers to the Sunday leg of the festival. My first few wristbands were sloppy enough but I picked it up as I went along. As the day progressed I could not help noticing that a lot of people had misread the T and Cs of the festival, this concerned bringing alcohol into the festival. As with any festival with a license, campers are supposed to bring in their alcohol on the first trip while setting up the tent. The amount of people turning up with drink on Sunday was crazy, there was practically a bar set up before the security check point where people were getting absolutely steaming before even setting a foot into the arena. Dave my camping buddy took the shuttle into Skibbereen to stock up, but he did mention to security on the way out that he was going to take some cans into the camp site to which they agreed, when he came back they never searched him.
My sister Marguerite, her husband Brendan and son Oisin came for the day trip today as well as friends Matt and Caroline, Matt was doing a reading at the literary tent in the afternoon. At the time I was too busy wrist banding to take much notice of their arrival.
Music wise whilst working I could pick out the merry sound of the West Cork Ukulele Orchestra and the following act Joan As Policewomen. Joan had a plaintive sound with lovely vocals and piano playing, but I felt she could have done with some drums and bass to fill out the sound.
The next act I recognised immediately as I have a number of his albums, Roy Harper, I wish I was free to see this as I have never saw him in concert. He opened with Highway Blues from his 1975 Life Mask album, still sounding as crisp as ever, Harper must be about in his seventies now but still sounds as vital as ever. I Hate the White Man was another that I picked out while working away. I finally got a half hour break at 4 pm so straight up to the Lebanese Kitchen for another chicken shawarma courtesy of POD and another food voucher, yum. In between I caught up with my sister at the literary tent and a little bit of the delightful Macrae Sisters who were playing some amazing old time and hillbilly sounds. After the break my shift went in rather quickly, I was free to enjoy more of the festival.
Meeting up with the sister et all, we sat at a hump in the hill in the arena which overlooked the main stage, so we all soaked in a bit of Mick Flannerys set, the marquee was packed to the hinges for one of Irelands most popular singer and songwriters. His music has touches of John Martyn, Bob Dylan and Declan ORourke and you can tell that he has been influenced to a degree by Tom Waits. He is a perfect warm up for a Sunday evening.
Cian Finn (Intinn) was up on stage next for a reggae warm up to get us in the mood for Toots and the Maytals, like Mr Whippy and the Rootical Sound System, Finn has a wondrous selection of obscure and archival reggae sounds, the main stage effectively functioning at this time as a large chill out area.
Toots and the Maytals always give their very best, this will be my second time catching them as I saw them at Electric Picnic 2005, when I was working at the Picnic last year I had to work during their performance which was a bummer, but only found out afterwards that Toots Hibbert had a throat infection and could not perform with the band, so I am happy to say that this time round he was in fine fettle. The band opened as they always do with Pressure Drop which immediately set off dancing feet all around, everyone bouncing until the very last note. I only have one wish for Toots and the Maytals and that is get a real brass section guys, I know you use backing tapes or a keyboard to emulate the sound but a real brass section looks even better. Of course, as you can imagine with this band they done their greatest hits, Louie Louie, Funky Kingston and so many other classics. Toots would be pushing 67 these days and I reckon he must work out to still have that energy and voice that he has.
My sister left during the Toots gig which must have been really hard for her to do, but they wanted to get wee Oisin back home to bed at a reasonable hour in Bandon. I wandered about the arena with Matt and Caroline enjoying the ambient sounds coming from the main stage courtesy of Revelation Sounds, a techno ambient inspired dub reggae.
It was back to the camp site with Dave and fellow campers to finish off the last of our cans and to talk about the day. A fine wee festival in West Cork.
Improvements to the festival for the following year could be, more stages, maybe two more marquees with different types of genre. Not that I am knocking the music, but to some folk the music could be a bit samey with the singer / songwriter thing and needs to be a wee bit more diverse to maybe rival something like the Body & Soul festival. Other things that could be improved on could be, more seats and tables around the eatery areas, because of the rain on Saturday some of the area was still a little wet and muddy for sitting down on. Someone also suggested that there should be a small marquee for children too, with perhaps the odd film showed on a screen. I look forward to next year where hopefully I will make this festival again.
I arrived down with a few other volunteers from Galway, Juley-Ann Collins who kindly gave me a lift from the city to the festival site and possibly saving me to have to get two or three buses. My other companions on the journey was Amanda from Scotland and another fellah who looked like a seasoned festival goer and volunteer, his name I cannot remember for the moment.
Made loads of friends at the crew camp site and managed to get my tent up before the cloudburst set in. I was the only one with a wee boogie box so set about playing my festival ipod mix and socialising with my new neighbours.
Thursday 21st June.
I got up around the same time as Juley-Ann and Amanda as they were working for the Thursday, so I tried to get some work so that I could save myself from working the full weekend of the festival, but unfortunately I was already slotted into the schedule, so I set out to explore the woodland of Ballinlough Castle. The majority of people working on forest installations and wicker work exhibitions were heads and colourful hippy types, free spirited folk proud of their hedonistic culture with a love for the crafts and shared experiences. No doubt influenced by other festivals of similar ilk, such as the after hours area and stone circle area of Glastonbury, the ambient forests of Bestival and Connect festival in Scotland, not forgetting that other pagan inspired Scottish festival, Wickerman. I went back to the tent for some food, my selection for sounds was the Aphex Twin concert from last years Forbidden Fruit festival in Dublin. About twenty minutes into the set Aphex ups the tempo to a faster bpm, mixing Dublin IDM musicians Lakker with a mid 1990s Autechre track called Vletrmx21. About five minutes later Niall, one of my neighbours asks me if that is Aphex Twin live, to which I reply that its the Forbidden Fruit. It turns out that he was also at the same gig and that he remembered that moment, again a joint shared experience that we both had making it a very festival occasion. Niall, Jeff, Sharon, Patricia and Emenne were all working on an installation using a large plasma screen with the projection coming from behind, all sorts of mandalas and wooden pieces hung from the trees, creating a natural audio visual living room amongst the trees.
Friday 22nd June.
Got up about 9.30 am as I wanted to be clear headed for the volunteer meeting and the discussion of shifts at 12 pm. I got a pleasant surprise to find that Deirdre Mullins and Benard McGlinchey were also volunteering for the weekend, good friends of Gavins and stalwarts of festival volunteering and festivals in general, like me they thought is was a fun way most of the time to work for the festival ticket.
When we all turned up for the meeting, it was put off till 2.30 pm as some of the volunteers had not arrived yet, so the office was trying to establish who was exactly on site. So with more time to kill, I set off with Deirdre and Benard to the car park to give them a hand with setting up. Finally the meeting, no orientation happened but the volunteers were split into three groups, A, B and C. I opted for C as both these shifts were day shifts, I would be working at the car park on Saturday morning from 8 am to 2 pm and Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm. As a requisite for our wristbands we were required to put in 12 hours work. Deirdre and Benard chose group A (I think) which had a shift starting tonight from 6 pm to midnight and at 2pm till 8 the following day. I mostly hung about with them until it was time for them to go to the office to sign in.
After a bite to eat and a bit of chill in the tent, I found out that Gavin would be arriving at 8 pm, having phoned him to order some beer in as my own supply had dwindled from being here since Wednesday. I also wanted to actually find out where the car park actually was as Juley had drove straight into the crew camp and I wanted to get my bearings for tomorrow. As luck had it, Deirdre and Benard were working at the entrance, so they would be actually directing Gavin to his parking spot. It was nice to be there to give him a hand as it was a bit of a trek from the car park to the main camp site. On the way through the entrance we looked at Ballinlough Castle, one of Gavin’s friends remarked that it looked like paper mache. Further on we passed a stage with a live theatre show, yep, this was the starting of the creative madness that is Body & Soul.
Once Gavin had settled in and we were suitably refreshed we went for a saunter through the woods, security steps in front of us, “You cannot exit through here, this is only an entrance.” He said. So as we found the exit and I was told by another security guard to bin my beer, godammit! I just opened that one too, ah well, I am not a mad beer person anyway. When the forest was lit up at night time it took on an appearance of an exciting wonderland where hippies, gnomes, otters, white goddesses, Siouxsie Sioux’s, Two Tone Rude Boys, freaks and geeks and families would converge. That sounds odd doesn’t it, but it wasn’t really.
The Body & Soul pushes its message about being at one with nature, but also in the face of straight society its weekend party also incorporates the counter culture that we grew up with in the sixties and it still makes relevant today with the electro noughties. Along with this counter culture clash is its druggy nature too, it happens and more so at festivals, but most festival goers with a bit of common sense will do their mind altering sensibly, or at least as an enhancement towards the activeness of dance or of relaxing and chilling.
Certainly there was all sorts of music abound in the wood, there was a dance stage with House music booming whilst at the other side a delicate bit of twine formed into an otherworldly lattice of webs with floodlights illuminating it and the leaves of the trees.
The festival covered many different types of music, blues, traditional, world music, ambient sound scape music, tacky 1980s disco, dance music, funk and reggae. On Saturday and Sunday the choices expanded to electro, dubstep, drum and bass and indie electro rock. The reggae area was called Port Royal, a Jamaican style village much like its Electric Picnic cousin Trenchtown. It was the same people running it, but it seems that Trenchtown is copyrighted to the Electric Picnic, so they had to change the name. Because of this one way system from the main camp site, it threw me and Gavin, as we remembered that Port Royal was near the camp site entrance but the exit was in the other direction, hence why I am leading Gavin astray when we were looking for some reggae in this video clip.
There was a nice mix of styles in the Port Royal tent, the main thing being there was always a solid base of roots reggae in the music, but at times it would spur off into ragga, dubstep and drum and bass or completely experimental, such as taking popular hits and putting a reggae slant on them like with what 2ManyDJs does with the Jackson’s Shake Your Body Down (To the ground).
After a while at the reggae tent, I stole half an hour to take some photos of floodlit trees before retiring to my tent for the night.
Saturday 23rd June.
I awoke at 7 am as I wanted to get my head together for my shift which was starting in an hour. Me and a few other folk gathered at the volunteers office was told by Jelena Derk, the volunteers coordinator to go to Gate A the main car park entrance. Things were very quiet for the first hour or two, only the odd car coming in, we basically had to point the cars towards security who would direct them into parking spaces, we had to advice them not to accelerate too much especially in more water logged areas (It had rained the last three nights) as we would be forever pushing them out again.
We were moved to entrance B as entrance A had become too packed or else because of the rain some of the land had become unusable. Maybe I got too much into my job as I kept directing all cars towards security, at one point they shouted to me to hold them up as some cars waiting in the queue were getting stuck on a steep rise in the path. It was about 11.30 when things started to really hot up, the flow of cars being endless. Some drivers were being complete idiots and ignoring my direction, deciding that they were parking where they liked. Two hot girls in a sports car did this, I just told them security would be moving them shortly.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the festival was actually selling out of tickets. The box office van at entrance B was creating a problem for the traffic flow as many people who were buying tickets there had their vehicles parked up on the gravelly entrance blocking others. Now we all know that festivals do need hot headed security sometimes to keep things moving, enter Robbie, one of the heads of production security, who quickly barked at the blocking traffic to clear to which a lot did. Robbie is probably an extremely pleasant bloke, but if it wasn’t for him and car park volunteer supervisor Skinny, the car park would have descended into complete chaos. I learnt some valuable lessons in organising festival car parks, both Robbie and Skinny were at different ends, cutting swathes into the meadows and creating car parks. Anyway, because we were so busy, my shift had flown in, so back to the crew camp to sign back out and enjoy some food and sounds, I met Benard on the way to his shift, he looked worse for wear after drinking rum and various other things the night before, I was glad I was not him.
Reid – Upstage Tent 4 pm – 5pm.
After wandering through the Walled garden and getting my steak burger, I set about exploring the area, Club Havana had Latino techno blasting out which is not my cup of tea really, I was in search of something bassy and electronic. This I found at the Upstage tent with Cork DJ and electronic musician Reid. Reid was playing a nice ambient IDM beat, that was lively enough not to be considered as chill out and I have to say, the Upstage had one of the best sound systems at the festival. Reid’s style used backward loops which formed the bass of the track giving off a trancey mesmeric feel. I have heard this technique over recent years used by both the more edgier Bloody Beetroots and Fake Blood and Aphex Twin last year at Forbidden Fruit festival. you will understand what I mean when you hear this video clip of Reid’s track Forrest.
It was off to the Port Royal for a while to drink a few tins of beer and to boogie about to some reggae with Gavin, Niall, Caroline and John.
The Herbaliser – Main Stage 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm.
There was some confusion at first as some people reckoned the Herbaliser was going to be in the Upstage tent, so some time was wasted waiting around for them to show up, of course we should have known better, the Herbaliser was billed for the main stage. Eventually myself, Gavin and a few folk managed to catch a bit of their set during a steady drizzle of rain. As per usual the Herbaliser excel in their brand of jazz, hip hop, scratch and funk. I also forgot that some of their repertoire featured a bit of roots reggae too. There was a nice turn out for their set despite the rain.
Back to the reggae tent for some more sociable banter, a few tunes and a bite to eat, the chicken jerky wrap should get a special mention at a pricey seven euros it was a meal and a half, so worth every cent. Now to find a loo, one of the weak points of the festival, the portaloos were scarce and most in the arena area had serious queues all the time. I eventually gave up in the end and decided to walk to the crew camp site loos with no queue whatsoever. At some point I wandered into the Upstage and caught a bit of Def Disko’s set, a bass heavy techno and dubstep sound, alternating between this and the reggae tent.
By this time of the night it became quite apparent that many people were off their bins, 2CI being the drug of choice for most, a combination of MDMA and LSD, many people were tripping and the smell of skunk weed came from every nook and cranny. Most of the time the forest area was very mild, chimes, singing bowls, funk, electro and laughing voices and shrieks filled the air, but this could sometimes turn downright creepy when, say, the Upstage or main stage areas emptied and people in fancy dress, people dressed normally, grinning mad people and children spilled into the forest. At times it resembled a large Halloween celebration in the woods, the creatures of the night are here to repossess your soul. Well this is the impression it probably made to someone who was on acid anyway. Who was the most confused I don’t know, the drugged out festival goers or the Garda, if they were going to arrest people for drug abuse they would have to arrest three quarters of the attendees.
It has to be said, some parents didn’t seem to really care that their kids had been watching them take copious amounts of drugs or drinking their silly heads off. As you know I am not knocking all parents at the festival, there was many responsible parents there to who took turns at looking after their kids. One parent would sacrifice their Saturday to bring the kids to Soul Kids area, while the other would take a turn on the Sunday.
Django Django – Main Stage 8.30 pm – 9.30 pm.
The Scottish group had the audience in the palm of their hand, their music an infectious intoxication of 1960s psychedelia, electronica, rockabilly and good pop hooks. The arena was absolutely rammed for their performance despite the on and off showers that came occasionally. Django Django have that similar energy to bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs, but even more innovative in the way XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel tore up the New Wave charts. I managed to catch a short clip of the bands track WOR which I should have recorded in its entirety, but was worried of using all my memory in the camera. But this particular track I captured reminds me of that echoey 1950s rockabilly music you sometimes hear on the Sopranos soundtrack, or even harks back to those 1980s bands like the Cramps and the Stray Cats. This is certainly a band I want to catch again, so hopefully at the Picnic.
Around about 10 pm I remember being in the reggae tent and being blown away by two DJs D-Snipe followed by a female DJ called DJ Kali (Kelly Embleton), the way the roots reggae was effortlessly blended with DnB and dubstep made for a high octane evening of exhilarating dance. This is what its all about, discovering new artists and music. https://www.facebook.com/kelley.embleton
Unknown Stage – Unknown Band (Forest) Tin style Barn Stage 11 pm.
While wandering through the forest I came across this group who were silhouetted by their stage lights quickly gathering an audience with their sound, I can only describe them as having a similar energy to the likes of the John Butler Trio, but they were one of my highlights of the weekend. Maybe someone reading this will be able to identify said group and stage. In fact this was another weak spot about the festival, all their info concentrated on the main stages but hardly any info about the smaller stages such as Port Royal and the one I am talking about.
The last few hours was spent mainly in Port Royal with the lads soaking up the reggae vibes, I headed off to bed at 1.30 am as I was up early next morning to complete my last shift at the car park.
Sunday 24th June.
Sunday was a lot more easier shift wise, as there was only expected to be two hundred cars today arriving at the car park. Security would go off ahead to check for possible spaces for cars, we would then just point the cars in the direction of security guys. Time flew in quick enough, it was busy enough but not too stressful, which Saturday was a bit. had good banter with Phelim and Fez and other volunteers, Kevin the security guy and Skinny. Finally at 3 pm my shift was over and I was free to enjoy the rest of the festival. yippee.
I relaxed for about an hour in the crew camp eating some fruit and nuts and cracking open a few cans, my sounds for then was one of the Life festival RTE Pulse FM podcasts, which had some nice dub reggae/dubstep crossover and some Synkro and then some nutty Bloody Beetroots tracks. It was off the the Walled Garden, the lower end to get me a steak burger, this particular stall also done nice Frankfurter sausages too. There was some nice dance sounds coming out of the Upstage tent, courtesy of the fine Donal Dineen, he was laying out some filthy house, by coincidence all my mates were hanging about and dancing outside the tent.
St Vincent – Main Stage 6.45 pm – 7.45 pm.
St Vincent tore up the floor of the main stage arena with her set to a packed audience, she played some fine gnarly guitar and played some nice selections from her third album Strange Mercy. It only dawned on me halfway through the set that I had saw her before, the RTE 2 series Under Ether had featured one of her videos last year which I liked, so it was just coincidence that I caught this particular show. Her music brand a kind of blistering indie rock with a punkish energy, although there was some slower numbers in there too. Having not caught the full set I missed her stage dive into the audience, but since, someone has upped it onto Youtube.
One of the things about festivals if I do not have a particular plan is to just float between the stages and soak in the new sounds, as my mate (Sorla) John Dolan says, “Just follow your heart with the music.”
At some point I hit upon an idea at crew camp where I would ask a few people what they thought of the Body & Soul festival and what it meant to them, I only managed to get three people to participate in this, Juley-Ann Collins, Eddy and another fellah called Rob.
Little Dragon – Main Stage 8.15 pm – 9.15 pm.
Caught a bit of Swedish electro rock act Little Dragon who pulled a sensational crowd and pummelled us with electro dubstep rock, singer Yukimi Nagano is like another Bjork, with that same mad energy careering about the stage. They were the perfect late evening act to keep the energy flowing in the crowd, with a great electronic sound. Over the last few years the amount of great electronic music to come from Scandinavia has been phenomenal with the likes Fever Ray/The Knife, Lykke Li, Royksopp and of course the exceptional Little Dragon, who I will now be investigating. Hopefully the Picnic will snap them up too.
I went back to the reggae area to relax for a while as I did want to catch a bit of M83s set, but did not want to be crammed into the main stage area all of the time. While I was there I met some randomers from Kilkenny and one of the lads was from Leitrim, my home area in Ireland.
I also had a few tins with Gavin, Benard, John, Caroline and Niall and listened to some funky reggae music, the reggae tent being half empty now because of the weather being nice and sunny.
M83 – Main Stage 9.45 pm – 10.45 pm.
There was a fine crowd gathered for this French group who seems to be wowing audiences around the world at various festivals such as Coachella and Primavera. I did not know much of their material but had been looking at the Youtube clips of their shows which impressed me. How do I describe their music, a sorta indie rock sound with interesting electronics, waves of synthesiser sound backed by a solid, uptempo rock groove. There was two singers, a female who played the keyboards and shook her mane and a male singer. One of the final numbers I recognised from the radio, Midnight City was well received, the audience joining in with the mimicry of the synthesiser squeal, this is another band I am going to do some research on, no doubt they will be playing at the Picnic too.
The last hour or two was spent traipsing around the forest making sure there was not stuff that I missed and using up the available memory in my camera to record some installations and goings on.
When I went to the reggae tent every one I knew had disappeared, perhaps the weekend proved too much for some of them and they had an early night, this was the case with Gavin and Caroline anyway. Eventually I grew a bit tired myself, some of the ground had never fully recovered from the rain in the last few days so it could be still tough to walk in or perhaps I was just getting old with not as much energy as the 24 hour dancers around me.
Monday 25th June.
Another festival over for the year, I set the alarm for 9 am as I wanted time to wake up for a bit before I disassembled my tent. At 10 I went to the volunteers office to get back my deposit and say my cheerios to the volunteer staff and off to the main camp site to meet up with Gav, Caroline and co as they were giving me a lift back to Galway. John was in a merry state having had some whiskey and vodka, so I decided to bring out my boogie box and play some rips from Life festival the month before, so for John the festival was still on and myself too, I never really wanted it to end in first place. Till next year dudes, have a good one.